Lesson 47 - Acts 16:1-24

Lesson 47 - Acts 16:1-24

Lesson for March 26, 2017

The Book of Acts

Acts 16:1-24

“Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe. So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily. They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.”

After Paul and Barnabas split up, Paul and Silas along with Timothy form a missionary team. Timothy was chosen because of his testimony before the church. Circumcising Timothy was an application of the Law of Expediency, due to the attempt to reach the Jewish population. When Paul went back to these cities he did so to stabilize believers. He also went to report on the Jerusalem conference to them. The word for decree is “dogmata,” meaning dogma. A decree is simply a firm stand. The decree in this case would be what was stated in the letter from Jerusalem. (Acts 15:27-29)

The word for observe is “phulasso,” which means to guard something that belongs to you. The decrees were directed to the church and they were to guard them. Paul’s ministry to these people was to make them spiritually self-sustaining. As long as they had doctrine they had stability. Stability meant applying the Law of Expediency properly.

They were not permitted to go into the Roman province of Asia at this time because there was no positive volition. God the Holy Spirit sent Paul to the coast to Troas where there was positive volition. God’s plan for Paul was to head for Europe which became the center of the Roman Empire. Eventually, Peter would go into Asia instead of Paul.

A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” This was before the completion of the canon of Scripture therefore a vision was a legitimate means of guidance. Paul had a vision which would move him into heathenistic Europe. Today with the completion of the canon of Scripture there is no guidance by visions or dreams. The last vision and guidance by a vision that existed in the Church Age was that of John’s when he wrote the book of Revelation. Once the canon of Scripture was closed all guidance was through the Word of God.

“A man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him.” Paul knew he was from Macedonia first of all because the man spoke Greek. Second of all, two hundred years before this the Romans had fought three wars with the Macedonians and had eventually destroyed Macedonia as a great power. After the Romans conquered them there was one thing they failed to do. The Romans always superimposed their own styles of dress on others—except with the Macedonians. The Macedonians continued to wear the Greek helmet, the Greek type of dress. So when Paul saw this man he knew exactly that he was from Macedonia.

When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. So putting out to sea from Troas...” Now Luke joins the missionary team along with Paul, Silas, Timothy and perhaps others (we sought to go). Paul and his team were now looking across the Agean Sea at Europe. The Greek says literally, “And they set sail from Troas.”

Upon arriving in Macedonia, Paul did not open his mouth to witness until he had the perfect opportunity. The first opportunity was on the Sabbath. The Jewish population was very small in Philippi and there was no synagogue, so Paul began to look around on the Sabbath to see what was happening. He soon discovered that there was a group of people who would leave the city every Sabbath morning and he recognized them as Jews. So he followed them out of the city to a river side. Because there was no synagogue a few Jews would simply go out to the river and have a word of prayer. This prayer indicated the fact that there was a desire to hear the Word of God, a desire on the part of these Jews to know God better. Paul, Timothy, Silas and Luke simply join the group and begin sharing the good news of the Gospel.

Verses 14-21

“A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.”She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”

Lydia is one of many women mentioned throughout the Scriptures and one of importance in this case. She was a business woman who gave shelter to the missionary team. As she listened to Paul and the others preach the Gospel, she believed in Christ and was baptized along with those of her household who also believed. Lydia was positive toward God and God provided the truth for her and her family.

The slave girl that Paul’s team encountered was a demon-possessed soothsayer who was practicing a very profitable business of fortune-telling. The word for divination described the fortune-telling practiced by demon-possessed people who were involved in so-called “prophetic utterances.”

Demonism is considered a crime by God and was to receive capital punishment, according to Leviticus 20:27. The punishment for demon possession in the Old Testament was stoning. Demons can possess male and female, but never against the person’s will. Therefore, Satan and his demons seek out willing victims. Idol worship can be a form of demonism and people who are involved in idol worship are prime candidates for demon possession. (I Corinthians 10:14-21)

Verse 17 – “Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.”Everything she said was correct. Therefore, it was a very strange situation: a demon-possessed girl seeming to support the disciples of Christ. If Paul was going to stay with the truth he had to remain separated from anyone involved with demon activity. This could have easily been a compromise – an opportunity to gather a huge crowd by the wrong means. This was a subtle attack from Satan and Paul recognized it. Paul would not accept any “help” from the devil. Paul was one of the few people who had the discernment to realize on the basis of Bible doctrine that the hearers must come from God alone. A right thing must be done in a right way!

The lucrative racket had been terminated. Many theologians believe the girl had now received Christ as her Savior and as a result the fortune-telling racket was broken up. Immediately the local authorities began an investigation and discovered that behind it all was Paul and Silas.

“But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.” The Greek word for seized means to take someone violently and to hold them by violence; dragged means to be dragged by the heels. The market place was where the city administration was located and where they had the Roman courts. The Greek courts and most of the courts of the ancient world were held at the city gates, but the Romans held them in the market place. The word authorities refer to the magistrates of a Roman colony who administered “justice.”

Behind all this was Satan and in verses 20-21 we have the false accusations. They are saying to the authorities these men exist as Jews, but we have the status of Romans. In other words, if these men are Jews and we are Romans, we are right. Jews are always wrong! This is the idea. They had no basis for indicting these men under Roman law, so the only possible thing they could do was to get the racial prejudice going; which was exactly what they had in mind. The reason they used this particular indictment was that during the reign of Claudius there was a tremendous antagonism toward the Jews, so much so that Claudius threw the Jews out of Rome. Now that was over and Nero had come into authority and he more or less picked up where Claudius left off. Throwing our city into confusion means disturbing the peace. This would be a valid reason for indictment if it could be proved as a legitimate disturbing the peace activity.

So they attempt to describe how Paul’s team disturbed the peace: by teaching. “Are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans” would be an apparent patriotic appeal. The word proclaiming means to announce them, not to go into any extensive teaching. Here the very subtle action comes from the fact that these who have been brought in are Jews but we are Romans. Their appeal to the patriotism of the Romans was not something these gangsters cared about. The real grievance was not mentioned in the court at all which was the fact that these men had been making money from the demon-possessed girl and their racket was now broken up. Their grievance was really very secondary; it was merely a ploy to get rid of Paul and Silas. And it worked!

Verses 22-24

“The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”

Paul and Silas were not only cast into prison but were put in the “dungeon” of the prison (inner prison) and had their feet secured in stocks. The Romans always had a system where they had a prison which went underground. Half the prison would be at street level where the guards had their barracks, and then down below was the prison system. In the lowest part of all, the under prison, was the most secure area which was usually a dungeon type place. Perhaps they had heard of the way the apostles had been set free from prisons in the past by God.