Backtracking through Turkey
- 16:1 Paul went to Derbe, then on to Lystra. It was there in Lystra that he met Timothy, son of a Jewish woman who had converted. Timothy’s father was a Greek, not a Jew.
- 16:2 Timothy had a wonderful reputation among the believers who knew him there in Lystra. He had the same reputation in neighboring Iconium.
- 16:3 Paul wanted Timothy to join him on this mission trip. So he circumcised him. He did that because the Jews in the area knew that Timothy’s dad was a Greek.1
- 16:4 As they traveled from town to town, they told everyone about the decision the apostles and other church leaders made at the Council meeting in Jerusalem.2
- 16:5 This news strengthened the faith of the people. The church congregations continued to grow every day.
Paul’s vision: “Come to Macedonia”
- 16:6 Paul and Timothy traveled west through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia.3 But the Holy Spirit kept them from preaching to people in Asia.4
- 16:7 Instead, they went north to the region of Mysia.5 They wanted to go east into the neighboring region of Bithynia. But the Spirit of Jesus6 wouldn’t let them go.
- 16:8 Instead, they traveled through Mysia and went down to the west coast city of Troas.
- 16:9 There, Paul had a vision one night. He saw a man from Macedonia7 suddenly standing in front of him. Pleading, the man said, “Help us! Please come to Macedonia!”
- 16:10 After Paul saw the vision, we8 left right away for Macedonia. We figured God was calling us to go there and tell the good news to those folks.
- 16:11 So we caught a ship in Troas that was sailing non-stop to the nearby island of Samothrace.9 The next day the ship set sail again, and we arrived that day in the city of Neapolis.10
Europe’s first convert: the lady of purple
- 16:12 From there, we moved on to the city of Philippi—a full-fledged Roman town.11 That made it one of the most important cities in the district of Macedonia. We stayed there for several days.
- 16:13 On the Sabbath day, we went out past the city gate and down by the riverside. We figured that might be a place where people got together to pray. We sat down and struck up a conversation with some women who had congregated there.
- 16:14 One of the women in the group was Lydia, from the city of Thyatira.12 She worshiped God and made her living by selling purple fabric.13 The Lord gave her a receptive mind as she listened to Paul.
- 16:15 She and her entire household got baptized. Then she invited us to stay at her place: “If you think I’m a genuine believer who’s worthy of hosting you, please come and stay at my house.” She wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Paul takes the fortune out of a fortune-teller
- 16:16 We were headed down to that place where people meet to pray, and we came across a slave girl there. She had a spirit in her that allowed her to tell the future. She made a lot of money for her owners by telling people what was in store for them.
- 16:17 She started following Paul and the rest of us. She kept announcing us to the people: “These men telling you how to get saved are men who serve the Highest God!”
- 16:18 She kept this up day after day—for many days. Finally, Paul had all he could take. Fed up, he turned to the girl and spoke directly to the spirit within her. “I’m giving you an order in the name of Jesus Christ! Get out of that girl!” The spirit left her right away.
Paul and Silas on trial
- 16:19 When her owners saw there was no more fortune in their fortuneteller, they arrested Paul and Silas. They escorted both of them to the city center,14 where local officials conducted city business.
- 16:20 They told the officials, “These guys are Jews and they’re disturbing the peace in our city.
- 16:21 They’re trying to talk us into doing stuff that Roman citizens aren’t allowed to do.”
- 16:22 That got the marketplace crowd worked up. They turned into a mob against Paul and Silas. Officials ripped the clothes off both men and ordered them beaten with rods.
- 16:23 Paul and Silas took a lot of hits. After that, officials ordered both men thrown into prison. Officials also ordered the jailer to make sure the prisoners didn’t get out.
- 16:24 With an order like that, the jailer put the two in the most secure part of the prison—deep inside the dungeon. As an extra precaution, he locked their feet into wooden stocks.
From jail to the jailer’s house
- 16:25 It was about midnight. Paul and Silas were praying and singing songs to God, while the other prisoners listened.
- 16:26 Suddenly, a massive earthquake shook the prison foundation. Every door in the prison popped open. Every chain of every prisoner snapped off.
- 16:27 The jailer woke up. When he saw the prison doors were wide open, he instantly concluded that his prisoners were gone. So he pulled his sword and was about to kill himself.15
- 16:28 “Don’t hurt yourself!” Paul yelled to him. “We’re all here!”
- 16:29 The jailer called for some light. As soon as he got it, he rushed into the deepest part of the prison. Shaking with terror, he dropped in front of Paul and Silas.
- 16:30 He walked them outside and said, “Masters, what do I have to do to get saved?”
- 16:31 They simply said, “Believe in the Master, Jesus. Not only will you be saved, but so will everyone in your family.”
- 16:32 Paul and Silas told him the story of Jesus. Everyone in his house heard the story, too.
- 16:33 That night, the jailer washed their wounds. Then he and his entire family were baptized together.
- 16:34 When the jailer brought them into his house, he also gave them some food. He was bursting with joy after putting his faith in God, and knowing that his entire family had done the same.
- 16:35 In the morning, city officials sent police to the jail with a message: “Release the men. They’re free to go now.”
- 16:36 The jailer gave Paul the news, “The officials said we’re to release you now. So go ahead and leave. Go in peace.”
- 16:37 “Not so fast,” Paul said. “They beat us in front of everyone, without bothering to give us a trial. We are Roman citizens. Yet they treated us this way, and even threw us into prison. Now they want us to go quietly away, as though they did nothing wrong? No way are we going to do that. If they want us to leave, they’re going to have to personally escort us out of here.”
- 16:38 The police took that message back to top city leaders. The leaders got a bit rattled when they found out the two men were Roman citizens.
- 16:39 City leaders went to Paul and Silas and started treating them like friends, talking to them kindly while walking them out of the prison. As they walked, the officials pleaded with the two to leave town.
- 16:40 Paul and Silas left the prison and went to Lydia’s house. There, they met with the group of believers, encouraged them, and then left town.
Paul often taught in synagogues. He apparently thought that circumcising Timothy, who was half Jewish, would make it easier for many of the Jews to accept Timothy as one of their own.
In what is now Western Turkey.
In Roman times, Asia did not refer to the Far East. It was the territory on what is now Turkey’s west coast. It was home to one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire: Ephesus.
This is a stretch of land on what is now the northwestern coast of Turkey.
The “Spirit of Jesus” is an unusual phrase. It appears in only one other place in the Bible: Philippians 1:19. Some Bible experts suggest that the instruction Paul got may have come on behalf of Jesus, perhaps referencing him directly.
Macedonia was a region in what is now northern Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, which is just north of Greece.
At this point, the person writing Acts actually writes himself into the story. He starts including himself in the entourage traveling with Paul. Many Bible experts speculate that the writer was Luke, a physician who got a lot of his information about Paul from eyewitness experience.
It was about a 75-mile (120-km) voyage from Troas to the far side of the island of Samothrace, where there was a good harbor.
The one-day voyage from Samothrace to Neapolis was another 60 miles (96 km).
Philippi was designated “a Roman colony.” That’s the highest status a city in a foreign country could attain from Rome. Philippi ran by Roman laws, like any other city in the Roman Empire’s homeland, in what is now Italy.
Thyatira was about 250 miles (400 km) away, in what is now Western Turkey.
Purple fabric was a high-end clothing product, expensive to produce because purple dye was hard to find. This dye came from the Mediterranean Sea, from the murex snail.
The Greek word is agora, often translated “marketplace.” It was the city center in many ancient towns—not just a place to sell products, but a favorite meeting place for taking care of business.
He probably figured if he didn’t do it, city officials would do it for him. See Acts 12:19.
Paul circumcised Timothy, who was half Jewish (16:3). He did it apparently to make Timothy more acceptable among the Jews Paul hoped to convert. He didn’t want Timothy to become a distraction. Given the fact that Paul’s big thing was to convert non-Jews, and to resist the argument that those non-Jewish Christians needed to obey all the Jewish laws—especially the law of circumcision—what do you think about his decision to circumcise half-Jewish Timothy?
News about the ruling of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:29) “strengthened the faith of the people” (16:5) and gave a big boost to church growth. Why do you think the ruling had that effect?
As Paul and Timothy traveled around what is now Western Turkey, they wanted to go on to the west coast—an area then called Asia. That’s where they would have found one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire: Ephesus, a city Paul would visit years later. “But the Holy Spirit kept them from preaching to people in Asia” (16:6). The writer doesn’t say how the Holy Spirit did that. How do you think God’s Spirit communicates messages like that?
The writer of Acts starts including himself in the story when he reports that “we” (16:10) left the city of Troas, in what is now Western Turkey, and took the road trip into what is now Europe. What does that tell you about the writer, and what does it suggest about the reliability of his reporting?
Of all the churches Paul started, the church in Philippi is the only one on record from which he said he accepted gifts to support his ministry (Philippians 4:15). What does that tell you about what happened during this visit Paul and his colleagues had with Lydia and the other believers?
So Paul healed a demon-possessed girl not out of compassion, but out of irritation: “Paul had all he could take” (16:18). Does that bother you?
When the owners of the slave girl presented Paul and Silas to the city officials, they seemed to hint at bigotry. They said “These guys are Jews” (16:20). Why say that? What difference could it make if the men worshiped God, Zeus, or Caesar’s mother-in-law?
What do you think it says about Paul when he insisted that city officials personally escort him out of prison (16:37)? Character flaw or leadership trait?
LIFE APPLICATION. It seems interesting that the owners of the slave girl didn’t tell the city officials the real reason they wanted Paul and Silas arrested. They said, “These guys are… disturbing the peace” (16:20). Paul and Silas did nothing of the kind as far as we can tell in Acts. Some people do the same thing today. We do something they don’t like. Then they do whatever it takes to hurt us, telling lies if necessary. Do you see any tips from Paul and Silas about how to deal with people like that?