Summary Acts 16:11-40:
In Philippi, a Roman colony in Greece, Paul and the gang met with a group of women on the Sabbath outside the city (this tells us there was not a synagogue there at this time). Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, was converted and baptized along with others and invited them to stay at her home.
A demon-possessed slave girl began to follow the group around until Paul was so troubled he commanded the spirit out of her. The girl’s owners who no longer could make money off of her, seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the magistrates, accusing them of violating Roman customs. They were stripped, beaten, and thrown in jail.
In jail, whilst singing, an earthquake happened that threw open the prison doors. The jailer was distraught; but seeing the miracle he and his family became converts and were baptized.
Paul and Silas were then released. However, Paul announced his Roman citizenship, striking fear in the magistrates, who then tried to appease them. The group said good-bye to Lydia and the other converts, offering encouragement, and left.
BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 17, Day 3: Acts 16:11-40
6) We aren’t told in general how Paul and the others were received. We are told of a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, who worshipped God and invited them to stay with her and we’re told of a slave girl who was possessed and Paul told the demon to come out. When he did this, the slave girl’s owners became mad and Paul and Silas were thrown in prison.
7) Personal Question. My answer: You don’t know who God will save through you, so you have to shine the light of Christ everywhere you go like Paul and Silas did in prison and saved the jailer.
8a) Paul and Silas were dragged before the magistrates for admonishing an evil spirit, and they were accused of advocating unlawful practices for Romans. They were stripped, beaten, and thrown into jail.
Paul and Silas began singing prayers and an earthquake threw the doors of the prison open. The jailer and his family was then converted, baptized, and saved by Paul and Silas, and they were eventually set free.
The jailer and his family were saved for eternity. Lydia and the other women were saved as well. Lydia was the first European convert to Christianity so the seed was planted which would spread to convert thousands more.
b) Personal Question. My answer: You must persevere through opposition and run the race that God has set before you despite those who would oppose you. The end goal is souls saved.
Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 17, Day 3: Acts 16:11-40
I love how women are featured prominently in this section of the Bible. Lydia must have been rich if she dealt in purple cloth, which was reserved for only royalty at the time, and she was a merchant. Yet, she was unafraid of being a Christian. The slave girl caused Paul and Silas to go to prison where the jailer was saved. Every circumstance in our lives has a purpose. We must remember that.
This link is a cool interactive map of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey HERE
End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 17, Day 3: Acts 16:11-40
Paul and his missionary team (now including Luke) had to sail across the Aegean Sea, from the continent of Asia to the continent of Europe.
“That they ‘sailed straight for Samothrace’ is quite revealing, because this is a nautical expression that means the wind was at their backs. So perfect were the winds that they sailed 156 miles in just two days, whereas returning the other way at a later time (Acts 20:6) it took five days.” (Hughes)
The fact that the Jews of Philippi had no synagogue and met by the river means that there were not many Jewish men in Philippi.
The dyes used for making purple were expensive and highly regarded. This woman was the first convert in Europe.
Thyatira was well known as a center for this purple dye and fabric made from it. Later, there was a church in Thyatira also, and it was one of the seven churches addressed in Revelation (Revelation 2:18-29).
The Demon-Possessed Slave Girl
This girl, though demon possessed, was a source of money for her owners as a fortune teller, as the demons gave her supernatural insight into the lives of others.
“It actually says, ‘She had a spirit of Pythona.’ ‘Pythona’ was a certain kind of snake – a python. It is used here because the python was associated with the god Apollo…not far from Philippi, in this very area of Europe, there was a shrine to the Pythian Apollo.” (Boice)
Jesus cast out demons with His own authority. Paul was careful to speak to demons only in the authority of Jesus Christ, and he spoke beyond the afflicted girl to the demon itself with this authority of Jesus.
Why Arrest Paul and Silas?
Paul and Silas were singled out not only because there were the leaders of the evangelistic group, but also, by their appearance, they were the most obviously Jewish. This is indicated by how they began their accusation: “These men, being Jews.”
- Luke was a Gentile, and Timothy was only half Jewish. Paul and Silas looked Jewish,
In the Roman Empire there were two very different laws: one for citizens of the Roman Empire, and one for those who were not citizens. Roman citizens had specific, zealously guarded civil rights. Non-citizens had no civil rights, and were subject to the whims of both the multitude and the magistrates.
Since they assumed Paul and Barnabas were not Roman citizens, they were offended that these obviously Jewish men harassed Roman citizens with their strange religion of a crucified Savior.
Jewish legal tradition gave a maximum number of blows that could be delivered when beating a person, but the Romans had no such limit. We simply know Paul and Silas were severely beaten. Paul later wrote of his life: In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. (2 Corinthians 11:23)
Joy in Prison
Though they were arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for doing good, Paul and Silas were filled with joy, and sang praises to God.
The Roman Law
Under Roman law and custom, guards who allowed their prisoners to escape received the penalty of their escaped prisoners. Knowing this, Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” He assured the jailer that no one had escaped.
- It would have been easy for Paul and Silas to escape, thinking God provided another miraculous jailbreak. But to them, the lives of others were more important than their own personal freedom and comfort.
- The circumstances said, “escape.” But love said, “Stay for the sake of this one soul.” They were not guided merely by circumstances, but by what love compelled.
This is how God wants our lives to be: Natural magnets drawing people to Him. Our Christianity should make others want what we have with God.
The same jailer who had punished them now cared for Paul and Silas, caring for their wounds and he set food before them. This shows how repentant he was and how he followed the example of love shown by Paul and Silas.
Paul and Silas returned to the prison willingly to spare the jailer certain death.
The Purpose of the Earthquake
- The earthquake was clearly supernatural because of its timing, location, and in the way all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.
- The earthquake had absolutely nothing to do with freeing Paul and Silas from prison. But it had everything to do with the salvation of a certain prison guard and his household.
God’s Will Over Our Will
Why didn’t Paul and Silas reveal their Roman citizenship earlier? It is possible that they didn’t have the opportunity, but it is more likely that the Holy Spirit directed them to not reveal it until a certain time.
It was a grave offense to treat Roman citizens as Paul and Silas had been treated.
Our rights are not as important as our obedience to the will of God. God may ask us to lay down our rights for the good of another (in this case, for the good of the Philippian jailer).
In Philippi, Paul and Silas left behind two notable converts: Lydia and the prison guard. Each of these two had their lives touched by Jesus in very different ways.
The use of “they” here suggests that Luke stayed behind in Philippi for at least a while, perhaps to care for this new congregation.