Day 21 - Acts 16:3 - 40 - 40 days in the book of Acts

Acts 16:3-40

I just noticed that yesterdays text was misprinted.  Instead of saying 16:21 it says 16:2.  So I am going to make up that difference today. 

3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

Paul does something here that seems unusual.  He circumcises Timothy.  Why did he do that?  Timothy, even though his father was Greek, would still be considered a Jew.  A uncircumcised Jew in a synagogue would be horrific and a slap in the face to other Jews.  If Paul wanted these Jews to listen to the Gospel, Timothy would have to be circumcised. 

Was it necessary for Timothy's salvation or faith to be circumcised?  No.  But it was necessary for him ministry.  If he was going to have any effect on the Jewish population, he would have to make this sacrifice.  There are many things we may have to sacrifice for our ministry.  Time, money and reputation just to name a few.  What are you willing to give up so you can speak up for Jesus? 

6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Paul is following the Spirits leading, but he is a bit frustrated at this time.  Every direction that he tries to go in, the Holy Spirit says no.  In the middle of the night he has a vision of a pagan Macedonian asking him to come to Macedonia.  So Paul goes west.  

While this event may not have been significant to Paul and company, it is to us.  What if Paul had gone east?  Would he have ever traveled to Rome or Greece?  Would the Gospel of Jesus Christ ever gone west into Europe?  Many believe that this move by Paul is the reason why we see God establishing Christianity in Europe and beyond. 

11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Paul, Silas, Luke and others set sail form Troas to Philippi.  That's about 125 miles.  Phillip was a Roman city with a Roman garrison of soldiers.  But there was no synagogue.  That means it lacked 10 Jewish men to start one with.  Apparently though, they heard of a place where people pray, by a river.  So they go there and proceed to talk to a group of women.  

There a successful woman named Lydia hears and receives the Gospel.  He desire to know more about God was so great, that He granted her desire.  She grew in faith, so much so that her whole household were saves as well.  She open the doors of her home as a headquarters for Paul and Silas.  It is believed that she is the first convert to Christianity in Europe and that her faith and resources help to establishing the first beach head for Christ to Europe.  

The verse, The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul still gets my attention.  Such faith that God rewards when we are so hungry to have a deeper and honoring relationship with Him.  Do we have such a desire today?  

16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

I want you to see something here for what it really is.  The Bible tells us that Paul and Silas were being stalked by a demon possessed girl.  What we know about this girl is this.  The demon would speak through her in spite of her ability to speak on her own. (Yes, creepy)  Her masters claimed that she was the voice of the greek god Apollo.  But not only did they make money through her fortune telling.  But she attracted people to their other businesses nearby.  She was a carnival side show.   Sad. 

Most of the time, we write off people who are devalued by society.  Slave, demon possessed and as such.  But how many people do you know that are just puppets serving a bigger machine or master.  Our culture of independence and rights really doesn't allow us to understand something like this.  But you and I live in a world that is a slave to sin.  

She would follow them saying in a high pitched voice, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.  While I'm sure that this got Paul and Silas a lot of attention - it was the wrong attention.  Finally, Paul had enough and commanded the demon to come out of the girl.  It happened immediately.  

19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.  25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to 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 everyone's bonds were unfastened. 

When the masters saw that they were not going to make any more money - they lost their temper.  It's funny how people react.  Abuse the rights of an individual and no one cares about the slave girl.  Take away their income and you start a riot.  

These men dragged Paul and Silas before the Roman governing authorities.   There they called them big Jewish troublemakers.  Judaism was just tolerated by the Roman authorities.  Any chance they could get to punish or persecute the Jews would be taken.  The marketplace turned into a mob and in order to satisfy the people, the Romans flogged Paul and Silas.  (Flogging with a rod that would remove skin from their backs.) 

From there, they were placed in the innermost part of the prison, locked up in stocks left to suffer in their situation.  At midnight, Paul and Silas are praying and singing unto God.  Not that they felt like it.  Between the flogging and stocks, they were in a lot of pain.  Suddenly there is a earthquake, the doors fly open and their chains fall off.  Another God given jailbreak.  

27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.  35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

When the warden woke up and saw all the doors open, he draws his sword out for the purpose of committing suicide.   The reason is simple.   He would be put on trail for dereliction of duty and be executed for his crime.  Suicide was simpler and less humiliating.  

Paul sees what's about to happen and yells at the warden to stop.  Everyone was there, no one has run away.  Once they got the lights on he runs to Paul and Silas, scared out of his mind!  He brings them out of prison and and asks them, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  Now to keep everything in context.  The warden has just witnessed a powerful earthquake, that apparently only opens doors and makes chains fall off.  He has two prisoners that for the last few days a demon possessed slave girl has been declaring that they are the way to salvation.  

Paul says, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. That is not to say that just because the warden gets saved, everyone else will be saved too.  That is to say that everyone in the household can make the same decision to accept Jesus. 

The warden and his family accepts.  He cares for Paul and Silas' wounds.  He sits them down at his table and feeds them.  It says that the whole house rejoiced at what has happened.  Again Luke lets you fill in the blanks.  You can be certain that these new believers received Christ and were baptized in the Holy Spirit also.  

In the morning word came from the Roman authorities that they could go.  The warden was probably pleased to give them this great news.  But there is a problem.  Paul and Silas are Roman citizens.  The public flogging and imprisonment was a violation of their civil rights.  Paul knew that the peoples opinions were wrong about them and he didn't want to look like some kind of thief sneaking his way out of town. No, the Roman rulers can come to prison and lead them out of town.  

When the Roman rulers learned that they had wrongfully punished and imprisoned Roman citizens, they would have broken out in a cold sweat.  If they filed charges with the government, it would be their careers at best.  The Roman rulers come to the prison, apologize for what they did to them,  begged them not to file charges and politely asked them to leave town.  

Paul and Silas stop by Lydia's house on the way out of town probably to gather their things.  But while there, they encouraged these disciples to continue on in their service unto Jesus.  

English Standard Version (ESV)

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