In the closing verses of chapter 15, we have the account of sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas, which resulted in their separation. They had labored together on the first missionary journey, but when about to start out together again, they could not agree on the question of taking John Mark along with them. John had started with them on the first journey, but left the work and returned home. Therefore, Paul was determined not to take him again.
However, it seems that the Lord over-ruled in the controversy. Two missionary teams went out in the place of one. Barnabas and Mark sailed for Cyprus and Paul chose Silas and departed through Syria and Cilicia.
The Holy Spirit records the further ministries of Paul, even unto his death; but the story of Barnabas ends with his separation from Paul.
Timothy Added to Paul’s Co-Workers
As Paul and Silas came to Derbe and Lystra in their efforts to confirm the disciples which Paul and Barnabas had made on the first missionary journey, they found among the converts one named Timotheus (Timothy). This young man was undoubtedly saved through Paul’s ministry on his first missionary journey. His mother was a Jewess believer, “but his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1).
Timothy was “well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2) and was fully acquainted with the “persecution” and “afflictions” which Paul endured in those two cities on his first missionary journey (II Timothy 3:10-11).
Paul desired Timothy “to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:3). It seems that Timothy was entirely willing to leave all and go unto the ministry with Paul, not counting the cost. `And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily” (Acts 16:4-5).
We call attention to the fact that the ministry of Paul, Silas and Timothy among the churches was in keeping with the “decrees” that were ordained “of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.” This does not mean that these missionaries were working under orders from Jerusalem. It means that they were fulfilling their commission from God which bound them to go “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
Paul and his co-workers were not laboring under the commission which God gave to the eleven in Matthew 28:16-20. This is evidenced by the fact that the Holy Spirit forbade them preach the Word in certain places and commanded them to preach in others. The so-called “great commission” of Matthew 28 instructed the eleven to go unto “all nations;” but Paul and his co-workers were strictly forbidden “to preach the Word in Asia” (Acts 16:6). Again, “after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not” (Acts 16:7). This helps us to understand that we, who are members of the body of Christ, having been called out in this dispensation of the mystery, which was revealed through Paul and none other, are not to take our marching orders from the commission of Matthew 28:16-20, or Mark 16:14-20.
The action of the Holy Spirit in connection with the ministry of Paul and his co-workers does not in any way conflict with the commission given to Peter and the eleven. It merely reveals the fact that God was beginning to work out through Paul and his company another divine purpose, separate and distinct from that which He was working on through Peter and the eleven, namely, the calling out of a heavenly company, which was later to be known as the body of Christ.
The Macedonian Vision
As Paul and his companions passed by Mysia and “came down to Troas,” God gave them a clear call to change the course of their ministry—”And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedonia and prayed him, saying, come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:8-9).
At this point Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, is added to Paul’s company. In verse 10, for the first time, he says, “we” and “us.” “And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel unto them” (Acts 16:10). This verse also reveals the fact that Luke was not only a physician but a preacher of the gospel. He said, “the Lord had called us to preach the gospel.”
This turn on the part of the missionaries meant the preaching of the gospel in Europe instead of Asia. This should be of great interest to both Europe and America. We have reaped much benefit from this choice on the part of the Holy Spirit. It was evidently made on a basis of His marvelous grace and foreknowledge. Such a choice on the part of God places heavy responsibility upon us. We remember His words, “he that knoweth little of him little is expected.” We have been given the truth and God expects us to pass it on. We have been given an opportunity and God expects us to take advantage of it. As individuals, we are not responsible for what our forefathers have done with their opportunities; but we are responsible for our own lives and for the service we render to the God of glory who has so richly endowed us.
A Women’s Prayer Meeting
Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke moving under the direction of the Holy Spirit into Macedonia settled in one of the chief cities of that country—”And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither” (Acts 16:12-13).
In these verses we gather the information that there was no synagogue in Philippi. This is evidenced by the fact that the meeting was held by a river side. We also discover that the men in that meeting were conspicuous because of their absence. So far as the scriptures reveal, the missionaries found that only women had resorted to this place of prayer. So the first meeting in Macedonia was a prayer meeting and the first people of those parts to receive the message given by Paul were women.
Among these women there was one who receives special mention. She was “a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God.” Luke speaks further of her as one “whose heart the Lord opened.” She heard Paul and the others of his company and first opened her heart and then opened her home. Someone has said that it took an earthquake to open the heart of the Philippian jailor; but this woman heard the Word and quietly opened her heart. The same is true in our day. Some people have to be shocked by the judgment of God before receiving the truth. Others hear and receive quietly. It reminds us of the words of the Lord to Thomas, “Because thou hast seen Me, thou has believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Both Lydia and her household were baptized. This is in keeping with the new covenant message to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Household baptism harmonizes with the promise of the kingdom made to Abraham and his children. We remember how the household was included and every member of the family protected by the blood on the doorposts in Exodus, chapter 12. The lamb was slain for the household. We are also reminded of Paul’s testimony to the Corinthian believers—”Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea: and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that rock was Christ” (I Cor. 10:1-4). The “all” of these verses include men, women and children, even the infants. They were all baptized unto Moses. The same is true of the Philippian jailor. When God dealt with Israel, He dealt with them by households. The nation of Israel was a household representing the kingdom of God on earth. The church, which is the body of Christ, is the household of God in the heavenlies. That is, every member has an heavenly citizenship.
Paul and Silas Beaten and Imprisoned
When the Lord begins to answer prayer and use his Word, in any community, the devil begins to work his subtle schemes in direct opposition to God’s plan and purpose. Hearts were being opened to God’s truth and homes were being opened to God’s servants in Philippi. The Lord was using the testimonies of Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke in this new missionary field into which God had led them. He was hearing and answering the prayers that were regularly going up from the hearts of those few believers who met together by the river side just outside the city of Philippi.
The devil both fears and hates God’s praying believers and God’s faithful preachers. Verses 16 through 21 of this 16th chapter of Acts, set forth one of Satan’s most subtle and hypocritical schemes against Paul and Silas and the little company of co-workers and believers who stood with them in this Roman governed city. We quote these verses—”And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: the same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, and brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.”
This poor slave-girl, who was possessed with an evil spirit, “brought her masters much gain by soothsaying” (Acts 16:16). Her kind today are known as “mediums”. They are increasing rapidly through the widespread movement of “spiritism” and we may expect this satanic movement to continue with increasing power as this age draws to a close. God will permit Satan to produce more spiritualist mediums and to give them more power as we move closer to the manifestation of the anti-Christ and his “image” that will be given “life” and will “speak” the death sentence to all who refuse to bow before him in worship (Rev. 13:15).
Notice the truthfulness of the testimony borne by the demon through the damsel. She followed after Paul and his company as they “went to prayer,” saying, “these men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:16-17).
The devil may have spoken the truth through this certain demon on this certain occasion thinking Paul would accept the testimony of the damsel and thereby involve himself in fellowship with Satan. On the other hand, Satan may have spoken these words of truth through the demon-possessed girl in order to discredit the Lord and His Word. At any rate, Paul took the same course that His Lord had taken on a former occasion when the demon spoke the truth concerning His deity (Luke 4:34-35). He commanded the demon “in the name of Jesus Christ” to come out of the damsel, “and he came out the same hour” (Acts 16:18).
When Satan realized that he could no longer hinder the work of God in Philippi through preaching the truth through his demons, he began to preach a lie and practice hypocrisy through the “masters” of the slave-girl (Acts 16:19-21). These men saw that the “hope of their gains was gone.” They could no longer use her as a soothsayer and get large sums of money for her services. That which was gain for the poor little slave-girl was loss to her greedy masters.
They brought Paul and Silas before the “magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.” They lied. Paul and Silas did not “teach customs” in Philippi, they preached the gospel. These men were hypocritical in that they pretended to be working in behalf of their “city” and in behalf of the Roman laws, when, in reality, they were thinking only of the loss of their ill-gotten gain.
The reaction on the part of the multitude, in the market place of the city, to these false accusations is typical of Satan’s crowd. They “rose up together” against Paul and Silas. Even though different individuals and different groups among the ungodly masses may be at variance, one against the other, they usually get together in one force against the truth and purpose of God. Satan has a way of getting his forces to work in unity against God’s message and against God’s messenger. This is illustrated by the “one mind” of the “ten kings” in Rev. 17:12-14.
The “masters” stirred up the “multitude,” the multitude swayed the “magistrates” and the magistrates “rent off their clothes and commanded to beat” Paul and Silas. “And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stock” (Acts 16:22-24). Paul recalls this shameful treatment in I Thessalonians 2:2.
“Songs in the Night”
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25). These soldiers of the cross knew the God of glory “who giveth songs in the night” (Job 35:10). Like David of old, they could say, “yet the Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life” (Psalms 42:8).
Though suffering from their ill treatment, Paul and Silas were given additional strength to bear the added trials laid upon them. The severe beatings together with the pain and suffering that goes along with being fastened in the “stocks” was enough to exhaust them completely. Yet, at midnight, in spite of the thick walls and ponderous doors of the dungeon, the prisoners heard their prayers and songs.
The Over-ruling Power of God
“And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prisons were shaken: and immediately all of the doors were opened, and everyone’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors opened, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the Word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:26-34).
This simple story of the jailor’s conversion needs no comment. He wanted to know what he must do to be saved. He was told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Both he and his house heard this simple word of instruction through the Spirit-filled men of God and were saved. Since these converts were brought into the family of God while the message was going out to the Jew first and also to the Gentile and in a time when God had not yet set aside the nation of Israel, it was entirely in line for them to be baptized after they had believed. Note the difference between the order in Acts 2:38 and that of Acts 16:31. The reason for this is the fact that the jailor and his family were Gentiles.
In verses 35 to 40, we see Paul freed by the magistrates, who were anxious to have him depart in peace and quietness. They did not realize that he was a Roman and that they had violated the Roman laws by beating him and casting him into prison without a trial.
When Paul and Silas left the prison, they went back to the house of Lydia: “and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.”
There is a lesson here for every Christian. Let us take our trials as coming from God, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able to bear; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it. He often works out some important part of His plan and purpose through the trials of His children. Our place is to present to Him our bodies without a reservation, saying, “Have Thine own way Lord, have Thine own way, Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.”