This is the beginning of the history of all that resulted from the strange circumstances that allowed Paul to discern the Spirit’s preventing their progress as a means of Divine guidance for re-directing the team to Troas. Immediately following the supernatural vision of “the Man from Macedonia,” they “concluded” that God had called them to Europe…so they set sail from Troas. Luke says they “sailed straight” (lit. a straight course), a nautical phrase which means “sailing before the wind.” The voyage only took 2 days because the wind was with them. Later on, we find the same voyage taking 5 days against a contrary wind. Sometimes, the wind is with us…what a blessing!
With this statement, we notice a stark contrast with their previous experience in Asia Minor (our last lesson). We have seen Paul and the team perplexed, stuck, hindered and pushed…but now they sail before the wind. The same Spirit is now seen cooperating; showing favor by the direction of the wind driving these men onward to Divine appointments. This consciousness of the very forces of nature helping the purposes of grace must have been a source of great encouragement that strengthened their faith!
Sailing NW from Troas, they 1st anchored for a night off of Samothracia; a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea, about 35 miles off the southern coast of Thrace. They next reached the mainland at the port of Neapolis, 120 miles from Troas. This seaport in NE Macedonia near the border of Thrace, served as the port city of Philippi. At Neapolis, Paul picked up the Egnatian Way (the major road of Macedonia) to journey inland 10 miles to Philippi, the chief city of that part of Macedonia.
I. THE SECOND MISSIONARY JOURNEY: (Acts 16:1-40+)
This is the 2nd Missionary Journey of Paul and Silas. They had met Timothy, who was held in high regard in Lystra and Iconium; and Paul had invited him along as a traveling companion. Their round-about journey had brought them to Troas, where the vision of the “Man of Macedonia” brought the team to Philippi, a Roman colony. Luke the beloved physician also joins their party (16:10). Lydia the businesswoman, along with her household, get saved and baptized here (16:15). The deliverance of a demonized girl then results in Paul and Silas being beaten and thrown into prison. Their supernatural release at midnight, precipitated by fervent prayer and praise brought salvation to the jailor and his whole house. The rest of the chapter narrates their wise and peaceful departure from Philippi to continue the mission to Macedonia. Their ministry travels will take them to Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth (where Paul would stay nearly 2 years) before returning to Antioch once again. This entire 2nd mission journey would take 3-4 years.
MACEDONIA, is the focused and fruitful mission field on this journey. It’s mentioned 10 times in Acts and 16 times in the Pauline Epistles, was a mountainous country north of Greece, afterward enlarged and formed into a Roman province. Some of its chief cities included Berea, Neapolis, Philippi, and Thessalonica. Philip II of Macedon (ruled 359-336 B.C.) established his capital here at Phillipi. Several of Paul’s companions and fellow workers were Macedonians: Lydia (16:14, 40); Jason (17:5-9; Rom.16:21); Gaius (19:29); Aristarches (19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Col.4:10; Phile.1:24); Secundes and Sopater (20:4; Rom.16:21); Epaphroditus (Phil.2:25;4:18); Clement (Phil.4:3); Euodia and Syntyche (Phil.4:2); and Syzygus (the “true yokefellow” of Phil.4:3). The Macedonian Christians’ support of Paul’s needs and others is mentioned often by Paul (Rom15:26; 2Cor8:1-5; Phil4:15-18). What a profound blessing these friends of faith proved to be!
PHILIPPI was a fortified city of Macedonia located near the northern coast of the Aegean Sea between the cities Neapolis and Amphipolis. The Via Egnatia, the main road between Rome and Asia, passed through it. Philippi was named for Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great. A miniature Rome, its official language was Latin, but knowledge of Greek was a necessity for all. Its population was mixed: the Roman colonists, the dominant and ruling class; the old Macedonian stock was numerically the strongest section; and a mixture of Orientals. The second epistle to the Corinthians may have been written in this city. The first church in Europe was planted here. There was no synagogue here (not enough Jews), as at Salamis in Cyprus (Acts 13:5), Antioch in Pisidia (13:14, 43), Iconium (14:1), Ephesus (18:19, 26; 19:8), Thessalonica (17:1), Berea (17:10), Athens (17:17) and Corinth (18:4). The number of resident Jews was small, their meetings for prayer took place on the river’s bank, the worshippers were mostly or entirely women (16:13), and among them were proselytes.
NOTE: A striking fact of the Macedonian Churches, beginning here in Phillipi (16:13-18; Phil.4:2-3), and in Thessalonica and Berea (17:4, 12), is the prominence in them of women. This is possibly due to the higher social position held by women in this province than in Asia Minor; but regardless of reasons, would continue to be a distinguishing characteristic and means of blessing in these churches. It is perhaps the most common distinctive of mission oriented churches throughout history that they continually provide opportunities for women to serve in their God given graces and ministries.
II. The Miraculous Breakthroughs in Philippi:
1. The Conversion of Lydia (16:11-15):
Apparently there was no synagogue in Philippi, but Paul and his companions heard that some Jews gathered on the Sabbath by the riverside outside the city. Reaching the spot, they found a group of women praying, including one named Lydia. She was probably a convert to Judaism. Originally from Thyatira, a city in western Asia Minor, she had moved to Philippi where she sold purple-dyed cloth. Thyatira was famous for its dyes.
Not only was her ear open to the gospel; her heart was open as well. After receiving the Lord Jesus, she was baptized and her household. The members of her household had, of course, been converted also before they were baptized. There is no mention of Lydia’s being married; her household could have consisted of servants.
Lydia was not saved by good works, but she was saved unto them, that is, in order to do them. She proved the reality of her faith by opening her home to Paul, Silas, Luke, and Timothy. Phillip’s translation says: ‘When she and her household had been baptized, she appealed to us, saying, “If you are satisfied that I am a true believer in the Lord, then come down to my house and stay there.” And she insisted on our doing so.’
2. Demonic Deliverance of a Fortune-Teller (16:16-18):
Another day, when Paul and his companions were going to the place of prayer, they met a young woman who had a spirit of divination. Possessed by a demon, she was able to foretell the future and to make other astounding revelations. In this way she brought considerable income to her masters.
NOTE: “DIVINATION” =“Python” in Greek mythology, it was the name of the Pythian serpent or dragon that was said to have guarded the famous oracle at Delphi and which had been killed by Apollo. Later the word was applied to a spirit of divination, or to refer to soothsayers. Since demons are the agents inspiring idolatry (1Cor.10:20), the young woman in Acts 16:16 was possessed by a demon instigating the cult of Apollo, and thus had “a spirit of divination”—“a spirit by which she predicted the future” (NIV); “who was a fortune-teller” (TLB); “claiming to foretell future events and to discover hidden knowledge” (AMP); “she was a psychic” (The Message Bible).
When she met the Christian missionaries, and for many days after, she followed them, crying out, “There men are servants of the Most High God, which show unto you [not us] the way of salvation.” What she said was perfectly true, but Paul knew better than to accept testimony from demons. Also he was grieved because of the wretched condition of this enslaved maid. So, in the all-powerful name of Jesus Christ, he commanded the demon to come out of her. Immediately she was freed from this dreadful bondage, and became a sane, rational person.
3. Paul and Silas Arrested and Imprisoned (16:19-24):
Instead of being grateful that this young woman was no longer demon possessed, her masters bitterly resented the resulting loss of income. They therefore dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates, and trumped up charges against them. Basically, they accused them of being “troublemaking Jews” who were trying to upset the Roman way of life. The mob reacted violently, and the magistrates ordered Paul and Silas to be stripped and beaten. After a thorough beating, the missionaries were sent to jail, with special instructions to the jailer to guard them securely. He responded by putting them into the inner prison and fastening their feet in stocks. Paul refers to this beating elsewhere (2Cor.11:23-25; 1Thess.2:2; Phil.1:29-30)…it must have been severe.
In this passage we see 2 of Satan’s chief methods of attack. First, he tried false friendship–the testimony of the demon-possessed girl; but when this failed, he resorted to open persecution. “Alliance or persecution–these are the alternatives: false friendship or open war” (F.W. Grant). “How the Devil must have triumphed as he thought he had brought the career of these devoted servants of Christ to an abrupt close. His triumph was premature…in this case, it turned out for the furtherance of the work of the Lord. The unexpected happened” (A.J. Pollock).
4. Songs In the Night & Supernatural Release (16:25-34):
The midnight hour found Paul and Silas praying and singing. Their joy was completely independent of earthly circumstances. The source of all their singing was not only in heaven above, but was “Present” with them!. “Any man can sing when the prison doors are open, and he is set free. The Christian soul sings in prison. I think that Paul would probably have sung a solo had I been Silas: but I nevertheless see the glory and grandeur of the Spirit that rises superior to all the things of difficulty and limitation” -Anon.
As the other prisoners were listening to their prayers and hymns of praise to God, the prison was rocked by an unusual earthquake. It opened the doors and unloosed the stocks and chains, but it did not entirely demolish the building.
When the jailer awoke and saw the prison wide open, he assumed that the prisoners had made their escape. Aware that his own life might have to be forfeited, he drew his sword to commit suicide. Paul assured him that there was no need for him to do that because all the prisoners were still present and accounted for.
Now a new emotion swept over the jailer. His fears of losing his job and perhaps his life gave way to deep conviction of sin. He was now afraid to meet God in his sins. He cried, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” This question often precedes genuine conversions. A person must know they are lost before they can be saved. The people in Acts who were told to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ were convicted of their sin and the reality of the One True Living God that is separate from them. Now, the jailer was thoroughly broken up over his sins, so he was told to believe in Christ.
“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved-you and your household.” Many people today seem to have difficulty knowing what it means to believe. However, when a sinner realizes that he’s lost-helpless, that God is real, and then is told to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior…he knows exactly what it means. It’s the only thing left that he can do. Lastly, notice the Gospel of the Kingdom reaches all classes (16:27-40): the upper class –Lydia the businesswoman; the middle class –the jailor and his family; and the lower class – the demon-possessed slave girl. “God does not show favoritism!”
After Paul and Silas had a teaching session with the household, the jailer demonstrated the genuineness of his conversion by washing their wounds, and by being baptized without delay. Also, he brought them into his house and fed them, rejoicing all the time with his household that they had all come to know the Lord.
5. The Magistrates on the Defensive (16:35-40):
Apparently the magistrates (court judges) had a change of heart during the night, because in the morning they sent the police with instructions to release the 2 prisoners. When the jailer announced the good news to Paul, he refused to leave under such circumstances. After all, Silas and he, though Jews by birth, were citizens of Rome. They had been tried and punished unfairly. So, let the magistrates come and release the prisoners.
The magistrates did come, and rather apologetically! They urged Paul and Silas to leave the city without further disturbance. With the dignity of sons of the King, the Lord’s servants left the prison, but they did not leave the city immediately. First they went to Lydia’s house, conferred with the brethren, and comforted them. How wonderful! The ones who should have been comforted were comforting others. Then, when their mission in Philippi was accomplished, they left for Thessalonica. Paul would later re-visit the Province of Macedonia (20:1-3; Phil.1:26; 1Tim.1:3); and the saints at Philippi would never forget what Paul had done for them (Phil.4:15-16).
III. Discussion Questions:
1. Have you known anyone like Lydia: a godly woman of excellence, a business-woman that was also an intercessor? Notice the ministry of opening her heart and home so others benefit from the hospitality. How has your life been influenced by someone similar?
2. Tell of someone you know that was miraculously healed or delivered. Have you become aware of the business of religion, or seen financial greed hinder-oppose faith?
3. Have you ever been encouraged or convicted by the testimony of another Christian’s persevering faith through intense persecution or imprisonment? Who, when and how?
4. Remember a time in your life or the testimony of a friend that turned to God in prayer, gratitude and praise in the most difficult of circumstances. Now share how God revealed Himself and turned the tragedy into a triumph of grace: