Acts 16:11-40 NIV
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis.12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
- Philippi: A Roman colony in northeastern Greece. Home to many veterans of Rome’s army, the city was exempted from poll and property taxes as its citizens were considered Roman citizens.
- Sabbath: Unlike in other cities, there was no Synagogue in which to minister on the Sabbath. This would suggest an almost nonexistent Jewish presence in Philippi, as ten Jewish were needed to form a synagogue. Thus, a few worshippers, mostly women, could be found be found praying by a river.
- Lydia: We can gather the following about Lydia: (1) she was single or widowed, (2) she was wealthy from dealing purple cloth, (3) she was a Gentile worshipper of the God of Israel. Her home would become the meeting place of the church in Philippi (cf. 16:40).
- The Lord opened her heart: Lydia, and presumably other women (relatives and servants) in her household who were present, were moved by the Holy Spirit when they heard the Word of God from Paul (cf. John 16:7-8; Romans 10:17). They were soon baptized as obedient followers of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38).
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
- A spirit: Just as in the days of Jesus’ flesh, unclean spirits were able to discern the Son of God, as well as His true servants. The spirit (literally a python spirit) indwelling the slave girl possessed her (like a ventriloquist manipulating a puppet) to loudly “endorse” Paul and his party in a way that served to detract from their ministry.
- Come out: Just as in the days of Jesus’ flesh, unclean spirits were forced out by just a word spoken by the Son of God, as well as His true servants (cf. Mark 1:24-25; 3:11; Luke 4:34-35; 8:28).
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
- Throwing our city into an uproar: Motivated by greed, the slave girl’s owners were able to turn the force of law against Paul and his party. They were accused of disturbing the “Roman peace” by attempting to evangelize the Roman citizens of Philippi.
- They were thrown into prison: Before any kind of due process could take place, Paul and Silas were (1) flogged, (2) thrown into prison, and (3) their feet placed in stocks. In his letters, Paul would regard such mistreatment as bearing the marks of Christ’s apostle (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23ff; Galatians 6:17).
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
- Singing hymns: Paul and Silas did not complain, but rejoiced in their sufferings. For they were not suffering as evil doers, but for the kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 5:11-12; Luke 6:22-23). The joy they experienced was supernaturally given to them by the Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 5:1-5).
- The prison doors flew open: This is third “divine prison break” recorded in Acts, although Paul and Silas technically do not escape their cells. The signs and wonders served to vindicate Paul and Silas and to open the door of witness to their jailer.
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
- What must I do to be saved?: From humiliation and despair to faith and hope, the jailer knows that Paul and Silas indeed know the way to be saved (cf. 16:17).
- You and your household: This is not a guarantee that if one person in a family or household gets saved, then the rest will automatically. Rather, it is a promise extended to the jailer, and to his household, that faith in Jesus will save them. Evidently, they did believe and were all baptized. We should still believe that our faith can influence our lost loved ones towards Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:16; Proverbs 22:6).
35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”
38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
- We are Roman citizens: Paul revealed this fact, which made their prior treatment shameful and unthinkable. The apostles model how our earthly citizenship still matters and our rights can be appealed to as Christians (cf. Philippians 3:20).
- Then they left: Rather than unnecessarily stir the crowds further, they obliged the magistrates request that they leave. The apostles model wisdom in the use of our rights when it comes to advancing God’s kingdom.