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Acts Chapter Sixteen


I. Content of the Chapter


Paul Opened the Door of the Gospel in Europe

I. He brought Timothy together to preach in Lystra (v.1-3).

II. They went through the cities and the churches were strengthened (v.4-5).

III. They were forbidden and not permitted in their journey by the Holy Spirit (v.6-8).

IV. He saw the vision of Macedonia in Troas (v.9-10).

V. They came to the gateway of Europe------Philippi (v.11-12).

VI. They gained the household of Lydia by the riverside (v.13-15).

VII. They were put into prison because they offended the devil and wealth (v.16-24).

VIII. They boasted in the prison (v.25-26).

IX. They gained the keeper of the prisoner and his household (v.27-34).

X. They overcame the earthly power (v.35-40).


II. Verse by Verse commentary


Acts. 16:1 “Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.

   YLT: “And he came to Derbe and Lystra, and lo, a certain disciple was there, by name Timotheus son of a certain woman, a believing Jewess, but of a father, a Greek,”

   The Background: it is debatable among the Bible exegetes whether sons of the Jews and other races in their mixed marriages are counted as the Jews. Some of them said that the strict Jews would not acknowledge the mixed marriage with other races or receive such children (Neh. 10:30; 13:23-25). However, some of them also said that according to the regulations set by the Jewish rabbis, if one’s mother was Jewish, he could be counted as Jewish.

   Literal Meaning: Then he came to Derbe and Lystra” In Paul’s first journey, he went to Lystra first and then turned to Derbe (Acts. 14:6, 20); in this journey the places were on the contrary.

  And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy” Timothy was called “a disciple”, showing that he may be the fruit of Paul who preached the gospel in Lystra in the first journey (Acts. 14:6-7; 1Cor. 4:15-17). About more than ten years later, Paul stilled called Timothy the young (1Tim. 4:12) and therefore here he was young and should be in his teens.

  “The son of a certain Jewish woman who believed” The reason why Timothy believed in the Lord may be that he was influenced by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2Tim. 1:5).

  “But his father was Greek” The word “Greek” does not mean that he was the true Greek. At that time all the Gentiles who spoke the Greek could be called Greek. Paul did not mention the faith of the father of Timothy in his epistles. Maybe he was a Gentile who was neither converted to Judaism nor believed in Christ. Probably he had died at that time.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) The reason why Timothy had such outstanding performance in the Lord (See v.2) must be that he was taught and trained by his devout mother who loved the Lord (2Tim. 1:5). We believers should also pay attention to the states of our children before the Lord.

2) All that we have in this life will disappear completely and only our children are the true inheritance that the Lord has entrusted to us. And therefore we should bring our children to the Lord well: pray for them, introduce the Lord to them, encourage them to live a devout life and set a good example for them.


Acts. 16:2 “He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.

   YLT: “who was well testified to by the brethren in Lystra and Iconium;”

   Literal Meaning: “He was well spoken of by the brethren” “He was well spoken of” in the original means “he was well testified to”.

  Timothy was not only praised by the brethren but also appreciated by Paul and he later became Paul’s closest fellow-worker (Acts. 17:14; 18:5; 19:22; 20:4; Rom. 16:21; 1Cor. 4:17; 2Cor. 1:19; 1Thess. 3:2, 6; 1Tim; 2Tim).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) “Lystra and Iconium” are two churches in two places, however, all the brethren praise one person. It shows that the early churches have close communication with each other. The churches in various churches are independent in their administration, however, they are not independent in the spiritual communication. 

2) When choosing a worker of the Lord, we should take notice of men’s (those who contact with him daily) impressions on him.

3) Great oaks from little acorns grow. The inkling of one’s performance in his going out to work could be seen from his performance in the local place.


Acts. 16:3 “Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.

   YLT: “this one did Paul wish to go forth with him, and having taken [him], he circumcised him, because of the Jews who are in those places, for they all knew his father -- that he was a Greek.”

   Literal Meaning: “Paul wanted to have him go on with him.” The aim of Paul is to train him in serving the Lord.

  “Because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek” It shows that the Jews did not feel relieved to get along with Timothy and they were afraid that he was not Judaic.

And he took him and circumcised him” Paul set his face against “circumcising the Gentiles” (Acts. 15:1-2). And why did he circumcise Timothy at that moment? Maybe he had the Jewish lineage (See v.1) and it was an expedient way to have him come in and go out among the Jews conveniently for preaching the gospel.

  Paul’s attitude and knowledge towards the circumcision were as follows: 1) he himself was a pure Jewish and he was circumcised the eighth day (Pill. 3:5); 2) since he had believed in the Lord, his knowledge of circumcision had changed greatly; 3) he held that the outward circumcision on the flesh was only a seal of the righteousness of the faith (Rom. 4:11); 4) and therefore the outward circumcision on the flesh was not the true circumcision and the circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter (Rom. 2:28-29); 5) men’s being saved and justified is not by being circumcised or keeping the law but by faith (Gal. 2:16; 5:6); 6) however, he did not advocate abolishing the circumcision and he held the attitude of “neither abolishing nor receiving”------was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised (1Cor. 7:18); 7) however, he allowed those who were called while uncircumcised to be circumcised for the sake of preaching the gospel to win men------to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews (1Cor. 9:19-23); 8) and therefore he circumcised Timothy in this verse and later he purified himself with four men who had a vow on them (Acts. 21:20-26); 9) however, when men advocated that except men be circumcised, they cannot be saved and regarded the circumcision as the condition for one’s being saved, he would rise and set his face against it in order to maintain the truth of the gospel (Acts. 15:1-2); 10) he did not compel anyone to be circumcised (Gal. 2:3); 11) he knew the spiritual meaning of circumcision------Christ makes men be put off the body of the flesh (Col. 2:11); 12) and therefore he held that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation (Gal. 6:15).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) The Lord’s workers should take heed of cultivating the juniors. The most successful thing in the life of Paul was that he found, trained and fostered Timothy and edified him to become his successor.

2) We can use everything that is not harmful to the truth and profits the work of the Lord (e.g. Paul circumcised Timothy) as well.

3) If we work for the Lord, we should try our best to clear up all the interpersonal estrangement and obstacle (Timothy was circumcised and it was helpful in clearing up the gap with the Jews).


Acts. 16:4 “And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.

   YLT: “And as they were going on through the cities, they were delivering to them the decrees to keep, that have been judged by the apostles and the elders who [are] in Jerusalem,”

   Literal Meaning: And as they went through the cities” “They” refers to Paul, Silas and Timothy (See v.3; Acts. 15:40).

  “They delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.” This verse denies the inference of some Bible exegetes who held that Paul did not agree on the four restraints in the letter of the church in Jerusalem (Acts. 15:29). Believers of the New Testament are not restrained by the law and letter, however, they can not be lawless because of it or ignore the will of God and they should be worthy of Christians.


Acts. 16:5 “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.

   YLT: “then, indeed, were the assemblies established in the faith, and were abounding in number every day;”

   Literal Meaning: at that time, the majority of the members of the churches were the Jews and therefore the regulations in the letter of the church in Jerusalem were not only contributive to the friendly fellowship between the Jews and the Gentile believers but also helped more Jews to join in the church.


Acts. 16:6 “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.

   YLT: “and having gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia,”

   Literal Meaning: they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia” “Asia” was a province in the Roman Empire which was on the west of the province of Galatia. It includes Mysia, Phrygia (a part of it) and other areas. Within its borders there were famous cities Ephesus and Colosse. The seven churches to which John the apostle was ordered to write to later were all within the border of Asia (Rev. 1:4, 11).

Here two problems were brought in: the first is that how did the Holy Spirit “forbid” them? The ways of the Holy Spirit’s prohibition include the obstacle in the circumstances, the words of the angel, the revelation of the Bible, the dream, the feeling in the Holy Spirit, the uneasiness of hearts, the clear prophesy of the prophet, the communication and approval among believers, the vision (See v.9) and etc.

The second is that why did the Holy Spirit “forbid” them? It is supposed that the Holy Spirit neither said that the gospel was not needed in “the regions” nor “used Paul” to preach there because Paul had come to Ephesus by himself later and stayed there for two years (Acts. 19:1, 10). The reasonable explanation should be that the Holy Spirit did not ask Paul to preach “in the regions” “at that moment” because the Holy Spirit had another arrangement at that moment.

It was really hard for men then to understand why the Holy Spirit forbad them to preach in Asia at that time. However, today we could understand the goodwill of the Holy Spirit from the church history: 1) the Holy Spirit intended to transfer the base of the gospel from Asia to Europe as soon as possible; 2) the reason was that the political and religious conditions in Asian were going to be changed and the Jews would be scattered all over the world. Islam was going to rise and Christianity was going to decline in Asia; 3) the world would be dominated by Europe for a period and all continents would be colonized by the Europeans and the characters of the Europeans would be more qualified to bear the accomplishment of the mission of the gospel than the Asians.

“When they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia” “Phrygia” was a larger area and later it was divided into two parts: one belonged to the province of Asia and the other belonged to the province of Galatia. This part here belonged to the province of Galatia and the famous cities within its border were Antioch and Iconium. “Galatia” refers to the province of Galatia and it was a large province. It was usually divided into two parts: the southern Galatia and the northern Galatia; today Angola the capital of Turkey is in the northern Galatia.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) The workers of the Lord should preach and work not according to their own favor or determination or the route negotiated by men but by seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

2) The Holy Spirit not only leads men positively but also “forbids” men negatively. And the Holy Spirit always leads believers by “prohibition”.

3) If those who serve the Lord could observe the guidance of the Holy Spirit acutely and regard the direction of the Holy Spirit as their own direction, the work shall be assuredly expanded fast.

4) It is not that “the work” controls the steps of workers but that “the Lord” of workers controls the steps of workers. How easy it is for men to be influenced by work and neglect the Lord who plans and manages the work.

5) Since the work is under the control of the Lord, workers should not worry that the Lord might not remember His work and we should pay attention to whether we are under the Lord’s arrangement, control, guidance and assignment.


Acts. 16:7 “After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.

   YLT: “having gone toward Mysia, they were trying to go on toward Bithynia, and the Spirit did not suffer them,”

   Literal Meaning: After they had come to Mysia” “Mysia” was in the northwest of the province of Asia.

  “They tried to go into Bithynia” “Bithynia” was the province directly under the jurisdiction of the Roman Empire. It was on the northeast of the province of Asia and on the northwest of the province of Galatia.

  “But the Spirit did not permit them” “The Spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit (See v.6); In the Bible the following different names are used to call the Holy Spirit: 1) the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2); 2) the Spirit of Jehovah (Judg.3:10); 3) the spirit of the holy gods (Dan. 4:8); 4) the Spirit of the Father (Matt. 10:20); 5) the Spirit of the Lord (Luke. 4:18); 6) the Spirit (Acts. 16:7); 7) the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9); 8) the  Spirit of his son (Gal. 4:6); 9) the spirit of glory and of God (1Pet. 4:14); 10) the seven Spirits of God (Rev. 4:5).

    Some Bible exegetes held that “the Spirit” specially emphasized that the Spirit includes the humanity of incarnation: He had suffered being tempted (Heb. 2:18) and He could be touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Heb. 4:15). And the so-called “but the Spirit did not permit them” indicated that He did not permit Paul to go into Bithynia because He sympathized with the thorn on the flesh of Paul (2Cor. 12:7), i.e. He sympathized with the pain of Paul, so that Paul could meet Luke the physician in Troas (Please see the note of “we” in v.10; Col. 4:14).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) The two sentences “they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit” (See v.6) and “the Spirit did not permit them” are like the railroad that are paved with two rails. If we walk by obeying the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will go smoothly everywhere, however, if we ignore the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will go off the rails.

2) The Holy Spirit’s forbidding and not permitting usually are the feeling in the Spirit instead of the clear and obvious revelation and we won’t understand it until we obey it.

3) Those who serve the Lord should learn to work diligently and obey the Holy Spirit’s forbidding and not permitting------do nothing and keep silent. Those who only do the work and never stop might not do the work of the Lord.

4) Just as the Lord Jesus “can do nothing of Himself” (John. 5:19), the Lord’s workers should also do nothing of themselves. Only those who have learned that “we won’t do anything until God has done something” will be sent by God to go out to work for Him.


Acts. 16:8 “So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.

   YLT: “and having passed by Mysia, they came down to Troas.”

   Literal Meaning: So passing by Mysia” They came from the east and today they could neither go to the south (See v.6) nor go to the north (See v.7) and therefore they could only go straight to the west and pass by Mysia.

  “They came down to Troas.” The full name of “Troas” is “Alexandrian Troas” and it is the important seaport connecting Asia, Macedonia and Achaia. It could be regarded as the threshold to Europe. Later Paul preached the gospel there and established the church (Acts. 20:6-12; 2Cor. 2:12) and he passed through this place before he was martyred for the Lord (2Tim. 4:13).


Acts. 16:9 “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, Come over to Macedonia and help us.’”

   YLT: “And a vision through the night appeared to Paul -- a certain man of Macedonia was standing, calling upon him, and saying, `Having passed through to Macedonia, help us;' --”

   Literal Meaning: And a vision appeared to Paul in the night” “Vision” is one of the ways of God’s guidance upon men (Acts. 13).

  A man of Macedonia” “Macedonia” was one province in the Roman Empire and it was on the north of Achaia (i.e. the southern part of Greece). Some people surmised that Luke the author of this book was this Macedonia because Luke joined in the Paul’s group of preaching in Troas (please see the note of “we” in v.10).

  Come over to Macedonia and help us.” “Help” in the original means that when one hears voice, he immediately go to the pleader and offer help.

From the regional circumstance, Troas belonged to Asia and Macedonia belonged to Europe and therefore going to preach in Macedonia was the new journey that stepped over the continents. It promoted the testimony of the Lord to be spread to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts. 1:8).

The Holy Spirit forbad Paul from preaching the word in Asia (See v.6) with the purpose of making them turn to Europe. However, they could not understand the will of God for a short while and therefore they still stayed in Phrygia, Galatia, Mysia, Troas and other places (they were all in the western part of Turkey today). And therefore God had to give them the clear guidance through “vision”. It shows that vision is not the usual way for God to lead men and but the “special” way.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) In the “night” of our service------the time that the darkness hovers over and we do not know what to do------what’s the most important is that we should seek the vision from God.

2) Today there is “voice of Macedonia” everywhere that men plead Christians to preach the gospel to them. Shall we respond to it and show our concern to men’s souls?

3) When Paul went out to work for the Lord, his burden must be heavy and his mood must be urgent. However, with such burden and mood, he could receive the restraint of the Holy Spirit and stop abruptly. Then the Lord could entrust the vision and mission of Macedonia to him. Stopping for the Lord is the foundation and key to go forth further for the Lord.


Acts. 16:10 “Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

   YLT: “and when he saw the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go forth to Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord hath called us to preach good news to them,”

   Meaning of Words: “sought to”: look for, endeavor; “concluding”: assuredly gather, compact.

   Literal Meaning: immediately we sought to go to Macedonia” Before this verse, the plural third person “they” was used to call Paul and his workers all the time (See v.4, 6-8). However, from this verse, the plural first person “we” was used suddenly (See v.12-13, 15-17). The Bible exegetes, according to this, guessed that Luke the author of this book joined in the Paul’s group of preaching in Troas and therefore the record of Paul’s journey was quite detailed and vivid.

  “Concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” “Concluding” refers to the conclusion from conjecture. It shows that after Paul had seen the vision, he did not confirm the will of God rashly and he considered it carefully and cautiously and then had such conclusion.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Seeing the vision and understanding the vision are two separated things. The trouble of many people is not that they lack the vision but that they can not comprehend the vision and even misunderstand the vision.

2) “Concluding” shows that Paul and others did not regard the vision as the only guidance. When we have received the vision or dream, we should still consider the will of God with the words of the Bible, the teachings of the anointing in us and the arrangement of circumstances and then we won’t be wrong.

3) The vision is individually shown to Paul, however, “we…concluding” indicates that the corporate seek the will of God with one accord and take action together. It shows us that the individual revelation won’t be spiritually effective until it turns to be the revelation of the body in complete accord and then turns to be the agreed action of the body.

4) Once we have received the vision from the heaven, we should obey it carefully and should not be disobedient to the vision (Acts. 26:19).


Acts. 16:11 “Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis,

   YLT: “having set sail, therefore, from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, on the morrow also to Neapolis,”

   Literal Meaning: we ran a straight course to Samothrace” “Samothrace” was an island in the northeast corner of Aegean Sea and it was the midway for boats to anchor in order to avoid the danger of night service.

  “And the next day came to Neapolis” “Neapolis” was an outport of the city of Philippi which was about sixteen kilometers away from the city. It is Kavalla today.


Acts. 16:12 “and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days.

   YLT: “thence also to Philippi, which is a principal city of the part of Macedonia -- a colony. And we were in this city abiding certain days,”

   Meaning of Words: Philippi”: mineral springs; “foremost”: principal.

   Literal Meaning: and from there to Philippi” “Philippi” was an eastern city of Macedonia and it was named for Philip II, the father of Alexander. It was the colony of Rome and therefore it was not governed by the province. The city imitated the administrative system of the city of Rome and citizens there enjoyed the right of dwelling in the city of Rome. Many Roman retired officers and soldiers settled down there and there were few Jews there.

  “Which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia” “That part” refers to this district. Macedonia had four districts and Philippi lied in the foremost district. “The foremost city” means the capital town. However, the capital town of Macedonia was Thessalonica and the capital town of the district where Philippi belonged to was Amphipolis and therefore it may refer to “foremost” city (i.e. principal city. There is not the definite article in the original)------Philippi was the first important city they met when they got into Macedonia.

  “A colony” refers to the stronghold that the Roman Empire chose in the dependent countries for the purpose of the national defense. The Roman Empire sent arms to defend the city on one hand and made the retired officers and soldiers settle down there on the other and once there was something wrong, they could recover their service and work for the country immediately.


Acts. 16:13 “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.

   YLT: “on the sabbath-day also we went forth outside of the city, by a river, where there used to be prayer, and having sat down, we were speaking to the women who came together,”

   Literal Meaning: “to the riverside” “the riverside” refers to the bank of Gangites River.

  “Where prayer was customarily made” The Jews in Philippi were few and therefore there was not the synagogue. The devout Jewish women were accustomed to gather together and pray by the riverside and it was said that the flowing water could be used to clean in the ceremonies.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Praying is to give God chance to work upon men on the earth.

2) We should proclaim the word in season or out of season (2Tim. 4:2), however, we should also seize the good opportunity to preach the word (find out a group of people who set their mind on seeking God) and then we could yield twice the result with half the effort.


Acts. 16:14 “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

   YLT: “and a certain woman, by name Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, worshipping God, was hearing, whose heart the Lord did open to attend to the things spoken by Paul;”

   Literal Meaning: She was a seller of purple” “Purple” is the royal color and “purple” was the nobler dress materials and only the rich could wear the purple clothing at that time. It is said that the purple dyes were collected from a certain crustacean drop by drop and it was very precious. At that time, those who dealt with such business were all rich ones.

  “Named Lydia” She was the first fruit of Paul in Philippi, i.e. the first fruit in Europe.

This sentence could be translated into “she was a Lydian” in the original. Lydia was a district within the border of Asia and it was in the southwest of it and its main cities were Thyatira, Sardis and Philadelphia. If Lydia referred to her birthplace, she may be one of the two women Euodia and Syntyche who were mentioned in the Book of Philippi (Pill. 4:2). According to her firm character that she showed in inviting Paul in v.15, it seemed be unavoidably hard for her to deal with other women well.

  “From the city of Thyatira” “Thyatira” was within the border of Asia and it was well-known for its dye industry and the purple dye was extremely famous.

“Who worshiped God” “Worshipping God” indicates that they hold the attitude of honoring God and worshipping Him. This word is used to describe the Gentiles who believe that the God of the Jews is the only true God, usually read the Bible diligently and keep some letters and regulations. However, they have not been converted to Judaism completely.

The Lord opened her heart” It indicates that the Lord opened her understanding (Luke. 24:45) so that she could respond to the message of the gospel that Paul had preached.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) If we want to be bestowed grace, we should not only “hear” but also “heed”. We should not only hear with “ears” but also hear with “hearts”.

2) If the preacher merely preaches well and correctly and there is not the cooperation of the Lord, men cannot be saved.

3) When the church preaches the gospel, brothers and sisters should not only pray for the one who preaches the message but also pray for listeners that the Lord would open their hearts.


Acts. 16:15 “And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay. So she persuaded us.

   YLT: “and when she was baptized, and her household, she did call upon us, saying, `If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, having entered into my house, remain;' and she constrained us.”

   Literal Meaning: she begged us” The word that Lydia invited Paul was “a way of goading him into action”. The way of begging showed that she was quite determined and strong-minded.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Under normal circumstances, once men have believed in the Lord, they could be baptized (See v.33) and they do not need to wait for a long period of time.

2) One feature of Christianity is that the whole household is converted to the Lord (See v.31, 34).

3) Serving the Lord and receiving the Lord’s servants are not giving the Lord or men kindness as if we could do it according to our favor. They are chances and honor that we have to “beg” to have.

4) Receiving the Saints is the expression of serving the Lord faithfully and only the true believers are qualified to do so.

5) The normal Christian family is quite hospitable to the Saints (Rom. 12:15; Heb. 13:2; 1Pet. 4:9).

6) The heart of Lydia was opened (See v.14) and her house was also opened. When one receives the Lord in his heart, the servants of the Lord are received in his house.

7) Once men believe in the Lord, he becomes a member of the body of Christ. What’s the most important for a member is to have communion with other members of the body, i.e. having the same care one for another (1Cor.12: 12-27).


Acts. 16:16 “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.

   YLT: “And it came to pass in our going on to prayer, a certain maid, having a spirit of Python, did meet us, who brought much employment to her masters by soothsaying,”

   Literal Meaning: possessed with a spirit of divination” “A spirit of divination” in the original refers to the god of python in the Greek fable that was killed by Apollo, however, its sprit still existed and it possessed men everywhere.

  “By fortune-telling” means to divine, prophesy and foretell like a prophet.

   Enlightenment in the Word: the heathens could also do the supernatural things and say inconceivable forecast. And therefore we should never hold that someone is from God because he has done some magical things or said something that the ordinary cannot say.


Acts. 16:17 “This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’”

   YLT: “she having followed Paul and us, was crying, saying, `These men are servants of the Most High God, who declare to us a way of salvation;'”

   Literal Meaning: These men are the servants of the Most High God” “The Most High God” is used to call God of the Jews, showing that He exceedingly surpasses gods of the Gentiles and is the only, Most High true God.

  “Who proclaim to us the way of salvation” The word seemed to be right and helpful, however, it contained the deceit of Satan: 1) it made men be confused with the evil and the good and God and ghost and misunderstand that she also worked for the Most High God; 2) it interrupted the gathering and made men be distracted and could not take heed to the words that Paul said (See v.14).


Acts. 16:18 “And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out that very hour.

   YLT: “and this she was doing for many days, but Paul having been grieved, and having turned, said to the spirit, `I command thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come forth from her;' and it came forth the same hour.”

   Literal Meaning: But Paul, greatly annoyed” “annoyed” in the original refers to the strong disgust.

  I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her” We do not know whether the slave girl was saved because it was not recorded here. However, some Bible exegetes held that it seemed to imply that here she was gained by the Lord and therefore three groups of people were firstly gained in the church in Philippi: Lydia represented those who were from the upper class, the slave girl was from the lower class and the jailer (See v.29-34) was from the middle class.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Satan always hides itself behind persons and things and torments those who are of the Lord “for many days” with the purpose of consuming their minds, joy and spirits.

2) Paul did not cast out the spirit in the beginning and put up with it “for many days” and he cast it out when he was “greatly annoyed”. It shows that he did nothing when the Lord in him did nothing. In everything he obeys the guidance in the Spirit and casting out the spirit is no exception.

3) What Paul “annoyed” was “the spirit” instead of the slave girl. Many times, we may make a mistake and get angry with men. Actually what we should hate is the devil instead of men.

4) When Paul cast out the spirit, he did not stop and prayed first but he turned and commanded the spirit to come out of her in the name of the Lord. The spirit came out that very hour. It tells us that Paul was with the Lord all the time and the Lord had trusted Himself to Paul and therefore he could take actions “in the name of the Lord”.


Acts. 16:19 “But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

   YLT: “And her masters having seen that the hope of their employment was gone, having caught Paul and Silas, drew [them] to the market-place, unto the rulers,”

   Literal Meaning: they seized Paul and Silas” Please note that the persecution that Paul had suffered in Philippi was not from the Jews but the Gentiles. The two main cases that the Gentiles opposed the gospel in the Acts of the Apostle were caused because their economically vested benefits were damaged (Acts. 19:23-29).

  “And dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities” “The authorities” refers to high-ranking praetors.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) The power behind the heathenism (“her masters”) only utilizes others to seek their own benefits and never regards others’ life experience and happiness.

2) The feature of Christ’s gospel is that “preach the gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke. 4:18).

3) The greatest difference between the world and Christians lies in the viewpoints and attitude towards money: the world regards money as their life and whenever someone touches their wallets, they will rise and resist; Christians are glad to share with others (2Cor. 8:2-3).

4) The greatest obstacle to working for the Lord is men’s selfishness. Whenever others’ vested benefits are involved in the work, attacks and tribulations will follow with it.


Acts. 16:20 “And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city;

   YLT: “and having brought them to the magistrates, they said, `These men do exceedingly trouble our city, being Jews;”

   The Background: These men, being Jews” According to the calculation, about one year before that time, Claudius the Roman Empire had ordered all the Jews to leave the city of Rome (Acts. 18:2).

   Literal Meaning: And they brought them to the magistrates” “The magistrates” in the original indicates “the praetors”.

   Enlightenment in the Word: today in the districts in which there isn’t the freedom of faith, men usually use the charge of “disturbing the public security” to accuse Christians.


Acts. 16:21 “and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.’”

   YLT: “and they proclaim customs that are not lawful for us to receive nor to do, being Romans.'”

   The Background: within the border of the Roman Empire, every religion could not be counted as legal until it had been examined and approbated by the offices. At that time, though Judaism was acknowledged as legal and the Jews were allowed to have their own religion, they were not allowed to preach Judaism to the Romans. Concerning Christianity, the Romans did not know the differences between Judaism and Christianity at that time and they treated Christianity as a branch of Christianity.


Acts. 16:22 “Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.

   YLT: “And the multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates having torn their garments from them, were commanding to beat [them] with rods,”

   Literal Meaning: “be beaten with rods” “rods” in the original refers to the sticks that the retinues of officers hold. It is a bundle of sticks and it could also be the emblem of government officers. 

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) The common way that Satan uses is to deal with those who are of the Lord with violence. By this it makes them be discouraged and faint on one hand and threatens and hinders others on the other hand.

2) Today the so-called democratic system is that the minority is subordinate to the majority. However, the thing that many people approve of may not accord with the truth and justice and therefore the democratic system is not the righteous system. It’s no wonder that many people obliterate the facts, confuse the right and wrong and do wrong to the justice in the name of “democracy”.

3) For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil (Rom. 13:3), however, when rulers did not know right or wrong, they are no long the servants of God but the tools of the devil.


Acts. 16:23 “And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.

   YLT: “many blows also having laid upon them, they cast them to prison, having given charge to the jailor to keep them safely,”

  Meaning of Words: “stripe”: stroke, wound; “threw…into”: cast, lay; “jailer”: turnkey, keeper of the prison; “securely”: safely, assuredly.


Acts. 16:24 “Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

   YLT: “who such a charge having received, did put them to the inner prison, and their feet made fast in the stocks.”

   Literal Meaning: he put them into the inner prison” “The inner prison” refers to the inner and the strictest place in the prison, i.e. an underground prison sell. The inner prison is usually used to keep important criminals.

  “And fastened their feet in the stocks” “Stocks” is an instrument of torture made by wood. There are many holes that could be open and shut in the stocks and the holes could be used to handcuff the feet, wrists and neck of the prisoner. The stocks are usually nailed to the wall firmly, lest the prison may get away. The two feet are dividedly far because the stocks have many holes so that the prisoner may feel very uncomfortable and even miserable.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) “The inner prison” and “stocks” are the best safety measures that men could use, however, they cannot bind our spirits though they can bind our bodies (See v.25).

2) Satan tries its best to imprison the Lord’s workers, however, God is able to change the imprisonment into the outlet of the gospel (See v.31-34).


Acts. 16:25 “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

   YLT: “And at midnight Paul and Silas praying, were singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were hearing them,”

   Literal Meaning: please note that the condition under which Paul and Silas sang hymns was quite special and the ordinary people cannot do this: 1) time------at midnight; 2) place------the inner prison (See v.24); 3) the physical condition------they had been laid many stripes (See v.23), they had stripes (See v.33), their feet were fastened in the stocks (See v.24), they were painful and uncomfortable.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Tertullian the god-father said that “when men’s hearts are in heaven, they won’t feel painful though their feet are fastened in the stocks” (it is translated from the Chinese version).

2) Though the bodies of believers are bound, their hearts are not bound; though their bodies are in the prison, their hearts are with the Lord in heaven.

3) Not only God listens to the sincere prayer from the deep hearts and their singing hymns to God but also the prisoners who do not know God are attracted and listen to them.

4) The source of joy of believers is of the heaven and therefore they won’t be influenced at all. 

5) Christians’ outer material possessions------clothing------could be deprived of (See v.22), however, Christians’ inner spiritual possessions------the Lord’s presence and joy------can never be deprived of.

6) The cross of Christ can not make one feel painful but make one praise God. When we are taking the cross, if we always feel heavy, painful and comfortable, probably that cross is not from the Lord and it does not profit us.


Acts. 16:26 “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 chains were loosed.

   YLT: “and suddenly a great earthquake came, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken, opened also presently were all the doors, and of all -- the bands were loosed;”

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Prayer and praise (See v.25) could shake the foundation of the power of darkness, break all shackles and release the prisoners of sin.

2) Prayer is the spiritual conflict and praise is the spiritual triumph. Praise is the thing that Satan hates the most and if possible, it would try its best to make us not praise.

3) Prayer may not open the doors of the prison many times, however, praise could open the doors easily. When you pray, you are still in the circumstance, however, when you praise, you climb over the circumstance.

4) When the sons and daughters of God are foolish, they only look at their situations, keep their own feelings and stop praising. However, if the sons and daughters of God know God, they will surpass the difficult situations and the sense of “impossibility” and even the prison could be the place of singing hymns and praise. And consequently the doors of the prison were opened.


Acts. 16:27 “And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.

   YLT: “and the jailor having come out of sleep, and having seen the doors of the prison open, having drawn a sword, was about to kill himself, supposing the prisoners to be fled,”

   Literal Meaning: supposing the prisoners had fled” The prison must be “dark on the inside and bright on the outside” and therefore the keeper of the prison could not see the conditions on the inside of the prison from the outside. However, Paul could see the actions of the jailer on the outside of the prison clearly (See v.28). When the jailer was about to enter the inner prison, he needed to hold up a light (See v.29).

  “Drew his sword and was about to kill himself” If there is a prisoner fleeing, the jailer should pay with his life for the prisoner (Acts. 12:18-19). Provably he held that killing himself could decrease the humiliation and pain.


Acts. 16:28 “But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’”

   YLT: “and Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, `Thou mayest not do thyself any harm, for we are all here.'”

   Literal Meaning: for we are all here” “We” includes all prisoners (See v.25-26). Here it shows that all the prisoners admired them in their hearts for the expression of Paul and Silas in the prison and they were willing to let them keep control over their behaviors.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) “Do yourself no harm” Christians should never kill themselves.

2) Wherever the one who has the presence of the Lord is, he is able to influence the people around him.


Acts. 16:29 “Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.

   YLT: “And, having asked for a light, he sprang in, and trembling he fell down before Paul and Silas,”

   Literal Meaning: ran in” indicates that he rushed and leaped in. It vividly describes the mood of the jailer who was urgent for knowing what actually happened.

  “Trembling” shows that he trembled because of astonishment.


Acts. 16:30 “And he brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’”

   YLT: “and having brought them forth, said, `Sirs, what must I do -- that I may be saved?'”

   Literal Meaning: what must I do to be saved?” The jailer may ask this question for his own safety and have not concerned faith. However, the more reasonable reasons are that: 1) he felt the truthfulness of God through this event and how he should face this true God and therefore he was in haste to ask for the way to respond to it; 2) he once heard Paul and Silas proclaim the way of salvation (See v.17) and therefore he wanted to know the way.


Acts. 16:31 “So they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’”

   YLT: “and they said, `Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved -- thou and thy house;'”

   The Background: and you will be saved, you and your household” In the ancient times, the head of a family had the authority, especially in the aspect of faith. All the family members always believe in whom the head believes in. 

   Literal Meaning: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” It is the brief explanation of the way of salvation (Acts. 10:43).

  “And you will be saved, you and your household” Paul seized the opportunity to lead him to seek the way of “the salvation of soul” regardless of his motive for asking “how to be saved” (See v.30).

Controversial Clarification: this verse does not show that as long as a member of a family believes in the Lord, his household will be saved automatically. It shows that: 1) just as how one has been saved by believing in the Lord, his household will be saved by the same way; 2) after one has been saved first, the true change of life will influence the household to turn to the Lord; 3) the one who has been saved first takes care of his household and prays for them ceaselessly by faith and finally the household will be moved and turn to the Lord; 4) God’s real intention is that men are saved by household (Gen. 7:1; Exod. 12:3-4; Josh. 2:18-19). The Bible and the church history all prove that the household has the good chance to be saved (Luke. 19:9; Acts. 11:14; 18:8).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Believing the gospel is the individual matter and it cannot be replaced by anyone else. However, one’s faith will always lead the household to believe in the Lord.

2) If the family members of believers have not believed in the Lord, we should not faint or lose faith and we should pray again and again and endure to the end and we will see achievements of their being saved (See Matt. 24:13).


Acts. 16:32 “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.

   YLT: “and they spake to him the word of the Lord, and to all those in his household;”


Acts. 16:33 “And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

   YLT: “and having taken them, in that hour of the night, he did bathe [them] from the blows, and was baptized, himself and all his presently,”

   Literal Meaning: And immediately he and all his family were baptized” Paul seldom baptized men and he only remembered that he had baptized the household of Stephanas (1Cor. 1:14-16) and the household of Stephen was his first fruit in Achaia (1Cor. 16:15). And therefore someone inferred that the name of this jailer was Stephanas. However, the words of Paul may only refer to believers in Corinth and therefore it was not applied to Philippi.

   Controversial Clarification: according to this verse and v.15, someone concluded that as long as one was believer’s family member, he could be baptized with the head of the family no matter he was a kid or a baby. This exegesis was wrong and the reasons were as follows: 1) baptism is based on that they all believe in the Lord (See v.15, 34); 2) if one wants to believe in the Lord Jesus, he should be old enough to decide whether he believes in Him or not.

  Someone held that after one had believed in the Lord, he had to understand some truth of salvation and then men could baptize him. This idea was contrast to the condition described in this verse and the analyses were as follows: 1) the household of the jailer believed in the Lord “the same hour of the night” and was baptized immediately. They did not wait for a period of time; 2) Concerning that one cannot be baptized until he has understood some truth, they were the Gentiles and did not know God at all and they had not heard the way of salvation except the words of Paul (See v.32). It shows that the truth that they understood was quite limited; 3) it was deep in the night, it was quite inconvenient to baptize them, however, they did not delay doing it until the daybreak; 4) there were stripes on Paul and Silas and they should rest, however, they were in haste to baptize them.


Acts. 16:34 “Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

   YLT: “having brought them also into his house, he set food before [them], and was glad with all the household, he having believed in God.”

   Literal Meaning: Now when he had brought them into his house” “His house” of the jailer may be the upstairs rooms or the next door of the prison.

  “And he rejoiced, having believed in God” “Joy” is the mark of the church in Philippi (Phil. 1:25; 2:17-18; 3:1; 4:4).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Those who preach the glad tidings have a privilege that they could reap carnal things from those who receive the gospel (1Cor. 9:4-11).

2) Those who have tasted the salvation will naturally have two kinds of attitudes: a) they feel quite kind to those who have also received grace; b) they are rejoicing in their own circumstances.


Acts. 16:35 “And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, Let those men go.’”

   YLT: “And day having come, the magistrates sent the rod-bearers, saying, `Let those men go;'”

   Literal Meaning: the magistrates sent the officers” “The officers” in the original refers to “those who hold the rods” and they are the retinues of the magistrates who lead the way for the magistrates and punish the prisoners.

  Let those men go” Obviously the magistrates changed their minds in the night and then they would let them go at daybreak.


Acts. 16:36 “So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.’”

   YLT: “and the jailor told these words unto Paul -- `The magistrates have sent, that ye may be let go; now, therefore, having gone forth go on in peace;'”


Acts. 16:37 “But Paul said to them, They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.’”

   YLT: “and Paul said to them, `Having beaten us publicly uncondemned -- men, Romans being -- they did cast [us] to prison, and now privately do they cast us forth! why no! but having come themselves, let them bring us forth.'”

   The Background: under the Roman Law, every Roman citizen is protected and can neither be condemned without open trial nor be punished without condemnation (Acts. 22:25).

   Literal Meaning: “Romans” It shows that not only Paul (Acts. 22:28) but also Silas was Roman.

  Let them come themselves and get us out” The reason why Paul said so was not to ask for just resolution but to: 1) make the gospel not be blasphemed or hindered; 2) make the local believers be respected and avoid being dealt with unreasonably; 3) show that Paul suffered fully for the sake of the gospel instead of his sin.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) The Lord’s workers are quite honorable. They themselves do not advance and retreat causally and do not let others order them randomly.

2) The motive that the Lord’s workers keep the dignity is not for themselves but for the church and believers.


Acts. 16:38 “And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans.

   YLT: “And the rod-bearers told to the magistrates these sayings, and they were afraid, having heard that they are Romans,”

   Meaning of Words: “tell”: report, speak; “be afraid”: startle, fear exceedingly.

   Literal Meaning: they heard that they were Romans” “Romans” is the plural.


Acts. 16:39 “Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city.

   YLT: “and having come, they besought them, and having brought [them] forth, they were asking [them] to go forth from the city;”

   Literal Meaning: and pleaded with them and brought them out” The magistrates knew that they were wrong and they can only plead with them subserviently; they were afraid that they stayed in the city and caused disturbance again.


Acts. 16:40 “So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

   YLT: “and they, having gone forth out of the prison, entered into [the house of] Lydia, and having seen the brethren, they comforted them, and went forth.”

   Literal Meaning: “they had seen the brethren” The words show that there had been a group of Christians in Philippi at that time and there had been gathering in the house of Lydia.


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


The Principle of Preaching and Working

I. Have Timothy go in with him (v.1-3a)------use the co-worker of preaching that the Lord has manifested well.

II. Circumcise Timothy (v.3b)------turn the insignificant letter to render a service to the work.

III. Deliver to the disciples the decrees to keep (v.4-5)------promote the oneness of the church.

IV. Obey the guidance of the Holy Spirit (v.6-8)------receive the Lord’s arrangement and establishment.

V. See, understand and obey the guidance of the vision (v.9-10)------learn to have the heavenly insight.


The Voice of Macedonia

I. Come over to Macedonia and help us (v.9).

II. There were a group of women who gathered by the riverside and prayed to God (v.13).

III. A certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination cried that Paul proclaimed to us the way of salvation (v.16-17).

IV. The keeper of the prison shouted from his heart that, “what must I do to be saved?” (v.30).


The Process and Example of Lydia’s Being Saved

I. She prayed and worshiped God (v.13-14a)------the intention to seek God.

II. She heard them (v.14b)------hear with ears.

III. The Lord opened her heart (v.14b)------the work of the Holy Spirit.

IV. To heed the things spoken by Paul (v.14c)------hear with heart.

V. She believed in the Lord and was baptized (v.15a).

VI. She and here household (v.15a)------lead the household to turn to the Lord.

VII. Come to my house and stay (v.15b)------receive the Lord’s workers.

VIII. They entered the house of Lydia and had seen the brethren (v.40)------open her house for the gathering of the church.


The Features of the Church in Philippi

I. The first one who was saved was a sister (v.14).

II. They were saved by household (v.15, 33).

III. Come to my house and stay (v.15b)------receive the Saints willingly.

IV. The jailer took them and washed their stripes (v.33)------serve the saints.

V. He set food before them (v.34)------minister the Saints (See 2Cor. 8:4).

VI. They had seen the brethren (v.40)------preach the gospel, bear fruits, gather together and communicate.


The Several Comparisons in This Chapter

I. “Persuade” us (v.15)------ask them to “depart” (v.39).

II. The jailer put Paul into the inner prison (v.24)------Paul opened the door of salvation for the keeper of the prison (v.31).

III. The jailer washed their stripes (v.33)------Paul baptized the jailer and his household (v.33).


The Two Tricks of Satan

I. It exalts men by sweet words (v.17).

II. It condemns men by lies (v.20-21).


The Process of the Salvation

I. The work of preparation of salvation:

  A. Believers have good testimony in difficult circumstances (v.25).

  B. God’s wonderful works (v.26).

  C. The sense of struggle and hopeless before one’s being saved (v.27).

  D. Believers spread the voice of hope (v.29).

II. The appeal for hoping to be saved:

  A. The feeling of one’s own circumstance (v.29).

  B. Asking for the way of salvation (v.30).

III. The proclamation of the way of salvation:

  A. Proclaim the need of “faith” (v.31).

  B. Proclaim the need of “the way of salvation” (v.32).

  C. Proclaim the need of repentance and baptism (v.33).

IV. Bearing the fruit of salvation:

  A. The privilege of those who preach the gospel (v.34a).

  B. The joy of salvation (v.34b).

V. The influence of the salvation on the world:

  A. The power of the world is condemned (v.35-39).

  B. Believers are strengthened and encouraged (v.40).


The Example of the Household of the Jailer

I. His household “heard” (v.32).

II. His household “believed in” God (v.34).

III. His household “was baptized” (v.33).

IV. His household “was saved” (v.31).

V. His household “rejoiced” (v.34).


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Sharon Ren