Paul begins his second missionary trip, with Silas. The Spirit leads Paul and Silas not to go into two big regions but to go to Macedonia; the salvation of Lydia and her household; the deliverance of an oppressed girl; a beating, Paul and Silas singing and praying in prison; an earthquake; and a jailer’s and his household’s salvation. Timothy and Luke join Paul’s team.
As I write in every introduction:
The translation and commentary are mine, just so I can learn. I also offer quick word studies. If you would like to see the verses in many translations, please go to biblegateway.com. And if you would like to study Greek with a short lexicon, go to biblehub.com, and click on the interlinear tab.
At the end of each passage and this post, I offer observations for discipleship. How can we apply these truths to our lives?
Links are provided for further study.
Paul and Silas in S. Galatia; Timothy Meets Them (Acts 16:1-4)
1 He then arrived at Derbe and Lystra. Look! A certain disciple named Timothy was there, son of a believing Jewish woman and a Greek father. 2 He was attested by the brothers and sisters in Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted him to continue on with him and took him and had him circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those regions, for everyone knew his father was Greek. 4 As they were going through the towns, they delivered to them the resolutions adjudicated by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, to keep them.
5 And each day the churches were growing strong in faith and multiplied in numbers.
A heads up: I won’t cover these cities throughout Paul’s second missionary journey. You can look online for Bible maps.
“Look!”: It comes from the standard Greek (and Hebrew) term “behold!” It means a new and important development, and readers should pay attention. Timothy is an important addition to Paul’s missionary team.
Silas was a prophet, so he had received the fullness and power of the Spirit, for in the first-century church life, the gift of prophecy indicates this (and it should do so today, as well). First-century prophecy went beyond effective proclamation, though surely this was included as a baseline. He spoke directly into a believer’s life. No doubt he was the one who prophesied that Paul and his crew should not (yet) go into Asia and Bithynia (vv. 6-7). Did he have his prayer language when Acts is silent on this gift for him? Most likely, because Acts says nothing about this gift when Paul received the fullness of the Spirit (Acts 9:17), but he proclaimed that he spoke in Spirit-inspired languages more often than the Corinthians did (1 Cor. 14:18), and he wished everyone would speak in prayer languages (1 Cor. 14:5). Prayer languages open one’s spirit to the Spirit and empower one for ministry. Surely Paul ensured that Silas had this gift.
Here is a short study of Timothy’s life:
His name was Greek, meaning “he who honors God” (tim– = honor and the– = God; –y– is a noun ending).
He was from Lystra (Acts 16:1-2), where Paul and Barnabas visited on their first missionary journey and where a man lame from birth was healed (Acts 14:6-8). Did Timothy see it with his own eyes?
His father was Gentile, and his mother was Jewish, so he was uncircumcised (Acts 16:1, 3). Apparently, his father would not let him go through this ritual.
So he was bi-cultural, and depending on how defines race or ethnicity, it may be considered bi-racial or bi-ethnic, unless Jewishness and Gentileness is not racial or ethnic. You decide.
He was brought up Jewish (2 Tim. 3:15).
He was taught the Scriptures (OT) by his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (2 Tim. 1:5). Having even one section of Scripture was expensive since they were handcopied. This indicates that his family was wealthy (unless they borrowed it from a local synagogue or read it there, privately).
In this environment he no doubt completed a good Greek education; he could certainly read Greek, since he got letters from Paul in that language.
He was willing to submit and followed Jesus through Paul (1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:1).
When he teamed up with Paul, he was a young man (1 Tim. 4:12).
He was circumcised by Paul, not to keep the law or go back into the Old Covenant or improve his salvation, but for cultural sensitivities when they spoke in Jewish synagogues.
His Ministry with Paul
Since he was connected to Paul, we can have no doubt that he received the fullness and power of the Spirit. A body of elders laid hands on him (1 Tim. 4:14), and Paul himself did the same thing (2 Tim. 1:6). These passages do mention manifested gifts like a prayer language, but neither does Acts say anything about this gift when Paul received the laying on of hands (Acts 9:17), but he proclaimed that he spoke in Spirit-inspired languages more than the Corinthians did (1 Cor. 14:18), and he wished everyone would speak in their prayer languages (1 Cor. 14:5). Prayer languages open one’s spirit to the Spirit and empower one for ministry. Surely Paul ensured that Timothy had this gift.
He was sent on Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:3-4).
He stayed with Silas in Berea, where Bible study reigned supreme (Acts 17:14).
He was sent to Thessalonica to strengthen and encourage the believers, so they would not get discouraged during trials (1 Thess. 3:2-3).
He went with Paul to Corinth, where ministry was fruitful (Acts 18:5; 1 Thess. 3:6).
He (and Erastus) was sent to Macedonia, after he Paul had just passed through there, probably to encourage the believers (Acts 19:22).
He was sent to Corinth to settle problems and remind the Corinthians of Paul’s teachings and way of life as an example (1 Cor. 4:17).
Paul told the Corinthians not to despise Timothy, because he was doing the work of the Lord, as Paul did. He should not fear the Corinthians (1 Cor. 16:10-11).
He fearlessly went with Paul on his way to Jerusalem, knowing that trouble and persecution would break out (Acts 20:1-4).
He was a co-writer with Paul (2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1).
He ministered to Paul in Philippi, while Paul was in prison (Phil. 2:19).
He led the large and thriving church in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3).
He was a pastor who was responsible for worship (1 Tim. 2:1-10; 2 Tim. 4:2-5).
He spent some time in prison (Heb. 13:23).
He worked hard for the Lord:
20 For I have no one likeminded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. 23 Therefore, I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. (Phil. 2:20-23, NKJV)
14 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to ruin the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:14-15, NKJV)
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim. 4:5, NKJV)
An effective follower of Paul ((1 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 2:22; 2 Tim. 1:13-14)
Prone to timidity (2 Tim. 1:6-7)
He needed encouragement (1 Tim. 4:11-16; 1 Tim. 6:11-14, 20)
Tendency to have stomach ailments (1 Tim. 5:23)
It is good to be well attested by the church. It can also be translated “they bore witness of him” because it is the standard for “witness.”
“brothers and sisters”: it is the Greek noun for “brother,” but it can be inclusive of women, like our word mankind includes women.
As noted in the brief study of Timothy, he was not circumcised probably because his Gentile Greek father would not allow it. Paul circumcised him not to save him, but to open cultural doors for him and the team. The Council decided that circumcision was not necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1-29), but Paul did not want Timothy to appear like an apostate Jew, because he would not be allowed in the synagogues. In other words, Paul circumcised his mentee to be a witness in the synagogues. An uncircumcised Jew was an apostate. Paul was no longer under the command to circumcise a man as a sign of the New Covenant. He was free from such rituals in the old law of Moses.
I like what Bruce says:
Surely, however, it may be argued, Luke stretches credulity when he reports that Paul circumcised Timothy, whose home church of Lystra may indeed have been one of those churches in which the remonstrance of Galatians was addressed. Did Timothy, by receiving circumcision at Paul’s hands … become “bound to keep the law” [Gal. 5:3]? No, he did not, for his circumcision was neither performed nor accepted as a religious requirement. Paul circumcised him, says Luke, not to enhance Timothy’s status before God’s sight, but “because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all new that his father was a Greek” (Ac. 16:3). In Jewish law, Timothy was a Jew, because he was the son of a Jewish mother; but he had not been circumcised presumably because his Greek father would not allow the rite to be carried out. Paul was anxious to have Timothy as his junior colleague, but if Timothy had remained uncircumcised, he would have ranked in Jewish eyes as an apostate and Paul would have ranked as a supporter of apostasy. If Paul was to continue to gain entrance to the synagogue in this or that place, Timothy’s position had to be regularized. (1990, p. 58)
Bock says that the issue is not whether Timothy was a Gentile, for Gentiles could be allowed into a synagogue. Titus, a Gentile, was not compelled to be circumcised (Gal. 2:3), and he was welcomed by the Jerusalem Messianic Jewish leaders. Rather, for Timothy, he had a mixed heritage, and this needed to be sorted out. Bock quotes from the Babylonian Talmud (Yebam 45b) and the Mishnah, a collection or oral interpretations finally written down in about AD 200 (Qidd. 3:12) which says that the status of the child is determined by the lower status of the parent, in this case the Jewish wife and mother (pp. 522-23). These rulings may go back to the first century. Timothy’s Greek father and Jewish mother fit within this mixed marriage law.
Being a good Messianic Jew does not mean being a bad Jew. It just means that he is not bound by the Sinai covenant, with all the threats hanging over his head like a sword, for his failures. Keeping every festival or kosher food laws or circumcision or Sabbath keeping is done for a witness and in liberty, voluntarily. If he chooses not to keep them or only some of them, on the other hand, he is also at liberty. Everything he does must honor the Messiah. Now these regulations take on new meaning.
“resolutions”: it is the Greek word dogma (pronounced as it looks or to be precise dohg-mah), and, yes, we get our word dogma from it. It means “decisions or decrees or resolutions.”
The letter written in Acts 15:23-29 was important for the Messianic Jews (and future ones), so they could learn that they just had to believe in Jesus without circumcision to be saved, and they could enjoy table fellowship with Gentiles because of the two prohibitions against eating things sacrificed to idols and undrained, strangled meat. Silas was there in the Council, and he could vouch for them.
This verse ends the fourth of the so-called six “panels” of Acts, each one lasting about five years. Here they are:
1:1 to 6:7
6:8 to 9:31
9:32 to 12:24
12:25 to 16:5
16:6 to 19:20
19:21 to 28:31
But this verse is not to be thrown away as a mere summary or transition. The number of disciples and their faith really were growing.
“strong”: It comes from the Greek verb stereoō (pronounced steh-reh-oh-oh), and we get our word stereo from it. It means “make strong, firm” and appears only in Acts 3:7, 16; 16:5. It is in the imperfect tense, which indicates continuous or incomplete or unfinished action. It was ongoing.
“faith”: the noun is pistis (pronounced peace-teace), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
Let’s discuss the noun, faith, more deeply. These comments apply to the verb, as well: pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh). It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
“churches”: It is plural here. Jesus’s commission to go into Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth is gradually being fulfilled (1:8). The church, wherever it is found, should be unified as one. In Greek it is ekklēsia (pronounced ek-klay-see-ah) and the meaning has roots in both Hebrew and Greek. It literally means “the ones called out” or “the called out” or “the summoned” who gather together. It describes an assembly or gathering.
Some extra-enthusiastic and super-confident Renewalists say that from this definition, they can “legislate” events to happen (or something). Of course, they overstate the basic meaning of the word outside of the church context. Just because an assembly can legislate in the pagan world does not mean Christians can now do this in the Spirit world. Further, another legislative body was the Council (boulē, pronounced boo-lay), the upper chamber of the rich landowners. They had to approve of the lower chamber’s legislation. If we take the historical context too far, then where is the Council? So, to judge from the historical context, the church as the ekklēsia cannot legislate. Instead, these extra-human-centered Christians should simplify things and ask God for his intervention. Prayer to our loving Father is sufficient, without complications or convoluted trends and ideas that promote human-centered power.
Let’s look more deeply at the rich term. BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, has a long discussion, but let’s look at only one subpoint.
By far the most Scriptures where ekklēsia appears comes under this definition: “congregation or church as the totality of Christian living and meeting in a particular locality or large geographical area, but not necessarily limited to one meeting place” (Acts 5:11; 8:3; 9:31; 11:26; 12:5; 15:3; 18:22; 20:17; see also 12:1; 1 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 4:15; 1 Tim. 5:16; Jas. 5:14; 3 John 9). “More definitely of the Christians in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1; 11:22; 15:4, 22; see also 2:47) in Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1); in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1); Laodicea (Col. 4:16; Rev. 3:14); in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1); Colossae (Plm. 1, subscript). Plural churches (Acts 15:41; 16:5; Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 7:17; 2 Cor. 8:18, 23; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 23, 29; 3:6, 13; 22; 22:16); the Christian community in Judea (Gal. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:14); in Galatia (Gal. 1:2; 1 Cor. 16:1); in Asia (1 Cor. 16:19; Rev. 1:4, 11, 20); in Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:1).
Please see this post for BDAG’s fuller definition.
Fellowship is so important for believers. Don’t believe the lie circulating in American society, particularly in social media, that not going to church is good enough. People who skip constant fellowship are prone to sin and self-deception and satanic attacks. We need each other.
This link has a list of the famous “one another” verses, like “love one another.”
Further, since American Christianity is undergoing discussion on the sizes of churches, let me add: the earliest Christian community met either in houses (Acts 2:46) or in Solomon’s Colonnade in Jerusalem (Acts 3:11; 5:12) or a large number in Antioch (11:26), which could hold a large gathering—call it a mega-church—and presumably in mid-sized gatherings. Size does not matter, since it varies so widely.
Moreover, one thing that impresses me about all those above references, is that the apostles, as they planted churches, were guided by the Spirit—always—and they were also deliberate about setting them up and establishing them. Planning is Scriptural. So wisdom says: listen to the Spirit and plan. Listen as you plan and be ready to drop your plans at a moment notice, when the Spirit says so. God will grow the church as we proclaim the good news.
“multiplied”: it comes from the Greek word perisseuō (pronounced peh-ree-seu-oh), and here it means “grow” in numbers, but in other contexts it can mean “more than enough, be left over”; “be present in abundance”; “be extremely rich or abundant, overflow”; “have an abundance, abound, be rich”; “be outstanding, be prominent, excel”; “progress.” It is a rich word. The church really was growing and prospering.
GrowApp for Acts 16:1-4
A.. Paul recruited Timothy for the mission, who was very eager to join him. How about your willingness to serve the Lord? Could you give up your comforts—or anything that God told you to give up for the gospel?
The Missionaries Are Called to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10)
6 They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 After they went down to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them. 8 Skirting by Mysia they went down to Troas. 9 And during the night Paul saw a vision: a certain Macedonian mas was standing and calling to him and saying, “Come over Macedonia and help us.” 10 After he saw the vision, immediately we were seeking to go into Macedonia, because we concluded that God had called us to evangelize them.
It is wise to obey the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus. Here we have more evidence for the Trinity or Triunity. The Spirit proceeds from the Father and from Christ. Here he is stated as proceeding from the resurrected Jesus.
The heightening terminology from “the Holy Spirit” (v. 6) to “the Spirit of Jesus” (v. 7) to “God” (v. 10) is more than stylistic—it is an unconscious expression of the early church’s embryonic Trinitarian faith. All three terms refer to God by his Spirit’s giving direction to the mission. But just how the Holy Spirit revealed his will we are not told. Perhaps in one or more instances Silas had a part, for he was a prophet (15:32). (comment on v. 6).
Quick teaching about the Trinity in the area of systematic theology. The Father guides the whole of creation and the plan of the ages. The Son carries out the plan, notably by being born as a man, humbling himself, taking the form of a servant (Phil. 3:7-8). He humbled himself so deeply and thoroughly that he died a death on the cross, the instrument of the death penalty.
However, the Father and Son are equal in their essence or nature. The Father is fully God and the Son is fully God, in their essence. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to hold on to, but he surrendered the environment of heaven and took the form of a servant.
Function or role: the Father is over the Son in his incarnation and role in the redemptive plan
In their essence or essential nature: Father and Son are equal.
Now let’s get back to the Spirit’s leading.
Even though Paul and his crew could not see or figure out why the doors were closed, he and they were intelligent enough to trust and obey. When God closes the door, please don’t force it open. Just walk past it, thanking him because he knows best.
For systematic theology:
This divine guidance is contrasted with the divine guidance of the slave girl who had a spirit of divination (vv. 16-18).
“skirting”: it can also mean (1) “go through” (see v. 6 and a possible synonym) or (2) “arrive” or “come” or (3) “pass by,” which I translated as “skirting” (Parsons and Culy).
“vision”: the noun horama (pronounced as it appears and where we get our word panorama). It is mostly translated as “vision,” or it could be a supernatural sight (Matt. 17:19; Acts 10:3, 17, 19; 18:9). You’ll know it when you see it, with no room for misinterpretation. And Renewalists believe that visions still happen today. They get them all the time. It’s biblical. But our visions must be submitted to the written Word because our vision may not be right, but self-serving. In contrast, Scripture has stood the test of time. Your dream or vision has not.
“calling”: It is the verb parakaleō (pronounced pah-rah-kah-leh-oh). It is related to the Greek noun paraklēsis (pronounced pah-rah-klay-sees). The Greek in the Gospel of John is paraklētos (pronounced pah-rah-klay-tohss) (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:6). The three related words can mean the following things, depending on the context—or they can mean all of them at the same time. What do you need from the Spirit? Here are some options: “counselor / counsel,” “advocate (defense attorney),” “helper / help,” “comforter / comfort,” “encourager / encouragement,” and “intercessor / intercession.” The NIV says “begged.”
“we”: Luke now briefly joins the missionaries Paul, Silas and Timothy (vv. 9-40). The best explanation of “we” is that Luke is included. It is not an unedited source Luke got in his hands. I wonder what Luke was doing in the coastal town of Troas? Was he waiting to join a ship to its doctor? Was he a practicing doctor in the town, or was he dropped off there temporarily and join a ship later? How did he and Paul’s team meet? Why did Luke join them so quickly with Paul’s permission? Was he saved there, under Paul’s ministry? Or was he saved closer to Israel, like Antioch in Syria, but joined a ship heading for Troas? Later tradition connects him with Antioch; if true, then he was simply passing through the city of Troas. Whatever the case, it seems God was allowing them to meet. We will never know. So let’s move on.
Be prepared to meet allies and friends in unlikely places.
“as the vision saw”: that is a literal translation, but the sense is clear: “as the vision communicated.” See v. 9 for a deeper look, and the link there.
“seeking”: it comes from the verb zēteō, which means to seek, search, look for; and investigate, examine, consider, deliberate; and in some contexts it can even mean “strive for, try to obtain, desire to possess”; and can even be a synonym for “prayer or asking for, requesting, and demanding.” Here it means in the imperfect or incomplete or continuous action of “seeking or trying.”
It is good to make a full effort to obey God, after he clearly speaks.
“concluded”: it comes from the Greek verb sumbibazō (pronounced soom-bee-bah-zoh), and it literally means “bringing together.” And in some contexts it means “knit together, unite” and even “demonstrate, prove”; instruct, teach advise.” Here it can be expansively translated as “connect the dots.”
“called”: see v. 9 for a closer look.
“evangelize”: as noted in previous verses in Luke-Acts, the phrase is one verb in Greek: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. (Greek adds the suffix -iz- and changes the noun to the verb and we do too, as in “modern” to “modernize”). Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!” “Evangelize” is traditional and better, however.
GrowApp for Acts 16:6-10
A.. Paul had his plan. But God interrupted his plan, so he went in a new direction. If God interrupted your plan, would you be willing to give it up? Has this ever happened to you? Tell your story.
Troas to Philippi (Acts 16:11-15)
11 And setting sail from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace and on the next day to Neapolis, 12 from there to Philippi, a colony, first town of the province of Macedonia. We spent some time in that town.
13 On the Sabbath day, we went outside the gates by the river where we thought was a place of prayer. And we sat down and spoke to the women gathering together. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of royal purple fabrics from the town of Thyatira, a God-fearer, was listening. And the Lord opened her heart to pay close attention to the words spoken by Paul. 15 After she and her household were baptized, she invited us: “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come in and stay at my house.” And she prevailed upon us.
Romans settled in Philippi, and this will be important when Roman citizenship comes up in this chapter.
We should have no doubt that as Paul traveled along, he prayed in his Spirit-inspired language, because later he wrote to the Corinthians that he spoke in them more often than they did (1 Cor. 14:18). This wonderful gift opens up the power and flow of the Spirit to one’s human spirit (1 Cor. 14:4). It is very, very beneficial for ministry. It is hard to understand why so many Christians work so hard to disparage this gift or deny that it is for us today. Maybe not using or not having this gift explains why so many pastors today are dropping out of ministry. If you got this God-offered gift, use it. If you don’t, seek God for it.
Paul honored the sabbath, but not to score points with God, but to follow Jewish customs for outreach. Apparently, however, there was no Jewish synagogue in Philippi, since it would take ten men, or else they would be there. In any case, Paul and his crew were being led by the Spirit, because Lydia’s and her household were about to experience salvation and baptism.
“seller of royal purple fabrics”: The Greek is literally “purple-seller,” but my translation is the expanded meaning. She sold the purple dye that made the fabrics. I have no doubt some of her women employees made fabric as well. Why wouldn’t they, when there was money to be made? Luke is communicating a term that a first-century reader understood. Lydia was a dealer in a luxury product and was therefore wealthy. Therefore her household definitely had servants and employees in it. She was a prosperous businessowner.
“a God fearer”: this means she, a Gentile, favored Judaism, liking its ethical monotheism and denying local paganism.
“listening”: Paul was speaking, and she was listening, which allowed the Lord to open her heart. The gospel goes into the heart and softens it for more of God. “Luke notes that Lydia ‘listened’ …; the imperfect [tense] may indicate that she listened for an extended period of time” (Schnabel, comment on v. 14). Sometimes people have to listen for a long time before their hearts are opened up.
“the Lord opened her heart”: The gospel and her receptiveness to it softened and prepared her heart, and the Lord opened it. Through the gospel, God opened her heart! We will never be able to figure out the details of how the Lord works on the heart and human have free will at the same time. My opinion is that the person has enough free will to resist the gospel for all of his life, but not enough free will to strut into God’s kingdom or experience salvation unassisted by the Spirit drawing him. The Spirit has to invite, call and assist him to come in. The person has enough free will to decide for God or walk away. God wants everyone to repent (2 Pet. 3:9), but not everyone lowers their resistance to his call.
“words spoken”: “word” is implied. The NAS has “things spoken by Paul.”
Lydia and her household—employees and relatives—were baptized. She was the leader, and the others followed. Acts is about salvation of entire households and meeting in those saved households (2:2, 46; 5:42; 8:3, but be careful of persecution in 8:3! 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 20:20; 21:8). She says, “If you have judged me faithful to the Lord.” Bock (pp. 534-35) reminds us that the if is in the first-class conditional, which expects a positive reply. “Yes, I judge you to be faithful.” It also shows her confidence in her own salvation. She considered herself faithful.
“baptized”: it means immersed. John the Baptist could have been called “John the Immerser” or “John the Dipper.” Lydia and her household actually went down into the river, and Paul dunked them. It’s incredible to think about—that it actually happened, and the words on the page have reality behind them. Salvation and baptism go together. Water baptism depends on salvation, but salvation does not depend on baptism. Salvation comes first, and baptism follows to seal what salvation has accomplished. Water does not save, but Jesus does. Salvation goes beyond initial justification or initially being declared righteous. It involves one’s whole life. And being water-baptized for the washing away of sins means that water symbolically washes away one’s sins.
She expressed Macedonian-Greek hospitality, so she invited them to stay at her (large) house. As a new believer she is now hosting a church at her house. Yes, the text is silent, but after Paul and his crew left Philippi, she hosted a new church at her house. The presence of men is not stated.
As for Lydia’s and her household’s conversions, it is not possible that they did not receive the fullness and power of the Spirit and without a manifested gift like their prayer languages. Paul was in town. He was filled with the Spirit, yet receiving his prayer language is not openly stated in Acts (9:17). But he proclaimed that he spoke in his prayer language more often than the Corinthians did (1 Cor. 14:18).
One more example of omissions: Cornelius and his household were the first Gentiles to receive salvation and the Holy Spirit, and they are stated to have received their prayer languages (Acts 10:44-48). Yet when Peter retold this wonderful story twice, he skipped over their receiving prayer languages (Acts 11:17 and 15:8). Luke does not feel pressure to mention the manifested gifts every time the fullness and power of the Spirit is stated, or as here their salvation. Luke expects us to fill in the gaps with the power of the Spirit. His entire book of Acts is very charismatic.
It is similar to his omitting water baptism in key places. Often he does say that new converts got baptized: Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 35-38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15, 31-33; 18:8; 19:5), Yet in other cases water baptism is not brought up for new converts: Acts 9:42; 11:21; 13:12, 48; 14:1; 17:12, 34). Believe it or not, but during Paul’s and Barnabas’s first missionary journey, Luke does not record one instance of water baptism, though many conversions are recorded. Luke expects us to fill in these omissions. This explains why I have nicknamed Luke “the Omitter” because he omits data points. Or he could be called Luke “the Condenser.”
“household”: it comes from the Greek noun oikos (pronounced oi-kohss), and we get our word economy from it. It includes extended family and employees if they live in or are closely connected to your household. Pray for them and share your faith with them.
GrowApp for Acts 16:11-15
A.. Lydia was a wealthy business woman, yet she allowed God to open her heart. Is your heart so willing to be opened up?
B.. Lydia influenced her household for salvation and the better. Have you been praying for your family’s salvation? Has anyone been saved? Tell your stor.
C.. If you have a stubborn family member who refuses to surrender to Jesus, do you keep praying for him or her or stop praying? How have you decided not to give up?
The Pythoness (Acts 16:16-18)
16 While we were going to prayer, a certain servant girl having a spirit of divination met us. She provided much profit for her masters from her divining. 17 She was tagging along with Paul and us and shouting: “These men are servants of the Most High God, who announce to you the path of salvation!” 18 She did this for many days. Paul was greatly agitated and turned around and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it left at that very moment.
This passage is important for Renewalists, so let’s spend some time here.
We have a story about two women in Acts 16. This oppressed girl who needed deliverance and was set free; and Lydia, the wealthy God-fearer, whose heart was opened by God to receive the gospel message. In either case, God broke through. Bock further says that we have three groups who were shown contempt by the Jews: women, slaves, and Gentiles, “so all gender, ethnic, and social barriers are crossed” (p. 536).
“having”: “Demonized” is not the only verb to express a demonic attack (see Mark 3:22, 30; 7:25; 9:17; Luke 4:33; 7:33; 8:27; Acts 8:7; 16:16; 19:13). But I see no substantive difference between the two verbs and are used interchangeably in Luke 8:27, 36. What is more relevant is the soul of the person being attacked and how deep the attack goes because the person gives the demon access.
“spirit of divination” comes from pneuma puthōna (pronounced p’neu-mah pih-thoh-na). We get our word python from it, and Satan—often portrayed as a snake or dragon in art or the NT—occupied the poor girl. This is a satanic infilling and prophetic gifting, which is a counterfeit to the real infilling and gift of prophecy inspired by the Holy Spirit. Please be aware that Satan through false prophets and messiahs can deceive the vast public (Matt. 24:24), even untrained believers who wander around from church to church or have no safe fellowship with mature believers.
I recommend that we do not over-read names like python, as if it can squeeze people or churches. It is true that Greek (and Hebrew) words have a cultural context, and in this case a python spirit offered demonic guidance. The girl who had was related, spiritually to the temple in Delphi (I visited there as a tourist), where a girl sat on a tripod in the temple and uttered strange and cryptic words, which people followed. So but let’s not needlessly over-apply the literal word python to the snake today which squeezes people. The application for today is fortunetelling.
Demons can do all sorts of thing, but their capacity does have to be derived from Greek word origins.
“Mature” believer is defined as someone who knows Scripture thoroughly or sufficiently, has stayed and stays in fellowship for a long time, and has been tested and tried by other believers, knows how to pray (and actually prays), and has the fulness of the Spirit, and manifests some (or all) of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Cor. 12:7-11. But if a church teaches against those gifts, then the leaders may be mature in those other ways and can at least keep the immature believer from false prophets and messiahs.
Money was behind the satanic display, but please do not doubt that she was speaking from an evil spirit.
The Holy Spirit ≠ a pythonic spirit!
Paul and his crew really were offering the way of salvation, so the girl spoke a certain measure of truth. Satan will mix in enough truth to make the lie believable. Be careful!
“salvation”: see v. 30 for more comments on both the noun and the verb.
I like Peterson’s summary:
Salvation in Luke’s understanding involved the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit through trusting in Israel’s Messiah, with the ultimate blessing of sharing in God’s eternal kingdom through resurrection. What the slave girl was saying was true at one level, but it was being proclaimed by someone who did not really know what she was talking about. On her lips, even the assertion that there was a “way of salvation” could so easily have been interpreted in a polytheistic and pagan fashion. (comment on vv. 16-17)
“many days”: sometimes people ask why Paul didn’t rebuke the spirit immediately or shortly after she tagged along. Did he love the praise? Foolish thought. Did he want the girl to testify to her followers that Paul really did offer salvation? Doubtful, because the source was wrong. Then why the delay before her deliverance? After translating the Greek and getting the contextual pictures in my mind, it is now clear to me that she gave permission to the evil spirit to occupy her mind. However, when she followed Paul around for many days, she heard the gospel, and gradually the satanic grip was loosening. If she had not followed Paul around and heard the Word, it is not likely he could have rebuked it just like that. The spirit was entrenched. So he waiting until the timing was right. Keener offers a more-down-to-earth reason: “Paul may have delayed expelling the spirit because it would entail danger: most gentiles would view the spirit as benevolent, certainly toward Paul and Silas (16:17). People considered ingratitude toward benefactors appalling, so Paul and Silas could expect little sympathy. Yet the slave girl is now spiritually free—and Paul and Silas consequently will be imprisoned (Acts 16:23-24)” (p. 402).
It is imperative that the very gifted charismatics and Renewalists preach the gospel and teach the word. That is the best way to get the most and best results. People’s faith is built up, and then they can receive deliverance and healing more readily. The opposite is sadly true. When the charismatically gifted and Renewalists do not preach the gospel and teach the Word (or they do very little of it), yes, some people will receive their deliverance and healing from God (and that’s good), but we will never know whether even more people would have received their answers. It is probable that indeed more people would have received, if the preachers and teachers had taught the Word and preached the gospel.
“greatly agitated”: it is the verb diaponeomai (pronounced dee-ah-poh-neh-oh-my). The stem pon– means to “work or work it out,” as in medicine, “to work something out.” So there is a sense in which Paul got “worked up” about it in his spirit, but not that he was out of control. I believe this agitation was divinely inspired by the Spirit.
“said to the spirit”: Paul addressed the spirit, not the girl. However, sometimes ministry to the person is needed, in case the spirit gained access by a sin, like bitterness and unforgiveness. The gospel needs to set people free in their minds, before deliverance from an evil spirit can happen. In any case, when deliverance time comes, speak to the spirit, not the human.
“I command”: you don’t need to pray a flowery prayer: “O thou God who art unreachable in thy heaven. If it be thy will do help this girl, do thou something, pretty please.” No, command a demon, must like you would a stray dog. “Get out of here! Get!” You have authority over it, just as Jesus gave authority to the seventy-two (or seventy) (Luke 10:17-20).
“in the name of Jesus”: when Jesus cast out a demon, he never said, “in my name, I command you!” He is the Lord of lords and rules over all principalities and powers. He stood in his own name. He just rebuked it and said, “come out!” (or words like that). When we pray the prayer of deliverance, we do so in his name, which stands for his exalted status. So it is like praying this expanded version of the phrase “in the name of Jesus Christ …!”: “I stand as an ambassador of the kingdom of Christ and in his exalted status and perfect character and his love and grace and his omnipotence and his authority over every created being or thing!” Instead of that long prayer, which is wonderful (if you think about it), we just say, “in the name of Jesus Christ …!”
For Scripture on how Jesus delivered people from evil spirits, please look these up:
Peter’s mother-in-law (Matt. 8:14-15 // Mark 1:30-31 // Luke 4:38-39)
Mute and oppressed man (Matt. 9:32-33)
Blind, mute, oppressed man (Matt. 12:22 // Luke 11:14)
Oppressed boy (Matt. 17:14-18 // Mark 9:17-29 // Luke 9:38-43)
Oppressed man in synagogue (Mark 1:23-26 // Luke 4:33-35)
Now let’s take a closer look at “name”: this noun stands in for the person—a living, real person. You carry your father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. In Jesus’s case, he has the highest status in the universe, under the Father (Col. 1:15-20). He is exalted above every principality and power (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). His character is perfection itself. His authority and power are absolute, under the Father. In his name you are seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you his. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases.
“moment”: it is the noun hōra (pronounced hoh-rah), and we get hour from it. Yes, it can mean sixty minutes, but the meaning can be expanded to include a moment. It is “an undefined period of time” (BDAG, p. 1102). It is fluid.
But what if it took some time for the demon to leave? Then we learn that we must stay with the possessed person until deliverance is completed. The evil spirit may be entrenched. However, here the context is clear. It left at that very moment.
Unfortunately, we don’t know from the words in this passage whether she was saved. Recall my nickname for Luke: “the Omitter” or “Condenser”. For example, throughout Paul’s first missionary journey, no one is said to have been water baptized, yet we can be confident that they were. We can assume that the set-free girl was saved.
See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:
GrowApp for Acts 16:16-18
A.. Has God ever set you free from demonic influence? Tell your story.
Paul and Silas in Jail (Acts 16:19-24)
19 Now, her masters, seeing that the hope of their profit went away, seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the marketplace before the rulers 20 and led them to the magistrates and said, “These men, who are Jews, are troubling our town and 21 announce customs which are not permitted for us neither to accept nor do, since we are Romans!” 22 The crowd joined in the attack against them, and after the magistrates had their clothes torn off of them, they ordered them to be beaten. 23 They laid on them many strokes and threw them in prison and ordered the prison guard to guard them securely. 24 When he received such a command, he seized and threw them in the inner cell and secured their feet in stocks.
The same Greek verb for “went away” is the same verb in v. 18 for the demon leaving. The demon flew the coop, and so did the owners’ money. This is Luke’s gentle humor.
“masters” could be translated as “owners.” It is the same word as “lord,” so Luke is drawing a contrast between them and the Lord Jesus, who will soon deliver her (HT: Keener, p. 395).
“authorities” is the generic term, while “magistrates,” a different word, is the more specific title.
“being Jews … being Romans”: this is the cultural gap between Jew and Gentile. Judaism denounced the polytheism that Romans followed. The two owners believed that a minor deity possessed their slave girl, and there was nothing wrong with it.
The “magistrates” (stratēgoi) of v. 20, who probably were the same as the “authorities” of v. 19, would be the two men (known in Latin as the duuviri) who tried civil cases and were generally responsible for maintaining law and order. The “officers” mentioned in vv. 35, 38 (rhabdouchoi) were designated lictors in Latin and were responsible to the magistrates. They were the enforcement officers. (comment on v. 20-21)
“customs”: what could they be? It must be the lordship of Jesus. Acts 17:7 says that Paul and Silas were proclaiming that Jesus was king, a clear violation against the decrees of Caesar. They were also proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, and likely that the law and customs like circumcision were being eliminated or streamlined (17:3). Romans and Jews could accept neither of these aspects of their message.
Why wasn’t Luke or Timothy dragged before the rulers? Luke was probably a Gentile and remained in the background, and Timothy was not the main speaker. The mob fixed their eyes and claws on the main preachers.
“beaten”: with rods, not the awful leather whip with sharp things in its strands. The officers were lictors, who were official attendants of the chief magistrates in Rome or Roman cities. “They carried as symbols of office bundles of rods, with an axe inserted among them in circumstances—the fasces et secures—denoting the magistrates’ right to inflict corporal and, where necessary, capital punishment. It was with the lictors’ rods that the two missionaries were beaten on this occasion. It was not the only time that Paul had this treatment meted out to him: five or six years later he claims to have been beaten with rods three times (2 Cor. 11:25), although we have no information about the other two occasions” (Bruce, comments on v. 22).
(Fasces is where the political party, fascists, gets its name.) Keener says that the beatings took place in Roman colonies, of which Paul visited five (p. 407).
It is often asked why Paul did not proclaim his Roman citizenship, which would have prevented the beating without a trial. The crowd got whipped up in a fury, and no doubt Paul told them he was a Roman citizen, but the shouting drowned out the words. I can easily imagine, using Bible-based logic and the historical context of first-century riots in the Greek East, that the magistrates walked away from the beating scene, and Paul’s voice was drowned out. Further, the magistrates must not have expected that Jews traveling through far-flung Philippi would have Roman citizenship. So Paul and Silas were ordinary Jews, and Paul was no Roman citizen, but both were trouble-makers, they thought.
Peterson adds: “An earlier form of introduction of this form of self-defence ‘would probably have been construed by the magistrates and populace as an assertion of commitment to the primacy of Roman, over against Jewish [i.e. Christian] customs … There would have been uncertainty surrounding Paul’s commitment to his message’” (comments on v. 37, citing another scholar named Rapske). In other words, Paul and Silas did not want to mix their Roman citizenship with the gospel.
“magistrates tore the clothing off of them”: we can be sure the magistrates ordered this done, but this is Luke’s shorthand style. Or alternatively the magistrates in fact tore the clothes off, so they could show the crowds that they were doing something about the two troublemakers.
Injustice reigns supreme throughout our world. Ideally, we should have freedom of religion and conscience, and anyone should be permitted to believe in any religion he pleases or none at all. And they should have the liberty to preach their messages in public. But this was not America.
“stocks”: literally this is “wood.” “Their feet were placed in wooden stocks, which were likely fastened to the wall. Often such stocks were used as instruments of torture; they had a number of holes for the legs, which allowed for severe stretching of the torso and thus created excruciating pain. Luke did not indicate that any torture was involved this time. The entire emphasis is on the tight security in which the two were held. This makes the miracle of their subsequent deliverance all the more remarkable. (Polhill, comment on vv. 22-24).
GrowApp for Acts 16:19-24
A.. Once again, we see persecution of Christians. Would you be willing to stand fast and hold on to your calling, despite intense opposition? Can you trust God to give you grace and empowerment to stand?
Earthquake and Jailer’s Conversion (Acts 16:25-34)
25 In the middle of the night Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God. And the prisoners were listening. 26 And suddenly there was a great shaking, with the result that the foundation of the prison was shaken, and instantly the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains unfastened. 27 When the prison guard woke up and saw the prison doors open, he drew out his sword and was about to kill himself, because he thought the prisoners escaped. 28 But Paul shouted at him, “Don’t do yourself any harm! We’re all in here!” 29 He demanded lights and rushed in trembling and fell before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved and your household.” 32 He spoke the word of the Lord to him and everyone in his household.
33 He took them along at that very hour of the night and washed their wounds. And he and everyone with him were baptized immediately. 34 He brought them into his house, laid out a table, and he and the whole household celebrated because they believed in God.
“In the middle of the night”: The miracle happened during Paul’s and Silas’s darkest hour.
“praying”: this is in the present tense participle of the verb proseuchomai (pronounced pros-yew-kho-mai), and it is the standard verb for praying because it appears 85 times in the NT. The present tense indicates they were praying continuously when the shaking hit. It is related to the very common noun proseuchē (pronounced pros-yew-khay) and is used 36 times, so they are the most common words for prayer or pray in the NT. They are combined with the preposition pros, which means, among other things, “towards,” and euchē, which means a prayer, vow and even a mere wish. But Christians took over the word and directed it towards the living God. I like to believe that they leaned in toward him and prayed their requests fully expecting an answer. It is not a mere wish or heartfelt payer to a pagan deity.
Prayer flows out of confidence before God that he will answer because we no longer have an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:19-24; Rom. 8:1); and we know him so intimately that we find out from him what is his will is and then we pray according to it (1 John 5:14-15); we pray with our Spirit-inspired languages and our native languages (1 Cor. 14:15-16). But that’s what all believers should do; however, too often theory outruns practice. Pray!
Prayer can be (1) for oneself, like overcoming sins and vices in your heart and mind or receiving wisdom from above (James 3:17) and not being double-minded about receiving it (Jas. 1:5-8), but (2) it is also for the needs of the community. It was coming under attack, so prayers were offered. Praying for boldness to reach out and spread the word is wonderful. We should do it more often. (3) Further, prayer brings down the manifest presence of God. God is omnipresent (everywhere) of course, but his presence can make itself felt and experienced. God showed up and shook the place where they were gathered.
Prayer can be visualized like a pebble in a pond, and the ripples go outward. (1) It starts with oneself and one’s needs; (2) then it goes outward to one’s own family and (3) to the Christian community (your home church). (4) It goes out to evangelism and the needs of the world around the community, (5) and finally to parts around the globe. But this prayer here in Acts varies the order, which you may do, if you like. Prayer is ultimately and most deeply a conversation with God.
Back in the inner cell, Paul said he would sing with his understanding (his native language) and would sing with his spirit or praise God in the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:15-16). Paul said he prayed often in his prayer languages, we should have no doubt he was doing so here (1 Cor. 14:18). We should have no doubt he was doing that, and so was Silas.
It is good to praise God while you are in jail or an inner prison—a prison of your soul. Prayer is not done from a condition of weakness, even though Paul and Silas were in their lowest moment. Prayer lifted them right into the presence of God, who saw where the two heroes were.
“singing praises”: it is the verb humneō or hymneō (pronounced hoom-neh-oh or him-neh-oh), and it means to “sing praises.” In a literal sense Paul and Silas were “hymning.” Yes, it can be expanded to include “worshipping in songs.”
“shaking”: the Greek noun is seismos (pronounced sayz-mohs), where we get our word seismic. This is not an ordinary earthquake, but God reached down his hand, so to speak, and with his little finger gently rubbed the prison. He also “blinked” and the doors opened and the chains fell off. In other words, it does not take much for God to effectuate your deliverance. This whole universe belongs to him, and he sustains it with the word of his power (Heb. 1:3). A tiny prison in the entire universe is like the tiniest speck of dust in a dust storm or a drop of water in an ocean. It is no problem for him do those things—no obstacle or barrier is too high or too strong to stand in his way. That is how God answered their prayers.
The guard would get punished with the punishment assigned to his prisoners if he allowed them to escape. So if a prisoner was destined for the death penalty, then the guard would suffer it too. Evidently some prisoners were about to suffer that penalty, so the guard drew out his sword.
Before the torches were lit, Paul saw the jailer draw his sword and shouted to stop him from killing himself. Who says Paul had bad eyesight?
Never commit suicide. Life is never so hopeless that God won’t offer you salvation. Paul was about to see the guard’s soul saved, and a brand-new life for him. Wait! Hold back the sword (or your gun or your pill bottle)! Wait and watch God bring your answer and salvation!
The jailer / prison guard had torches outside, so Paul, looking, from the inside, could see the jailer and his attempted suicide (Keener, p. 411). The jailer fell before Paul and Silas, so no doubt the wooden stocks fell off their feet too. The text does not say it, but the two heroes must have lifted him up because the next verse says he he led them out.
“fear and trembling”: one has to feel sorry for the jailer. His heart was softened and opened in the confusion. He was scared. Why didn’t the prisoners attack him? He was relieved.
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”: he was asleep before the shaking hit, so did he hear Paul and Silas singing and praying? Probably not. He probably heard the fortunetelling girl about the way of salvation. But he did not know about salvation in the Christian sense. So he was asking Paul and Silas, “How can I save myself from the confusion and the examination by the magistrates and their officers the next morning?” Paul answered him in an unexpectant way: Christian salvation.
On the other hand, he may have known there was something different about the two missionaries, and he was asking about Christian salvation. In that case, he got the answer he wanted and needed to hear. Whatever his state of mind, either way, the answer was the same: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
“must”: It comes from the word dei (pronounced day), and in some contexts it denotes a destiny orchestrated by God, as it does here. (Compare the French il faut, “one must” or “it is necessary,” if you know this language.) The Greek verb means: “it is necessary, one must … one ought or should … what one should do” (Shorter Lexicon). In Luke it often means divine necessity; that is, God is leading things: Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 12:12; 13:16, 33; 15:32; 17:25; 18:1; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7; 24:26, 44; Acts 1:16; 1:21; 3:21; 4:12; 5:29; 9:6, 16; 14:22; 16:30; 17:3; 19:21; 20:35; 23:11; 25:10; 27:21; 27:24, 26. Here, God is leading the jailer to surrender to Jesus.
“saved”: it is in the passive voice, and so we see another example of the divine passive, which means that God is the implied subject; he is working behind the scenes, doing the saving. He is the one who saves. Further, it is the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times). Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō.
Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG, which is the authoritative lexicon of the NT, defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”
The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in passive mood it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).
Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.
As noted throughout this commentary on Luke-Acts, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.
All of it is a package called salvation and being saved.
Acts is about salvation of entire households and meeting in those saved households (2:2, 46; 5:42; 8:3, but be careful of persecution in 8:3! 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 20:20; 21:8).
“believe”: The verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh), and it is used 241 times. It means to “believe, be convinced of something.” In a more specific definition it goes in a direction: “to have faith in Christ or God” (Mounce p. 61). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross. See v. 5 for more comments.
Here it is connected to “saved.” It means to completely rely and trust in and stand on the Lord Jesus Christ.
“saved”: it is the Greek verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh). See v. 30 for more comments.
“household”: it comes from the Greek noun oikos, and see v. 15 for a closer look. Acts 16 is about the salvation of households: Lydia’s and the jailer’s. Never stop praying for your household. God wants to save them as well.
However, the entire NT teaches that each person must have saving faith in Christ; it is not as if when the father gets saved, the others are also saved against their will or when they do not believe. There is no such thing as “household salvation.”
“word”: it is the very versatile Greek noun logos (pronounced loh-gohss). Here it means the simple gospel of salvation, but now let’s explore the noun more deeply.
It is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.
Let’s explore the Greek noun more deeply.
I repeat the following comments throughout the entire commentary. Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level. Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to, also. Paul’s brief speech to the Gentiles, below, also has Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.
People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, the book of Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.
On the other side of the word word, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true. Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.
“household”: Paul and Silas spoke to the jailer’s household. As noted in the previous verse, it is a key theme in Acts 16.
The jailer kindly washed their wounds. He was a goodhearted, kind man. Bruce quotes church father Chrysostom who wrote of the jailer: “He washed them from their stripes, and he himself was washed from his sins” (comment on vv. 33-34).
“baptized” maybe the jail and the river were nearby, and a trail led them easily to the water, especially by torchlight. To be baptized is to be “immersed.” See v. 15 for more comments.
“laid out a table”: they put food on the table and fed them. My translation is literal.
“celebrated”: it is the Greek verb agalliaō (pronounced ah-gah-lee-ah-oh), and the sound of the noun and verb even seems joyful. It can mean “to exult and rejoice exceedingly” in some contexts and forms of the verb.
Feasting and celebrating salvation is a happy scene.
GrowApp for Acts 16:25-34
A.. Paul and Silas sang praises to God while in prison, during their toughest time. How is your praise life during your tough times?
B.. The prison guard goes from opponent to disciple and generous host. Was your journey to God rapid or slow? Tell your story.
C.. Paul and Silas allowed the prison guard to wash their wounds. Could you allow your old enemies wash your wounds? What if this does not happen. Could you allow God to do this?
Paul and Silas Leave Philippi (Acts 16:35-40)
35 When daybreak came, the magistrates sent for the officers and said, “Release those men.” 36 The prison guard reported the message to Paul: “The magistrates have sent for you so that you may be released. Now you may exit and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them: “You publicly beat us without trial, though we are Roman citizens, and now you throw us out secretly? No! But they themselves must come and bring us out!” 38 The officers reported these words to the magistrates. When they heard that they were Romans, they were afraid 39 and came and appealed to them. They escorted them out and asked them to leave the town. 40 They left the prison and entered Lydia’s house and saw and encouraged the brothers and sisters and departed.
Calm has ensued, as opposed to the riotous crowd of yesterday. So the magistrates asked for the prisoners. It is humorous to think that Paul and Barnabas got their wounds washed, walked to the river to baptize the newly saved, went to the jailer’s nearby house, ate a nice spread of food, and then went back to their cell, just to please the magistrates and their officers. Also, they kindly did so to keep the jailer safe from prosecution.
Paul claims his right, as a Roman citizen. Dear Christian, feel free to claim your rights either as an American or in your own country. Don’t accept the lie that you have to roll over and play dead and be passive before unjust authorities. But use wisdom. Sometimes silence is better, and so is fleeing persecution (Matt. 10:23).
“No!”: it could be translated “no, indeed!” but that sounds too posh. I could have translated it: “No! Way!” “We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi” (1 Thess. 2:2, NIV).
Paul’s demand that the magistrates come in there and lead them out was strong and firm. Follow his example.
No one can figure out how Paul got his Roman citizenship. His father or grandfather either bought it or earned it. However, the commentators point out that lying about being a Roman citizen would have incurred the death penalty, so the magistrates would have believed them. See v. 22 for why Paul and Silas did not claim it at this time. The magistrates will believe him when the jailer tells the officers that an earthquake happened or when they saw the crack in the prison and the chains off.
The magistrates indeed escorted them out. You have not because you ask not! (Jas. 4:2). Paul asked and got.
“In an ironic, comic upturn, although the authorities used force to put Paul and Silas in the prison, they must now use entreaty to get them out, inverting the public humiliation” (Keener, pp. 414-15).
“Lydia’s house”: here is more evidence that a Christian community was growing in her house. She was probably a widow. Older men married younger women, and her husband must have died already. She led the church, and “brothers” (v. 40) is the only indicators that men were there too.
Paul may have seemed a bit huffy in his demand for a formal apology from the magistrates, but that is not the point. It was essential that the young Christian community have a good reputation among the authorities if its witness was to flourish. Christians broke none of the Roman laws. Luke was at pains to show this. It would continue to be a major emphasis in Acts. In this instance Paul and Silas were totally innocent of any wrongdoing. It was important that the magistrates acknowledge their innocence and set the record straight. This was why Paul made such a major point of it. (comment on vv. 39-40)
“encouraged”: It is the verb parakaleō (pronounced pah-rah-kah-leh-oh). See v. 9 for a closer look.
“brothers and sisters”: it is the Greek noun “brothers,” but it can be inclusive of women, like our word mankind. And Lydia led the small church there, so it has to be inclusive of women. Paul appointed overseers and deacons (servants in practical matters) (Phil. 1:1), indicating that the church grew rapidly. Does this mean that Lydia was an overseer or deacon? Being an overseer means that he shepherds or cares for the flock. Being a deacon means that she serves in practical matters. Phoebe was a deacon (Rom. 16:1). Lydia was a leader by virtue of her business. She was savvy about practical matters. Therefore, she led the church in her house, but whether as a deacon or overseer in an official capacity is unknown.
GrowApp for Acts 16:35-40
A.. Paul demanded his rights as a Roman citizen. Sometimes it is appropriate to demand your legal right. Would you have the courage to do this, or would you be passive?
B.. Lydia was the hostess of a house church. Have you ever hosted a home group? How has this worked out for you?
C.. Have you ever assisted a host of a home group? What did you do?
Observations for Discipleship
It is about salvation, deliverance, and households.
As noted in v. 31, salvation is an instantaneous occurrence. The Spirit enters your heart and enables you to be born again (John 3:3). This opens the way to a deep relationship with God through Christ. As the Spirit lives in you, he leads you to become like Jesus. This is a life-long process called sanctification, literally the process (-ion) of God making (fic-) holy (sancti-). Salvation begins the process, and you are ready to go to heaven the moment you die. Salvation now has to be worked out before you die, so you can live a victorious-Christ-like life.
In deliverance, the poor girl with a spirit of divination needed to be set free from an evil spirit. However, Paul had to wait a while before he sensed her moment was right for her to be set free. Why the delay? Sometimes an evil spirit gets entrenched in a person’s soul and body. The victim gives it permission to reside in her. In this case, she was making money for her owners, so no doubt she had a mental stronghold and oppression imposed on her by them. Then, as she followed Paul and Silas around, she heard the Word. Her faith was built up. The satanic grip was loosening. At the right moment, she was ready to be set free and it happened.
Spirit-filled believers cannot be Satan-filled, for light and darkness cannot live in the same room, but sometimes the light is so dim that shadows exist in the corners of a believer’s mind. So Satan can attack a believer, but no longer dominate her. Seek help if you feel like Satan is harassing you. Meditate on Eph. 6:16, which says to put on the shield of faith, which quenches the fiery arrows of the enemy. Build you faith up in two ways: your prayer language in the Spirit (if you got this wonderful gift) and Scripture. Memorize and meditate on key verses, like Matt. 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13, and Eph. 6:10-18).
The greatest news of all is that Acts 16 is about the salvations of entire households: Lydia’s and the jailer’s. When they got saved, as heads of households, their families and workers followed with them. Acts 16:31 is a great promise to claim in your prayer life.
Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.
Bruce, F. F. Acts. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1988. (I also used his earlier work Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Commentary, Eerdmans, 1951, 1952, 1990, 3rd ed.).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger. United Bible Society, 2014.
Keener, Craig, S. Acts. New Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2020.
Longenecker, Richard N. Acts. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.
Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Tyndale, 1980.
Parsons, Mikeal C. and Martin M. Culy. Acts. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor, UP, 2003.
Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 2009.
Polhill, John B. Acts. New American Commentary. Vol. 26. Broadman and Holman, 1992.
Schnabel, Eckhard, J. Acts. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2012.