Acts 16 English Standard Version (ESV)
Timothy Joins Paul and Silas
16 Paul[a] came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers[b] at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
The Macedonian Call
6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul[c] had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
The Conversion of Lydia
11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the[d] district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
Paul and Silas in Prison
16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
The Philippian Jailer Converted
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer[e] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
- Acts 16:1 Greek He
- Acts 16:2 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 40
- Acts 16:10 Greek he
- Acts 16:12 Or that
- Acts 16:29 Greek he
Timothy Joins Paul and Silas
16:1 He also came to Derbe 1 and to Lystra. 2 A disciple 3 named Timothy was there, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, 4 but whose father was a Greek. 5 16:2 The brothers in Lystra 6 and Iconium 7 spoke well 8 of him. 9 16:3 Paul wanted Timothy 10 to accompany him, and he took 11 him and circumcised 12 him because of the Jews who were in those places, 13 for they all knew that his father was Greek. 14 16:4 As they went through the towns, 15 they passed on 16 the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem 17 for the Gentile believers 18 to obey. 19 16:5 So the churches were being strengthened in the faith and were increasing in number every day. 20
1 sn Derbe was a city in Lycaonia about 35 mi (60 km) southeast of Lystra. It was about 90 mi (145 km) from Tarsus.
2 sn Lystra was a city in Lycaonia about 25 mi (40 km) south of Iconium.
3 tn Grk “And behold, a disciple.” Here ἰδού (idou) has not been translated.
4 tn L&N 31.103 translates this phrase “the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer.”
5 sn His father was a Greek. Timothy was the offspring of a mixed marriage between a Jewish woman (see 2 Tim 1:5) and a Gentile man. On mixed marriages in Judaism, see Neh 13:23-27; Ezra 9:1-10:44; Mal 2:10-16; Jub. 30:7-17; m. Qiddushin 3.12; m. Yevamot7.5.
6 sn Lystra was a city in Lycaonia about 25 mi (40 km) south of Iconium.
7 sn Iconium was a city in Lycaonia about 110 mi (175 km) east of Pisidian Antioch.
9 tn Grk “who was well spoken of by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium.” Because of the awkwardness in English of having two relative clauses follow one another (“who was a believer…who was well spoken of”) and the awkwardness of the passive verb (“was well spoken of”), the relative pronoun at the beginning of 16:2 (“who”) has been translated as a pronoun (“him”) and the construction converted from passive to active at the same time a new sentence was started in the translation.
10 tn Grk “this one”; the referent (Timothy) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
11 tn Grk “and taking him he circumcised him.” The participle λαβών (labwn) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style. Paul’s cultural sensitivity showed in his action here. He did not want Timothy’s lack of circumcision to become an issue (1 Cor 9:15-23).
12 tn The verb περιέτεμεν (perietemen) here may be understood as causative (cf. ExSyn 411-12) if Paul did not personally perform the circumcision.
13 tn Or “who lived in the area.”
14 tn The anarthrous predicate nominative has been translated as qualitative (“Greek”) rather than indefinite (“a Greek”).
sn His father was Greek. Under Jewish law at least as early as the 2nd century, a person was considered Jewish if his or her mother was Jewish. It is not certain whether such a law was in effect in the 1st century, but even if it was, Timothy would not have been accepted as fully Jewish because he was not circumcised.
15 tn Or “cities.”
16 tn BDAG 762-63 s.v. παραδίδωμι 3 has “they handed down to them the decisions to observe Ac 16:4.”
17 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.
18 tn Grk “for them”; the referent (Gentile believers) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
19 tn Or “observe” or “follow.”
20 tn BDAG 437 s.v. ἡμέρα 2.c has “every day” for this phrase.
21 sn Phrygia was a district in central Asia Minor west of Pisidia.
Paul’s Vision of the Macedonian Man
16:6 They went through the region of Phrygia 21 and Galatia, 22 having been prevented 23 by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message 24 in the province of Asia. 25 16:7 When they came to 26 Mysia, 27 they attempted to go into Bithynia, 28 but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow 29 them to do this, 30 16:8 so they passed through 31 Mysia 32 and went down to Troas. 33 16:9 A 34 vision appeared to Paul during the night: A Macedonian man was standing there 35 urging him, 36 “Come over 37 to Macedonia 38 and help us!” 16:10After Paul 39 saw the vision, we attempted 40 immediately to go over to Macedonia, 41 concluding that God had called 42 us to proclaim the good news to them.
22 sn Galatia refers to either (1) the region of the old kingdom of Galatia in the central part of Asia Minor (North Galatia), or (2) the Roman province of Galatia, whose principal cities in the 1st century were Ancyra and Pisidian Antioch (South Galatia). The exact extent and meaning of this area has been a subject of considerable controversy in modern NT studies.
23 tn Or “forbidden.”
24 tn Or “word.”
25 tn Grk “Asia”; in the NT this always refers to the Roman province of Asia, made up of about one-third of the west and southwest end of modern Asia Minor. Asia lay to the west of the region of Phrygia and Galatia. The words “the province of” are supplied to indicate to the modern reader that this does not refer to the continent of Asia.
26 tn BDAG 511 s.v. κατά B.1.b has “to Mysia” here.
27 sn Mysia was a province in northwest Asia Minor.
28 sn Bithynia was a province in northern Asia Minor northeast of Mysia.
29 tn Or “permit”; see BDAG 269 s.v. ἐάω 1.
30 tn The words “do this” are not in the Greek text, but are supplied for stylistic reasons, since English handles ellipses differently than Greek.
31 tn Although the normal meaning for παρέρχομαι (parercomai) is “pass by, go by,” it would be difficult to get to Troas from where Paul and his companions were without going through rather than around Mysia. BDAG 776 s.v. παρέρχομαι 6 list some nonbiblical examples of the meaning “go through, pass through,” and give that meaning for the usage here.
32 sn Mysia was a province in northwest Asia Minor.
33 sn Troas was a port city (and surrounding region) on the northwest coast of Asia Minor, near ancient Troy.
34 tn Grk “And a.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.
35 tn The word “there” is not in the Greek text, but is implied.
36 tn The participle λέγων (legwn) is redundant and has not been translated.
37 tn Grk “Coming over.” The participle διαβάς (diabas) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
38 sn Macedonia was the Roman province of Macedonia in Greece.
39 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Paul) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
40 tn Grk “sought.”
41 sn Macedonia was the Roman province of Macedonia in Greece.
42 tn Or “summoned.”
Arrival at Philippi
16:11 We put out to sea 43 from Troas 44 and sailed a straight course 45 to Samothrace, 46 the next day to Neapolis, 47 16:12 and from there to Philippi, 48 which is a leading city of that district 49 of Macedonia, 50 a Roman colony. 51 We stayed in this city for some days. 16:13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate to the side of the river, where we thought there would be a place of prayer, and we sat down 52 and began to speak 53 to the women 54 who had assembled there. 55 16:14 A 56 woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth 57 from the city of Thyatira, 58 a God-fearing woman, listened to us. 59 The Lord opened her heart to respond 60 to what Paul was saying. 16:15 After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, 61 “If 62 you consider me to be a believer in the Lord, 63 come and stay in my house.” And she persuaded 64 us.
43 tn BDAG 62 s.v. ἀνάγω 4, “as a nautical t.t. (ἀ. τὴν ναῦν put a ship to sea), mid. or pass. ἀνάγεσθαι to begin to go by boat, put out to sea.”
44 sn Troas was a port city (and surrounding region) on the northwest coast of Asia Minor. See v. 8.
45 tn BDAG 406 s.v. εὐθυδρομέω has “of a ship run a straight course” here; L&N 54.3 has “to sail a straight course, sail straight to.”
46 sn Samothrace is an island in the northern part of the Aegean Sea.
47 sn Neapolis was a seaport on the southern coast of Macedonia. It was 10 mi (16 km) from Philippi.
49 tc ‡ Or perhaps, “a city in the first district” (there are a number of textual variants). L&N 1.85 follow the text of UBS4 and NA27here: “In Ac 16:12…the Greek New Testament published by the United Bible Societies has adopted a conjectural emendation, since the more traditional text, πρώτη τῆς μερίδος, literally ‘first of the district,’ is not only misleading in meaning but does not reflect the historical fact that Philippi was a city in one of the four districts of Macedonia but was not a capital city.” The original text is probably πρώτη τῆς μερίδος (prwth th" merido", “first of that district”) as found in Ì74 א A C Ψ 33vid 36 81 323 945 1175 1891 pc. This has traditionally been translated to give the impression that Philippi was the capital city of the district, but it does not necessarily have to be translated this way. The translation of the article before μερίδος as “that” acknowledges that there were other districts in the province of Macedonia.
50 sn Macedonia was the Roman province of Macedonia in Greece.
51 sn A Roman colony was a city whose residents were regarded as Roman citizens, since such cities were originally colonized by citizens of Rome. From Troas to Philippi was 130 mi (208 km).
52 tn Grk “and sitting down we began to speak.” The participle καθίσαντες (kaqisante") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
53 tn The imperfect verb ἐλαλοῦμεν (elaloumen) has been translated as an ingressive imperfect.
54 sn To the women. Apparently there were not enough Jews present in Philippi to have a synagogue (ten men would have been required to have one).
55 tn The word “there” is not in the Greek text, but is implied.
56 tn Grk “And a.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.
57 tn On the term translated “a dealer in purple cloth” see BDAG 855 s.v. πορφυρόπωλις.
58 sn Thyatira was a city in the province of Lydia in Asia Minor.
59 tn The words “to us” are not in the Greek text, but are implied. Direct objects in Greek were often omitted when clear from the context, but must be supplied for the modern English reader.
60 tn Although BDAG 880 s.v. προσέχω 2.b gives the meaning “pay attention to” here, this could be misunderstood by the modern English reader to mean merely listening intently. The following context, however, indicates that Lydia responded positively to Paul’s message, so the verb here was translated “to respond.”
sn Lydia is one of several significant women in Acts (see 17:4, 12, 34; 18:20).
61 tn Grk “urged us, saying.” The participle λέγουσα (legousa) is redundant in English and has not been translated.
62 tn This is a first class condition in Greek, with the statement presented as real or true for the sake of the argument.
63 tn Or “faithful to the Lord.” BDAG 821 s.v. πίστος 2 states concerning this verse, “Of one who confesses the Christian faith believing or a believer in the Lord, in Christ, in God πιστ. τῷ κυρίῳ Ac 16:15.” L&N 11.17 has “one who is included among the faithful followers of Christ – ‘believer, Christian, follower.’”
64 tn Although BDAG 759 s.v. παραβιάζομαι has “urge strongly, prevail upon,” in contemporary English “persuade” is a more frequently used synonym for “prevail upon.”
Paul and Silas Are Thrown Into Prison
16:16 Now 65 as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave girl met us who had a spirit that enabled her to foretell the future by supernatural means. 66 She 67 brought her owners 68 a great profit by fortune-telling. 69 16:17 She followed behind Paul and us and kept crying out, 70 “These men are servants 71 of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way 72 of salvation.” 73 16:18 She continued to do this for many days. But Paul became greatly annoyed, 74 and turned 75 and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ 76 to come out of her!” And it came out of her at once. 77 16:19 But when her owners 78 saw their hope of profit 79 was gone, they seized 80 Paul and Silas and dragged 81 them into the marketplace before the authorities. 16:20 When 82 they had brought them 83 before the magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion. 84 They are 85 Jews 16:21 and are advocating 86 customs that are not lawful for us to accept 87 or practice, 88 since we are 89 Romans.”
16:22 The crowd joined the attack 90 against them, and the magistrates tore the clothes 91 off Paul and Silas 92 and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 93 16:23 After they had beaten them severely, 94 they threw them into prison and commanded 95 the jailer to guard them securely. 16:24 Receiving such orders, he threw them in the inner cell 96 and fastened their feet in the stocks. 97
16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying 98 and singing hymns to God, 99 and the rest of 100 the prisoners were listening to them. 16:26 Suddenly a great earthquake occurred, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. Immediately all the doors flew open, and the bonds 101 of all the prisoners came loose.16:27 When the jailer woke up 102 and saw the doors of the prison standing open, 103 he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, 104 because he assumed 105 the prisoners had escaped. 16:28 But Paul called out loudly, 106 “Do not harm yourself, 107 for we are all here!” 16:29 Calling for lights, the jailer 108 rushed in and fell down 109 trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. 16:30 Then he brought them outside 110 and asked, “Sirs, what must 111 I do to be saved?” 16:31 They replied, 112 “Believe 113 in the Lord Jesus 114 and you will be saved, you and your household.” 16:32 Then 115 they spoke the word of the Lord 116 to him, along with all those who were in his house. 16:33 At 117 that hour of the night he took them 118 and washed their wounds;119 then 120 he and all his family 121 were baptized right away. 122 16:34 The jailer 123 brought them into his house and set food 124 before them, and he rejoiced greatly 125 that he had come to believe 126 in God, together with his entire household. 127 16:35 At daybreak 128 the magistrates 129 sent their police officers,130 saying, “Release those men.” 16:36 The jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, 131 “The magistrates have sent orders 132 to release you. So come out now and go in peace.” 133 16:37 But Paul said to the police officers, 134 “They had us beaten in public 135 without a proper trial 136 – even though we are Roman citizens137 – and they threw us 138 in prison. And now they want to send us away 139 secretly? Absolutely not! They140 themselves must come and escort us out!” 141 16:38 The police officers reported these words to the magistrates. They were frightened when they heard Paul and Silas 142 were Roman citizens 143 16:39 and came 144 and apologized to them. After 145 they brought them out, they asked them repeatedly 146 to leave the city. 16:40 When they came out of the prison, they entered Lydia’s house, and when they saw the brothers, they encouraged them and then 147 departed.
65 tn Grk “Now it happened that.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”), common in Luke (69 times) and Acts (54 times), is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.
66 tn Or “who had a spirit of divination”; Grk “who had a spirit of Python.” According to BDAG 896-97 s.v. πύθων, originally Πύθων(Puqwn) was the name of the serpent or dragon that guarded the Delphic oracle. According to Greek mythology, it lived at the foot of Mount Parnassus and was killed by Apollo. From this, the word came to designate a person who was thought to have a spirit of divination. Pagan generals, for example, might consult someone like this. So her presence here suggests a supernatural encounter involving Paul and her “spirit.” W. Foerster, TDNT 6:920, connects the term with ventriloquism but states: “We must assume, however, that for this girl, as for those mentioned by Origen…, the art of ventriloquism was inseparably connected with a (supposed or authentic) gift of soothsaying.” It should also be noted that if the girl in question here were only a ventriloquist, the exorcism performed by Paul in v. 18 would not have been effective.
67 tn Grk “who.” Because of the awkwardness in English of having two relative clauses follow one another (“who had a spirit…who brought her owners a great profit”) the relative pronoun here (“who”) has been translated as a pronoun (“she”) and a new sentence begun in the translation.
68 tn Or “masters.”
69 tn On this term see BDAG 616 s.v. μαντεύομαι. It was used of those who gave oracles.
70 tn Grk “crying out, saying”; the participle λέγουσα (legousa) is redundant in English and has not been translated. The imperfect verb ἔκραζεν (ekrazen) has been translated as a progressive imperfect.
71 tn Grk “slaves.” See the note on the word “servants” in 2:18. The translation “servants” was used here because in this context there appears to be more emphasis on the activity of Paul and his companions (“proclaiming to you the way of salvation”) than on their status as “slaves of the Most High God.”
72 tn Or “a way.” The grammar of this phrase is a bit ambiguous. The phrase in Greek is ὁδὸν σωτηρίας (Jodon swthria"). Neither the head noun nor the genitive noun has the article; this is in keeping with Apollonius’ Canon (see ExSyn 239-40). Since both nouns are anarthrous, this construction also fits Apollonius’ Corollary (see ExSyn 250-54); since the genitive noun is abstract it is most naturally qualitative, so the head noun could either be definite or indefinite without being unusual as far as the grammar is concerned. Luke’s usage of ὁδός elsewhere is indecisive as far as this passage is concerned. However, when one looks at the historical background it is clear that (1) the woman is shut up (via exorcism) not because her testimony is false but because of its source (analogous to Jesus’ treatment of demons perhaps), and (b) “the way” is a par excellence description of the new faith throughout Acts. It thus seems that at least in Luke’s presentation “the way of salvation” is the preferred translation.
73 sn Proclaiming to you the way of salvation. The remarks were an ironic recognition of Paul’s authority, but he did not desire such a witness, possibly for fear of confusion. Her expression the Most High God might have been understood as Zeus by the audience.
74 tn Grk “becoming greatly annoyed.” The participle διαπονηθείς (diaponhqei") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style. The aorist has been translated as an ingressive aorist (entry into a state or condition). See BDAG 235 s.v. διαπονέομαι.
75 tn Grk “and turning.” The participle ἐπιστρέψας (epistreya") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
76 tn Or “Messiah”; both “Christ” (Greek) and “Messiah” (Hebrew and Aramaic) mean “one who has been anointed.”
77 tn BDAG 1102-3 s.v. ὥρα 2.c has “at that very time, at once, instantly” for the usage in this verse.
78 tn Or “masters.”
79 tn On this use of ἐργασία (ergasia), see BDAG 390 s.v. 4. It is often the case that destructive practices and commerce are closely tied together.
80 tn Grk “was gone, seizing.” The participle ἐπιλαβόμενοι (epilabomenoi) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
82 tn Grk “And when.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.
83 tn Grk “having brought them.” The participle ἐπιλαβόμενοι (epilabomenoi) has been taken temporally. It is also possible in English to translate this participle as a finite verb: “they brought them before the magistrates and said.”
84 tn BDAG 309 s.v. ἐκταράσσω has “agitate, cause trouble to, throw into confusion” for the meaning of this verb.
85 tn Grk “being Jews, and they are proclaiming.” The participle ὑπάρχοντες (Juparconte") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
86 tn Grk “proclaiming,” but in relation to customs, “advocating” is a closer approximation to the meaning.
87 tn Or “acknowledge.”
88 sn Customs that are not lawful for us to accept or practice. Ironically, the charges are similar to those made against Jesus in Luke 23:2, where Jews argued he was “twisting” their customs. The charge has three elements: (1) a racial element (Jewish); (2) a social element (unlawful); and (3) a traditional element (not their customs).
89 tn Grk “we being Romans.” The participle οὖσιν (ousin) has been translated as a causal adverbial participle.
90 tn L&N 39.50 has “the crowd joined the attack against them” for συνεπέστη (sunepesth) in this verse.
91 tn Grk “tearing the clothes off them, the magistrates ordered.” The participle περιρήξαντες (perirhxante") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style. Although it may be possible to understand the aorist active participle περιρήξαντες in a causative sense (“the magistrates caused the clothes to be torn off Paul and Silas”) in the mob scene that was taking place, it is also possible that the magistrates themselves actively participated. This act was done to prepare them for a public flogging (2 Cor 11:25; 1 Thess 2:2).
92 tn Grk “off them”; the referents (Paul and Silas) have been specified in the translation for clarity.
93 tn The infinitive ῥαβδίζειν (rJabdizein) means “to beat with rods or sticks” (as opposed to fists or clubs, BDAG 902 s.v. ῥαβδίζω).
94 tn Grk “Having inflicted many blows on them.” The participle ἐπιθέντες (epiqente") has been taken temporally. BDAG 384 s.v. ἐπιτίθημι 1.a.β has “inflict blows upon someone” for this expression, but in this context it is simpler to translate in English as “they had beaten them severely.”
95 tn Grk “commanding.” The participle παραγγείλαντες (parangeilante") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
96 tn Or “prison.”
97 tn L&N 6.21 has “stocks” for εἰς τὸ ξύλον (ei" to xulon) here, as does BDAG 685 s.v. ξύλον 2.b. However, it is also possible (as mentioned in L&N 18.12) that this does not mean “stocks” but a block of wood (a log or wooden column) in the prison to which prisoners’ feet were chained or tied. Such a possibility is suggested by v. 26, where the “bonds” (“chains”?) of the prisoners loosened.
98 tn Grk “praying, were singing.” The participle προσευχόμενοι (proseucomenoi) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
99 sn Praying and singing hymns to God. Tertullian said, “The legs feel nothing in the stocks when the heart is in heaven” (To the Martyrs 2; cf. Rom 5:3; Jas 1:2; 1 Pet 5:6). The presence of God means the potential to be free (cf. v. 26).
100 tn The words “the rest of” are not in the Greek text, but are implied.
101 tn Or perhaps, “chains.” The translation of τὰ δεσμά (ta desma) is to some extent affected by the understanding of ξύλον (xulon, “stocks”) in v. 24. It is possible (as mentioned in L&N 18.12) that this does not mean “stocks” but a block of wood (a log or wooden column) in the prison to which prisoners’ feet were chained or tied.
102 tn L&N 23.75 has “had awakened” here. It is more in keeping with contemporary English style, however, to keep the two verbal ideas parallel in terms of tense (“when the jailer woke up and saw”) although logically the second action is subsequent to the first.
103 tn The additional semantic component “standing” is supplied (“standing open”) to convey a stative nuance in English.
104 sn Was about to kill himself. The jailer’s penalty for failing to guard the prisoners would have been death, so he contemplated saving the leaders the trouble (see Acts 12:19; 27:42).
105 tn Or “thought.”
106 tn Grk “But Paul called out with a loud voice, saying.” The dative phrase μεγάλῃ φωνῇ (megalh fwnh) has been simplified as an English adverb (“loudly”), and the participle λέγων (legwn) has not been translated since it is redundant in English.
107 sn Do not harm yourself. Again the irony is that Paul is the agent through whom the jailer is spared.
108 tn Grk “he”; the referent (the jailer) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
109 tn Or “and prostrated himself.”
sn Fell down. The earthquake and the freeing of the prisoners showed that God’s power was present. Such power could only be recognized. The open doors opened the jailer’s heart.
110 tn Grk “And bringing them outside, he asked.” The participle προαγαγών (proagagwn) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style. Because of the length of the Greek sentence, the conjunction καί (kai) has not been translated here. Instead a new English sentence is begun by supplying the conjunction “then” to indicate the logical sequence.
111 tn The Greek term (δεῖ, dei) is used by Luke to represent divine necessity.
112 tn Grk “said.”
113 sn Here the summary term of response is a call to believe. In this context it refers to trusting the sovereign God’s power to deliver, which events had just pictured for the jailer.
114 tc The majority of mss add Χριστόν (Criston, “Christ”) here (C D E Ψ 1739 Ï sy sa), but the best and earliest witnesses read simply τὸν κύριον ᾿Ιησοῦν (ton kurion Ihsoun, “the Lord Jesus”; Ì74vid א A B 33 81 pc bo). The addition of “Christ” to “Lord Jesus” is an obviously motivated reading. Thus on both external and internal grounds, the shorter reading is strongly preferred.
115 tn Grk “And they.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the continuity with the preceding verse. Greek style often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” but English style does not.
116 sn The word of the Lord is a technical expression in OT literature, often referring to a divine prophetic utterance (e.g., Gen 15:1, Isa 1:10, Jonah 1:1). In the NT it occurs 15 times: 3 times as ῥῆμα τοῦ κυρίου (rJhma tou kuriou; Luke 22:61, Acts 11:16, 1 Pet 1:25) and 12 times as λόγος τοῦ κυρίου (logo" tou kuriou; here and in Acts 8:25; 13:44, 48, 49; 15:35, 36; 19:10, 20; 1 Thess 1:8, 4:15; 2 Thess 3:1). As in the OT, this phrase focuses on the prophetic nature and divine origin of what has been said.
117 tn Grk “And at.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.
118 tn Grk “taking them…he washed.” The participle παραλαβών (paralabwn) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
119 tn On this phrase BDAG 603 s.v. λούω 1 gives a literal translation as “by washing he freed them from the effects of the blows.”
120 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the logical sequence.
121 sn All his family. It was often the case in the ancient world that conversion of the father led to the conversion of all those in the household.
122 tn Or “immediately.”
123 tn Grk “He”; the referent (the jailer) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
124 tn Grk “placed [food] on the table” (a figurative expression). Since the actual word for food is not specified, it would also be possible to translate “set a meal before them,” but since this is taking place in the middle of the night, the preparations necessary for a full meal would probably not have been made. More likely Paul and Silas were given whatever was on hand that needed little or no preparation.
125 tn Or “he was overjoyed.”
126 tn The translation “come to believe” reflects more of the resultative nuance of the perfect tense here.
127 tn The phrase “together with his entire household” is placed at the end of the English sentence so that it refers to both the rejoicing and the belief. A formal equivalence translation would have “and he rejoiced greatly with his entire household that he had come to believe in God,” but the reference to the entire household being baptized in v. 33 presumes that all in the household believed.
128 tn The translation “day is breaking” for ἡμέρα γίνεται (Jhmera ginetai) in this verse is given by BDAG 436 s.v. ἡμέρα 1.a.
129 tn On the term translated “magistrates,” see BDAG 947-48 s.v. στρατηγός 1. These city leaders were properly called duoviri, but were popularly known as praetors (στρατηγοί, strathgoi). They were the chief officials of Philippi. The text leaves the impression that they came to the decision to release Paul and Silas independently. God was at work everywhere.
130 tn On the term ῥαβδοῦχος (rJabdouco") see BDAG 902 s.v. The term was used of the Roman lictor and roughly corresponds to contemporary English “constable, policeman.”
131 tn The word “saying” is not in the Greek text, but is implied; it is necessary in English because the content of what the jailer said to Paul and Silas is not the exact message related to him by the police officers, but is a summary with his own additions.
132 tn The word “orders” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects in Greek were often omitted when clear from the context, but must be supplied for the modern English reader.
133 tn Grk “So coming out now go in peace.” The participle ἐξελθόντες (exelqonte") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
134 tn Grk “to them”; the referent (the police officers) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
135 tn Grk “Having us beaten in public.” The participle δείραντες (deirante") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
136 tn Or “in public, uncondemned.” BDAG 35 s.v. ἀκατάκριτος has “uncondemned, without due process” for this usage.
137 tn The participle ὑπάρχοντας (Juparconta") has been translated as a concessive adverbial participle.
138 tn The word “us” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context, but must be supplied for the modern English reader.
139 tn L&N 28.71 has “send us away secretly” for this verse.
140 tn Grk “But they.”
141 sn They themselves must come and escort us out! Paul was asking for the injustice he and Silas suffered to be symbolically righted. It was a way of publicly taking their actions off the record and showing the apostles’ innocence, a major public statement. Note the apology given in v. 39.
142 tn Grk “heard they”; the referents (Paul and Silas) have been specified in the translation for clarity.
143 sn Roman citizens. This fact was disturbing to the officials because due process was a right for a Roman citizen, well established in Roman law. To flog a Roman citizen was considered an abomination. Such punishment was reserved for noncitizens.
144 tn Grk “and coming, they apologized.” The participle ἐλθόντες (elqonte") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.
145 tn Grk “and after.” Because of the length of the Greek sentence, the conjunction καί (kai) has not been translated here. Instead a new English sentence is begun.
146 tn The verb ἐρώτων (erwtwn) has been translated as an iterative imperfect; the English adverb “repeatedly” brings out the iterative force in the translation.
147 tn “Then” is not in the Greek text, but has been supplied to clarify the logical sequence in the translation.
Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
The only OT influence in this chapter comes in the form of some minor uses of biblical language.
The phrase “the Lord opened her heart” is reminiscent of 2 Macc. 1:4: “May he open your hearts to his law.”
The slave girl can hardly be deliberately picking up the common LXX designation of God as the “Most High” (hypsistos); the term was also at home in Greek religion. Nevertheless, a knowledge of how Hellenistic Jews referred to their God could well have influenced the phraseology.
“Go in peace” is said to be “biblical Greek” (cf. Judg. 18:6; see BDF §4.3). Some commentators are skeptical as to whether a new convert could have picked up a Jewish Christian greeting quite so quickly as this.
Robert H. Gundry, Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation
THROUGH THE CITIES OF LYSTRA AND DERBE
16:1–2: And he [Paul] arrived both at Derbe and at Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there by the name of Timothy—the son of a believing Jewish woman but of a Greek [and therefore Gentile] father—2 who [referring back to Timothy] was being attested [to Paul during his visit] by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium. “Behold” highlights the sterling reputation of Timothy, which advances Luke’s program of advertising the virtues of Jesus and his disciples for Luke’s evangelistic purpose in writing Acts. As usual, “the brothers” advertises their communitarianism as well, and for the same purpose. Son of a mixed marriage, Timothy was half Jewish and half Gentile. “Disciple” means “learner,” and Luke notes the belief of Timothy’s mother. So Luke’s calling Timothy “a certain disciple” suggests that Timothy learned from his mother to believe in Jesus (compare 2 Timothy 1:5).
16:3: Paul wanted this [Timothy] to go out with him [as a helper replacing John Mark in the work of evangelism]; and on taking [him for this purpose], he circumcised him on account of the Jews who were in those localities. For they all knew that his father had been Greek. “Had been” implies the father was now dead. Greeks considered the ideal of beauty to be the nude body of a male human being and therefore wouldn’t hear of circumcision, the partial mutilation of their ideal. And in that male-dominated culture fathers had the say-so over their newborn sons. Despite the Jewish mother of Timothy, then, his Greek father hadn’t circumcised him. So without the benefit of physical inspection the local Jews’ knowledge that he had a Greek father gave all of them the further knowledge of Timothy’s uncircumcision. Not to keep the law of circumcision, then, but to avoid putting a roadblock in the way of evangelizing the local Jews and stabilizing those who believed, Paul circumcised Timothy. As in the decrees of the Jerusalem Council, conciliation reigned supreme.
16:4–5: And as they were traveling through the cities, they gave over to them [particularly to the Christians in the cities of that region] the decrees adjudicated by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem [for them] to keep. “The decrees” consisted in commands to avoid ingesting meat sacrificed to an idol, sexual immorality, what’s been strangled, and blood at festivities in pagan temples (see 15:20, 29 with comments). Originally, the decrees were addressed to Gentile converts in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia (15:23). But since they applied to Gentile converts everywhere, Paul and Silas distribute the decrees also in this further region. 5 So on the one hand the churches were being stabilized in their belief [because the decrees also included a repudiation of the disturbing doctrine that Gentile believers had to get circumcised and keep the rest of Moses’ law] and were increasing in number day by day. Evangelistic success keeps on growing. Become part of it! “On the other hand” awaits in the next episode.
THROUGH THE PHRYGIA-GALATIAN REGION AND NORTHWEST ASIA MINOR
16:6–8: On the other hand [compare 16:5], they [Paul, Silas, and Timothy] went through the Phrygia-and-Galatian region [in central Asia Minor], having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia [not the continent; rather, a province in western Asia Minor]. 7 And on coming down to Mysia [a province in northwest Asia Minor], they were assaying to travel into Bithynia [a province in northern Asia Minor]; and the Spirit of Jesus didn’t allow them [to do so]. 8 And on going along the edge of Mysia, they went down to Troas [a seaport in the northwest corner of Asia Minor]. To speak the word of the gospel is good; but the Holy Spirit tells where to speak it, and when to speak it there. So his forbidding Paul and Paul’s party to speak the word in Asia and not allowing them passage to Bithynia shows that evangelism proceeds under the control as well as power of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, too, it can’t be thwarted, only surrendered to—if you’re smart. Since “the Spirit of Jesus” controls the where-and-when of evangelism in just the same way “the Holy Spirit” does, the two equate with each other in the sense that the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ Spirit, so that again Luke comes close to ascribing absolute deity to Jesus (compare the comments on 15:40).
16:9–10: And a vision appeared to Paul during the night: a man, a certain Macedonian, was standing and urging him and saying, “On coming through [that is, on crossing the Aegean Sea, which lies between Asia Minor and Macedonia-Greece], help us.” 10 And when he’d seen the vision, immediately we sought to go out from [Troas] into Macedonia, concluding that God had summoned us to proclaim the good news to them [the Macedonians]. “Concluding” means something like our colloquial expression, “connecting the dots.” In other words, Paul and his companions, to whom he must have reported the vision, put the Spirit’s forbidding them to speak the word in Asia and not allowing them passage to Bithynia together with the vision of a Macedonian’s call for help. Just as 2 + 2 = 4, the conclusion followed that God had summoned them to help. And when we put together the Holy Spirit’s forbidding, the disallowing by Jesus’ Spirit, and God’s summoning, something very like the doctrine of the Trinity emerges. The Macedonian’s “standing” in Paul’s vision suggests a note of desperation in the “urging” to come over and help. But through ignorance of the gospel the Macedonian doesn’t know what kind of help is needed. So Paul and his companions have to interpret the need for help in evangelistic terms. The immediacy with which they sought to cross the Aegean Sea stresses their obedience to the divine summons and their eagerness to proclaim the good news to needy people. “We sought to go out from [Troas] into Macedonia” implies they needed to find a ship sailing there that would take them aboard. “We sought” and “summoned us” imply that the author of Acts is a member of Paul’s party, probably (though not certainly) by having joined at this point.
16:11–13: And on setting sail from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace [an island in the northern Aegean Sea], and the next [day] to Neapolis [a harbor city on the coast of Macedonia], 12 and from there [inland about ten miles] to Philippi, which is a first city [= a prominent one] of a district of Macedonia, a [Roman] colony [referring to Philippi, not to “a district” or to “Macedonia”]. “A straight course” and “the next day” indicate that Paul and his companions wasted no time answering God’s summons that they proclaim the good news to Macedonians. The description of Philippi as prominent also hints that they aim to reach with the good news a city of some importance. The further description of Philippi as a Roman colony, settled by veterans of the Roman army as we know from other sources, prepares both for a charge that Paul and his companions advocate behavior illegal by Roman standards (16:20–21) and for the appeal of Paul to his and Silas’s Roman citizenship (16:37–39). And we were spending some days in this city. This statement, along with others in the passage that use “we” and “us,” makes the account derive from an eyewitness, the author (compare Luke 1:1–4). 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate [of the city] to a riverside where we were thinking a place of prayer was. And on sitting down, we were speaking to the assembled women. Apparently there was a place of prayer beside the river. Luke doesn’t say whether it was a building, such as a synagogue; for his interest runs to the telling of good news to the assembled women. Apparently no men are present. Again Luke doesn’t say why, but the upcoming description of one of the women as “worshiping God” (16:14) suggests a group of Gentile women who apart from their husbands had started worshiping and praying to the one true God. In any case, Luke focuses on the evangelizing of these women. This focus helps balance the emphasis elsewhere in Acts on men. The gospel is for women as well as men.
16:14–15: And a certain woman by the name of Lydia from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple-dyed [fabric], worshiping God, was listening, whose heart the Lord opened so as to attend to the things being spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged [us], saying, “If you [plural] have judged me to be believing the Lord [as apparently you have by baptizing me], on coming into my house, stay.” And she prevailed on us. The gospel’s attracting a pious woman like Lydia shows it to be worthy of belief by other religiously sensitive people as well. Her baptism indicates that “attend[ing] to the things being spoken by Paul” entailed believing the gospel. “Worshiping God” and “was listening” are so closely connected that it seems her listening constituted worship of God. The opening of her heart by the Lord stresses that salvation is his work in the receiving of it just as in making it available. The baptism of Lydia’s household broadens this evangelistic success; and her insistence on providing hospitality to Paul and his companions exhibits Christian hospitality, and therefore an attractive communitarianism, right from the start.
16:16–18: And it happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, there met us a certain slave girl, having a spirit of divination, who as such [referring to the slave girl] was providing her masters [= owners] much profit by fortune-telling [for a fee]. 17 While following behind Paul and us, this [slave girl] kept shouting, saying, “These men are slaves of the Most High God [compare Luke 8:28], who as such are announcing to you [the surrounding populace] the way of salvation.” 18 And she kept doing this for many days. But on getting annoyed and turning around, Paul said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. “As we were going to the place of prayer” calls attention to the piety of Paul and his companions. They didn’t meet the slave girl. She met them. “Having a spirit of divination” indicates it was this spirit that prompted the girl to meet them, and then to follow them and shout repeatedly and persistently. “These men” reflects her proximity while following. “These men” sets off Paul and his companions as human beings over against “the Most High God,” and “slaves” describes their “announcing the way of salvation” as a service to God, so that the spirit of divination is giving supernatural attestation to Paul, his companions, and their message, an attestation that Luke cites to impress prospective converts with the truth of the gospel. “To you” implies that those to whom Paul and his companions have been speaking are also hearing what the slave girl shouts. “While following behind Paul and us,” “kept shouting,” and “kept doing this for many days” underline that Paul exercised great patience before getting annoyed and that therefore the upcoming seizure, dragging, charging, disrobing, beating, and imprisonment of him and Silas will have no justification. At this point it would be easy to speculate that Paul finally got annoyed because he didn’t like being advertised by a fortune-teller. But Luke doesn’t say so. Therefore his emphasis falls on the success of Paul’s exorcism. The annoyance merely sets up for the exorcism, and the exorcism proves successful because of Paul’s using “the name of Jesus Christ.” Thus the slave girl, who’d been shouting that Paul and his companions were announcing the way of salvation, is herself saved (compare 4:12). “The way of salvation” is the road that leads to salvation at the end (compare the comments on 9:2 and see Luke 13:23–24; Matthew 7:13–14).
16:19–21: But on seeing that their hope of profit had gone out [with the exit of the spirit that had enabled the slave girl to tell fortunes], her masters—on taking hold of Paul and Silas—dragged [them] into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And on bringing them to the officers, they said, “These men, being Jews, are throwing our city into confusion; 21 and they’re announcing standards that are unlawful for us, being Romans, to welcome or practice.” After calling the city authorities “the rulers,” Luke calls them “the officers,” probably by way of reflecting the military background of those who’d settled Philippi as a Roman colony (compare 16:12). Putting the slave girl’s masters in a self-serving and otherwise bad light are (1) their valuing her profitability to them above her deliverance from the spirit that had possessed her; (2) their dragging Paul and Silas; (3) their pejorative citation of Paul’s and Silas’s Jewishness; (4) their blowing up the exorcism into city-wide confusion; (5) the covering up of their pecuniary motive with a false charge that Paul and Silas were announcing standards unlawful for Romans to welcome or practice; and (6) their failure to specify any such standards. The standards supposedly being announced by Paul and Silas contrast with “the way of salvation” actually being announced by them.
16:22–24: And the crowd rose up together against them; and the officers, on ripping off their [Paul’s and Silas’s] clothes, were commanding [policemen] to beat [them] with rods [compare 2 Corinthians 11:24–25]. 23 And after laying many blows on them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to guard them securely, 24 who [referring to the jailer] on receiving such an order threw them into the inner prison [for maximum security] and secured their feet in the wood [= in stocks for even further security]. The crowd acts as a mob, the officers like dupes of the slave girl’s owners. Paul and Silas are given no chance to answer the charges brought against them. They’re beaten with many blows of a rod and thrown into prison without so much as a verdict of guilty. But their suffering carries out God’s preannounced plan, particularly for Paul (see 9:16). Luke’s introduction of the jailer and the emphasis on keeping Paul and Silas securely prepare for the next episode, which will reverse the jailer’s role and wreak havoc on the rulers’ order and the means of security.
16:25–26: But toward midnight Paul and Silas, praying, were singing praise to God; and the prisoners [that is, the rest of them] were listening to them. 26 And suddenly a great earthquake occurred, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And at once all the doors were opened and the fetters of all [the prisoners] came loose. As often, Luke highlights the piety of Christians, this time by noting Paul’s and Silas’s praying and singing praise to God even in prison and even toward midnight. What good news it must be to produce such piety under such circumstances! The listening of other prisoners makes them earwitnesses to this piety. Suddenness dramatizes the earthquake as a divine response to the injustice perpetrated on Paul and Silas. The greatness of the earthquake magnifies this response and is certified by the shaking of the prison’s foundations, the immediate opening of all the prison doors, and the loosening of all the prisoners’ fetters. The double use of “all” leaves no door unopened, no prisoner still fettered.
16:27–29: And the jailer, on waking out of [his] sleep and seeing the doors of the prison opened, drawing [his] sword he was about to do away with [= kill] himself, supposing the prisoners had escaped. He was responsible for keeping them securely in prison. Better to kill himself than to suffer the indignity of public punishment, perhaps even execution. 28 But with a loud voice Paul called, saying, “You shouldn’t do yourself any harm, for we’re all here.” Paul hasn’t taken the opportunity to escape; and despite the jailer’s having thrown him into the inner prison and secured his feet in stocks, Paul calls out to save the jailer—in more than one way, it’ll turn out. The loudness of Paul’s voice stresses the strength of his concern for the jailer’s salvation. Luke doesn’t tell how it happened that none of the other prisoners took the opportunity to escape. It’s enough that their not doing so will make possible the jailer’s salvation. 29 And on asking for lights, he jumped in and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. The jailer wanted lights to see for himself whether all the prisoners were still there. “Asking for lights” implies his enlisting help, probably that of his household since they’re to be mentioned shortly. His jumping in shows eagerness to check out the truth of Paul’s statement. That he “fell down … before Paul and Silas” implies his discovery that all the prisoners are indeed still there. Together with the falling down, the trembling that accompanied it contrasts with the jailer’s earlier rough treatment of Paul and Silas. God has turned the tables, for the gospel can’t be stopped.
16:30–32: And on bringing them outside, he said, “Lords, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you’ll be saved—also your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him along with all those in his household. Most English translations have “Sirs” instead of “Lords.” It’s true that the underlying Greek word can carry either meaning, in addition to the meaning “master” or “owner,” as for the slave girl’s masters/owners (16:16, 19). But here it looks as though the jailer—because of the great earthquake, perhaps also because he thought Paul and Silas had supernaturally kept the other prisoners from escaping—is addressing Paul and Silas as though they’re deities in human guise who can save him if he does what they tell him to do. His having fallen at their feet with trembling supports this impression. But they quickly point away from themselves to Jesus as “the Lord” who’ll save him if he rests his faith on him (compare 4:12: “And there’s salvation in no one else, for under heaven there’s no other name that’s been given among human beings by which we must be saved”). “Also your household” expands the evangelistic enterprise that Paul and Silas are making out of the earthquake. From his own standpoint, the jailer may have been asking what he must do to be saved from execution for failure to keep the prisoners secure, in which case Paul and Silas answer in the far more important terms of eternal salvation. At the level of Luke’s text, though, it’s a question of eternal salvation from the very start. “The word of the Lord” that Paul and Barnabas proceed to speak will have consisted in particulars of the gospel. Since this word is spoken not only to the jailer but also to “all those in his household,” it appears that they’re the ones on whom he’d called for lights (16:29).
16:33–34: And on taking them along at that hour of the night, he washed away [the blood] from the blows [they’d received]; and he was baptized—also all his [household members]—at once. 34 And on bringing them up into [his] house, he set a table [with food] and, having believed God, exulted with all [his] household. The jailer had thrown Paul and Silas into the inner prison, secured their feet in stocks, and then feared they and the other prisoners had escaped. In a dramatic turnaround, he now takes Paul and Silas alongside himself from the prison, cleanses their wounds, gets baptized, brings them to his home, and treats them to a celebratory meal. “At that hour of the night” (midnight according to 16:25) adds to the drama. The jailer can’t wait to make amends. Nor can he wait to get baptized, as “at once” indicates; and his baptism indicates he has believed on the Lord Jesus to be saved. The baptism also of “all his [household members]” indicates they too have believed. “All his household” stresses the power of “the word of the Lord” that they’d heard. “Having believed God” replaces “believ[ing] on the Lord Jesus” and thus comes close yet again to equating Jesus as Lord with God. At least the association is close enough to point toward Jesus’ deity alongside that of God the Father. Exultation reflects the joy generated by believing the gospel, a theme prominent in Luke–Acts (see an early instance in Luke 2:10). “Exulted with all his household” portrays a family happy and united in their newfound faith, the kind of family prospective converts should want to make for themselves by believing God, which is to believe on the Lord Jesus.
16:35–36: And when day came, the officers [= the city rulers] sent [their] policemen, saying [to the jailer], “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul: “The officers have sent [orders] that you [plural, for Silas as well as Paul] be let go. On coming out [of the jail], then, travel on now [from the city] in peace.” So Paul and Silas have returned to jail. We might speculate that the city rulers wanted Paul and Silas let go to forestall further earthquakes, or that they figured a night in jail had taught Paul and Silas a lesson. But Luke doesn’t say so, because his interest focuses solely and appropriately on the salvific effect of the earthquake: it resulted in the salvation of the jailer and all his household. “Travel on now in peace” contrasts with the upset that Paul and Silas were falsely accused of causing and also with the beating, jailing, and stocks they’d suffered.
16:37: But Paul said to them, “Though we’re Romans, they threw [us] into prison after beating us in public without condemnation [that is, without putting us on trial and reaching a verdict of guilty]. And now they’re throwing us out in secret? No way! Rather, on coming [here] they themselves are to bring us out!” Though it was the jailer who’d reported to Paul the words of release, Paul replies “to them,” who’ll turn out to be the policemen sent by the city rulers. For the first time it appears that both he and Silas have Roman citizenship. This makes ironic the false charge that they’d been announcing standards unlawful for Roman citizens (16:20–21). What in fact had happened was that their rights as citizens had been grossly violated, whereas they’d shown good citizenship by passing up an opportunity to escape the jail and by returning there after the jailer had taken them to his home. The mistreatment of Roman citizens such as Paul and Silas—in violation of their rights—could backfire on the city rulers, so that Paul is now emboldened to demand they escort him and Silas out of prison rather than surreptitiously throwing them out. As the counterpart of “threw [us] into prison,” “throwing us out” portrays the release as a self-serving attempt by the city rulers to keep Paul and Silas from pressing their own charges against them.
16:38–40: And the policemen reported these words to the officers [= city rulers]. And they got scared on hearing, “They’re Romans.” 39 And on coming [to the prison] they implored them and, on bringing [them] out, they were asking [them] to go away from the city. 40 But on coming out from the prison they went into Lydia’s [house]; and seeing the brothers, they encouraged [them] and went out [of the city]. So the very rulers who publicly humiliated Paul and Silas suffer themselves the humiliation of acceding to Paul’s demand that they come and serve as a kind of honor guard by escorting him and Silas out of the prison. Adding to the rulers’ public humiliation is their having to implore Paul and Silas to come out of the prison, as though they had to say, “Please come out, because you don’t deserve to be there despite our having thrown you in.” The request that Paul and Silas go out of town as well as come out of the prison piles yet more humiliation on the rulers. They can’t handle the presence of these preachers. And adding a final touch of humiliation is Paul’s and Silas’s snubbing the rulers’ request by going to Lydia’s house, seeing the brothers there, and encouraging them before leaving town. “The brothers” calls to mind the attractively familial character of Christian communities.
Stanley D. Toussaint, The Bible Knowledge Commentary
b. The conscription of Timothy (16:1–5).
16:1–3. Timothy, whose home was Lystra, was of mixed parentage; his mother was Jewish and his father was a Greek. Probably Timothy had been converted under Paul’s ministry during the apostle’s first visit to Lystra (cf. 1 Tim. 1:2). Some suggest he had been led to the Lord by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5). At any rate, he became Paul’s protegé. Because of Timothy’s good reputation (Acts 16:2) Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, probably as a helper as Mark had been. There was a problem, however. The Jews to whom Paul would be preaching the gospel would be offended if a man with a Jewish mother was uncircumcised. So Timothy was circumcised. Apparently he had been uncircumcised because of his father’s influence.
This appears to contradict Paul’s thinking in Galatians 2:3–5 where he refused to let Titus be circumcised. The situations, however, were different. In Galatians 2 the issue was the method of justification; here it was a question of not giving offense (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19–23). The Jerusalem Council, of course, had determined circumcision was not necessary for salvation (Acts 15:10–11, 19). In Acts 16 Paul acted as he did for the sake of the ministry; it was a wise move.
16:4. As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the Jerusalem Council (15:23–29). Assuming Paul wrote Galatians after the first missionary journey, but before the Jerusalem Council, the report of the decision would be strong confirmation of the gospel which he preached and about which he wrote.
16:5. With another “progress report” (cf. Introduction), Luke brought another section of his book to a close. The word strengthened (estereounto, “being made solid or firm”) differs from its synonym epistērizō (“to strengthen”; 14:22; 15:32, 41).
C. The extension of the church in the Aegean area (16:6–19:20).
1. the call to macedonia (16:6–10).
16:6–7. God’s guidance was at first negative. Evidently the missionary party first attempted to go to the western province of Asia whose leading city was Ephesus. So they went throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia (cf. 18:23). Possibly this should be understood as the Phrygian region of Galatia. They then proceeded north to eastern Mysia and tried to enter Bithynia, but again they were prevented from doing so by the Spirit of Jesus. How these hindrances were accomplished is not stated. It may have been circumstances, a word of prophecy, a vision, or some other phenomenon. At any rate, God planned for people in both Ephesus and Bithynia to hear the gospel at a later time (cf. 18:19–21, 24–19:41; 1 Peter 1:1).
16:8–9. Finally, at Troas, a seaport city on the Aegean Sea near the ancient site of Troy, God gave positive direction by means of a night … vision to Paul. Macedonia was a Roman senatorial province, corresponding roughly to northern Greece today.
16:10. The first of the we sections begins here in Acts, indicating that Luke joined the party of Paul, Silas, and Timothy. The how, why, and precise location of Luke’s joining the group are left unstated.
2. the conflicts in macedonia (16:11–17:15).
a. At Philippi (16:11–40)
(1) The conversion of Lydia (16:11–15). 16:11. The journey from Troas to Samothrace and to Neapolis, the seaport city for Philippi, was a rapid one, implying that the wind was with them (cf. 20:6 where the trip in the opposite direction took five days).
16:12. From Neapolis the missionaries traveled the 10 miles on the Via Egnatia, the Egnatian Road to Philippi, which Luke described as a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. Quite clearly Luke displayed pride in the city he came to love. Some say he grew up and attended medical school there. Philippi, originally named Crenides (“Fountains”), was taken by Philip of Macedon and renamed after him. In 168 b.c. Philippi became a Roman possession. After Mark Antony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar, near Philippi in 42 b.c., the city was made into a Roman colony. This gave it special privileges (e.g, fewer taxes) but more importantly it became like a “transplanted” Rome (cf. comments on Philippi in the Introduction to Phil.). The primary purpose of colonies was military, for the Roman leaders felt it wise to have Roman citizens and sympathizers settled in strategic locations. So Octavian (who became Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor, in 27 b.c.) settled more colonists (primarily former soldiers) at Philippi after his defeat of Antony at Actium, on Greece’s west coast, in 31 b.c.
16:13. The Jewish population at Philippi must have been limited, for there was no synagogue there; 10 Jewish males were required for a synagogue. A place of prayer (cf. v. 16), which may have been a place in the open air or a simple building, was located by the Gangites River about a mile and one-half west of town.
To the women … gathered there, the missionaries presented the gospel.
16:14. Lydia was a seller of purple cloth. This purple color came from a shellfish, the murex, or from the root of a plant. She was from Thyatira, a city known for its commerce in Asia Minor (cf. comments on Thyatira in Rev. 2:18–29). She was a worshiper of God, a term used for Gentiles (e.g., Cornelius [Acts 10:2] and those in Thessalonica [17:4] and Athens [17:17]) who were not proselytes to Judaism but who did worship Yahweh. Even so, they were not in the New Testament church, the body of Christ. The Lord opened her heart (cf. Luke 24:45) to respond to Paul’s message. Again Luke stressed the sovereignty of God in salvation (cf. Acts 13:48).
16:15. Lydia was then baptized, apparently soon after her faith in Christ. The members of her household probably refer to servants as well as to her children, if she was a widow. Other persons in the New Testament who along with their “household” members came to Christ include Cornelius (10:24, 44), the Philippian jailer (16:31), Crispus (18:8), Aristobulus (Rom. 16:10), Narcissus (Rom. 16:11), and Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16).
That she was a woman of considerable means is evidenced by the size of her house. It would have to be ample enough to house four men as well as her household without embarrassment (cf. Acts 16:40).
(2) The deliverance of the soothsayer. 16:16–18. Some men were exploiting a demon-possessed slave girl for her ability to predict the future. The English words, a spirit by which she predicted the future, translate two Greek words, “a spirit, a python.” This concept goes back to the Greek city of Delphi where the god Apollo was believed to be embodied in a python snake. The original priestess at Delphi was purported to be possessed by Apollo and thereby able to predict the future; therefore anyone possessed by the python spirit could foretell coming events. No doubt an actual demon gave such a person predictive powers. Demons took advantage of people’s worship of false gods (cf. 17:23; 1 Cor. 10:20).
The girl attached herself to Paul and the others and was shouting (imperf. tense) who they were (servants of the Most High God) and what they preached (the way to be saved). Though her statements were true, the gospel of Christ would be damaged by an association with a demon-possessed slave girl. So after many days … Paul exorcised the demon, speaking directly to the spirit. (Other cases of victory over the occult in Acts are recorded in 8:9–24; 13:6–12; 19:13–20.)
(3) The conversion of the jailer (16:19–34). 16:19–21. Each Roman colony was governed by two leaders called douviri in Latin. The term magistrates translates stratēgois, the Greek equivalent for the Latin word.
The charge of the slave girl’s owners against Paul and Silas was obviously prejudicial. Shortly before this incident the Emperor Claudius had expelled the Jews from Rome (18:2). Philippi, a Roman colony, would have caught this flavor of anti-Semitism. This also helps explain why Timothy and Luke were not taken before the authorities. Timothy was a half-Gentile (16:1) and Luke was probably a Gentile.
Furthermore, Paul and Silas were accused of disrupting the city … by advocating customs unlawful for … Romans to accept or practice. Rome permitted the peoples of its colonies to have their own religions but not to proselytize Roman citizens. The civil leaders could not distinguish between Judaism and Christianity (cf. 18:14–15), so they would see the preaching of Paul and Silas as a flagrant infraction of imperial law.
16:22. Impelled by the crowd … the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. The verb translated “beaten” is from rhabdizō, which means “to beat with a rod.” This was one of the three beatings Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians 11:25, the only other place where this verb occurs in the New Testament.
16:23–24. Paul and Silas were severely flogged and then thrown into prison. What a reception in the first European city where they preached the gospel! The jailer with his strict orders was not going to take any chances so he put them in the inner cell (possibly a dungeon, at least the most secure cell) and fastened their feet in stocks.
16:25. Paul and Silas singing in the inner prison gives special significance to the theme of joy in Acts (cf. Ps. 42:8; “at night His song is with me”). Their praying and singing was heard not only by God but also by the other prisoners.
16:26. This supernatural deliverance reminds the reader of the parallel experiences of Peter (cf. 5:18–20; 12:3–11). This was certainly an unusual midnight experience in a prison—the earth quaking, the prison shaking, doors flying open … chains falling off.
16:27–28. Because the jailer was responsible for any escaped prisoners (cf. 12:19), he drew his sword … to kill himself. But Paul, seeing what was about to happen, reassured him that the prisoners had not escaped. Perhaps the other prisoners were so impressed with the God of Paul and Silas that they did not dare flee!
16:29–30. Going into Paul and Silas’ cell, the jailer … trembling … asked, Men, what must I do to be saved? This question was filled with significance. He must have understood what he was asking. Undoubtedly he had heard the story of the slave girl and how she had announced these men to be servants of God with the message of salvation (v. 17). Possibly also the prayers and singing of Paul and Silas (v. 25) had reached his ears. The awesome earthquake with the subsequent opportunity for the prisoners to escape and Paul’s reassuring words all moved him to ask for the way of salvation.
16:31–32. Verse 31 is a key passage on the message of faith. All that is needed for justification is faith in the Lord Jesus. The jailer had asked what he should do. The answer was that he need perform no works; he only needed to believe in Jesus who is the Lord.
The words and your household mean those members of his house who were of sufficient age to believe would be saved (cf. v. 34) as they trusted Christ. Each member had to believe to be saved.
16:33. The jailer … washed the wounds of Paul and Silas (cf. v. 23)—an amazing thing for a jailer to do for his prisoners. Then by water baptism he and all his family gave testimony to the washing away of their sins.
16:34. The jailer took the former prisoners home and fed them! And his family was joyful. Once again the evidence of the victorious gospel was joy.
(4) The deliverance of Paul and Silas (16:35–40). 16:35–36. Apparently the jailer brought Paul and Silas back to prison. What prompted the magistrates to change their minds is left unstated. Perhaps the earthquake jarred their senses, or maybe on further reflection they realized how unjust they had been.
16:37–40. Paul’s demand that the magistrates escort him and Silas out of prison appears to be vindictive. But it probably was designed to spare the young church in Philippi from further harassment. It certainly would place the believers in a far more secure position before the officials.
But why did Paul wait so long to mention his Roman citizenship? Perhaps the uproar at the trial (vv. 19–22) kept him from being heard. Or maybe Paul purposely waited till the most propitious time to give out this information. Born a Roman citizen (22:28), Paul had certain rights, including a public hearing. And no Roman citizen was supposed to be scourged.
In only two places in Acts was Paul harmed or threatened by Gentiles—in Philippi and in Ephesus (19:23–41). In both instances people were losing money in vested interests and in each case Paul was vindicated by a Roman official. After their prison release, Paul and Silas … met with the believers at Lydia’s house (cf. 16:15).
With Paul’s departure the first we section ends, indicating Luke remained on at Philippi (cf. they in 16:40).
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary,
A New Helper (Acts 16:1–5)
Paul and Silas approached their destination from the east, so they came first to Derbe and then to Lystra, just the reverse of the first journey (Acts 14:6–20). The preachers went from church to church, delivering the decrees and helping establish the believers in the faith. The result was fruit from the witness of the believers so that the churches increased in number daily (see Acts 2:47). It was certainly a most successful tour, but I wonder if any of the believers asked about Barnabas? And what did Paul tell them?
Perhaps the best thing that happened at Lystra was the enlistment of Timothy to replace John Mark as Paul’s special assistant. Timothy was probably converted through Paul’s ministry when the apostle first visited Lystra, for Paul called him “my beloved son” (1 Cor. 4:17) and “my own son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2). Timothy’s mother and grandmother had prepared the way for his decision by being the first in the family to trust Christ (2 Tim. 1:5). Young Timothy undoubtedly witnessed Paul’s sufferings in Lystra (Acts 14:19–20; 2 Tim. 3:10–11) and was drawn by the Lord to the apostle. Timothy was Paul’s favorite companion and coworker (Phil. 2:19–23), perhaps the son Paul never had but always wanted.
Because he had a good report from the churches (1 Tim. 3:7), Timothy was ordained by Paul and added to his “team” (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6). Paul’s next step was to have Timothy circumcised, an action that seems to contradict the decision of the Jerusalem Conference. However, there was an important spiritual principle behind Paul’s decision.
The decision at the Jerusalem Conference was that it was not necessary to be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul did not allow Titus to be circumcised lest the enemy think he was promoting their cause (Gal. 2:1–5). The battle in Jerusalem was over the truth of the Gospel, not over the fitness of a man to serve. Paul’s concern with Timothy was not his salvation but his fitness for service.
Timothy would be working with both Jews and Gentiles in the churches, and it was essential that he not offend them. That was why Paul had Timothy circumcised (see 1 Cor. 9:19–23). Again, it was not a matter of Timothy’s salvation or personal character, but rather of avoiding serious problems that would surely become stumbling blocks as the men sought to serve the Lord (Rom. 14:13–15). It is a wise spiritual leader who knows how and when to apply the principles of the Word of God, when to stand firm and when to yield.
In the years that followed, Timothy played an important part in the expansion and strengthening of the churches. He traveled with Paul and was often his special ambassador to the “trouble spots” in the work, such as Corinth. He became shepherd of the church in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3) and probably joined Paul in Rome shortly before the apostle was martyred (2 Tim. 4:21).
A New Vision (Acts 16:6–40)
In this section, we see three wonderful “openings.”
God opened the way (vv. 6–12). After visiting the churches he had founded, Paul tried to enter new territory for the Lord by traveling east into Asia Minor and Bythinia, but the Lord closed the door. We don’t know how God revealed His will in this matter, but we can well imagine that Paul was disappointed and perhaps a bit discouraged. Everything had been going so smoothly on this second journey that these closed doors must have come as a great surprise. However, it is comforting to know that even apostles were not always clear as to God’s will for their ministries! God planned for the message to get there another time (Acts 18:19–19:41; see 1 Peter 1:1).
In His sovereign grace, God led Paul west into Europe, not east into Asia. It is interesting to speculate how world history might have been changed had Paul been sent to Asia instead of to Europe. At Troas, Paul was called to Macedonia by a man whom he saw in a night vision. “Nothing makes a man strong like a call for help,” wrote George MacDonald, and Paul was quick to respond to the vision (compare Acts 26:19).
Note the pronoun we in Acts 16:10, for Dr. Luke, who wrote the Book of Acts, joined Paul and his party at Troas. There are three “we sections” in Acts: 16:10–17; 20:5–15; and 27:1–28:16. Luke changed from “we” to “they” in Acts 17:1, which suggests that he may have remained in Philippi to pastor the church after Paul left. The next “we section” begins in Acts 20:5 in connection with Paul’s trip from Macedonia. Luke devoted a good deal of space to Paul’s ministry in Philippi, so perhaps he was a resident of that city. Some students think Luke may have been the man Paul saw in the vision.
From Troas to Neapolis, the port of Philippi was a distance of about 150 miles, and it took them two days to make the journey. Later, the trip in the opposite direction would take five days, apparently because of contrary winds (Acts 20:6). Philippi lay ten miles inland from Neapolis, and the way Luke described the city would suggest that he was indeed one of its proudest citizens.
Philippi was a Roman colony, which meant that it was a “Rome away from Rome.” The emperor organized “colonies” by ordering Roman citizens, especially retired military people, to live in selected places so there would be strong pro-Roman cities in these strategic areas. Though living on foreign soil, the citizens were expected to be loyal to Rome, to obey the laws of Rome, and to give honor to the Roman emperor. In return, they were given certain political privileges, not the least of which was exemption from taxes. This was their reward for leaving their homes in Italy and relocating elsewhere.
God opened Lydia’s heart (vv. 13–15). Paul and his friends did not plunge immediately into evangelizing the city, even though they knew God had called them there. No doubt they needed to rest and pray and make their plans together. It is not enough to know where God wants us to work; we must also know when and how He wants us to work.
The Jewish population in Philippi must have been very small since there was no synagogue there, only a place of prayer by the river outside the city. (It required ten men for the founding of a synagogue.) Paul had seen a man in the vision at Troas, but here he was ministering to a group of women! “It is better that the words of the Law be burned than be delivered to a woman!” said the rabbis; but that was no longer Paul’s philosophy. He had been obedient and the Lord had gone before to prepare the way.
Lydia was a successful businesswoman from Thyatira, a city renowned for its purple dye. She probably was in charge of a branch office of her guild in Philippi. God brought her all the way to Greece so that she might hear the Gospel and be converted. She was “a worshiper of God,” a Gentile who was not a full Jewish proselyte but who openly worshiped with the Jews. She was seeking truth.
Paul shared the Word (“spoken” in Acts 16:14 means personal conversation, not preaching), God opened her heart to the truth, and she believed and was saved. She boldly identified herself with Christ by being baptized, and she insisted that the missionaries stay at her house. All of her household had been converted, so this was a good opportunity for Paul and his associates to teach them the Word and establish a local church. (We will deal with “household salvation” when we get to Acts 16:31.)
We must not conclude that because God opened Lydia’s heart, Lydia’s part in her conversion was entirely passive. She listened attentively to the Word, and it is the Word that brings the sinner to the Saviour (John 5:24). The same God who ordained the end, Lydia’s salvation, also ordained the means to the end, Paul’s witness of Jesus Christ. This is a beautiful illustration of 2 Thessalonians 2:13–14.
God opened the prison doors (vv. 16–40). No sooner are lost people saved than Satan begins to hinder the work. In this case, he used a demonized girl who had made her masters wealthy by telling fortunes. As Paul and his “team” went regularly to the place of prayer, still witnessing to the lost, this girl repeatedly shouted after them, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who show us the way of salvation!” Paul did not want either the Gospel or the name of God to be “promoted” by one of Satan’s slaves, so he cast out the demon. After all, Satan may speak the truth one minute and the next minute tell a lie; and the unsaved would not know the difference.
The owners had no concern for the girl; they were interested only in the income she provided, and now that income was gone. (The conflict between money and ministry appears often in Acts: 5:1–11; 8:18–24; 19:23ff; 20:33–34.) Their only recourse was the Roman law, and they thought they had a pretty good case because the missionaries were Jewish and were propagating a religion not approved by Rome. Moved by both religious and racial prejudices, the magistrates acted rashly and did not investigate the matter fully. This neglect on their part later brought them embarrassment.
Why didn’t Paul and Silas plead their Roman citizenship? (see Acts 22:25–29; 25:11–12) Perhaps there was not time, or perhaps Paul was saving that weapon for better use later on. He and Silas were stripped and beaten (see 2 Cor. 11:23, 25) and put in the city prison. It looked like the end of their witness in Philippi, but God had other plans.
Instead of complaining or calling on God to judge their enemies, the two men prayed and praised God. When you are in pain, the midnight hour is not the easiest time for a sacred concert, but God gives “songs in the night” (Job 35:10; also see Ps. 42:8). “Any fool can sing in the day,” said Charles Haddon Spurgeon. “It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but the skillful singer is he who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by … Songs in the night come only from God; they are not in the power of men.”
Prayer and praise are powerful weapons (2 Chron. 20:1–22; Acts 4:23–37). God responded by shaking the foundations of the prison, opening all the doors, and loosening the prisoners’ bonds. They could have fled to freedom, but instead they remained right where they were. For one thing, Paul immediately took command; and, no doubt, the fear of God was on these pagan men. The prisoners must have realized that there was something very special about those two Jewish preachers!
Paul’s attention was fixed on the jailer, the man he really wanted to win to Christ. It was a Roman law that if a guard lost a prisoner, he was given the same punishment the prisoner would have received; so there must have been some men in the prison who had committed capital crimes. The jailer would rather commit suicide than face shame and execution. A hard-hearted person seeking vengeance would have let the cruel jailer kill himself, but Paul was not that kind of a man (see Matt. 5:10–12, 43–48). It was the jailer who was the prisoner, not Paul; and Paul not only saved the man’s life, but pointed him to eternal life in Christ.
“What must I do to be saved?” is the cry of lost people worldwide, and we had better be able to give them the right answer. The legalists in the church would have replied, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1, nkjv). But Paul knew the right answer—faith in Jesus Christ. In the Book of Acts, the emphasis is on faith in Jesus Christ alone (Acts 2:38–39; 4:12; 8:12, 37; 10:10–43; 13:38–39).
The phrase “and thy house” does not mean that the faith of the jailer would automatically bring salvation to his family. Each sinner must trust Christ personally in order to be born again, for we cannot be saved “by proxy.” The phrase means “and your household will be saved if they will also believe.” We must not read into this statement the salvation of infants (with or without baptism) because it is clear that Paul was dealing with people old enough to hear the Word (Acts 16:32), to believe, and to rejoice (Acts 16:34).
So-called “household salvation” has no basis in the Word of God—that is, that the decision of the head of the household brings salvation to the members of the household. The people in the household of Cornelius were old enough to respond to his call (Acts 10:24) and to understand the Word and believe (Acts 10:44; 11:15–17; 15:7–9). The household of Crispus was composed of people old enough to hear and believe God’s Word (Acts 18:8). There is no suggestion here that the adults made decisions for infants or children.
It is touching to see the change in the attitude of the jailer as he washed the wounds of these two prisoners who were now his brothers in Christ. One of the evidences of true repentance is a loving desire to make restitution and reparation wherever we have hurt others. We should not only wash one another’s feet (John 13:14–15), but we should also cleanse the wounds we have given to others.
What about the other prisoners? Luke doesn’t give us the details, but it is possible that some of them were also born again through the witness of Paul and Silas and the jailer. Some of these prisoners may have been waiting for execution, so imagine their joy at hearing a message of salvation! Paul and Silas thought nothing of their own pains as they rejoiced in what God did in that Philippian jail! No doubt the jailer later joined with Lydia in the assembly.
The city officials knew that they had no convincing case against Paul and Silas, so they sent word to the jailer to release them. Paul, however, was unwilling to “sneak out of town,” for that kind of exit would have left the new church under a cloud of suspicion. People would have asked, “Who were those men? Were they guilty of some crime? Why did they leave so quickly? What do their followers believe?” Paul and his associates wanted to leave behind a strong witness of their own integrity as well as a good testimony for the infant church in Philippi.
It was then that Paul made use of his Roman citizenship and boldly challenged the officials on the legality of their treatment. This was not personal revenge but a desire to give protection and respect for the church. While the record does not say that the magistrates officially and publicly apologized, it does state that they respectfully came to Paul and Silas, escorted them out of the prison, and politely asked them to leave town. Paul and Silas remained in Philippi long enough to visit the new believers and encourage them in the Lord.
As you review this chapter, you can see that the work of the Lord progresses through difficulties and challenges. Sometimes the workers have problems with each other, and sometimes the problems come from the outside. It is also worth noting that not every sinner comes to Christ in exactly the same manner. Timothy was saved partly through the influence of a godly mother and grandmother. Lydia was converted through a quiet conversation with Paul at a Jewish prayer meeting, while the jailer’s conversion was dramatic. One minute he was a potential suicide, and the next minute he was a child of God!
Different people with different experiences, and yet all of them changed by the grace of God.
Others just like them are waiting to be told God’s simple plan of salvation.
Will you help them hear?
In your own witness for Christ, will you be daring?
BDF Blass, F., A. Debrunner, and R. W. Funk. A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961
nkjv New King James Version