Last time we saw in Acts 15 Paul and Barnabas dealing with a conflict they had concerning Mark. Barnabas takes Mark and goes to Cypress, strengthening the disciples on that island. Paul takes Silas with him and goes back to Asia Minor, strengthening the disciples in Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. In Acts 16 we will follow the journey of Paul and Silas as they preach in Asia Minor.
I. The Story
A. Timothy (16:1-10)
- As Paul and Silas go through Derbe and Lystra, they come across a disciple named Timothy who was spoken highly of by the brethren. Paul asks Timothy to come with him on their journey, preaching the gospel in Asia Minor. Timothy agrees and Paul has Timothy circumcised.
- The reason Timothy needed to be circumcised (even though they had just determined in Acts 15 that circumcision was not necessary) was because Timothy was considered a Jew because his mother and grandmother were Jews, though his father was a Greek. The Jews would have looked upon Timothy as a violator of the Law of Moses and they never would have been able to teach them the good news of Jesus Christ. A Jew needed to be obedient to the Law of Moses if he were going to be able to teach the Jewish people.
- Paul, Silas, and Timothy traveled through the towns teaching the gospel and telling them about the decision in Jerusalem that Gentiles do not have to be circumcised. Verse 5 tells us that the churches were strengthened in the faith and were increased in number daily. These are two important goals for any local church.
- First, we want those who are part of the saved group here to be built up. The strengthening of the disciples is no small goal that we must desire to reach. It is one of my desires that every time you come to a Bible class or worship hour that you are learning more about God’s word which will strengthen your faith and your resolve to obey God.
- Second, we want to be increasing numerically. Each person here has the responsibility to taking the gospel to the lost of the world. It is our job to share the good news with our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. We cannot be overly concerned if people accept or reject the gospel. Our goal is to be sure to give every opportunity to every person to know God’s will and give them the ability to choose to serve God.
- As they continue preaching the gospel, the Holy Spirit directs them to cross the sea and go to the region of Macedonia. In Macedonia there would be many people receptive to the good news of Jesus.
B. Lydia (16:11-15)
- Notice at verse 10 we have a change in the subject. Before, we were reading about Paul, Silas, and Timothy. But now the scripture says "we" went to Macedonia. Luke is now accompanying them on the journey. So as we read these passages, we need to think of Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke traveling together to Macedonia.
- They come to the city of Philippi. This city was a Roman outpost. There was not a synagogue to enter, signifying that there were very few Jews living in this city. Philippi was a military city, not a commercial city. They stay in Philippi a number of days. On the Sabbath they go down to the river just outside the city where women gathered to pray. In the preaching of the gospel to the women, Lydia’s heart was open to the message and she was baptized to have her sins forgiven.
C. Slave girl (16:16-18)
- As Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke continue on their way, a slave girl meets them who has the spirit of divination. Because of this spirit, she was able to make a large profit for her owners through fortune-telling. The slave girl begins following Paul and Silas around Philippi.
- While the slave girl was following Paul and Silas around, she was proclaiming loudly, "These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." This kept going on for many days. Paul becomes annoyed by this after many days and commands the spirit to come out of her.
- I remember growing up wondering why Paul would become aggravated by the slave girl declaring the truth of what they are doing: proclaiming the way of salvation. But imagine trying to teach a Bible class with an unbeliever and while you are teaching a woman continues shouting, "These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." While she is proclaiming the truth, she is interfering with the work you are trying to accomplish. Who can listen to what you have to say when she continues shouting these words? Finally, Paul casts the spirit out.
D. Arrested (16:19-24)
- Unfortunately, casting out this spirit causes a great problem for Paul and Silas. The owners of the slave girl see that they have lost their way of making large sums of money and therefore seize Paul and Silas and drag them to the authorities. Isn’t it interesting that these owners are not impressed by the miracle that has just happened by casting the spirit out? They are more interested in the money they have just lost. This is still true today as people care more about money than their own eternal destination of their souls.
- The owners bring Paul and Silas to the Roman authorities in the city. They charge Paul and Silas with disturbing the city with their teachings that were not lawful for Romans to adopt or practice. Remember the messages we did a few weeks back about the gospel message in the Roman context. To declare someone as the Son of God and Savior of the world was to declare that the person was the emperor. Those titles were imperial titles reserved for the emperor alone. To say that Jesus is the true king and emperor of the world was unlawful for the Romans to hear.
- Based upon these charges, the crowds joined into the attack. The authorities order that they be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had received a severe flogging, they were arrested and thrown into prison.
E. Deliverance (16:25-40)
- But there are some strange things that are about to happen. First, at about midnight Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns to God. Paul and Silas are not alone in this prison. We are told that the prisoners were listening to their prayers and their songs.
- Second, a violent earthquake takes places so that the foundations of the jail were shaken. All the doors were opened and the chains were loosed. The jailor wakes up and sees that the prison doors were open. He begins to draw his sword to take his own life due to this event. The Roman authorities would have killed him for failing in keeping the prisoners secure in the jail. But Paul shouts to the jailor not to harm himself because they are all there. This is the third strange event in the story. There is no jailbreak here. Even though the doors are opened and the chains were loosed, all the prisoners remain inside. The jailor calls for lights and fell down trembling because of these amazing acts.
- The jailor asks what he needs to do to be saved. Paul responds that he and his household can be saved by believing on the Lord Jesus. Paul and Silas begin to speak the words of the Lord to the jailor and his household. Immediately he and his household were baptized. The jailor takes Paul and Silas into his house and feeds them. But they are still prisoners, for the next day the authorities proclaim that they can go free. But Paul says that they will not leave quietly because the authorities have broken Roman law by beating these men and throwing them in prison without cause. The authorities come and apology to Paul and Silas and then took them out of the city.
A. The gospel’s power in trials
- One lesson that becomes evident from reading the story of salvation concerning the Philippian jailor is that unbelievers watch how we deal with trials. Perhaps the most impressive part of what we read in Acts 16 is how Paul and Silas deal with the mistreatment against them. Verse 22 tells us that they were attacked by the crowds. Their clothes are torn off of them and they are beaten with many blows. Then they are thrown into prison.
- But verse 25 is one of the most astounding responses from these disciples of Jesus. While Paul and Silas are in prison, chained in this dungeon, they are singing and praying. Verse 25 also tells us that the prisoners were listening to them. The prisoners are watching what Paul and Silas are doing. How impressive would it have been to see these two men joyfully spending their time in prison by singing songs and praying! These prisoners would certainly want to know why these men were acting this way! They would want to know how these men could be handling these terrible circumstances this way.
- We see this point again with the Philippian jailor. After the earthquake takes place, the chains are loosed. The jailor is about to kill himself because it was certain death to fail in keeping the prisoners secure. But all the prisoners have not escaped. The jailor’s first question must have been: "why didn’t you all escape?" "Why not take advantage of the opportunity in the middle of the chaos to leave?" Paul and Silas had made an impression on the jailor by how they dealt with their trial.
- We also make a similar impact on those around us at work, at school, and in our neighborhoods. If we act just like those without God in the middle of trials, then what advantage are we showing those who have not decided to follow Jesus? We are declaring to them that there is no advantage in following Jesus. They will not see the calm, the joy, or the peace that one ought to have in Christ. Rather, they will see us acting the same way they act: losing our minds, stressing out, giving up and collapsing. That will not change their minds to follow God. Such a response will only confirm in their minds that there is no need to trust in God because those who claim to trust in God seem to have no advantage.
- Dealing with life’s circumstances by keeping calm and trusting God is not an easy thing to do. But God looks for us to show that trust in God, not only for our own faith, but also as an example to unbelievers. Our strength is a teaching tool to those who know us.
B. The gospel’s power in salvation
- After these events, the Philippian jailor asks Paul and Silas, "What must I do to be saved?" They answered him, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." In Acts 2, the people on the day of Pentecost asked the very same question to Peter in verse 37 what they should do to be saved. Peter told those people to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Did Peter give a different answer than what Paul and Silas gave here in Philippi?
- At first pass, it seems as if Paul and Silas are teaching a different means to salvation. Many simply assume that to "believe in the Lord Jesus" is to merely acknowledge that there is a God. But in this text we see that when the apostles spoke about the need to believe in God, they were not describing just a mental assent to want to follow Jesus.
- In verse 34 we read that he and his entire household had believed in God. How did he and his entire household believe in God? First, we see that the jailor and his household listened to the word of the Lord being spoken to them (vs. 32). Belief comes not only through the knowledge of God, but also through the knowledge of God’s will for our lives. We must desire to do what God wants us to do to become believers.
- Second, the jailor washes the wounds of Paul and Silas. Why was this done in respect to salvation? What does washing the wounds of these disciples have to do with the urgency of receiving forgiveness of sins and salvation? What we read the jailor doing is called repentance. Peter had preached repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Paul also taught repentance and the jailor sought the way to be repentant before God. We can see from reading this text that repentance is not sorrow, but is about righting any wrongs we have committed. If I steal, returning the stolen property is repentance. If I lie, telling the truth is repentance. Repentance is about changing our lives which motivates to do right, especially toward those we have sinned against. The jailor is attempting to right the wrongs committed against Paul and Silas. He is repentant about what has happened against them.
- Finally, after being taught God’s will and bearing fruits of repentance, the jailor and his household are immersed in water. Once again, these are the same steps that Peter preached were necessary to receive the forgiveness of sins and the grace of God. Only after repentance and baptism were accomplished did the jailor and his household rejoice. Only after repentance and baptism do the scriptures say that the jailor and his household "believed in God."
- The gospel’s power in your life can only begin when you accept the conditions of God’s gift of grace to you. We cannot think that we have begun our walk with God simply because we acknowledge there to be a God. We cannot think that we have our sins forgiven just because we have let Jesus into our hearts. These are only the first steps, but there are more conditions that must be met to receive God’s gift. God is asking for changed lives. God is looking for submissive lives that will obey God’s commands. The gospel has the power to change your life. The gospel is the power of salvation that can take your sins away. Obedience to the gospel brings confidence of an eternal home with God. The gospel has the power to bring peace when life is falling apart. Come to Jesus today. (ESV)