Timothy Joins Paul and Silas
16 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 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. 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. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
The Macedonian Call
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 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.” 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.
The Conversion of Lydia
So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 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. 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. 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. 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 and Silas in Prison
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. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 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.
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. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
The Philippian Jailer Converted
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 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 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. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 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. 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.
But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 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.” 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.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
Acts 16 Commentary
by Hank Workman
If there ever was a story showing God’s perfect will, His ultimate plan, His bigger picture it is found in verses 6-10. Paul had a huge burden to go to Asia. It was a driving force within as he knew the potential that awaited there he would try to go again and again. Even after the Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching the Word there, Paul would not be deterred. Almost like trying to sneak past through the border of Mysia and up through Bithynia it would take the Spirit of Jesus to stop them. And it was finally here, once he stopped his bullheaded drive and went to Troas, a new revelation came.
You see, God had a plan, not Paul.
We may have visions of what we want to do, things we want to accomplish, people we want to reach and they may be good and they may be noble – but God was and is the One orchestrating His plan, not us. I’ve used this quote many times because it’s profound and absolute truth. Henry Blackaby wrote, “Find where God is working and join Him.” Our thoughts and desires may be right, but it must be God’s plan. God was busy working elsewhere and He was asking Paul to join Him.
There is no doubt for many that God is at work in your life. Even in those times, you may not see it, you are where you are for a reason. But that said, this is a fresh reminder for us to embrace God’s Bigger Picture even when things don’t make sense temporarily.
No matter what circumstances you may find yourself, what difficulties you have endured, He has a plan. Consequently what doors may have slammed shut on some venture you’ve been pursuing this is not the end of the story. There is another opportunity that is there. There is a greater work God wants to do that you may not even comprehend at this moment.
“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” – Psalms 37:23 NLT
Reread that. Every detail of your life God takes delight in. And sometimes that delight means the steps of the godly may have been ordered by God Himself. Oh sure, we may insist on having it our way and God may do something we won’t like in the end – let us have it. And the letting us have what is not of His will bring true hardship and grief. This is why it’s so important to be surrendered to Him and have Him guiding our decisions and be on the seat of our hearts.
For what this passage shows is a closed door will open another opportunity. When God said no to Paul it was because He was going to say yes to something better. Isn’t that refreshing? Sometimes our disappointments in this life are God appointments for something better. We can’t get hung up on the closed door!
“Be very careful how you interpret circumstances. Many times we jump to a conclusion too quickly… a whole lot of wrong things can happen if you try to look at God from the middle of a circumstance. When you face difficult or confusing circumstances, the Spirit of God will take the Word of God and help you understand your circumstances from God’s perspective.” – Henry Blackaby
Paul wrote to the Ephesian church:
“Be very careful then how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17
Just think of what would have happened had Paul ignored God’s call to Macedonia. Think of the consequences. We read the rest of the story in this chapter but see the weight of such an act if Paul had not been obedient.
What about you? What happens when you ignore God’s call? What could be the results of our own lack of obedience? How will that affect someone else? This is serious business folks. Deadly serious.
Simply consider this pretty startling truth – Paul was required to lay down his will even though it was good. God had a better or even “best” plan instead. And honestly, verse 10 speaks to the heart of Paul. When God’s direction was made clear, they left at once.
What does that mean for us? Stop negotiating with God and follow His lead. Even though what you may want to do is good, there is something better or best, something great that God wants to do.
People were standing on the other side of Paul’s obedience. There are people waiting on the other side of yours.
What door are you standing at? What door has been closed and yet another is open? Who’s plan are you pursuing? Have you settled for good instead of best?
Acts 16 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
I want to focus on a somewhat bizarre section of this chapter – the end. It struck me that Paul, after being told he and Silas have been released from jail, demanded that the officials come down in person and lead them out in broad daylight. His statement was a refusal to be secretly run out of town, thus, enabling them to cover their mistake. What the men didn’t realize is that Paul was a Roman citizen. Legally, this was a big deal. Paul knew these men needed to face up to their sinister plan.
Interestingly, we are living in times where Christians are continually being stereotyped, slandered, and mocked. It is hard to know where to draw the line with defiant loyalty and silent submission. On one hand, Paul’s goal was not to be a troublemaker, nor was it to drawn attention to himself. He had a mission, and that was top priority. But he refused to be treated like trash either. He expected that just as he had respected the power of the authorities, they would respect the fact that they made a mistake and needed to own up to it.
I don’t know why this small detail stuck out to me, but I think it has a lot of practicality. As we move into a new era, we will need to rely on the Holy Spirit to know when to accept what is handed down and when to stand up and voice our opinion. It is not an easy decision and it’s not one that can be answered with a blanket statement. In the words of Jesus, “At that time, the Holy Spirit will know and give you the proper words to say.” We only need to trust.