Acts Chapter Sixteen

The First European Christians

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In our study of Acts chapter sixteen, we look at Paul's second missionary journey and the spread of the gospel to Europe. Through this journey, we see how Paul walks according to the Spirit and not in his own will. Because he was obedient to the prompting of the Spirit, God blessed the journey.

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Acts 16:1-3

He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

Paul went to Lystra where he met Timothy. As Timothy had a Jewish mother and a Gentile father, he would have been considered an outsider. He was a respected believer in the area and Paul wanted to take him along on his journey. Paul circumcised Timothy even though the leaders in Jerusalem had said that it was not necessary (see chapter 15). This shows us the kind of faith that Timothy had as he willingly suffered the pain of circumcision so that he would not be a stumbling block to the Jews of that area.

Acts 16:4 & 5

As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

So, Paul and Timothy traveled around to the towns and helped to answer the questions of the young believers. This served to strengthen them in their walk as Christians and is what Jesus meant when he said to "go and make disciples". We also see that, as they grew in their faith, the number of believers grew as well. That is because disciples share their faith with those around them.

Acts 16:6

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.

At first glance, this verse may seem odd and you may ask yourself: Why didn't God want them to go to Asia? and Wouldn't it have been good for them to go and preach in Asia? But, here we see that, instead of doing what Paul wanted, they followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit. God has his purpose and plan for us in all things and, though we may not understand at the time, his ways are perfect and we should follow.

Acts 16:7-10

When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

This is a great example of how God has plans for each of us and that, if we are listening, God will speak to us and guide us. Paul and the group had in their own mind what they wanted to do to serve God but the Spirit stopped them. When Paul saw the vision, he rightly stopped and turned his attention to what God was saying and they immediately followed. The key is that we must learn to listen to God and trust him to lead us.

Acts 16:11 & 12

From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

The group traveled to Philippi, in Macedonia, which was named after King Philip of Macedonia. There was only a small number of Jews in the city at this time and no synagogue.

Acts 16:13

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.

At first glance, this verse is sort of puzzling. Why would they expect to find a place of prayer at the river and not have a synagogue? The simple answer is that a minyan was required to establish a synagogue and to do certain Jewish prayers. A minyan is ten Jewish men and evidently there were not that many Jewish men in Philippi at that time.

Acts 16:14

One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.

This too can be a somewhat puzzling verse to read as we are told that Lydia was a "worshiper of God" but then we are told that "the Lord opened her heart". You see, many people want to worship God but that does not change the fact that, to have a right relationship with God, we must accept his Son, Jesus, as the payment for our sins.

Acts 16:15

When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. 'If you consider me a believer in the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay at my house.' And she persuaded us.

This verse affirms a pattern that occurs throughout the entire Bible. That is the pattern of people being baptized when they come to Christ. When Lydia accepted the message of Jesus Christ, we see that her entire household was baptized. Likewise, we see the pattern of hospitality in that, as a Christian, she offered her home to Paul and his companions.

Acts 16:16

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.

So, one day as they were heading to the river to meet the other worshipers, they were met by a woman that we would call a "psychic" today. As we see, this woman was a slave to the spirit as well as being used by others for their own profit.

Acts 16:17 & 18

She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, 'These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.' She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, 'In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!' At that moment the spirit left her.

This might strike us as strange that Paul would drive the spirit out as it was saying what appeared to be good things. Nevertheless, Paul recognized the fact that the spirit was demonic and he cast it out of her. Today, we have become accustomed to seeing these "psychics" and we forget the fact that they are actually filled with a demonic spirit.

Acts 16:19-21

When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, 'These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.'

The owners of the slave girl were not happy when they lost their little money maker so they grabbed Paul and Silas and hauled them off to court. We notice that their charges had nothing to do with driving the demon out of the girl but instead had to do with the fact that they were sharing the gospel. That is a reminder to us that, if we are about the Lord's business, there will be opposition and that opposition will lie and deceive people.

Acts 16:22-24

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

This passage reminds us that we cannot count on the courts or any governing body to do the right thing. As with any politician, they simply did what the mob wanted and Paul and Silas were thrown in prison. They were not only put in a cell but their feet were restrained so that they had no hope of escape.

Acts 16:25

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

So, after being wrongly beaten and put in prison, Paul and Silas are singing to the Lord. That, my friends, is only possible through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Even in these circumstances, Paul and Silas were being used for God's purposes as the other prisoners were listening. We might winder why we are facing tough times but, as we see here, everything that we face is an opportunity to show others the power of God in our lives.

Acts 16:26 & 27

Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone's chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.

I must say that the events described in this chapter would get my attention. God caused an earthquake which would explain the doors coming open but that would not explain the chains coming undone. We see that the jailer was going to kill himself because, if the prisoners had escaped, he would be killed anyway.

Acts 16:28-32

But Paul shouted, 'Don't harm yourself! We are all here!' The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' They replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household.' Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.

Now, we see that all of what Paul and Silas went through had a "kingdom purpose" which was to bring the jailer and his family to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. The next time you face a difficult situation, stop and look for the people that God is using your situation to reach for the kingdom.

Acts 16:33 & 34

At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God - he and his whole household.

Once again, we see the pattern of a new believer immediately being baptized and also demonstrating hospitality. We also see that this is a result of the joy that he has from his faith and not as a means to be saved. It is a reminder that real faith is followed by real action and an attitude of service.

Acts 16:35 & 36

When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: 'Release those men.' The jailer told Paul, 'The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.'

In the light of day, the politicians simply wanted the problem to go away and so they gave the order to release Paul and Silas.

Acts 16:37-39

But Paul said to the officers: 'They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.' The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city.

We might wonder why Paul didn't simply keep his mouth shut and leave. I believe the simple reason is that Paul wanted the people to see the magistrates personally releasing them. His reason? It demonstrated that God is in control and not a mob or a bunch of politicians.

Acts 16:40

After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

Once again, we see that Paul used what happened to him to strengthen the local believers. He went and shared the story (testimony) with the believers at Lydia's house. They would have been encouraged by the fact that the situation that looked so hopeless just a day before was used to bring a family to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.