The gospel goes to Europe in chapter 16. The Great Commission is faithfully carried out by devoted evangelists, at the risk of their very lives. As we continue to study the book of Acts, let us be reminded of our duty to share the gospel with lost souls. Some are lost and seek us out, but those are few. Most are lost and do not even realize it. We live in a post-Christian society, where the higher good is one’s own perceived needs. While we must respect everyone, we must not become complacent about the effect of sin and the prospect of eternal punishment.
Paul’s 2nd missionary journey was carried out from A.D. 49-52. His co-workers were Silas and Timothy. Main points of contact were Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Caesarea, and Antioch of Syria.
Timothy joins Paul and Silas for the 2nd missionary journey. Paul was proactive about the matter of circumcision in Timothy’s case. Paul did not want this to be an issue down the road. By contrast, when some demanded that Titus be circumcised, Paul refused to give in to their demand (Gal. 2:3). When circumcision was demanded as a matter of salvation, Paul stood his ground on the gospel truth. Two very different situations.
Notice that the Spirit of God directed Paul to a certain path on this journey (16:6-7). Paul had a plan, but the Spirit had a better plan. The greater need was across the Aegean Sea. In Troas, Paul had the Macedonian vision—a man crying out, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (16:9). The man in Macedonia represents all the lost who were ready to hear about Jesus.
The conversion of Lydia and her household is most interesting. It is obvious that not enough Jewish men were present in Philippi to have a synagogue; thus the place of prayer by the river. Lydia was an independent businesswoman from Thyatira, and a worshiper of God. Today she would be called a “seeker.” Notice that “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (16:14). While God did not force her to do anything, he used the gospel to open her mind to the message of Christ. It was common for an entire household to follow the leader of the home in conversion to Christ. These households were not saved by the faith of another; they gave attention to the message and each made their own decision to obey Christ.
When the record in Acts is presented in first person plural, Luke the author is in the company. These portions of Acts are known as the “we sections.”
The slave girl of this chapter was possessed by a demonic spirit which controlled her. Those who spoke involuntarily in this way were came to be known as “ventriloquists,” even in that day. Paul knew it is not proper for the Lord to be represented by an evil spirit, and he also had compassion for the girl. Thus he commanded the evil spirit to depart. It is this writer’s opinion that such things do not happen today. It is likely that when the power to overcome evil spirits was no longer given, the evil spirits no longer roamed among men. In Jesus’ day, they seemed to realize that their reign of terror was limited, and time was running out for them (Matt. 8:29).
The heartless owners of the slave girl were incensed that she was free of the evil spirit. Their means of using her for gain was gone. Like the silversmiths of Ephesus, they sought prosecution against Paul and his helpers. Lies were told and the missionaries were beaten and imprisoned. However, the gospel was not imprisoned. Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns and their words were heard throughout the Philippian prison. The timing of the earthquake indicates God’s hand in the matter. The damage was controlled. The cell doors were opened. Responsible for the prisoners with his life, the jailer was troubled. Paul put him at ease; the prisoners were all still there.
The Philippian jailer asked the greatest question of all time— “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (16:30). This is akin to the question asked by the penitent listeners on Pentecost (Acts 2:37). The short answer to the jailer was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (16:31). I recall listening to radio preachers way back in the day, and they would stop reading here. Their message to listeners was salvation by faith alone. They left the story too soon. Verse 32 tells us that Paul answered the jailer’s question more fully in the presence of his household. They concluded that baptism was necessary and “immediately he and all his family were baptized” (16:33). Gospel baptism is essential to salvation (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38). In baptism, we surrender to and identify with Christ (Rom. 6:1-4). There we receive the benefits of the Savior’s precious blood sacrifice. Baptism is an urgent matter—not a ritual to be postponed until all can gather comfortably. If you reach the decision to obey Christ, let us know and we will help you any hour of any day.
Local magistrates wished to quietly send the missionaries on their way, avoiding the embarrassment and penalty of illegally punishing and jailing a Roman citizen. Paul claimed the benefits of his citizenship and demanded an escort out of town! Let us use the freedom our country affords, while it is afforded. Preach the gospel. Teach the gospel. Souls are at stake.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.