About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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ch. 16:1-5     ch. 16:6-10    ch. 16:11-15    ch. 16:16-40

 

Timothy Joins Paul And Silas  (ch. 16: 1 - 5)

In verse 1 we note Paul left Antioch and headed west as was decided between Paul and Barnabas.  He and Silas passed through Derbe and then went to Lystra.  Paul had been in both of these cities on his first trip.  While in Lystra he met up with Timothy, who Paul most likely led to the Lord on his first trip. The reason why I say this is because Paul calls him "his son", as in son in Christ.  See 1 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Timothy 1:2, 18, and 2 Timothy 1:2.   

The term "son in the Lord" was often used by the first generation Christians to denote a person who was led to Jesus by another.  John Mark, the Mark who wrote the gospel of Mark, was a son in the Lord to Peter. See 1 Peter 5:13.

It is obvious that Timothy grew up in a mixed marriage situation since his mother was Jewish and his father a Greek.  His mother must not have been a faithful Jew since she married a Gentile and also since Timothy was not circumcised as a baby.  The Greek verb tense here suggests that Timothy's father might well have been dead at this time in his life.

In verse 2 we note that the church in the area in which Timothy lived thought highly of Timothy and this is partly why Paul conscripted him to come along and help him on his missionary trip.  There might well have been a joint effort between those in the church and Paul to choose Timothy for this ministry.

Verse 3 tells us that Paul had Timothy circumcised prior to leaving on their trip.  Remember, Timothy is a young man.  This circumcision would have been a somewhat painful thing for Timothy to go through.

Paul circumcising Timothy has always been a matter of much talk and debate among Bible teachers.  Why did Paul do this, especially when we know Paul put no importance in circumcision, at least when it came to salvation?  Also, why did Paul have Timothy circumcised in light of the fact circumcision was not necessary for Gentiles, as seen in the letter the church at Jerusalem wrote in the last chapter? 

Luke tells us that Paul had Timothy circumcised because there were many Jews in this region.  The Jews were necessarily Christian Jews.  I believe in fact that they weren't Christian.  Paul only had Timothy circumcised to make him more acceptable to the Jews, thus making the ministry of the gospel easier to be preached and accepted.  This operation had nothing to do with Timothyís salvation, or his growth as a Christian.  It was only a practical matter that would only help spread the gospel.  To Paul, whether one was circumcised or uncircumcised, it did not really matter.  There was no big deal with Timothy getting circumcised, as long as there was no hint of this having anything to do with his salvation.

One might ask how would people know if Timothy was circumcised or not?  Luke tells us the answer.  In verse 3 he says that "everyone knew that his father was a Greek", therefore everyone would naturally believe he was not circumcised.  So again, there was only one reason why Paul felt Timothy needed to be circumcised and that was so the Jews in the area would not stumble over the fact that Timothy wasn't circumcised.  Timothy was in a tough spot, being half Jew and half Greek.  Both Greeks and Jews would have a hard time accepting him.  Paul would favour the Jews in this respect because as he wrote in Romans 1:16, "it's to the Jew first and then the Gentile".   

One thing that Paul did as he went through these cities as seen in verse 4 was to deliver the Acts 15 letter to the churches.  Paul wanted to make it very clear that the Gentiles would not need to associate themselves with the Mosaic Law.  The Law had nothing to do with them or their salvation, and he used the letter to support his teaching.

Note in verse 4 the term "apostles and elders" who were in Jerusalem .  The apostles and elders were those who cared for the people of God in Jerusalem .  I would suggest that some of these elders would have also been apostles.  There were men who were both, Peter being one example.  It's clear that Peter was an apostle but many miss the fact that he considered himself an elder as well as he stated in 1 Peter 5:1.

Luke closes this section in verse 5 by saying that the churches "were strengthened in faith" and grew in numbers.  Of course, a church can only be strengthened in the faith when individuals are strengthened in the faith.  This strengthening is linked to more people being added to the Lord and to the church.  I suggest that the two go hand in hand.  When the church is strong, it will grow.  When it is weak, it will not grow.

We should understand that when our English Bibles used the word "church" here, it isn't church as we know it today.  The text could easily read; "and the community of believers in these towns was strengthened".    

 

Paulís Vision Of The Man Of Macedonia (ch. 16 :6 - 10)

Verse 6 says that Paul and his companions traveled through Phrygia and Galatia.  That would have been a northward direction from Lystra and Derbe, and the Mediterranean Sea .  It appears that they then wanted to go west into the province of Asia, but the Holy Spirit kept them from preaching in Asia, so they continued northward to the Mysia and Bythinia border.  Once again, as Luke puts it, "the Spirit of Jesus would not allow" them to keep going in that direction, so they turned westward towards Troas.

In one incident the Holy Spirit told Paul and his friends not to preach in Asia.  How the Holy Spirit told Paul and his companions this we donít know.  Luke only says the Holy Spirit did not want them to preach.  This does tell us that there may be the odd occasion where the Lord does not want us to preach the good news, this in light of the fact that we know He wanted His followers to go into all the world and preach the gospel.

Then a second incident tells us that the "Spirit of Jesus" told Paul and his friends not to go into Bythinia.  Again, jus how the Holy Spirit told them is not stated in the text.  Once again, the Lord intervened and changed the direction that these men were going.  The Spirit of Jesus certainly wanted Paul and the others to preach, but He had a specific place for them to preach.  We also don't know the reason why the Holy Spirit sent Paul in the direction that He did.  The text does not give us a reason.     

It has often been said that we should not be stagnant as Christians.  We should just go ahead and do something for the Lord, and if He wants to change our direction He will let us know somehow.  The people who say this tell us that it is easier to steer a ship that is moving than one that is not moving.  This appears to be the case with Paul and those with him.  That being said, I'm not saying Paul and his friends just up and left on their trip without consulting the Lord, but it is clear that the Holy Spirit did intervene and change Paul's mind concerning the direction they must go. 

Note that the "Spirit of Jesus" told these men not to go into Bythinia.  We can conclude that the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus are one in the same.  This shows you the oneness between the Holy Spirit and Jesus, which is part of the argument for what we call the Trinity.

In Matthew 28:20, in the passage known as the Great Commission, Jesus told the disciples to go into all the world and preach the good news.  He then said that He would be with them as they preach, even to the ends of the world.  Well, in physical form, Jesus could not be with each and every disciple as they spread out in all directions around the earth.  Jesus could however, be with them in the form of the Holy Spirit, or, the Spirit of Jesus, as we see Him called here.  The Holy Spirit is in fact Jesus. 

In verse 9 Luke records that while in Troas, a coastal city, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia .  The man told Paul to come over to Macedonia and help them out. So, the company of men figured that the Lord wanted them to go to Macedonia to preach the gospel.  This could have been the reason why the Lord told them not to spend time preaching in Asia and Bythinia.  He wanted them to keep going west, all the way to Macedonia.

Note in verse 10 the word "we".  At this point we know that Luke was with Paul because he includes himself with those with Paul.  Note also that Paul didn't wait around.  They got going as soon as possible.  When Paul clearly knew the will of God, he didn't fool around.  He went and did what he was told to do.

 

Lydia ís Conversation In Phillippi (ch. 16:11 - 15)

In verses 11 and 12, Paul, and those with him sailed northward and then took a road inland to Philippi.  Luke says that they stayed several days in this city.  On the Sabbath they went outside of town by a river "where they expected to find a place of prayer".  When Luke uses the words "place of prayer" he is speaking about a particular place where Jews would come to pray and worship.  According to the Jewish historian Josephus, where there were not sufficient numbers of Jews in a locality to have a synagogue, they would meet outside somewhere and call it a place of prayer.  In order for a Jewish community to have their own synagogue there had to be at least ten Jewish men who were in that community.  It is clear then, that there were not ten Jewish men living in Philippi at this time.

We will note later that once Paul leaves this city Luke stays behind.  Some suggest he stays behind because this is his home town, but that's speculation.

So, as Paulís practice was, even after he said he'd go to the Gentiles a few chapters back, we see in verse 13 he found Jews on the Sabbath and would teach them.  This time he found a few women and he proceeded to speak to them.  One particular woman was named Lydia, a business person from Thyatira.  You will note that Thyatira is one of the seven churches Jesus addresses in the book of Revelation. 

In verse 14 we see that Lydia was a "worshipper of God", that is Yahweh.  We have commented on this phrase before.  Lydia was either a Gentile convert to Judaism for a sympathizer of Judaism.  We don't know for sure which she was.  There were two groups of Gentiles in relation to Judaism.  One group was a full fledged convert while the other group simply appreciated the Jewish religion.  While Paul was speaking, "the Lord opened her heart" and was subsequently water baptized. It is clear then that she became a disciple of Jesus as Paul spoke. 

You might wonder how Paul knew that Lydia became a believer in Jesus.  We don't know the answer to this question, but, as is often the case in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit might well have fallen on her as happened in Acts 10 with the household of Cornelius.  If this wasn't the case, I'm sure she would have told Paul that she believed what he was teaching.   

Philippi is considered a European city, thus Lydia, a woman, was the first European Christian, or so many think.   

To me it is interesting to note the phrase, "the Lord opened her heart to respond".  Over the centuries there has been much debate over what Godís part is and what manís part in the process of salvation is.  I do not believe in predestination.  So, I believe man has a part to play in the conversion process, yet on the other hand, God, by His Spirit has a part to play as well.  You see His part here, and that is "opening the heart" of the unbeliever so that he or she can "respond".  From birth our hearts are closed, locked up from the presence of God.  Only the Spirit of God can unlock our hearts and open the door to our hearts.  Once that door is open, and we see the light of the Lord shining through, then it is our choice to respond.  As with Lydia, she responded in a positive way.  Initial salvation, as I call it, is a joint effort between us and the Holy Spirit. It's not all us and it's not all the Holy Spirit.

This tells me how we can pray for the unbeliever.  I often hear people praying that Jesus will save a particular unbeliever.  Of course, He wants that person saved.  He has already done all the work necessary for that person to be saved, but He wonít make them be saved against their will.  Salvation is the choice of the individual.  Jesus can encourage them to be saved, by opening their heartís door to the gospel.  The Holy Spirit can speak to the heart of the unbeliever so he can hear the clear gospel and decide for himself.  So, the prayer we should be praying is that God would open the door to the unbeliever's heart and that the Holy Spirit would speak to that particular person to help and guide him through the salvation process, if he so decides that is what he wants.

The Holy Spirit can do all sorts of things in an individuals' life, whether negative things or positive things, to get the unbeliever thinking of going to the door of his heart in the first place.  Once he goes to his heart's door, he will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.  You can count on that.  

It appears that the rest of Lydia ís family or household became Christians as well, since in verse 15 Luke tells us that they were all baptized in water. 

Luke records that all of Lydia ís household were baptized.  Who would have been a part of her household?  It would have included servants as well as relatives, and any children living with her, assuming there were children in her household.  The fact that her whole household was baptized has caused much debate.  The question is asked, "did any infant children get baptized"?  The answer to this question is not really known.  For those who believe in infant baptism, they would say yes, there were little children here being baptized.  For those who donít believe in infant baptism, they would say that there were no children present, and if there were, they did not get baptized.  If this was the case, then her whole household did not get baptized.  Because of the measure of speculation involved here, it is very difficult to conclude from this Scripture alone the validity of infant baptism. Besides, we do not know whether there were any children in her household at the time.

Lydia's household might well have been quite large.  She was clearly a business woman.  Throughout the Roman Empire, women in Philippi had more freedom than in most other cities, thus the reason why Lydia appears to be a successful business woman. 

People often derive the doctrine of "household salvation" from this passage, as well as from the next section in the book of Acts.  This doctrine states that once the father, or in this case, the mother who might well have been the head of the house became Christian, the whole family was saved.  Of course, this denies the teaching that an individual commitment must be made to Jesus in order to be saved.  One can't be saved because of another's faith. 

We should realize that much of the culture of this day was based on community, especially so in Jewish tradition.  This means that if the head of the house became a Christian, because of the great respect for the head of the house, the rest of the household also put their faith in Jesus as well.  Thus, individual commitment is maintained.   

This section closes with  Lydia inviting Paul and his company to stay at her place, but only if they consider her a real believer. I don't know for sure, but maybe Lydia invited Paul and those with him to stay with her if she was a true believer because it may have looked a bit in appropriate. 

Once again, Lydia, a Gentile woman, was the first Christian in European Rome, or so many think.  When Paul first came to this place of prayer, and saw only a few women, he did not seem to be discouraged.  He preached to these few women, and just imagine what this little gathering of people produced.  It set the stage for centuries of Christian activity, and millions of people finding faith in Jesus throughout Europe and the rest of the world.  Because of the salvation of one Gentile woman, a thriving community of believers grew in Philippi .  The book of Philippians was written to these believers.  

 

Paul And Silas In Prison (ch. 16:16 - 40)

Verse 16 says, "once when we were going to the place of prayerÖ", meaning that Paul and his companions often went their to speak about Jesus to the Jews.  Again, as noted in the last section, a place of prayer was an outdoor place where Jews met.  If there weren't ten Jewish men in a community, they could not have s synagogue, so they met outside.  On this occasion they met up with a "slave girl who had a spirit".   Through this spirit this girl would predict the future, thus making lots of money for her owners. 

In verses 17 and 18 we note that this girl kept on following Paul around for days saying that he and his friends were servants of the most high God.  This obviously became very irritating for Paul so he turned to the girl, and told the spirit to come out of her in the name of Jesus.  The spirit immediately came out of the girl.  Notice that Paul did not cast this spirit out upon first seeing this girl.  It took many days for him to get upset enough to do this.  This suggests to me that Paul didn't cast every demon out of people that he saw.  Why it took the situation to bother him to the extent the he finally cast the demon out we just don't know. 

Paul cast the demon out of this girl in the name of Jesus.  The phrase "in the name of Jesus" is more than a phrase you attach at the end of a prayer or a deliverance session.  "In the name of Jesus" means that as Jesus' representative here on earth we as Christians have the power and authority to act on His behalf.  So, on the behalf of Jesus, or, in the name of Jesus, Paul cast a demon out of this girl.

Verses 19 to 24tell us that there were in fact more than one owner of this slave girl, and when they found out what Paul had done they were so upset that they dragged Paul and Silas into the market place.  Note that both Timothy, and Luke, who was now with Paul and Silas did not get dragged off for some reason.

The owners brought Paul and Silas before the magistratesĒ and told them that these men were Jews, and that they were teaching things that should not be taught to Romans.  Once the crowd in the marketplace heard what was happening they joined in the attack.  The magistrates then decided to strip Paul and Silas and beat them. Verse 23 tells us that once they were beaten they were thrown into prison. They were put into an inner cell and had their feet fastened together. 

Verse 25 says that "about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns".  It is amazing that these men were singing to the Lord while in prison and after being beaten.  Then all of a sudden there was an earthquake that shook the prison to its core, causing the doors to the cells to open and the chains to fall off all of the prisoners.

As we have discussed earlier, Roman guards were responsible for keeping their prisoners in jail and if one escaped the guard would be punished by death.  Knowing that the prisoners were now able to leave on their own accord the guard pulled out a knife to kill himself, but Paul quickly told him not to take such drastic measures because no one had escaped. Maybe the other prisoners were just too shocked to escape. 

Obviously the Lord used this event to bring salvation to this guard.  He was so overtaken with the event that he ran to Paul and Silas in verse 30 and asked "sirs, what must I do to be savedĒ?  This man asked the right question.  He knew why Paul and Silas were in jail.  He knew it had to do with their teaching.  He now knew, because of this miracle, that what these men were saying was true.  Thus once again we see the miraculous moving of the Lord in the book of Acts and in the life of Paul and Silas.

It is interesting to note the word "sirs" in this verse.  The Greek word "kurios" is the word translated as "sirs". This Greek word is often translated as ďlordĒ in the New Testament but can also be translated as "sir".  The jailer must have been thinking that Paul and Silas were two very extra ordinary men.

In response to the guards question Paul says, "believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, - you and your household".  First of all we must understand the word "believe" here to be "trust your life with Jesus".  This is more than mentally accepting what Paul said. This jailer gave his life to Jesus in a trusting relationship.

This is one of those often misunderstood verses.  Paul told this man that the way to being saved was for him to put his full trust in Jesus for salvation in all of its varying aspects.  This is important to the context.  The only way that this man would receive Godís salvation was for him to put his trust in Jesus.  Therefore, when it comes to the rest of his family, the same rule would have to apply to them.  They were not saved because of the father's faith.  Each person in this manís household came to salvation after they heard the Word of God that was preached to them in great power.  Each person believed for themselves. This verse, especially in light of the rest of the Bible, does not teach what is often called "household salvation", that is, father gets saved and the rest are automatically saved.  You also cannot claim salvation for members of your family and use this verse to back up your claim.  

In the Greco/Roman culture back then, the father, or, the mother if she was the head of the family, was well respected.  Because of this respect, it was normally the case that when he adopted a way of thinking, or did something, the rest of the family followed his lead.  This would have been the case here.    

It is clear from what Luke writes that Paul and Silas were taken home by the guard, they were washed, fed, and their cuts and bruises were attended to.  At this time Paul and Silas spoke the Word of the Lord to the other family members who also believed and they all were baptized in water.  This guard was taking a real risk by taking Paul and Silas out of prison and to his home.  He could have lost his life for this action.

Verse 34 says that the guard "was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God Ė he and his whole family".  This verse is important to what I have just said concerning household salvation.  Luke says that this man had come to believe, and also that "his whole family" had come to believe.  This says it clearly, that is, each member of the family believed for themselves. 

It is apparent that once the family members were baptized the guard took Paul and Silas back to prison as seen in verse 35 and 36.  Most likely Paul and Silas did not want any harm to come to this new believer.  When daylight came the guard was told by the authorities to release Paul and Silas.

In verse 37 we see that Paul wasn't going to be quietly released from prison and sent on his way.  Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, and being beaten and imprisoned without a trial was illegal.  Paul was now standing up for his civil rights.  He demanded the authorities come down, release them, and publically lead them out of town.    

I suggest that there are some things to note here.  Both Paul and Silas were Romans.  Do you remember when Paul and Barnabas split up and Paul decided to take Silas?  We noted then that the choice of Silas was wise since he was a Roman and Barnabas wasnít.  Seeing what just happened, maybe the split resulting in Silas going with Paul was Godís will after all.

The point here is that by Roman law, a Roman citizen could not be beaten.  A major injustice had been done against both Paul and Silas.  Paul was standing up for his legal rights.  He was not being a poor humble Christian and simply taking the abuse.  He was exerting his rights as a Roman citizen.  To me, this is important.  Christians do not always need to take a back seat and be second class citizens.  We're not door mats.  Western world Christians  do have some civil rights; at least for now.   That may change.  If our legal rights are being discriminated against, we can follow in Paulís footsteps and demand our rights. 

The fact that Paul and Silas were Romans put legal fear into these authorities.  They could have been prosecuted themselves for their unlawful act.  Paul didn't demand the full extent of his rights here.  He could have appealed to a higher court but he didn't.  He just wanted public recognition which in turn would have embarrassed the authorities. 

The chapter ends by the authorities telling Paul and Silas to leave town, but Paul didn't leave right away.  You might say that he took his own sweet time to leave.  He first visited the brothers in the Lord who were gathering at Lydia 's house.  Only after encouraging the Body of Christ in this community would Paul leave.  He had his priorities right.  We clearly see Paul's devotion to the community of believers here.  He puts them over and above the law of the land.    

 

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