Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”
38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
BROKEN CHAINS, OPEN DOORS
In Acts 16, we read of the convincing leading of the Holy Spirit. We note Paul’s sensitivity and understanding when God says ‘yes’ and ‘no’. One of the pieces of this story that grabs me is that both the “yes” and the “no” are directly related to the work of God through the Holy Spirit. There are many believers today that would attribute a difficulty or obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel to the work of the “evil one”, Satan, the devil. Perhaps Acts 15 provides a caution to us to not be too quick in our judgement of obstacles being the work of the “enemy,” but leave room, be discerning of the reality that such “No’s” may be an aspect of God’s unfolding plan.
In this chapter of Acts, Paul is on his second missionary journey that began in chapter 15 with Paul and Silas passing through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening churches along their journey. In Derbe and Lystra, Paul recruited a young disciple named Timothy who would become a life-long fellow-worker and friend in the ministry.
We read that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they found themselves in Troas, and it is here where Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia asking for help. From Troas to Samothrace and then Neapolis, they arrived in Philippi, a major city of Macedonia and a Roman colony. This is significant in the advancement of the Gospel because Philippi was Paul's first ministry on European soil.
At Philippi Paul and Silas are put into prison, beaten, whipped and bloodied, but instead of “licking their wounds” or moaning about demonic attacks, we read that “about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, they were engaged in worship. That is quite a response to their situation, don’t you think? I would hope that would be my response to persecution, but sometimes I am not so sure it would be.
While this worship was happening, a great earthquake shook the prison and broke free their chains. Assuming all had fled, the jailor, knowing what would happen to him because of the prisoners getting away, was about to kill himself when Paul stopped him. When the jailor asked what he must do to be saved, Paul and Silas told him to believe on the Lord Jesus. They then proceeded to teach him and his family the Word of the Gospel. That same night, the entire family of the jailor believed and were baptised. What an incredible story!
This chapter reveals what can happen through the perfect direction and plan of God working through people whose hearts are devoted, open and surrendered to Him.
I want to be that kind of follower of Jesus, devoted, open, and surrendered. Don’t we all? The key point that this chapter underscores is that the saving outcome is always the work of God, yet the exciting aspect of this is the tap of God on our shoulders saying, “Join me.”
Grant me persistence in prayer. Grant me the patience to wait for Your answer, Lord. Give me stillness and ears to hear Your voice. Grant me the strength to resist going it alone. Give me wisdom to discern Your leading. Grant me thankfulness for all You do. Amen