Acts 16:1-24 (web)

2nd Missionary Journey


16:1 He came to Derbe and Lystra: and behold, a certain disciple was there, 
named Timothy, the son of a Jewess who believed; but his father was a Greek. 
16:2 The brothers who were at Lystra and Iconium gave a good testimony about him. 
16:3 Paul wanted to have him go out with him, 
and he took and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts; 
for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 
16:4 As they went on their way through the cities,
they delivered the decrees to them to keep 
which had been ordained by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem. 
16:5 So the assemblies were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily. 

The Lord Directs Their Journey

16:6 When they had gone through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, 
they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 
16:7 When they had come opposite Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, 
but the Spirit didn't allow them. 
16:8 Passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 

Crossing Boundaries

The Macedonian Vision

A Cultural Boundary

16:9 A vision appeared to Paul in the night. There was a man of Macedonia standing,
begging him, and saying, "Come over into Macedonia and help us." 
16:10 When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go out to Macedonia,
concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. 
16:11 Setting sail therefore from Troas, we made a straight course to Samothrace, 
and the day following to Neapolis; 
16:12 and from there to Philippi, which is a city of Macedonia,
the foremost of the district, a Roman colony.
We were staying some days in this city. 


A Gender Boundary

16:13 On the Sabbath day we went forth outside of the city by a riverside, 
where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down,
and spoke to the women who had come together. 
16:14 A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, 
one who worshiped God, heard us;
whose heart the Lord opened to listen to the things which were spoken by Paul. 
16:15 When she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, 
"If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, 
come into my house, and stay." So she persuaded us. 

Conflicts with the Satanists

16:16 It happened, as we were going to prayer,
that a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us,
who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. 
16:17 Following Paul and us, she cried out, 
"These men are servants of the Most High God,
who proclaim to us the way of salvation!" 
16:18 She was doing this for many days. 
But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit,
"I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" 
It came out that very hour. 
16:19 But when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone,
they seized Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 
16:20 When they had brought them to the magistrates,
they said, "These men, being Jews, are agitating our city, 
16:21 and set forth customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, 
being Romans." 
16:22 The multitude rose up together against them,
and the magistrates tore their clothes off of them,
and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 
16:23 When they had laid many stripes on them,
they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely, 
16:24 who, having received such a charge, 
threw them into the inner prison, and secured their feet in the stocks. 


vs 1 How are we to understand the apparent contradiction between Paul's stand against the circumcision, as for example when he says in Galatians 5:2 "Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all." contrasted with the fact that he circumcised Timothy? There are two differences in this case. Previously he was speaking of Gentiles being under no obligation to Jewish Law, but Timothy was a Jew by birth. Secondly he was speaking of circumcision not be treated as a requirement for salvation, but here he circumcised Timothy so as to not unnecessarily offend the scruples of the Jews. As such this was more of a gray area - like eating meats sacrificed to idols - which was elaborated upon in the previous chapter.

vs 5 There are a number of places in Acts that speak of "increasing":

Prior Event
Ac 2:47 And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Peter preaches at Pentecost
Ac 5:14  And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women. The Apostles pray for boldness, preach and do miracles
Ac 6:7  And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. Deacons are appointed
Ac 9:31  Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. Paul converted and preaches in Jerusalem
Ac 12:24  But the word of God grew and multiplied. The church at Antioch established and sends famine relief to Jerusalem. Peter miraculously delivered from prison and Herod struck down by the Lord.
Ac 16:5  And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. Paul strengthens the churches during his second missionary journey
Ac 19:20  So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. Paul strengthens all the disciples during his third missionary journey

Notice that when it speaks of increase, it often makes reference to the Word of God. We often forget this today, where church membership tends to be the measure of achievement. But the measure should not be so much how many people are going to church, but rather is the word of God growing? Do people in your church study, memorize and meditate on the Bible? Do they speak of it with others? To what extent does the Bible determine how they live? These are significant measures of the fruitfulness of God's ministry.

vs 6-8 Interesting here that the Lord actually prevented them at this time from preaching the Word in certain places! Doesn't the Lord want us to go and preach the gospel to all peoples? Yes, but it appears that the Lord has a plan as to how to carry that out. We are not on our own when it comes to evangelism. Those born of God are led by the Spirit of God in the service of the Lord. As we become intuned to the Spirit of God he directs our paths. But you cannot turn a car which is not in motion. It was as they were carrying out the ministry the God opened and closed doors. When they started off in Antioch they didn't have to know at that time what God wanted them to do when they left Mysia, for example. They tried to enter Bithynia but were prevented. Perhaps here we find a principle of knowing God's will. In the process of carrying out His revealed will we will come to crossroads which may involve different choices. What do we do? Try and go through one of the doors and see if God prevents you. This is not to say that if in going through a door we face opposition that therefore it isn't God's will. For Paul writes, "But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost,  because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me." 1Cor 16:8,9 We should keep in mind the fact that there many paths to carrying out the Great Commission. But we should be careful to give our expectations to God and not set our hearts on one particular path of ministry realizing that it is the Lord's ministry and not ours. In the middle of going one place we may be directed to go somewhere else. In the middle of doing one thing we may be directed to do something else. But rather than pray, "Lord, I'll go and do ministry when you tell me exactly what I'm supposed to do", we should pray, "Lord, it seems to me that to carry out your revealed will that this is what I should do. So I'm going to do this and if you don't want me to do this or want me to do something else, then let me know."

vs 9-12 It wasn't until they hit Troas that it was revealed why they were prevented from preaching in the other areas. The Lord was in the process of answering a prayer of a man from Macedonia (some speculate this to be Luke). Though at times we may pray for direction, sometimes the Lord will direct us simply in response to someone else's prayer. Macedonia was across the Aegean Sea into Greece. This also represented the crossing of a cultural boundary between oriental and western cultures and also represented a closer step to Rome itself.

vs 13-15 Unusual to find Paul interrupting a women's prayer meeting. This represented the crossing of a gender bounday one might liken to Jesus' speaking to the woman at the well.

The word "Lydia" means "hard worker", which was also apparently appropriate. For sellers of purple were relatively well off, as these being expensive material. She was a business woman and owned a house. She appears to be a God-fearing Gentile, as Cornelius was, rather than a Jew. It is to be noted that she accepted the faith with the heart of a servant. For upon conversion, first on her mind was how she may serve. This in contrast to many who enter the faith with simply a "what can I get out of it" attitude.

vs 16-18 Though possessed of a demon, why silence this woman who was testifying to the truth? Indeed Jesus also often told the demon possessed to be silent when testifying of Him. The devil may want to give the impression that he is on our side. But God does not want people to have the impression of the gospel being associated with the devil. Not all publicity is appropriate. Furthermore the fact that the girl had apparently not been saved for many days indicates to me that she was an unbeliever mocking the messengers. Though telling the truth, she was speaking so as to make fun of them. 

As you minister you will run across certain people who seemed obsessed with hindering you as if possessed by a spirit set on trying to destroy your ministry. What is our defense? One of the weapons in our arsenal is simply to pray and cast out that spirit. We have authority to do so. For all authority on heaven and earth has been given for the accomplishment of the Great Commission. (Matt 28:19,20)

vs 19-24 But just as in the spiritual realm, so also in the natural realm we will face opposition. We notice here the motivation that brought on such persecution was simply the perception that the gospel threatened the person's wealth. GREED was the motivation. Many unbelievers will tolerate the preaching of the gospel even if they don't agree with it, just so long as it doesn't interfere with their lives in what they perceive to be a negative manner. But if they perceive that it will, some may attempt to bring legal action against us. They may sue us or such. They may villify us so as to enrage a mob against us. But in the end this will only strengthen our resolve, reveal the depth of our convictions, and end in our deliverance. In fact such persecution should be the norn if we're doing the ministry correctly. For if they understand the application of the gospel, it will indeed interfere with their sinful lives. 

It is unfortunate today that many preach or have the impression that the gospel is simply about the forgiveness of sins, but has nothing to do with one's sinfulness. If the gospel does not affect one's lifestyle, then it either has not been delivered properly or not received properly.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 28,2022