January 28, 2015

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV. The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts 13-28)   

                    

Subtopic C: The Second Missionary Journey (15:36-18:22)                 

                          

                                                                            

         Lesson: IVC.4: The Work in Philippi (16:11-40)                                             

 



Part 1: Founding a Church with Lydia (16:11-15; KJV)

11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;

12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

 

 

Introduction

 

The remainder of chapter 16 concerns Paul’s work in Philippi.  It falls into four separate scenes.  Verses 11-15 relates the group’s (Paul, Silas, Mark, and Timothy) journey to Philippi and the conversation of a prominent woman named Lydia.  Verses 16-24 deal with the healing of a possessed servant girl and its unfortunate result.  Verses 25-34 tell of the conversion of the Philippian Jailer.  Verses 35-40 deals with the final encounter of Paul the Roman citizen with the city magistrates.

 

 

Commentary

 

11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;

 

Verses 11-12 relates the journey from Troas to Philippi.  The weather must have been good and the winds favorable because their ship cited Samothrace(an island located off the Thracian coast on a direct line between Troas and Neapolis[1].) the first day. Samothrace was a mountainous island with a peek rising 5,000 feet above sea level.  It was an unmistakable point of interest midway between Troas and Neapolis, the port of Philippi. The Island had been, from ancient times, the seat of the Cabiri cult.  It would need evangelizing, of course, but Paul’s sites were now set on the mainland of Europe.  The island was soon left far behind, and the next day they arrived at Neapolis (From Troas to Neapolis was a distance of about 150 miles.) and Paul’s feet stood at last upon European soil[2]. Luke may have seen this good crossing as a sign of God’s approval. In Acts 20:6 the voyage from Philippi to Troas took considerably longer—five days in all, apparently because of contrary winds and a strong current in the opposite direction. 

 

 

12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

 

The group would have taken the “Via Egnatia” (also called the “Ignatian Way”)—a Roman road that linked the Aegean Sea with the Adriatic Sea—the ten miles or so to Philippi.  This route was the main east–west highway through Macedonia, beginning at Dyrrhachium on the Adriatic coast, traveling through Thessalonica, Amphipolis, and Philippi and terminating at Neapolis.  Paul often traveled this road. Again, Paul did not linger at Neapolis.  He had his eyes on bigger fields.

 

And from thence Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia . . .

Paul arrived in Philippi about 20 years after the foundation of the Church at Jerusalem, and after the Pentecostal outpouring.  Philippi was 10 miles inland from Neapolis.  It crowned a steep hill that was encircled by two Rivers.  It was settled from ancient times largely because of the copper and gold deposits in the region.  Formerly known as Krenides, it was seized in the fourth century b.c. from the native Thracians by Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great.  Philip renamed the city for himself and enlarged the gold-mining operations.  It came under Roman domination in 168 b.c.  and was enlarged in 42 b.c. when Antony and Octavian (later to be the Emperor Augustus, in whose reign Christ was born) defeated Brutus and Cassius on the plains southwest of the city, thus avenging the murder of Julius Caesar.  In 31 b.c., after defeating Antony at the battle of Actium, Octavian granted the city the status of a colony.

 

. . . and a colony.

One of the ways Rome ruled the world was through her colonies.  At strategic points on the map she founded Roman settlements, where Roman citizens set up outposts for the empire.  Such colonies promoted the Roman way of life a “Rome away from Rome,” gave Rome loyal bases abroad, provided secure locations for the military, and enabled Rome to hold down the outlying areas.  In return, they were given certain political privileges, not the least of which was exemption from taxes.  This was their reward for leaving their homes in Italy and relocating elsewhere.  In the book of Acts, Philippi, Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, Ptolemais, and Corinth are all Roman colonies.  They were transplants of Rome, patriotic and proud ambassadors of a way of life; these people had Roman customs and they spoke Latin. Later, writing to the church he founded at Philippi, Paul said, “For our citizenship [literally] is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Moffett translates that,“We are a colony of heaven”.  What a magnificent concept of the role of the Christian in this hostile world.  We are here to represent a way of life and to represent an empire not of this world.

 

The Roman influence was particularly strong in Philippi as reflected in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, and in the present narrative; it was also where the Roman governor resided.  When Macedonia had first come under Roman influence, it had been divided into four administrative districts.  Although these were later dissolved into a single provincial structure with Thessalonica as the capital, the distinction between the four districts seems to have persisted.  This is perhaps reflected in Luke’s designating the city as “the leading city of that district of Macedonia[3]”.  Actually, Amphipolis was the larger city and had been the capital of the district before the provincial reorganization.  Perhaps Luke reflected a local claim that Philippi was Macedonia’s “foremost city,” a claim not totally unjustified when one considers its illustrious history.

 

. . . and we were in that city abiding certain days.

For the first few days he seems to have scoured the city making inquiries and looking for a friendly face.

 

13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

 

The four missionaries evidently set themselves up in the city and waited until the next Sabbath before beginning their witness.  Paul and his friends did not plunge immediately into evangelizing the city, even though they knew God had called them there. No doubt they needed to rest and pray and make their plans together.  On the Sabbath, according to Paul’s usual pattern, they sought out the Jewish place of worship first.  In this instance there does not seem to have been a Jewish synagogue at Philippi[4].  Paul was unable to follow his usual practice of making his first point of contact in the synagogue, where as a trained rabbi he could always be assured of a warm initial welcome and at least one good initial hearing for the gospel.  Instead, they learn of a place of prayer (where prayer was wont to be made) outside the city gates[5]. Luke’s comment was, “we went out of the city,” but what is meant is that they went outside the (city) gate. The “place of prayer” is a technical phrase.  Jewish places of prayer were found throughout all these cities where no synagogues were built.  They were almost invariably placed by the side of a river; sometimes they consisted of a circle enclosed by some kind of wall and yet under the open sky; sometimes without any outward sign of enclosure.  That was “the place of prayer,” and there, in cities where no synagogue was built, the Hebrews gathered on Sabbath for prayer.

 

The “place of prayer” was by a small river, probably the Gangas (or, Gangites), which lies about a mile and a quarter from the city gates.  The Romans were sometimes uneasy about foreign cults.  Judaism was a recognize religion; but perhaps because there was no formally constituted synagogue, the women had to meet outside the city[6].  If there were no Jews present and all the women were Gentile “god-fearers” like Lydia, this may have made their gathering even more suspect in the city.  In any event, the gathering of women was the closest thingto a synagogue at Philippi. An unofficial group met by the river to engage in prayer each Sabbath day.  Paul made for this place on the banks of the Gangas River.  We can picture the courteous introduction as Paul introduced himself and Silas, who being from Jerusalem would command a special interest.  Then there were Timothy and Luke.  The women would look curiously at Luke especially if he was obviously a Greek.  Paul would have taken the posture a speaker assumed in a synagogue, sitting down, to address the women.  Most likely the event took place in the open air beside the river.  So, this was Paul’s first congregation in Philippi.  Not a very promising one!  All women and no men; no building to meet in; no prestige or influence in the city to count on.  Nevertheless it grew into one of the strongest, most generous of all the churches that Paul founded.  It can be assumed that Lydia played a large part in its growth and development.  If considering the small regard ancient Jews had for women as people to be taught, we are again reminded of how important a part women played in the story of Acts by comparison. 

 

Before long the little group by the river would be held enthralled as Paul told them the story of Jesus.  It was possibly only a small congregation.  But here was an outpost of the empire to be stormed and taken for the kingdom of God.  Paul never turned down an opportunity to present the gospel, however small and unpromising it might at first appear.  Small things can grow into big things.

 

So Paul set about his first European conquest.  It might not have been as large as he would have liked, but it would at least be a bridgehead on the mainland, and once secured, it could be enlarged. 

 

 

14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

 

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira

Among the women gathered there, one stood out.  Her name was Lydia (Her name means “woman of Lydia.”), the same name as the ancient territory in which her native city of Thyatira was located.  She is described as a dealer in goods dyed purple, a likely occupation since Thyatira was indeed a center of the purple dye trade.  Lydia’s business is not an incidental detail.  It marks her as a person of means.  Purple goods were expensive and often associated with royalty; thus the business was a lucrative one[7].  This capable woman was captivated by Paul’s message.

 

Which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

Lydia above all was a deeply religious person.  She had been drawn to the Jewish community because she found there an oasis in the midst of the spiritual and moral drought that prevailed elsewhere.  Paul shared the Word (“spoken,” as it is used here means personal conversion, not preaching).  God opened her heart to the truth, and she believed and was saved. This is another proof of the sovereignty of God in salvation. God chooses man for salvation, not the other way around (John 6:65; Ephesians 1:29; Colossians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

 

Lydia warmed to the story of Jesus.  It rang true in her soul.  It struck a responsive chord.  It was the truth for which she had been searching, and her thirsty soul drank it in.  In her hometown of Thyatira she had responded to such truth as could be found in the synagogue, but it was incomplete and often inconsistent.  The story of Jesus was the answer.  All the precepts and prophecies found their terminus in Him.  Her heart,which the Lord opened (Luke 24:45), went out to Him. This must always be the case.  Without in any way diminishing the importance of repentance and faith and of preaching the faith of Christ, there can be no life in Christ unless the gospel comes “not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). (Also see Ephesians 1:18).  But Luke mentions it now perhaps to show that just as God had called them to this work, so he confirmed that calling by working with them—“On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (14:27).  They had all “spoken to the woman” (v.  13), but Luke attributes Lydia’s conversion, insofar as it laid in human hands, to Paul, who was no doubt the chief speaker.  The Spirit of God bore witness with her spirit.  She listened earnestly to Paul’s words, and her whole soul responded with a glad “yes” to the gospel.  She was both ready and responsive to the message.

 

Lydia was a “worshipper of God” (16:14), one of those devout Gentiles like Cornelius who believed in God but had not become a full convert to Judaism.  There was an extensive Jewish community at Thyatira and she had perhaps first come to her faith in God there.  As he had with Cornelius, God responded to her faith and “opened her heart” to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ which Paul proclaims.  As always with divine grace, it was God’s Spirit moving in her heart that led to faith.  The first convert which Paul made in Europe was a woman of Asia, a Jewish proselyte, perhaps, or a woman of true Jewish blood who had been born in Thyatira.

 

Paul spoke to that assembly of women, and that is a fascinating fact.  Paul was a Pharisee who, through the long years of his early life, had daily repeated such words as these: “O God, I thank Thee that I am neither Gentile, nor slave, nor woman.” The man who wrote: “in Christ there is neither jew nor Gentile, bond nor free, male nor female,” (Galatians 3:28), thus contradicted the false view of the thanksgiving that had passed his lips for years.  He now abandoned the Jewish and Pharisaic contempt for a woman.  The apostle of Jesus Christ found no man in the place of prayer, but the old contempt had gone, and he spoke to the women assembled there.  He dared to do so because the Gospel had changed his intellectual conception and entirely transformed him.

 

 

15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

 

And when she was baptized. . .

She not only believed, she boldly identified herself with Christ by being baptized—maybe then and there.  One can well imagine the curious crowd that gathered quickly enough when they saw this well-dressed and obviously well-to-do woman step down into the river along with Paul or whoever it was who performed the actual ceremony.  We can believe, too, that Paul lost no time in explaining to the onlookers what was happening and why.  Lydia doubtless gave her own word of testimony, too.  What an occasion a baptism should be to tell the world of One who died that we might die in Him, and be raised in Him to newness of life.

 

. . . and her household

Lydia’s testimony and example emboldened others, notably her own servants and dependents, to make a similar confession of their faith and submit to being baptized, so it was a good opportunity for Paul and his associates to teach them the Word and establish a local church.  We can be quite sure that Paul would not consent to the baptism of any who did not have a clear-cut testimony for Christ.  But it was Lydia’s bold step that prompted the public response by her attendants.  Often one person standing up fearlessly for Christ will encourage others to do the same by the sheer force of example.

 

. . . .she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

 A little time must have elapsed, enough anyway for Paul and Silas and the others to see that Lydia’s conversion was genuine, that her public testimony was continuing, and that her character and reputation were beyond reproach.  There is no hint that Lydia was married.  It would have been a reckless thing for four men to have taken up residence in a woman’s home were not her credentials above question.  Such a move could have stained both her and them.  The town gossips would soon have been busy, and we are to avoid even the appearance of evil.  We can be sure that Paul carefully evaluated Lydia’s kind offer of hospitality before accepting it.  She, too, was aware of the damage scandalmongers could do.

 

 Hospitality was probably the most notable thing about her.  Hospitality has always been one of the human graces.  Together with clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, and visiting the lonely, Jesus makes it one of the basic requirements of life in His kingdom: “I was a stranger, and ye took me in” (Matthew 25:35).  When Paul and his friends were friendless in a hostile city Lydia gave them the hospitality of her home.

 

Lydia’s invitation to the four missionaries to stay in her home in itself indicates that she had considerable substance, such as guest rooms and servants to accommodate them adequately. The words “and she constrained us” seems to imply that they were reluctant, but she pressured them to accept her offer.  Lydia made the missionaries’ acceptance of her hospitality the test of whether they really believed she had become a believer, “come and see for yourself if the Lord has come to rule in my life.” It was an offer they could not refuse.  But she did not merely open her home to the missionaries; she allowed it to become the gathering place for the entire Christian community—After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left” (Acts 16:40).  Perhaps the wealthiest member of the Philippian church, Lydia embraced the ideal of the early church, not laying claim to what was hers but freely sharing it with her sisters and brothers in Christ—All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. (Acts 4:32).  No doubt her home became the first “church” in Philippi (tradition places it in the village that has taken her name, not far from the ruins of Philippi).  Of all the churches which Paul founded, this church was the closest to his heart.  This was the church which loved him; and Paul love this church.  There were wonderful saints in this church, as we shall see.

 

Not only did Lydia share her goods, but she shared her faith as well.  As the leader of her household, she led them to join her in commitment and baptism.  This is the first time the baptism of a “household” is narrated in Acts.  Another will follow shortly (vs. 33-48).  There is no evidence whatsoever that this included infants, and it cannot be used in support of infant baptism.  Previous references to Cornelius’s household indicates that those who were baptized both heard and believed the message (10:44; 11:4, 17).  Throughout Acts baptism is based on personal faith and commitment, and there is no reason to see otherwise in the household baptisms.

 

Of all Paul’s churches, the Philippians’ generosity stood out.  They continued to send him support in his missionary endeavors elsewhere (Philippians 4:15-18; 2 Corinthians 11:8).  One is tempted to see Lydia as a principle contributor.  However, those who argue that Paul married Lydia and that she was the “loyal yokefellow” of Philippians 4:3, have certainly gone too far.  Women like Lydia were particularly prominent in Paul’s missionary efforts in this portion of Acts—the women of Thessalonica (17:4) and of Berea (17:12), Damaris in Athens (17:34), and Priscilla in Corinth (18:2).  Priscilla and Lydia took an active role in the ministry of their churches.  This was in part due to the more elevated status of women in the contemporary Greek and Roman society.  This was particularly true in the first century when women were given a number of legal privileges such as initiating divorce, signing legal documents, even holding honorary public titles.  The prominent role of the women in Acts is perhaps due even more to the message Paul brought them: “in Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3: 28).  God brought her all the way to Greece so that she might hear the Gospel and be converted.

 

Today, we are sometimes told that the Church is full of women, that there are no men going to Church.  I can’t help but comment whenever I hear that statement made.  But the extent to which it is true is the condemnation of men; and let the men who are becoming Christless and churchless lament if the hour should ever come when their women ceased to worship.  The women whose hearts are opened, whose homes are ever Christ’s training grounds.  Lydia was Paul’s first victory in Philippi.

 

This episode is a beautiful illustration of 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14: “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”NIV

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Neapolis, on the Strymonian Gulf, is the modern Cavalla; it was a port second only to Thessalonica.

[2] The territory is now known as the Balkan Peninsula and belongs partly to Greece and partly to Yugoslavia.  Under the rule of Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great, this country rose to supremacy and became one of the mightiest empires in the world.

[3] The problem is somewhat more complicated than the text would indicate.  Some of the best manuscripts read “the first city of the history of Macedonia.” The Western text reads “the capital” of Macedonia.  Only a couple of Latin manuscripts have the reading “a leading city of the first district of Macedonia,” but this reading fits the facts best.

[4] At least Ten Males were required to form a synagogue, and no amount of women could make up for the lack if the required number of men was missing.  Since only women are mentioned in the gathering outside Philippi, there were likely not sufficient Jewish Males to constitute a synagogue there.

[5] “Place of prayer” is sometimes used to designate a synagogue, and some interpreters argue that there was an actual synagogue building in this instance.  Synagogues were often, but not necessarily, located close to a water supply because of their needs for the rights of purification.

[6] The ruins of an arched gateway stand outside the walls of Philippi.  It has been suggested that this gateway is the one mentioned in verse 13 and served as a marker for the area within which no foreign cults could be observed.

[7] There were evidently two methods for producing the expensive purple dyes.  One was to extract the color from the glands of the murex shell.  This is the known method employed in the extensive diet industry in Sidon.  Another method still employed in the region of ancient Thyatira extracted the dye from the juice of the madder route. 

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January 5, 2015

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV. The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts 13-28)   

                    

Subtopic C: The Second Missionary Journey (15:36-18:22)                 

                          

                                                                            

         Lesson: IV.C.4: The Work in Philippi (16:11-40)                                             

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Healing a Possessed Servant Girl (16:16-24; KJV)

16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.

18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.

23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

 

 

Introduction

 

This passage tells of the healing of a possessed servant girl.  As Paul witnessed in Philippi he was pestered by a servant girl who was possessed by a spirit with predictive powers.  The spirit incessantly proclaimed Paul’s relationship to God and the saving power of his message.  Annoyed by the demon and feeling compassion for the girl, who was being exploited by her owners, Paul exorcised the spirit.  Having lost a source of income, the owners hauled Paul before the town magistrates.  Their charges against him we’re false but carried enough weight with the authorities to have Paul and Silas flogged and thrown into jail.

 

 

 

Commentary

 

A SLAVE GIRL HELD BY THE CRUEL CHAINS OF SLAVERY

 

16a And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel . . . met us . . . which brought her masters much gain.

The second incident of conversion in Philippi recorded by Luke was in great contrast to the first one.  First it was a cultured lady, now it was a captive slave; first it was a successful businesswoman, now it was a demon-possessed girl.  Luke records three specific conversions at Philippi, and each one is a contrast.  When taken together they give an interesting study in the power of the gospel to save people from widely different backgrounds and ways of life.

After their first contact with the group which met at the place of “prayer,” Paul and his companions made repeated visits to preach and teach on days other than the Sabbath.  A slave girl had perhaps watched them go to and from the river and had checked up on the nature of their mission.  At some point, the slave girl began to follow them and shout at them, which made them the center of public attention.

This girl was a slave.  Slavery was a major social scourge in the Roman Empire and the world of Paul’s day.  Paul made no effort to deal with the social problem of slavery, he only dealt with the spiritual problem.  We must get right with God before we can get right with our fellowmen.  Get a person right with God, and he will soon get right with man.  So Paul did not address the social problem of slavery.  He addressed the spiritual problem of sin.  This girl was a slave, but Paul made no attempt to do anything about that.

 

 

HER DEMON POSSESSION

 

16b A certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters[1] much gain by soothsaying:

On one of the occasions when the four missionaries were going outside the city to the place of prayer, they encountered a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future.  The expression “a spirit of divination” is literally “a spirit, a Python spirit.” In other words, this demented girl was a pythoness, under the control of the demon Apollo, who was believed to render predictions of future events.  The word “python” originally meant a snake, but by way of various associations, it had come to be used sometimes when speaking of ventriloquist’s, and ventriloquism was a tactic often employed by fortunetellers and other charlatans.  But more than mere ventriloquism is implied here. Greeks and Romans put great stock on augury[2] and“divination”.  No commander would set out on a major military campaign nor would an emperor make an important decree without first consulting and oracle[3] to see how things might turn out.  The shrine, famous for the oracles associated with this god, was at Delphi (Pytho) in central Greece.  This demon-possessed girl was able to make “inspired” utterances.  Dear reader, I don’t think this was just foolish superstition—this girl was processed by a demon.  Her masters found her “gift” highly profitable, since people would flock to her to have their fortunes told.  In other words, she was a valuable piece of property, a veritable gold mine for her owners.  And, under the slave laws of the Roman Empire, she was entirely at the mercy of her “masters.”

Both Paul and Luke saw the gods of Greece and Rome as “fronts” for the power of Satan (1 Corinthians 10:18-22) and the girl’s condition, therefore, as something distinctly unwholesome.

 

 

HER DEMONIC PERCEPTION

 

17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God[4], which shew unto us the way of salvation.

We find in the gospels that the Lord Jesus never appreciated nor accepted the testimony of demons.  He had come to destroy the work of the devil.  One of Satan’s most terrible works manifested itself in demonic possession.  Testimony from such a source was an affront to the Lord.  Jesus consistently silenced evil spirits who bore him involuntary witness.  He wanted no testimony from such a perverted and perjured source.

But Paul wanted no such testimony either.  It was true indeed that he and Silas were “the servants of the Most High God,” and it was equally true that they proclaimed “the way of salvation.”  However, it was the province and work of the Holy Spirit, not an evil spirit, to bear witness to that.  Evil spirits lie, they deceive, and their testimony is tainted with falsehood.  People who consult spiritual mediums and psychics are often brought into contact with intelligences that haunt the unseen world, but they are evil intelligences.  Their only business with humankind is to blind andbind.  At times they will tell the truth, at other times they will lie.  Once a person is caught in their coils they lead him into dreadful snares.

So, while the testimony of the Python spirit to the mission and message of Paul and his friends was true, the source of the testimony was false.  Paul was neither pleased nor flattered to have this girl following them around, giving demonic testimony to their work.

 

 

A SAVING GOSPEL

 

18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

For a long time Paul hesitated to do anything about the situation.  The girl was not for sale, she was too valuable a piece of property for that; otherwise he or Lydia might have bought her and then set her free from the possessing “spirit” without any unpleasant consequences.  Paul was realistic enough to know he would be asking for trouble if he freed the girl from her demon possession, since she was still legally someone else’s property.  Besides, who could tell what cruelties the wretched girls heartless owners might work on the unfortunate slave once she could no longer put money in their pockets?

Still, Paul was “grieved.”  He was grieved for the damage being done to the cause of “Christ.”  He grieved for the poor, lost, demon-possessed slave girl.  His heart went out to her in all herlostness.  An evil spirit is a terrible guest to have haunting one’s soul and possessing one’s body. 

This woman seemed to always be there, always following them from place to place, always shouting that they were servants of the “Most High God” and proclaimers of “a way of salvation.” She was telling the truth now.  Why not let her continue?  When the devil tells the truth about the Church, a danger is created.  Satan, though the father of lies, will declare the most important truths, when he can in so doing serve his purposes.

None of this would have been very clear to Gentiles.  The term “God Most High” was a common Old Testament term for God, but the same term was equally common in the Gentile world and was particularly applied to Zeus.  Neither would “way of salvation” be immediately clear to a Gentile.  The Greco-Roman world was full of “saviors.” Savior/deliver, salvation/deliverance were favorite terms.

These acclamations may have been true enough, but they were open to too much misunderstanding for pagan hearers.  The truth could not be so easily condensed for those from a polytheistic background.  Jesus might be seen as just another savior in the bulging pantheon of Greek gods.

At last Paul could stand it no longer.  Throwing caution to the winds, he invoked the mighty name of the Lord “Jesus Christ” [This was the common formula for exorcism, and it is used for the first time here in acts.] and, before that name, the evil spirit (demon) fled; in obedience to his command and apostolic authority.  The ability to cast out demons was a special ability of Christ’s apostles (Mark 3:15).  The girl was set free from a spiritual captivity worse than any slavery devised by Rome.  Her chains fell off!  Her soul was set free!  But now she could no longer prophesy.  Her ability to tell fortunes was gone.

 

 

PAUL AND SILAS SEIZED

 

19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

There are some businesses that ought to be destroyed, businesses that trade on people’s vices, pander to lusts, undermine society, wrecked homes, ruin health, and spread disease.  There are thousands of people today involved in peddling drugs, in selling liquor, in encouraging people to smoke, in selling pornography.  They represent vast and powerful interests.  There is money to be made in these things, big money.  Such evils should be suppressed.  They should be dealt with by society as a Doctor deals with cancer.  But woe to those who try to put a stop to them—especially if action is taken by one individual acting under the spur and lash of conscience.

The callous exploitation of the slave girl was financially profitable.  Her emancipation spoiled the business.  The girl’s owners were enraged.  The two men responsible were Paul and Silas, so they hauled them off to the authorities.  Paul and Silas had the law on their side.  So much for the law.  It should have protected the girl, but it protected a very questionable business, not to mention that it legalized slavery.  We have laws today that protect pornography and perversion, laws based on the right of free speech and civil rights.  God calls such practices, “legal” or not, SIN.

The first-person narrative stops at verse 17 and does not return in Acts until Paul’s return to Philippi in 20:6.  Luke and Timothy dropped out of the picture at this point.  Only “Paul and Silas” got the brunt of the owners’ anger and were dragged before the magistrates.

 

 

THE RACIST CHARGE

 

20a And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews . . .

This probably explains why Luke and Timothy we’re not molested.  Luke was obviously a Gentile and Timothy, who was half Gentile probably looked all Gentile.  Anti-Semitism was a convenient way to prejudice the mob and influence “the magistrates.”  Anti-Jewish sentiments was as prevalent in Roman times as it is in modern times.  It becomes epidemic under certain conditions, but it is always prevalent in Gentile society.

Paul and Silas looked like “Jews”—they were Jews.  “These men being Jews” were objects of hatred, contempt, and suspicion by the Romans, and at this time there was more than the usual prejudice.  Jews were not like other people.  They did not worship the gods, they were clannish, and they would not buy meat in Gentile markets.  They were rich, and they pulled strings.  In short, anti-Semitism had plenty of fuel for its flames.

There was nothing wrong with Paul and Silas being Jews.  Roman law protected Jews.  It was, however, a racial charge well calculated to prejudice a fair trial in Philippi.  The emperor Claudius issued an order around that time expelling the Jews from Rome (18:2).  This may explain why they apprehended only Paul and Silas, since Luke was a Gentile and Timothy a half Gentile.

The “magistrates,” who probably were the same as the “rulers” of verse 19, would be the two men who tried civil cases and were generally responsible for maintaining law and order.

 

 

THE RIOT CHARGE

 

20b These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

The magistrates were Romans.  The Greek word for “magistrate” is strategos, an indication of Luke’s accuracy.  Philippi was a colony, and its magistrates bore the same title as those at Rome,praetors, for which Luke’s Greek word is the exact equivalent.  As a Roman colony, Philippi was administered by two such magistrates after the pattern of Rome itself. Hence the seriousness of the charge that the two wondering Jews were making trouble in the city.  Roman Colonies were supposed to be models of peace and decorum, and to disturb the peace would be a reflection on Rome itself.  The magistrates would see any riot as a reflection on themselves.  The expression “do exceedingly trouble” occurs only here in the New Testament and suggests that a riot was feared.  In any case, Paul and Silas were accused of instigating such a riot.  Though not specifically stated, there was probably the additional charge of illegal proselytizing for Judaism, but the evidence is that Jews were not forbidden to proselytize until the time of Hadrian, well into the second century. 

 

 

THE RELIGIOUS CHARGE

 

21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

Note the contemptuous contrast in the charge between “being Jews” (v.  20) and “being Romans” (v. 21).  The owners of the slave girl were careful in their charges to avoid the real issue of her healing and their resulting loss of profit. It did not take much to show Paul and Silas in a bad light.

The charge that their religious teaching was unlawful has a familiar ring—it is the charge many a missionary has had to face.  It is heard still in many countries where powerful religious and political systems hold sway.  Those seeking to spread the gospel in communist lands, in lands where Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam hold sway are familiar with the charge.  Up until recently Roman Catholic countries excluded the gospel by use of the courts.  Today the great enemy of Judaism and Christianity is “radical” Islam which has violently murdered thousandsof helpless people by hanging, burning alive, beheading, etc.

 

 

PAUL AND SILAS SENTENCED

 

22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.

None of the charges were valid, but they had their effect. The mob was infuriated.  To think that a couple of vagabond Jews could come into a Roman colony and interfere with the right of a Roman to do what he wished with a slave—his own purchased property.  To think, too, that they dared propagate their foreign ideas in a Roman city in defiance of laws that forbade such non-Roman religious propaganda.  When the owners of the slave girl had made their charges, the crowd attacked Paul and Silas (“the multitude rose up together against them”).

The appeal to anti-Jewish sentiments and to nationalistic Roman pride won over the crowd. The insinuation of a threat to civil order evidently won over the “magistrates.”  Magistrates were charged with the responsibility of enforcing Roman laws, however, in this case, they did not uphold Roman justice.  They did not investigate the charges, conduct a proper hearing, or give Paul and Silas the chance to defend themselves.  The magistrates were easily swayed. Furiously they had the two prisoners stripped.  [Some commentators hold the opinion that the prisoners “clothes” were not tore off, but rather the magistrates tore off their own clothes as a sign of their rage.] Their clotheswere tore off and the lictors[5] (rod-bearers) were summoned.  In Roman city’s the lictors carried a bundle of rods tied together around an axe—a symbol made familiar to the modern world by Mussolini and the Italian Fascists.  Rods and axe symbolized the right of the Roman magistrate to inflict corporal punishment and to invoke the death sentence.  The rods were not mere decorations or symbols but were used in scourgings.

Paul and Silas were to be taught a lesson.  They were to be given a severe beating.

 

 

PAUL AND SILAS SCOURGED

 

23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

The lictors got to work.  Paul and Silas were thoroughly trashed, beaten until their poor backs were a mass of cuts, welts, and bruises.  Then with every nerve screaming with pain, they were locked up in jail.  Now they could think over their misdeeds in case they might dare to repeat them.  This probably was one of the three instances Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 11:25 when he received the Roman punishment of a flogging with rods.

 

 

PAUL AND SILAS IMPRISONED

 

24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

The “jailer” would correspond to the warden of the prison and would perhaps be a centurion.  It was impressed upon the jailer that these were particularly dangerous criminals.  Woe to him if they escaped.  Naturally enough, with such an abomination before him, the jailer took special care.  He put them in the maximum security ward (dungeon), and to make doubly sure, he thrust their “feet”into the “stocks,” which were likely fastened to the wall, and made sure the stocks were locked.  Often such stocks were used as instruments of torture; they had a number of holes for the legs, which allowed for severe stretching of the torso and thus created excruciating pain.  Luke did not indicate that any torture was involved this time.  The entire emphasis is on the tight security in which the two men were held.  This makes the miracle of their subsequent deliverance all the more remarkable.  With one last glare at them, he slammed and locked the door, leaving them broken and bleeding in the dark, in a cramped and uncomfortable position. His duty was done.  He went off to his own comfortable home and congenial family.  Little did that tough jailer realize that, after this night, he would never be the same man again.  Probably he was a pensioner from the Roman army.  No doubt he was a fine enough fellow, with a good heart and many striking qualities. Life in the barracks and on the battlefield would instill many admirable traits of character into such a man.  He would be brave, dependable, and chummy to his peers, but he could be rough and callous.  Not a thought would he have for his two prisoners except that they couldn’t possibly escape. That’ll teach them, would be his thought, as he slammed and locked the final gate.  Now for supper.

And we can be sure he had no thought for his soul.  Luke has shown us, at Philippi, how the Holy Spirit dealt with a tender soul and how He dealt with a tormented soul; now he is going to show us how He deals with a tough soul.  Nothing short of an earthquake and the prospect of immediate death along with a quality of life infinitely superior to anything he had never known could reach this man.

Paul heard a great noise in Philippi when he healed the slave girl, but it was not the noise of praise.  Men do not applaud this sort of work when their financial interests are at stake.  They raise a protest and it will frequently lead the lawless element against those who might have done some good thing.

 

 

 


[1] The plural, “masters” has been needlessly thought to imply that the girl was employed by a business syndicate. It may mean simply “master and mistress.”

[2] Augury refers to divination from signs or omens.

[3] An oracle was a person believed to provide wise counsel or prophetic predictions or foreknowledge of the future, inspired by the gods.

[4] Among the Hellenistic Jews and Gentile worshippers of God, “Most High” was the name for Yahweh. 

[5] Member of an ancient Roman class of magisterial attendants, probably Etruscan in origin and dating in Rome from the regal period. Lictors carried the fasces* for their magistrate and were constantly in his attendance in public; they cleared his way in crowds and summoned and punished offenders for him. They also served as their magistrate’s house guard. In Rome the lictors wore togas; during a consul’s triumph or while outside Rome they wore scarlet coats.

                          * Insignia of official authority. It was carried by the lictors, or attendants, and was characterized by an ax head projecting from a bundle of elm or birch rods about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long and tied together with a red strap; it symbolized penal power.

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January 5, 2015

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV. The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts 13-28)   

                    

Subtopic C: The Second Missionary Journey (15:36-18:22)                 

                          

                                                                            

         Lesson: IV.C.4: The Work in Philippi (16:11-40)                                             

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Healing a Possessed Servant Girl (16:16-24; KJV)

16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.

18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.

23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

 

 

Introduction

 

This passage tells of the healing of a possessed servant girl.  As Paul witnessed in Philippi he was pestered by a servant girl who was possessed by a spirit with predictive powers.  The spirit incessantly proclaimed Paul’s relationship to God and the saving power of his message.  Annoyed by the demon and feeling compassion for the girl, who was being exploited by her owners, Paul exorcised the spirit.  Having lost a source of income, the owners hauled Paul before the town magistrates.  Their charges against him we’re false but carried enough weight with the authorities to have Paul and Silas flogged and thrown into jail.

 

 

 

Commentary

 

A SLAVE GIRL HELD BY THE CRUEL CHAINS OF SLAVERY

 

16a And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel . . . met us . . . which brought her masters much gain.

The second incident of conversion in Philippi recorded by Luke was in great contrast to the first one.  First it was a cultured lady, now it was a captive slave; first it was a successful businesswoman, now it was a demon-possessed girl.  Luke records three specific conversions at Philippi, and each one is a contrast.  When taken together they give an interesting study in the power of the gospel to save people from widely different backgrounds and ways of life.

After their first contact with the group which met at the place of “prayer,” Paul and his companions made repeated visits to preach and teach on days other than the Sabbath.  A slave girl had perhaps watched them go to and from the river and had checked up on the nature of their mission.  At some point, the slave girl began to follow them and shout at them, which made them the center of public attention.

This girl was a slave.  Slavery was a major social scourge in the Roman Empire and the world of Paul’s day.  Paul made no effort to deal with the social problem of slavery, he only dealt with the spiritual problem.  We must get right with God before we can get right with our fellowmen.  Get a person right with God, and he will soon get right with man.  So Paul did not address the social problem of slavery.  He addressed the spiritual problem of sin.  This girl was a slave, but Paul made no attempt to do anything about that.

 

 

HER DEMON POSSESSION

 

16b A certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters[1] much gain by soothsaying:

On one of the occasions when the four missionaries were going outside the city to the place of prayer, they encountered a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future.  The expression “a spirit of divination” is literally “a spirit, a Python spirit.” In other words, this demented girl was a pythoness, under the control of the demon Apollo, who was believed to render predictions of future events.  The word “python” originally meant a snake, but by way of various associations, it had come to be used sometimes when speaking of ventriloquist’s, and ventriloquism was a tactic often employed by fortunetellers and other charlatans.  But more than mere ventriloquism is implied here. Greeks and Romans put great stock on augury[2] and“divination”.  No commander would set out on a major military campaign nor would an emperor make an important decree without first consulting and oracle[3] to see how things might turn out.  The shrine, famous for the oracles associated with this god, was at Delphi (Pytho) in central Greece.  This demon-possessed girl was able to make “inspired” utterances.  Dear reader, I don’t think this was just foolish superstition—this girl was processed by a demon.  Her masters found her “gift” highly profitable, since people would flock to her to have their fortunes told.  In other words, she was a valuable piece of property, a veritable gold mine for her owners.  And, under the slave laws of the Roman Empire, she was entirely at the mercy of her “masters.”

Both Paul and Luke saw the gods of Greece and Rome as “fronts” for the power of Satan (1 Corinthians 10:18-22) and the girl’s condition, therefore, as something distinctly unwholesome.

 

 

HER DEMONIC PERCEPTION

 

17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God[4], which shew unto us the way of salvation.

We find in the gospels that the Lord Jesus never appreciated nor accepted the testimony of demons.  He had come to destroy the work of the devil.  One of Satan’s most terrible works manifested itself in demonic possession.  Testimony from such a source was an affront to the Lord.  Jesus consistently silenced evil spirits who bore him involuntary witness.  He wanted no testimony from such a perverted and perjured source.

But Paul wanted no such testimony either.  It was true indeed that he and Silas were “the servants of the Most High God,” and it was equally true that they proclaimed “the way of salvation.”  However, it was the province and work of the Holy Spirit, not an evil spirit, to bear witness to that.  Evil spirits lie, they deceive, and their testimony is tainted with falsehood.  People who consult spiritual mediums and psychics are often brought into contact with intelligences that haunt the unseen world, but they are evil intelligences.  Their only business with humankind is to blind andbind.  At times they will tell the truth, at other times they will lie.  Once a person is caught in their coils they lead him into dreadful snares.

So, while the testimony of the Python spirit to the mission and message of Paul and his friends was true, the source of the testimony was false.  Paul was neither pleased nor flattered to have this girl following them around, giving demonic testimony to their work.

 

 

A SAVING GOSPEL

 

18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

For a long time Paul hesitated to do anything about the situation.  The girl was not for sale, she was too valuable a piece of property for that; otherwise he or Lydia might have bought her and then set her free from the possessing “spirit” without any unpleasant consequences.  Paul was realistic enough to know he would be asking for trouble if he freed the girl from her demon possession, since she was still legally someone else’s property.  Besides, who could tell what cruelties the wretched girls heartless owners might work on the unfortunate slave once she could no longer put money in their pockets?

Still, Paul was “grieved.”  He was grieved for the damage being done to the cause of “Christ.”  He grieved for the poor, lost, demon-possessed slave girl.  His heart went out to her in all herlostness.  An evil spirit is a terrible guest to have haunting one’s soul and possessing one’s body. 

This woman seemed to always be there, always following them from place to place, always shouting that they were servants of the “Most High God” and proclaimers of “a way of salvation.” She was telling the truth now.  Why not let her continue?  When the devil tells the truth about the Church, a danger is created.  Satan, though the father of lies, will declare the most important truths, when he can in so doing serve his purposes.

None of this would have been very clear to Gentiles.  The term “God Most High” was a common Old Testament term for God, but the same term was equally common in the Gentile world and was particularly applied to Zeus.  Neither would “way of salvation” be immediately clear to a Gentile.  The Greco-Roman world was full of “saviors.” Savior/deliver, salvation/deliverance were favorite terms.

These acclamations may have been true enough, but they were open to too much misunderstanding for pagan hearers.  The truth could not be so easily condensed for those from a polytheistic background.  Jesus might be seen as just another savior in the bulging pantheon of Greek gods.

At last Paul could stand it no longer.  Throwing caution to the winds, he invoked the mighty name of the Lord “Jesus Christ” [This was the common formula for exorcism, and it is used for the first time here in acts.] and, before that name, the evil spirit (demon) fled; in obedience to his command and apostolic authority.  The ability to cast out demons was a special ability of Christ’s apostles (Mark 3:15).  The girl was set free from a spiritual captivity worse than any slavery devised by Rome.  Her chains fell off!  Her soul was set free!  But now she could no longer prophesy.  Her ability to tell fortunes was gone.

 

 

PAUL AND SILAS SEIZED

 

19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

There are some businesses that ought to be destroyed, businesses that trade on people’s vices, pander to lusts, undermine society, wrecked homes, ruin health, and spread disease.  There are thousands of people today involved in peddling drugs, in selling liquor, in encouraging people to smoke, in selling pornography.  They represent vast and powerful interests.  There is money to be made in these things, big money.  Such evils should be suppressed.  They should be dealt with by society as a Doctor deals with cancer.  But woe to those who try to put a stop to them—especially if action is taken by one individual acting under the spur and lash of conscience.

The callous exploitation of the slave girl was financially profitable.  Her emancipation spoiled the business.  The girl’s owners were enraged.  The two men responsible were Paul and Silas, so they hauled them off to the authorities.  Paul and Silas had the law on their side.  So much for the law.  It should have protected the girl, but it protected a very questionable business, not to mention that it legalized slavery.  We have laws today that protect pornography and perversion, laws based on the right of free speech and civil rights.  God calls such practices, “legal” or not, SIN.

The first-person narrative stops at verse 17 and does not return in Acts until Paul’s return to Philippi in 20:6.  Luke and Timothy dropped out of the picture at this point.  Only “Paul and Silas” got the brunt of the owners’ anger and were dragged before the magistrates.

 

 

THE RACIST CHARGE

 

20a And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews . . .

This probably explains why Luke and Timothy we’re not molested.  Luke was obviously a Gentile and Timothy, who was half Gentile probably looked all Gentile.  Anti-Semitism was a convenient way to prejudice the mob and influence “the magistrates.”  Anti-Jewish sentiments was as prevalent in Roman times as it is in modern times.  It becomes epidemic under certain conditions, but it is always prevalent in Gentile society.

Paul and Silas looked like “Jews”—they were Jews.  “These men being Jews” were objects of hatred, contempt, and suspicion by the Romans, and at this time there was more than the usual prejudice.  Jews were not like other people.  They did not worship the gods, they were clannish, and they would not buy meat in Gentile markets.  They were rich, and they pulled strings.  In short, anti-Semitism had plenty of fuel for its flames.

There was nothing wrong with Paul and Silas being Jews.  Roman law protected Jews.  It was, however, a racial charge well calculated to prejudice a fair trial in Philippi.  The emperor Claudius issued an order around that time expelling the Jews from Rome (18:2).  This may explain why they apprehended only Paul and Silas, since Luke was a Gentile and Timothy a half Gentile.

The “magistrates,” who probably were the same as the “rulers” of verse 19, would be the two men who tried civil cases and were generally responsible for maintaining law and order.

 

 

THE RIOT CHARGE

 

20b These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

The magistrates were Romans.  The Greek word for “magistrate” is strategos, an indication of Luke’s accuracy.  Philippi was a colony, and its magistrates bore the same title as those at Rome,praetors, for which Luke’s Greek word is the exact equivalent.  As a Roman colony, Philippi was administered by two such magistrates after the pattern of Rome itself. Hence the seriousness of the charge that the two wondering Jews were making trouble in the city.  Roman Colonies were supposed to be models of peace and decorum, and to disturb the peace would be a reflection on Rome itself.  The magistrates would see any riot as a reflection on themselves.  The expression “do exceedingly trouble” occurs only here in the New Testament and suggests that a riot was feared.  In any case, Paul and Silas were accused of instigating such a riot.  Though not specifically stated, there was probably the additional charge of illegal proselytizing for Judaism, but the evidence is that Jews were not forbidden to proselytize until the time of Hadrian, well into the second century. 

 

 

THE RELIGIOUS CHARGE

 

21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

Note the contemptuous contrast in the charge between “being Jews” (v.  20) and “being Romans” (v. 21).  The owners of the slave girl were careful in their charges to avoid the real issue of her healing and their resulting loss of profit. It did not take much to show Paul and Silas in a bad light.

The charge that their religious teaching was unlawful has a familiar ring—it is the charge many a missionary has had to face.  It is heard still in many countries where powerful religious and political systems hold sway.  Those seeking to spread the gospel in communist lands, in lands where Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam hold sway are familiar with the charge.  Up until recently Roman Catholic countries excluded the gospel by use of the courts.  Today the great enemy of Judaism and Christianity is “radical” Islam which has violently murdered thousandsof helpless people by hanging, burning alive, beheading, etc.

 

 

PAUL AND SILAS SENTENCED

 

22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.

None of the charges were valid, but they had their effect. The mob was infuriated.  To think that a couple of vagabond Jews could come into a Roman colony and interfere with the right of a Roman to do what he wished with a slave—his own purchased property.  To think, too, that they dared propagate their foreign ideas in a Roman city in defiance of laws that forbade such non-Roman religious propaganda.  When the owners of the slave girl had made their charges, the crowd attacked Paul and Silas (“the multitude rose up together against them”).

The appeal to anti-Jewish sentiments and to nationalistic Roman pride won over the crowd. The insinuation of a threat to civil order evidently won over the “magistrates.”  Magistrates were charged with the responsibility of enforcing Roman laws, however, in this case, they did not uphold Roman justice.  They did not investigate the charges, conduct a proper hearing, or give Paul and Silas the chance to defend themselves.  The magistrates were easily swayed. Furiously they had the two prisoners stripped.  [Some commentators hold the opinion that the prisoners “clothes” were not tore off, but rather the magistrates tore off their own clothes as a sign of their rage.] Their clotheswere tore off and the lictors[5] (rod-bearers) were summoned.  In Roman city’s the lictors carried a bundle of rods tied together around an axe—a symbol made familiar to the modern world by Mussolini and the Italian Fascists.  Rods and axe symbolized the right of the Roman magistrate to inflict corporal punishment and to invoke the death sentence.  The rods were not mere decorations or symbols but were used in scourgings.

Paul and Silas were to be taught a lesson.  They were to be given a severe beating.

 

 

PAUL AND SILAS SCOURGED

 

23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

The lictors got to work.  Paul and Silas were thoroughly trashed, beaten until their poor backs were a mass of cuts, welts, and bruises.  Then with every nerve screaming with pain, they were locked up in jail.  Now they could think over their misdeeds in case they might dare to repeat them.  This probably was one of the three instances Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 11:25 when he received the Roman punishment of a flogging with rods.

 

 

PAUL AND SILAS IMPRISONED

 

24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

The “jailer” would correspond to the warden of the prison and would perhaps be a centurion.  It was impressed upon the jailer that these were particularly dangerous criminals.  Woe to him if they escaped.  Naturally enough, with such an abomination before him, the jailer took special care.  He put them in the maximum security ward (dungeon), and to make doubly sure, he thrust their “feet”into the “stocks,” which were likely fastened to the wall, and made sure the stocks were locked.  Often such stocks were used as instruments of torture; they had a number of holes for the legs, which allowed for severe stretching of the torso and thus created excruciating pain.  Luke did not indicate that any torture was involved this time.  The entire emphasis is on the tight security in which the two men were held.  This makes the miracle of their subsequent deliverance all the more remarkable.  With one last glare at them, he slammed and locked the door, leaving them broken and bleeding in the dark, in a cramped and uncomfortable position. His duty was done.  He went off to his own comfortable home and congenial family.  Little did that tough jailer realize that, after this night, he would never be the same man again.  Probably he was a pensioner from the Roman army.  No doubt he was a fine enough fellow, with a good heart and many striking qualities. Life in the barracks and on the battlefield would instill many admirable traits of character into such a man.  He would be brave, dependable, and chummy to his peers, but he could be rough and callous.  Not a thought would he have for his two prisoners except that they couldn’t possibly escape. That’ll teach them, would be his thought, as he slammed and locked the final gate.  Now for supper.

And we can be sure he had no thought for his soul.  Luke has shown us, at Philippi, how the Holy Spirit dealt with a tender soul and how He dealt with a tormented soul; now he is going to show us how He deals with a tough soul.  Nothing short of an earthquake and the prospect of immediate death along with a quality of life infinitely superior to anything he had never known could reach this man.

Paul heard a great noise in Philippi when he healed the slave girl, but it was not the noise of praise.  Men do not applaud this sort of work when their financial interests are at stake.  They raise a protest and it will frequently lead the lawless element against those who might have done some good thing.

 

 

 


[1] The plural, “masters” has been needlessly thought to imply that the girl was employed by a business syndicate. It may mean simply “master and mistress.”

[2] Augury refers to divination from signs or omens.

[3] An oracle was a person believed to provide wise counsel or prophetic predictions or foreknowledge of the future, inspired by the gods.

[4] Among the Hellenistic Jews and Gentile worshippers of God, “Most High” was the name for Yahweh. 

[5] Member of an ancient Roman class of magisterial attendants, probably Etruscan in origin and dating in Rome from the regal period. Lictors carried the fasces* for their magistrate and were constantly in his attendance in public; they cleared his way in crowds and summoned and punished offenders for him. They also served as their magistrate’s house guard. In Rome the lictors wore togas; during a consul’s triumph or while outside Rome they wore scarlet coats.

                          * Insignia of official authority. It was carried by the lictors, or attendants, and was characterized by an ax head projecting from a bundle of elm or birch rods about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long and tied together with a red strap; it symbolized penal power.

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February 12, 2015

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV. The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts 13-28)   

                    

Subtopic C: The Second Missionary Journey (15:36-18:22)                 

                          

                                                                            

         Lesson: IV.C.4: The Work in Philippi (16:11-40)                                             

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Converting a Jailer’s Household (16:25-34; KJV)

25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.

27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.

28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,

30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.

33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.

34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

The reader of Acts is not surprised to find Paul and Silas miraculously delivered from their confinement in the Philippian prison.  It had happened before: to the apostles in 5:19-26 and to Peter in 12:5-19.  The present narrative perhaps has more in common with the apostles’ deliverance, since in both these instances divine power was displayed in bringing about their freedom, which provides a stronger base for witnessing.  In chapter five the Apostles did not run away but willingly returned to the Sanhedrin for their scheduled trial.  The miracle considerably strengthened their position before the Sanhedrin, however, and paved the way for Gamaliel’s council (5:38).  In the present narrative the same holds true. Though freed, Paul and Silas did not attempt to escape.  The miracle served not only to deliver them but to deliver the jailer too.  It served as the basis for Paul and Silas’s witness to him and for his conversion.  The story thus falls into two divisions, the first relating Paul and Silas’s deliverance (vs. 25-28) and the second the conversion of the jailer and his household (vs. 29-34).

 

 

 

Commentary

 

25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

 

It was the middle of the night.  Paul and Silas were in the most secure part of the prison with their feet fastened securely in stocks and their legs forced into a cramping position and their future uncertain, and yet, instead of complaining or calling on God to judge their enemies, they were praying[1] and singing hymns of praise to God.  Their joy was completely independent of earthly circumstances.  The source of all their singing was high in heaven above.  In Acts, Christians are always full of hope.  Peter slept peacefully the night before his trial (12:6); Paul and Silas sang.  Their praise and good cheer was in itself a witness to God, and the other prisoners listened intently.

 

That they should be praying is no cause for surprise.  There is nothing miraculous about that.  But singing?  Remember what Jesus said: “blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: four great is your reward in heaven.”

 

So they sang, and the whole prison heard them.  Who knows what hardened cases were in that prison?  Who knows what vice and what wretchedness?

 

Soon the prison walls echoed with hymns and songs of praise, a strange sound in that Grim place.  The other prisoners heard the name of Jesus, heard the message of salvation, and heard the stately stanzas of the psalms.  They had heard the commotion, the curses, and the command that the two men be securely fastened.  Word would soon spread that they had been beaten and were now in the stocks.  Many of them would know what that was like.  They would expect to hear blasphemies from that isolation hole in the inner prison.  Instead to their astonishment they heard hymns.

 

Prayer and praise are powerful weapons (2 Chronicles 20:1-22; Acts 4:23-37), as you shall gather from the next verse.

 

 

26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.

 

The area around Philippi often experiences earthquakes and tremors, but this one happened at just the right time, and what an earthquake it was!  Walls did not cave in and roofs did not fall.  The prison doors probably were locked by bars; these flew up, and the doors opened.  Everyone’s chains came loose.  The chains may have been attached to the walls and were wrenched lose by the violence of the quake.

 

Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if our brand of Christianity could observe such miraculous displays of God’s awesome power!  Peter, in prison, expecting execution in the morning, could sleep like a baby.  Paul and Silas, with bruised and bleeding bodies, could sing like the seraphim.  No wonder things happened.  No wonder souls were saved.

 

 

27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.

 

The jailer was aroused by the earthquake and spotted the open doors.  Supposing that theprisoners, given this golden opportunity, had already escaped.  There was only one remedy for his situation.  He was disgraced.  Death was better than disgrace for a man like him.  Sword in hand, he sprang to the open door of the prison and peered inside.  All was dark.  And now, for the moment, all was still and quiet, like the grave that he would soon occupy.  He found what he believed to be an empty prison.  He would most certainly be held accountable.  His last order had been to keep those two Jews secure.  Now they were gone, not to mention all the others.

 

Jailers and guards were personally responsible for their prisoners and in some instances were executed for allowing them to escape. Peter, who was chained between two guards, escaped the prison he was in, and Acts 12:19 states that Herod put the guards to death—“After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed (Acts 12:19NIV). Upon discovering that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, the keepers of our Lord's sepulcher, had "shaken and become as dead men" (Mt 28:4), because they probably were anticipating the same sentence as Peter’s guards received.  Sometimes, if a guard lost a prisoner, he was given the same punishment the prisoner would have received; so there must have been some men in the prison who had committed capital crimes.

 

He, most certainly would die one way or another; better to die now than face arrest, torture perhaps, and crucifixion or some other public form of death.  He drew his sword and in a moment it was at his throat.  One mighty thrust of his arm and he would be in eternity. He would kill himself, preferring death by his own hand than by Roman justice. 

 

 

28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

 

The jailer’s prisoners had not escaped; and when Paul looked up in the open doorway and saw what he was about to do, he shouted for him to stop, assuring him that they were all still in their cells.  The jailer was stopped in the very act of committing suicide.  A hard-hearted person seeking vengeance would have let the cruel jailer kill himself, but Paul was not that kind of a man (see Matthew 5:10-12, 43-48).  It was the jailer who was the prisoner, not Paul; and Paul not only saved the man’s life, but pointed him to eternal life in Christ.  At this point the reader would have expected the story of Pauland Silas’s escape.  It was not to be so.  The miraculous release did not lead to their escape but to the far more significant event of the jailer’s conversion.

 

This was a miracle in three parts: (1) Paul and Silas rejoicing in suffering; (2) then every door opened, every chain undone, every prisoner released by an earthquake; (3) but more than that, every single prisoner restrained from running away.

 

 

29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,

 

Calling for lamps or torches, the jailer rushed in and fell at the feet of Paul and Silas, overcome by awe and gratitude. It may have been a gesture of worship, but Paul did not object, as he did at Lystra (14:15).  Paul had saved his life, and Paul’s God, who had reduced in an instant all his efforts at prison security, was obviously a person to be respected. Conviction of the Holy Spirit and yearning filled his soul.  A greater miracle than the shaking of the prison had taken place; he was shaken himself and ready to be saved.

 

It was true!  Some power greater than any he had ever known had kept each prisoner riveted, spellbound, and in his cell.  Whatever the explanation, it was connected with Paul and Silas.  There was something about those men.  Perhaps the jailer already knew something of the real reason for their arrest, and had heard something of their mission and message around town.  Perhaps they had responded with a kindly word to his threats and rough treatment when he locked them up.  Or perhaps he had heard them singing before he went to bed.  All he knew was that his narrow escape from death was, in some way, related to these men.

 

 

30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

 

The man was by now thoroughly under conviction.  He had been brought into contact with a quality of life superior to anything he had known.  His first reaction was to bring Paul and Silas out where he could get a better look at them.  His second reaction was to ask them how he could be saved. A sense of his own personal sinfulness must have weighed upon him. He knew only too well that, had the positions been reversed, he would have made good his escape and encouraged the other prisoners to do the same.

 

Death had stared him in the face.  The whole life of a drowning man is said to pass before him in the seconds before he dies. [I experienced this myself as a teenager.] Maybe something like that happened to the jailer; and now he was afraid to meet God in his sins.  In any case, in a blinding moment of truth he knew he was lost and that he needed to be saved.  If anyone could tell him how to be saved it was these two men.  “Sirs,” he said, and there was a new respect and awe in his voice, “What must I do to be saved?”

 

It has often been argued that his question (“What must I do to be saved?”) was intended in the secular sense of the word “salvation,” that he was asking how his life could be spared.  But his life had already been spared.  No one had escaped.  More likely he asked about his salvation in the full religious sense; otherwise, why did he fall down in supplication before Paul and Silas, or why did Paul provide a spiritual answer?  Luke does not tell us that the jailer had previous knowledge about Paul’s message of salvation.  Perhaps he had heard the servant girl’s proclamation that Paul spoke of the way of salvation (v. 17). Perhaps he had heard Paul’s preaching or reports of his preaching but had not fully understood.  Perhaps he had fallen asleep to the sound of Paul and Silas’s hymns to God.  Perhaps the jailer gained this information about the apostle when the officials delivered the prisoners to the prison.  In any case, he was able to piece enough together to know that they proclaimed a way of salvation.  Now he was ready for understanding.  The miracle of the earthquake and the prisoners who wouldn’t flee seized his attention and prepared his heart to receive Paul’s message. 

 

 

31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

 

His question is a classic expression that has lived through the centuries and must be asked by everyone who comes to faith—“What must I do to be saved?” A man must know he is lost before he can be saved.  It is premature to tell a man how to be saved until first he can say from his heart, “I truly deserve to go to hell.” The only people in the New Testament who were ever told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ were convicted sinners.

 

“Do?”  Why all the doing has already been done.  Done by Jesus in his immaculate life and atoning death.  “Believe!” that was the word now.  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” It is as simple as that.  This was the gospel reduced to its elementary terms. Believe: not in a creed but in the Christ, not in a statement of faith, not in baptism, not in good works, not in a sacrament or ritual—but in the Lord Jesus Christ, in that glorious living, dynamic person who is alive forevermore and is mighty to save.  Believe in a Master—the Lord; in a Man—Jesus; in the Messiah—Christ.  Lord, that enthrones Him in the will; Jesus, that enthrones him in the heart; Christ, that enthrones him in the intellect.  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” We find similar words spoken to Cornelius by an angel in Acts 11:14—“Who shall tell you words, whereby you and all your house shall be saved.”

 

The answer of the missionaries presumes that this man had heard of the Lord Jesus Christ.  That would not be surprising.  Philippi was not that big a town, and the preaching of Paul and Silas had made quite a stir.  Barely waiting, it seems, to digest the news of salvation full and free, the jailer brought his prisoners into his house.  His first thought had been for his own soul; his second thought was for his family.  His wife.  His children.  They would be thinking the worst, thinking that he was already dead.  They knew the stern Roman code—if just one prisoner had escaped, the jailer’s life would be forfeited.  He must hurry home, and the two men must come with him.  His family must hear the news; they, too, must be saved.  Thousands of such thoughts flashed through his mind as he conducted Paul and Silas to his stricken home.

 

 

32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.

 

At some point the jailer’s household entered the scene.  Luke did not specify when.  Perhaps the mention of the household triggered the jailer’s awareness that Paul and Silas were about to share something his whole family should hear.  In any event, all were present, and now was the time for Paul and Silas to share the words of the Lord, and to expand upon the bear statement “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” And so they did.  What a wonderful story they told to that awestruck household of the jailer.  Here Luke made explicit what was implied in the Lydia story: the whole household heard the gospel proclaimed.  There was no “proxy” faith; his faith couldn’t save anyone but him. The whole family came to faith in God (v. 34). Coming from a pagan background as they did, their newfound faith had a double dimension—faith in Jesus as Savior and faith in God as the one true God.

 

The whole family drank in these wonderful words of life, and their hearts were opened to the gospel.  Paul and Silas surely reckoned the sufferings they had endured not worthy to be compared with the glory that followed—of seeing the Holy Spirit bring this whole family to Christ.

 

 

33a And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes.

 

The witness to Christ was primary and took precedence over everything else.  Now the jailer became aware of the two prisoners suffering and bathed the wounds which they had received from the beating by the lictors.  Perhaps this took place in the courtyard where the household water supply would be located.

 

This was the first act of a converted man.  Callousness was changed to concern, brutal language to brotherly love.  With his own hands the jailer took sponge and water and gently washed away the blood and grime and tended his prisoner’s wounds.  He could not set them free, but he could ease their pain.  One of the evidences of true repentance is a loving desire to make restitution and reparation wherever we have hurt others.  We should not only wash one another’s feet (John 13:14-15), but we should also cleanse the wounds we have given to others.  There is something heartwarming about the sight of this tough jailer gently ministering to the physical needs of his prisoners as they, a moment before, had ministered to his spiritual needs.  But that is what the gospel does.  It makes crooked people straight, drunk people sober, and immoral people pure.  It transforms lives so that we see a converted Zacchaeus giving away his money and a converted jailer washing his prisoners’ wounds.  We can be sure, too, that every other prisoner in that Philippian jail noticed the difference in their jailer before the day was over.

 

 

33b And was baptized[2], he and all his, straightway.

 

The jailer, then, was baptized, and his baptism, as it always is with Christian baptism in the New Testament, was “the outward expression of an inward experience,” a public confession of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Luke does not tell us where this baptism took place, but probably it was in the river where Paul and the others had first met Lydia.  Baptism, by its very nature, should be as public a ceremony as possible.

 

This is one of the most abused texts in the Bible.  It has been seized upon, torn out of context, and used repeatedly to support the doctrine of infant baptism.  It teaches nothing of that kind.  “Prove it,” you say.  “Look at the next verse,” I say. It says, “Believing in God with all his house.” That proves that everyone in his house was old enough to believe.  There were no babies in that home at that time. The Bible teaches believer’s baptism, not infant baptism.”

 

Neither does this verse teach so-called “household salvation,” which has no basis in the Word of God—that is, that the decision of the head of the household brings salvation to the other members of the household.  The people in the household of Cornelius were old enough to respond to his call (Acts 10:24) and to understand the Word and believe (Acts 10:44; 11:15-17; 15:7-9).  The household of Crispus was composed of people old enough to hear and believe God’s Word (Acts 18:8).  And each individual member of the jailer’s household must be saved by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Many people today seem to have difficulty knowing what it means to believe.  However, when a sinner realizes he is lost, helpless, hopeless, hell-bound, and when he is told to believe on Christ as Lord and Savior, he knows exactly what it means.  One must believe Jesus is who He claimed to be (John 20:31) and believe in what he did (1Corinthians 15:3, 4).  It is the only thing left that he cando! 

 

 

34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

 

Throughout Luke’s story he focused attention on the various signs evidencing conversions (i.e., speaking in tongues, expressions of joy, and hospitality).  Here the evidence of conversion is the family’s joyfulness and the jailer’s washing of the apostles’ wounds.  Then there took place an even more significant “washing,” when the jailer’s family was baptized.  Then the jailer treated Paul and Silas in a most unusual fashion for prisoners.  He took them into his home and fed them at his own table.[3]  They were no longer prisoners to be despised and mistreated; they were brothers in Christ.

 

What a supper that must have been.  We can well imagine that Paul and Silas were hungry.  Long ago they had abandoned their old Jewish scruples about eating a meal in a Gentile home.  What a tragedy it would have been, what a denial of brotherly love, if Silas had said, “Brother Jailer, has this meat been offered to idols?  Was it killed kosher fashion?  If not, I’m sorry, but I cannot eat at your table.” No!  There was nothing like that.  Instead there was “joy unspeakable and full of Glory” (1 Peter 1:8) that night around the supper table of that reborn family.  Paul and Silas rejoiced, the jailer rejoice, and his family rejoiced.  Here is struck that great note of rejoicing that is such a noticeable characteristic of Paul’s later letter to the Philippian church.

 

Whatever the intention, therefore, of this little group as they sat down to eat, the meal was an “Agape,” a love fest.  It may also have included a celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  Later the prisoners were returned to their cell.

 

What about the other prisoners?  Luke does and give us the details, but it is possible that some of them were also born again through the witness of Paul and Silas and the jailer.  Some of these prisoners may have been waiting for execution, so imagine their joy at hearing a message of salvation!  Paul and Silas thought nothing of their own pains as they rejoiced in what God did in that Philippian jail!  No doubt the jailer later joined with Lydia in the assembly.

 

 

[1] There is no suggestion that Paul and Silas prayed for their own release.  They were probably praising God. 

[2]   Those who were baptized were surely all those who understood and responded to Paul and Silas’s preaching—not the infants.  This one step of faith by this Gentile family made them acceptable for baptism.

[3] The text gives no justification for seeing the “meal” as the Lords Supper, as is maintained by some comment.

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February 19, 2015

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV. The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts 13-28)   

                    

Subtopic C: The Missionary Journey (15:36-18:22)                 

                          

                                                                            

         Lesson: IV.C.4: The Work in Philippi (16:11-40)                                             

 

 

 

Part 4: Humbling the City Magistrates (16:35-40)

35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.

36 And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.

37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.

38 And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.

39 And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.

40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

 

 

Introduction

 

The next day after they had been thrown into the Philippian jail, the city magistrates realized that Paul and Silas had committed no real crime. The town magistrates sent orders to the jailer to release them.  Paul would not go.  He divulged his Roman citizenship and noted that he and Silas had been scourged without a hearing which was strictly forbidden for Roman citizens.  He demanded that the magistrates come up with a personal apology and escort them out.  Paul realized this was an important precedent.  Preaching the gospel was not an offense.  He had broken no laws.  He wanted the record set straight—not just in Philippi but wherever he witnessed.

 

 

 

 

Commentary

 

35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.

 

Luke did not tell us what the original intention of the magistrates was in jailing Paul and Silas—whether for one night or for longer.  If for longer, they now changed their minds (nor does he say why they changed their minds) and decided to release the two prisoners.  Perhaps they were more interested in having them outside of the city limits than keeping them in further incarceration[1].  However that may be, they sent the “officers” (serjaents) to instruct the jailer to release them. These officers were the lictors, the “rod-bearers,” who had earlier given Paul and Silas the flogging (v. 23).

 

 

36 And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.

 

The jailer was all too glad to inform the two that they had been released and to send them off with the Christian greeting of “peace[2].”

 

 

37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.

 

Will this Christian apostle go?  Will he say that his citizenship is in heaven, and that he has no interest in the politics of Philippi?  Will he say that it is not his business to resist evil, and then to leave quietly? No, that is not what he learned from Christ.  Let their apology be as public as was the wrong they inflicted.  Paul refused to leave the prison and insisted that the magistrates come to theprison in person and request that they leave.  He refused to be secretly released as if nothing had happened.  Now the shoe was on the other foot, and Paul intended to teach the unjust magistrates their lesson.  By the time he was through with them they would think twice before abusing their authority again.  It was not simply a question of satisfying the demands of outraged justice; it was important that they should take this stand for the sake of the church.  Had they left the city under the cloud of public disgrace, the church might also have suffered from public prejudice and the spread of the gospel impeded.

 

Paul and Silas were Romans, and according to the Valerian and Porcian laws they were exempt from crucifixion and from other forms of degrading punishment.  If Paul and Silas were to complain to the appropriate authorities, those responsible for beating and imprisoning them without proper trial would be in serious trouble indeed.  Paul knew it, and they knew it.  Moreover, a Roman citizen could not be expelled from a Roman city.  Gross injustice had been done and done publicly; now let those responsible come and make what amends they could.  He was a Roman citizen; evidently Silas was also (v. 38). 

 

The magistrates had had them publicly flogged and thrown in prison, and did it all without a trial.  It was strictly an illegal procedure.  Every phrase of Paul’s statement was an indictment: “beaten uspublicly; condemned us; being Romansand threw us into prison without a trial.” That was the sharp, clean-cut, incisive declaration of wrong committed by the civic authorities.  Evidently local magistrates did have the right to mete out minor punishments like flogging of noncitizens, even without a hearing.  They seem in Paul’s day to have had this authority even for offending Roman citizens—but not without a trial.  They had scourged and imprisoned two Roman citizens with no formal condemnation, and that was beyond their authority.  In this case the magistrates were unaware that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens.  Why Paul did not make it known that they were Roman citizens before this, Luke does not say.  Possibly he did not have the opportunity, or perhaps he thought by taking a beating he could enhance his chances for a more rapid spread of the gospel in Philippi, or in the hubbub of the original “hearing,” the slave owners did all the talking and the crowd all the shouting (vs. 19-22); and the two missionaries were unable to communicate the fact.

 

 

38 And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.

 

The “panic” of the magistrates was understandable.  Abuse of the rights of a Roman citizen was a serious offense.  Magistrates could be removed from office for doing what they had done; a municipality could have its rites reduced.  For instance, the emperor could deprive Philippi of all the privileges of its colony status for such an offence.

 

On two later occasions recorded by Luke, Paul did not hesitate to reveal his Roman citizenship and invoke his civil rights at the first sign of high-handed injustice.

 

 

39 And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.

 

The magistrates found the presence of the two men embarrassing.  They might have feared, too, that their continued presence in the city would lead to further trouble.  They did not want to be responsible for their safety.  No doubt, the jailer had told his story of Paul’s amazing influence over the other prisoners and possibly had added his own statement as to their legality and peaceful nature of their mission.  In any case, the city authorities now stood in considerable awe of the two missionaries.

 

The situation was ironic.  Paul and Silas had been treated as criminals but were innocent.  The magistrates who condemned them now found themselves genuine lawbreakers.  They lost no time in getting to the prison and politely requesting the two injured men to come out of prison, and pleading with them to go quietly on their way. Evidently they were still concerned about all the commotion Paul and Silas had stirred up among the citizenry and requested that they leave town also.  The two missionaries complied, but they were in no rush—nor did they really have to be.  Paul expected the magistrates to lead them out of the prison and into the streets as acknowledgment of the wrong they had done to the two missionaries. 

 

 

40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

 

The magistrates would give them no trouble now.  So before departing they once again visited the Christians of the city.  Evidently the work had gone ahead in Philippi, and there were now a number of new Christians (which now included men); Lydia, not surprisingly, made her home available as ahouse church.  Satisfied that all was in good order, the two missionary’s left for the next city.

 

Nothing is said of the appointment of the “overseers and deacons” of Philippians 1:1—Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.”  We may be meant to assume that the procedure of 14:23 [“Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.] was followed here as elsewhere, unless Luke himself made the appointments at a later date as Paul’s deputy, for he apparently stayed behind as Paul and Silas and Timothy took their leave. Some commentators believe Timothy stayed behind to work with Luke.

 

Paul may have seemed a bit huffy in his demand for a formal apology from the magistrates, but that is not the point.  It was essential that the young Christian community have a good reputation among the authorities if its witness was to flourish.  Christians broke none of the Roman laws.  Luke took great pains to show this.  It would continue to be a major emphasis in Acts.  In this instance Paul and Silas were totally innocent of any wrongdoing.  It was important that the magistrates acknowledge their innocence and set the record straight.This was why Paul made such a big deal of it.  Paul and his associates wanted to leave behind a strong witness of their own integrity as well as a good testimony for the infant church in Philippi. 

 

When Paul and Silas finally left the city, Timothy came with them, but Luke, it seems, remained behind.  He was a Gentile, and his continued presence there would probably not be an issue.  He would be able to instruct the infant church in the things of God.  Luke seems to be the “true yokefellow” Paul mentions in his subsequent letter to this church—And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life” (Philippians 4:3).  He was still at Philippi when Paul came back to the city at the end of his third missionary journey and at that time resumed his travels with Paul—These went on ahead and were waiting for us [including Luke] at Troas, But we [ourselves] sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread [the Passover week], and in five days we joined them at Troas, where we remained for seven days” (Acts 20:5-6).

 

It is evident from the narrative that Paul left Luke behind in Philippi, for from this point Luke in his story speaks of the company as “they,” until in the 20th chapter we find that he had rejoined them.

 

 

 

 


[1] The Western text provides an answer, greatly expanding on verse 35, in which the magistrates are said to have changed their minds for fear after the earthquake.

The Western text-type is one of several text-types used in textual criticism to describe and group the textual character of Greek New Testament manuscripts. It is the term given to the predominant form of the New Testament text witnessed in the Old Latin and Peshitta translations from the Greek. The Western text had a large number of characteristic features, which appeared in text of the Gospels, Book of Acts, and in Pauline epistles.

The main characteristic of the Western text is a love of paraphrase: "Words and even clauses are changed, omitted, and inserted with surprising freedom, wherever it seemed that the meaning could be brought out with greater force and definiteness. More peculiar to the Western text is the readiness to adopt alterations or additions from sources extraneous to the books which ultimately became canonical."

[2] It is the customary Jewish greeting (shalom).



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