Acts: Chapter 16
Joy in all Things: Acts 16 displays the beauty of Christian joy, that joy is not tied only to triumph in the faith but also defeat. Acts chapter 16 starts off with Paul and Silas embarking on Paul’s second missionary journey. The journey begins with them finding Timothy and training him up in the Gospel. Then they receive a divine vision from God directing them to Macedonia and then Philippi. Once they arrive in Philippi they meet Lydia, and she converts to Christianity and places her faith in Jesus Christ, and, not only Lydia, but also her entire household. After the church grows in Philippi, they are approached by an enemy of the Gospel, a demon-possessed slave girl. The demon is mocking the faith, and Paul expels the demon from the child. Paul and Silas up to this point have been immensely victorious. They have experienced personal discipleships, they have seen a divine vision, they are bringing whole families to Jesus, and even casting out demons. But, now they experience a defeat, or at least what most people would call a defeat. They are publicly beaten and then thrown in prison. But, even in defeat, when they are weakest, so they rejoice. Luke is trying to teach us that joy is not merely a reaction to good things experienced, rather, joy is a complete change of the heart and soul. True joy is to know and have Jesus Christ. To have Jesus Christ causes one to be joyful in all things, to know and love Christ is to know and love God. To have Christ is to have eternity. So, this allows us to rejoice in the good and the bad! For in all things, whether sickness, persecution, defamation, financial decline, and even death, we have our savior, Jesus Christ by our side, and His Spirit in our hearts. As Paul later writes back to the church at Philippi, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern forme. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, Ihave learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” The entire meaning of “I can do all things through Christ” is tied to persecution and hunger. For when we are starving without food we still have the Bread of Life; For when we are thirsty and without drink, we have the fountain of Living Hope; For when we are cursed by the world, we have the Promise of the Holy Spirit. Let the Joy of Jesus Christ and the hope of the resurrection permeate your heart and soul. Let it change the way you live this week!
Timothy: “Honouring God, a young disciple who was Paul's companion in many of his journeyings. His mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, are mentioned as eminent for their piety (2 Timothy 1:5). We know nothing of his father but that he was a Greek (Acts 16:1). He is first brought into notice at the time of Paul's second visit to Lystra (16:2), where he probably resided, and where it seems he was converted during Paul's first visit to that place (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:11). The apostle having formed a high opinion of his "own son in the faith," arranged that he should become his companion (Acts 16:3), and took and circumcised him, so that he might conciliate the Jews. He was designated to the office of an evangelist (1 Timothy 4:14), and went with Paul in his journey through Phrygia, Galatia, and Mysia; also to Troas and Philippi and Berea (Acts 17:14). Thence he followed Paul to Athens, and was sent by him with Silas on a mission to Thessalonica (17:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:2). We next find him at Corinth (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1) with Paul. He passes now out of sight for a few years, and is again noticed as with the apostle at Ephesus (Acts 19:22), whence he is sent on a mission into Macedonia. He accompanied Paul afterwards into Asia (20:4), where he was with him for some time. When the apostle was a prisoner at Rome, Timothy joined him (Philippians 1:1), where it appears he also suffered imprisonment (Hebrews 13:23). During the apostle's second imprisonment he wrote to Timothy, asking him to rejoin him as soon as possible, and to bring with him certain things which he had left at Troas, his cloak and parchments (2 Timothy 4:13). According to tradition, after the apostle's death he settled in Ephesus as his sphere of labour, and there found a martyr's grave.”
Lydia: “A woman of Thyatira, residing at Philippi in Macedonia, and dealing in purple clothes. She was not a Jewess by birth, but had become a proselyte to Judaism and "worshipped God." She was led by the grace of God to receive the gospel with joy; and having been baptized, with her household, constrained Paul and his fellow-laborers to make her house their home while at Philippi. Acts 16:14,40.”
Galatia - “This province was directly east of Phrygia. The region was formerly conquered by the Gauls. They settled in it, and called it, after their own name, Galatia. The Gauls invaded the country at different times, and no less than three tribes or bodies of Gauls had possession of it. Many Jews were also settled there. It was from this cause that so many parties could be formed there, and that so much controversy would arise between the Jewish and Gentile converts”.
Mysia - “This was a province of Asia Minor, having Propontis on the north, Bithynia on the east, Lydia on the south, and the Aegean Sea on the west.
Bytnia - bequeathed to the Roman Republic in 74 BC, and became united with the Pontus region as the province of Bithynia et Pontus.”
Troas — “a city on the coast of Mysia, in the north-west of Asia Minor, named after ancient Troy, which was at some little distance from it (about 4 miles) to the north.”
Macedonia - “This was an extensive country of Greece, having Thrace on the north, Thessaly south, Epirus west, and the Aegean Sea east. It is supposed that it was populated by Kittim, son of Javan, Genesis 10:4. The kingdom rose into celebrity chiefly under the reign of Philip and his son, Alexander the Great. It was the first region in Europe in which we have any record that the gospel was preached.”
Samothrace - “This was an island in the Aegean Sea not far from Thrace. It was populated by inhabitants from Samos and from Thrace, and hence called Samothracia. It was about 20 miles in circumference, and was an asylum for fugitives and criminals.
Neapolis - There were many cities of this name; but this was a sea-port town of Macedonia, a few miles eastward of Philippi. Neapolis signifies the new city.”
Philippi - “This was a town of Macedonia, in the territory of the Edones, on the confines of Thrace, situated on the side of a steep eminence. It took its name from Philip II., king of Macedon. It is famous for two battles, fought between the imperial army, commanded by Octavianus, afterwards Augustus, and Mark Antony, and the republican army, commanded by Brutus and Cassius, in which these were successful; and a second, between Octavianus and Antony on the one part, and Brutus on the other. In this battle the republican troops were cut to pieces, after which Brutus killed himself. It was to the Church in this city that St. Paul wrote the epistle that still goes under their name.
A Roman colony - That is, a colony of Rome; for it appears that a colony was planted here by Julius Caesar, and afterwards enlarged by Augustus; the people, therefore, were considered as freemen of Rome, and, from this, call themselves Romans.”
Thyatira - “This was a city of Lydia, in Asia Minor, now called Akhisar. The art of dyeing was early cultivated in the neighborhood of Thyatira, as we learn from Homer (Iliad, iv. 141), and as is confirmed by inscriptions found in that city - a circumstance which may be referred to as confirming the veracity of the statements of Luke even in his casual allusions.”
Why was Timothy circumcised? - “Having a Greek father, Timothy had not been circumcised, though by Jewish law the child of a Gentile father and a Jewish mother was considered Jewish. Because of the Jews who were in those places”. Paul never abandoned his Jewish heritage, and so he circumcised Timothy. It was all the more necessary if Timothy was to join his mission. He did not want to fight on nonessentials (1 Cor. 9:19-21). Paul always began in the synagogues, and to have an uncircumcised Jew with him would have made any witness to Jews much more difficult. (Since Timothy had grown up in this region, the Jews would have known of his mixed family background.)”
A Place of Prayer - “The places of prayer, or proseuche, were in locations where there were no synagogues. These were places of prayer outside of towns where the Jews were too poor to have synagogues, or were not permitted to have them. They were generally located near the water for the convenience of ablution, sometimes a large building was erected; but frequently the proseuche was simply a retired place in the open air or in a grove. Proseuche is translated “chapel.” Even today it is not uncommon to find a chapel or similar structure in a grove, forest, or alongside a lake, or other peaceful body of water.”
A Roman to the Romans - “Paul protested on behalf of himself and Silas that they had been treated illegally. Roman citizens should not be condemned or punished without receiving a fair trial and having an opportunity to defend themselves. Yet they had been summarily beaten and imprisoned on the magistrates’ orders. Paul was concerned for the public reputation of his gospel message and also, no doubt, for the good standing of the church that was being established in Philippi. Thus he insisted on public vindication lest the people of Philippi continue to believe that he was a troublemaker and a law breaker, ideas that would have presented barriers to the gospel in Philippi for years to come. Paul wanted to make it clear that a mistake had been made. Christianity is no threat to Rome citizens. When the lictors went back to them with Paul’s message, both the magistrates (praetors, to give them their honorific title) came to the prison, escorted the missionaries out and begged them to leave the city. Roman citizens could not be summarily ejected from a Roman colony, but the praetors felt unable to undertake responsibility for two such unpopular Romans.”
Voices of the Past
From the Depths they Sang Out - ”The devotion of the apostles’ hearts and the power of prayer are expressed [here] together, since in the depths of the prison they sang hymns, and their praise moved the earth of the prison, shook the foundation, opened the doors, and finally loosened the very chains of those who had been bound. In other words, anyone who is of the faithful (a Christian) “considers it all joy when he falls into various trials.” And he gladly glorifies in his infirmities, so that the power of Christ may dwell in him. Someone with this mindset will undoubtedly sing hymns along with Paul and Silas within the darkness of prison, and with the Psalmist recite to the Lord, “You are my refuge from the distress which surrounds me, you are my exaltation.”
Philippians 4:10-13. ESV.
Easton’s Bible Dictionary. “Timothy.”
ATS Bible Dictionary. “Lydia.”
ESV Study Bible, p.2117.
J.M. Freeman & H.J. Chadwick. Manners & Customs of the Bible. pp.525-536
Bruce, F.F. Commentaries on Acts. Chapter 16:35-40; ESV Study Bible, p.2120
Bede. Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. 16:25.