Acts 16 Commentary

Across Asia Minor to Troas (16:1-10)

Upon arriving in Lystra, Paul and Silas were joined by Timothy, a young man whom the elders of the Galatian churches considered suited to the task ahead (1 Tim 1:18; 4:14). Timothy was half-Jewish, and Paul thought it wise that he be circumcised, apparently hoping that this would gain acceptance for Timothy with the Jewish population wherever the missionaries went. The circumcision of Timothy was for practical, not religious, purposes, in keeping with Paul’s principle that while working with the Jews he would live like the Jews so that he might win them for Christ (16:1-3; cf. 1 Cor 9:20).

As they passed through the Galatian towns, the missionaries delivered copies of the Jerusalem letter to the churches. This letter added further weight to what Paul had said to them in his own recent letter (4- 5).

Leaving Galatia they entered the province of Asia, but God did not allow them to preach there. They headed north towards the province of Bithynia, but again God prevented them from carrying out their plans. So they headed west across the region of Mysia to the town of Troas, from where they prepared to sail to Europe. Their destination was to be the province of Macedonia, the northern part of present-day Greece. These unexpected changes in Paul’s missionary movements showed that although he knew the importance of planning his work, he knew also the importance of obeying whenever God directed him otherwise (6-10).

Philippi – first church in Europe (16:11-40)

The missionaries left Troas with another addition to the party, Luke, the author of the book (note the word ‘we’ in verse 11). Luke’s home appears to have been in Philippi, the city to which the group was now heading (11-12). It seems that Philippi had few Jews and no synagogue, but a group of God-fearers met for prayer at the river bank. The missionaries joined with them and made known to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result a cloth merchant named Lydia became a Christian and, through her, her household also believed (13-15).

Not all the interest that the preachers created in Philippi was favourable. Trouble began when they healed a slave girl who, because of an evil spirit that possessed her, earned much money for her owners by telling fortunes (16-18). When her owners found she could no longer be used to earn them money, they attacked the missionaries and created a riot. Paul and Silas were arrested, flogged and thrown into prison without trial or questioning (19-24).

Yet even in prison Paul and Silas found the opportunity to talk about Jesus Christ. The outcome was the conversion of the jailer along with his household (25-34). Next morning Paul and Silas were allowed to go free, but they refused to go until they received an apology from the local officials. Paul claimed that the officials had no right to flog Roman citizens, especially without trial (35-40).

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