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Mission Without Walls—Acts 16

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas
  • Paul and Silas return to strengthen the churches established on the first missionary journey.  In Lystra, they enlist the help of Timothy, who becomes one of Paul’s most trusted associates (1 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 2:19-22; 1 Timothy 1:2).

16 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek.
  • Although Judeans believed that intermarriage with Gentiles invited God’s wrath, the few Jewish residents in a town such as Lystra probably were less strict.
  • Timothy is the first second-generation Christian mentioned in the NT.  His mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois (2 Timothy 1:5) had become believers and had faithfully influenced him for the Lord.  Although Timothy’s father apparently was not a Christian, the faithfulness of Timothy’s mother and grandmother prevailed.  Never underestimate the effect of godly parenting on a child.

 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
  • Timothy’s Gentile father apparently forbade his circumcision; Jewish people thus would view Timothy as a Gentile.
  • Although elsewhere Paul insists that circumcision is not necessary for salvation and that Gentiles who become circumcised are seeking to be saved through the works of the law (Galatians 2:3; 5:2), Paul did not compromise his principles by circumcising Timothy.  Timothy was half Jewish (his mother was Jewish, v. 1), and so he was viewed as Jewish in the eyes of most Jews.  Because Timothy was not circumcised (his father was Greek), Paul was accused of telling Jews not to circumcise their children.  Circumcising Timothy was therefore necessary for effective ministry and for maintaining table-fellowship with the Jews.
  • Timothy was not required to be circumcised, but he voluntarily did this to overcome any barriers to his witness for Christ.  Sometimes we need to go beyond the call of duty in order to further the Kingdom of God.

 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Paul’s Vision of the Man of Macedonia

  • Paul’s goal is to travel west to evangelize the Roman province of Asia.  But God has other plans and redirects them away from Asia and Bithynia to Macedonia.
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.
  • Much of Phrygia lay in the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia, and Phrygian Galatia is the region likely in view here.  (North Galatia was less populated and does not fit a journey from Lystra to Mysia.)  An important road led west to the prosperous and heavily populated Roman province of Asia (on the west coast of Asia Minor or today’s Turkey); Paul later ministers there (see. 19:10; Ephesus was its most prominent city).
  • Luke does not say how they Holy Spirit directed the missionaries.  It could have been through a vision, a dream, a prophecy, or circumstances.
  • To know God’s will does not mean we must hear his voice.  He leads in different ways.  When you are seeking God’s will, (1) make sure your plan is in harmony with God’s Word; (2) ask mature Christians for their advice; (3) check your own motives to see if you are seeking to do what you want or what you think God wants; (4) pray for God to open and close the doors as he desires.

 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.
  • They may have been at a city on the eastern border in northern Phrygia; there they could turn right to Bithynia in the north (a strategic region) or turn left to Mysia and Asia in the west.  They pass northwest through Mysia in v. 9.
  • “Spirit of Jesus”—Identifying the Holy Spirit, which Jewish people usually understood as God’s Spirit, with the Spirit of Jesus identifies Jesus as the divine, transcendent Lord.
  • The Holy Spirit had closed the door twice for Paul, so Paul must have wondered which geographical direction to take in spreading the Good News.  Then in a vision (16:9), Paul was given definite direction, and he and his companions obediently traveled to Macedonia.  The Holy Spirit guides us to the right places, but he also guides us away from the wrong places.  As we seek God’s will, we need to know what God wants us to do and where he wants us to go, but we also need to know what God does not want us to do and where he does not want us to go.

 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.
  • Troas—Alexandria Troas was a large Roman colony in northwestern Mysia, 10-15 miles south of old Troas, the site of the Trojan War.  Romans believed that they descended from the Trojans, so this site commanded great respect for them; it was the historic boundary between Europe and Asia in Greek legend (Homer) and history (Alexander the Great).  Some scholars estimate the population of Alexandria Troas at 100,000 people.  Geographically, Troas would have been time-consuming for the apostolic team to reach by their travel inland described in 16:7-8, but it was strategically located on the northern trade route between Macedonia (on to Rome) and Asia.  Its artificial harbor was the best harbor in the region, and it was consequently prosperous from trade.

 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
  • Macedonia had itself been a powerful empire, especially after the time of Alexander the Great, but Rome defeated it in 167 BC and made it a province in 146 BC.  Alexander had invaded Asia with Hellenistic culture, starting with Troas; here a different kind of message is about to spread from Asia to Europe.  Greeks divided the world into three continents: everything to their east was Asia and everything to the south was Africa.  By this definition, now used in the Roman Empire, Judea, like Asia Minor, belonged to Asia.
  • The text does not identify the Macedonian man, but some speculate that it may have been Luke himself, since the author joins the missionary group in the next verse.

 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
  • From this point forward, “we” recurs in some parts of the book, usually as a travel notice (and on Paul’s journeys to Jerusalem and Rome).  In ancient historical works, use of the first person almost always indicated the author’s action or narration (or in this case, his presence as part of a group).
  • This is the first “we” section, showing that Luke joins the missionary group at this point.  The “we” sections confirm that the author joins Paul briefly on this second missionary journey (vv. 9-40) and rejoins him at Philippi on Paul’s return from his third missionary journey (20:1-17).  Luke stays with Paul at Caesarea after Paul’s arrest and accompanies him to Rome (chs. 20-28).

Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi

  • Luke records three key events of the Philippian ministry: the conversion of Lydia (vv. 11-15), the exorcism of a demon-possessed fortune-telling slave girl (vv. 16-24), and the conversion of the Philippian jailer (vv. 25-40).  This demonstrates the power of the Gospel for all strata of society. The church Paul establishes at Philippi will be one of the most supportive of all his churches, a true partner in ministry (Philippians 1:5-6; 4:1).
  • Paul’s first convert in Philippi is Lydia, a worshiper of God (either a Gentile God-fearer or a Jewish convert) and a businesswoman who sells purple cloth, a luxury item.  Thyatira, her hometown, was famous for its purple goods.  It was located in the ancient kingdom of Lydia, so her name may mean “the Lydian woman.”  She obviously has significant means since she owns a home large enough to accommodate the missionaries and presumably to host a house church.

11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis.
  • From Troas to Neapolis was more than 150 miles.
  • Samothrace—This island was a rough midway point between Troas and Neapolis, and its high mountain made it easy to spot; the best port was in the capital city of the same name, on the island’s north shore.
  • Neapolis—The port town of Philippi, Macedonia’s best port besides Thessalonica.  The seasonal winds are more favorable for Paul’s voyage here than those in 20:6.

 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district[1] of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
  • Ten miles by land from the port of Neapolis, Philippi had been a Roman colony since 42 BC; its citizens were therefore citizens of Rome.  The city took its colonial status seriously: e.g., over 8o percent of its inscriptions are in Latin.  It was a largely agrarian town, and some estimate its population at only 10,000 or even 5000.  Nevertheless, it was prosperous, and its location was strategic as the eastern end of the major Via Egnatia, an overland route to the eastern coast of the Adriatic, thus connected to Italy by sea.
  • Thessalonica was Macedonia’s capital, but Philippi was the most respected city in the first of Macedonia’s four districts; Luke may simply call it a “leading city” without implying that no other cities merited the same title.
  • Later, Paul wrote a letter to the Philippian church, probably from a prison in Rome (AD 61).  The letter was personal and tender, showing Paul’s deep love for and friendship with the believers there.  In it he thanked them for a gift they had sent, alerted them to a coming visit by Timothy and Epaphroditus, urged the church to clear up any disunity, and encouraged the believers not to give in to persecution.

13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.
  • There is likely no synagogue in Philippi because of the small Jewish population (a synagogue required ten Jewish men), so the missionaries visit a Jewish “place of prayer” beside the river.
  • Inscribed on the arches outside the city of Philippi was a prohibition against bringing any unrecognized religion into the city; therefore, this prayer meeting was held outside the city, beside the river.
  • The Gangites River was about 1.5 miles to Philippi’s west, reached by means of the Via Egnatia (and outside the city gate); some scholars think that Luke instead means the creek Krenides, closer to Philippi, or an ancient stream on Philippi’s east.  In any case, Diaspora Jewish ritual included purifying their hands.  Thus, in a city without a synagogue, one would look for sympathizers with Judaism to gather on the Sabbath near water.  A large majority of Gentile sympathizers with Judaism were women, who would lose less status and, in the case of conversion, would not risk the pain of circumcision.
  • After following the Holy Spirit’s leading into Macedonia, Paul made his first evangelistic contact with a small group of women.  Paul never allowed gender or cultural boundaries to keep him from preaching the Good News.  He preached to these women, and Lydia, an influential merchant, believed.  This opened the way for ministry in that region.  God often worked in and through women in the early church.

 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.
  • Macedonian women exercised much more social power, including in religion, than did women in most of traditional Greece to the southwest.
  • Thyatira in western Asia Minor was strong in textiles; it was in the region of ancient Lydia, making Lydia a fitting name for this woman.  Some scholars believe that 10,000 crushed shellfish were needed to yield a single gram of the costliest purple dye, the sort from Tyre.  Some believe that dyers in Thyatira and Macedonia used a less expensive substance (the madder plant, for Thyatira).
  • It is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit, not the persuasiveness of the argument, that provokes a response of faith.

 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
  • Who constituted Lydia’s household is uncertain; it could have included servants, freed persons, or workers.  She apparently heads her own household, which could mean that she was widowed, divorced, or a prosperous freedwoman.
  • Dealers in purple could be persons of means, although Lydia is technically a foreigner in the city.  Hospitality was a prized virtue in the ancient Mediterranean world, and Lydia would count it an honor for this ministry team to stay with her.  It would not be unusual for Jewish people to provide guests lodging for three weeks if they found the guests trustworthy.  Inns were notorious for prostitution and other issues that made them less than ideal for Jewish travelers.  Perhaps 10 percent of ancient benefactors were women; nevertheless, critics of a movement could attack it for depending on women’s financial support.
  • Why was Lydia’s household baptized after Lydia responded in faith to the Good News?  Baptism was a public sign of identification with Christ and the Christian community.  Although all members of her household may not have chosen to follow Christ (we don’t know), it was now a Christian home.
  • Lydia practically begged for the opportunity to host Paul and Silas in her home.  Rather than seeing the men as a burden and their presence as a disruption of her family and business routine, Lydia laid out the welcome mat.  We practice hospitality when we generously and cordially throw open the doors of our homes to care for others.  In hospitality, we nurture, strengthen, and serve.  The result is that others find physical, spiritual, and emotional help.  When they leave us, they are healthier and more whole than when they came.  Is this your practice?

Paul and Silas in Prison

  • As so often throughout Acts, a disaster turns to success.  Though Paul and Silas are severely beaten and jailed for exorcising a demon from a fortune-telling salve girl, this setback turns to success when the jailer believes the gospel and the fledgling church in Philippi is strengthened.

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.
  • Literally “the spirit of a Python.”  Python was an epithet for Apollo, who had slain the dragon named Python; Apollo’s most famous temple, at Delphi, had a priestess known as a Pythoness, whose oracles were the most famous in antiquity.  She would go into a trance and utter obscure messages that the priests would interpret for the inquirers.  This spirit is thus associated with the highest-level pagan prophetic powers.
  • Both Greeks and Romans put great stock in divination.

 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”
  • Like the demons who recognized Jesus in the Gospels (Luke 4:34, 41; 8:28), the girl accurately recognizes Paul and his companions.  Identifying a spirit’s name was sometimes seen as a way to gain authority over it.
  • Most High God—Her utterance may relativize the uniqueness and necessity of faith in Christ by making Paul’s God simply the greatest in a pantheon.  Jewish people spoke of “the Most High God” (Daniel 5:18, 21), but so did Gentiles, who often applied it to Zeus and/or to the Jewish God.  Ancient magic often acknowledged the Jewish God as the strongest because Jews had only one God; magical papyri sometimes tried to replicate and exploit the secret (unpronounced) holy name of YHWH.
  • “come out—left—was gone”—All three verbs reflect one Greek word.  Luke makes a play on words by repeating the same word to describe both the demon and the owner’s hope of profit as departing.  The girl’s owners do not care about her well-being but only about losing their profit.

 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
  • One method of exorcism was to invoke more powerful spirits to drive out lower one.  Here, however, Paul speaks on the basis of Jesus’ delegated authority.
  • Paul likely casts the demon out because it irritates him and disrupts their ministry.
  • What the slave girl said was true, although the source of her knowledge was a demon.  Why did a demon announce the truth about Paul, and why did this annoy Paul?  If Paul accepted the demon’s words, he would appear to be linking the Good News with demon-related activities.  This would damage his message about Christ.  Truth and evil do not mix.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.
  • The marketplace refers not to Philippi’s commercial agora, after the Greek model, but to its nearby central agora, its forum following the Roman model.  This large forum—230 feet by 485 feet was intersected by the Via Egnatia that ran through Philippi and on through Macedonia to the west.
  • The Philippi’s two highest official, the duoviri, would not normally look for criminals but waited for accusers to bring charges, as here.  The accusations would be brought to a raised platform close to the forum’s north entrance.
  • Faced with the loss of their slave girl’s fortune-telling ability, the Philippian entrepreneurs were furious.  Never mind that Paul and Silas were speaking eternal truths, never mind that the poor slave girl had been delivered from an awful existence; these men could only bemoan their economic loss!  The gospel would also later hurt Ephesian idol makers financially (Acts 19), resulting in a citywide riot.  When people care more about their own economic well-being than the glory of God and the salvation of lost souls, it is a clear sign of idolatry, greed, and worldliness.

 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
  • Anti-Judaism was fashionable and would be especially embraced in this Roman colony at this time if the emperor Claudius had already expelled Jewish people from Rome (18:2).  A group of resident aliens (e.g., Egyptians or Judeans), who were neither descendants of the indigenous population or Roman colonists, were allowed to have their own community within a city, but their social situation could be precarious, and they dared not challenge the city’s traditional customs.  Many aristocratic Romans hated Jewish people because the latter proved so effective in winning converts, especially women.  Greek anti-Judaism was often even more dangerous, as exemplified in the earlier persecutions by Antiochus Epiphanes and the subsequent massacre of Alexandria’s massive Jewish population by that city’s Greek residents.  Philippi, though a Roman colony, apparently had a very small Jewish population that made an easy target.
  • Ancient readers disliked demagogues and rabble-rousers, precisely what the missionaries’ accusers are presenting here.  Because the accusers might not win a case on the grounds of property damage, they charge the missionaries with disturbing the peace, a charge that Roman officials would punish harshly.  The accusers, who are probably Roman citizens, can feel assured that their accusation will win in court, because those of higher status could usually prosecute cases successfully against those of lower status.  Philippi, proud of its Roman status, gave first preference to citizens of the colony, who were Roman citizens.  What the accusers do not imagine is that the accused, who have not flaunted their status, will also turn out to be Roman citizens (v. 37).

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods.
  • Prisoners were normally stripped naked for punishment; this action was intended to humiliate prisoners and could be particularly humiliating for Jewish prisoner or other modest peoples from the east.
  • The officials’ six lictors carried bundles of rods; these rods were used as an emblem of the officials’ authority but also useful for beating prisoners.  It was illegal to inflict this punishment on untried Roman citizens, though it sometimes happened where (say, in Jerusalem) officials believed that redress would be difficult.  Paul and Silas may not yet understand that in Philippi this illegality will be taken seriously (v. 38).
  • In 1 Thessalonians 2:2 Paul speaks of being “treated outrageously in Philippi.”

 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.
  • The filth and lack of good toilets facilities in prisons raised the risk of infection for the missionaries’ wounds. Clothing and, apart from subsistence-level sustenance, food had to be supplied from outside, and those helping prisoners often had to bribe guards to get this help to them.  Prisoners normally slept on cold floors with only their outer garment as bedding.
  • Chief jailer tended to be well paid for their harshness.
  • Paul and Silas illustrate Christian joy and peace in the midst of suffering (Matthew 5:11-12; Romans 5:3; James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6; 4:13).  Peter slept soundly while in Prison (12:6).  Here the missionaries sing and praise God.

 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
  • Ordered to “guard them carefully” (v. 23), the chief jailer has them placed in the inner prison.  This room was the most poorly ventilated part, and if the jailer detained all the prisoners there for the night (as was sometimes done), it would be crowded.  
  • Wood stocks fastened to the floor added both security and a further element of suffering, making movement difficult.  These punishments were considered appropriate only for people of low status, and certainly not for untired Roman citizens.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
  • People usually went to sleep close to sundown or a little later, though the inner cell would lack access to outside light.
  • Even Gentiles respected sages who, in accordance with their principles, could rejoice in affliction. Cf. Psalm 119:61-62.
  • Paul and Silas, who had committed no crime and who were peaceful men, were put in stocks designed for holding the most dangerous prisoners in absolute security.  Despite this dismal situation, they praised God, praying and singing as the other prisoners listened.  No matter what our circumstances, we should praise God.  Others may come to Christ because of our example.

 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.
  • Earthquakes are common in this region, though the timing of this one is certainly miraculous.
  • Most people in antiquity attributed earthquakes to the activity of God or pagan deities.  A normal earthquake would not open doors and break everyone’s chains while leaving everyone unharmed.  For shaking after prayer, cf. 4:31.

 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.
  • Although the chief jailer could not be held responsible for the earthquake, he could be deemed negligent for inadequate or sleeping staff.  Rather than face execution, Romans often preferred suicide.  Although some reasons for or forms of suicide were considered cowardly, Romans considered falling on one’s sword in such circumstances noble. (Christian thinkers who addressed the topic in subsequent centuries disagreed, affirming that only God has the right to take life.)

 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
  • Roman law punished harshly those who escaped detention, but some sources suggest that officials might give special treatment to those who refused to flee when they had the opportunity.

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.
  • Given the inner cell’s darkness, the chief jailer’s subordinates quickly procured torches.

 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
  • His question reflects some knowledge of the original situation behind their charge (v. 17), or it could have come from hearing them speaking, singing, and praying about the “salvation” available through Jesus Christ.  In a context such as this one, “sirs” could mean “lords,” but in v. 31 the missionaries point the jailer to the true Lord (the same term in Greek).

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
  • Ancient households usually followed the religion of the head of the household.  (They did not always do so, but it was the norm, and it often embarrassed the husband when his wife or children did not.)
  • Ironically, the purpose of the earthquake is not to physically save Paul and Silas (who do not leave) but to spiritually save the jailer.
  • This is the simply yet profound answer to the desperate cry of the repentant sinner.
  • The Good News of salvation is simply expressed:  Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved (see Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 2:11).  When we recognize Jesus as Lord and trust in him with our entire lives, salvation is assured to us.

 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.
  • The jailer must have taken Paul and Silas to his home so his whole household could hear the message of salvation.  As in the case of Cornelius and his household (10:48), scholars debate whether only those who personally expressed faith in Jesus were baptized or whether infants were included.
  • Taking prisoners out of custody without authorization risked severe punishment.
  • Jails were often in cities’ public areas, where fountains and other water sources existed.  Prisoners in jail lacked the means to wash themselves.
  • The jailer washed and, perhaps from the same water source, received washing.

 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
  • Fraternizing with prisoners risked severe punishment.
  • Because it is unlikely that the jailer had available food prepared in a kosher manner, Paul and Silas also value the acceptance of hospitality (cf. Luke 10:8) above conventional purity regulations (Leviticus 11).  On the usual diet of prisoners, see v. 23; here, however, they would eat the sort of food the jailer had available.
  • Paul and Silas took the family unit seriously.  So the offer of salvation was made to the jailer’s entire household—family and servants.  Yet it was not the jailer’s faith that saved them; they all needed to come to Jesus in faith and believe in him in the same way the jailer had.  His entire family did believe, and all were saved.  Pray that God will use you to introduce Jesus to your family and that they will come to believe in Him.

35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.”
  • The rapid release may be because the magistrates recognized the earthquake as a divine sign but may be simply because the magistrates deemed the previous day’s punishment sufficient warning to deter further problems.  (That they had so readily accommodated a mob in v. 22 suggests that crowd control was a higher priority for them in the case than individual justice.)

 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”
  • Possibly the jailer informed them that their rights as Roman citizens, violated in v. 22, would actually be taken seriously in Philippi.  The name Paul was a cognomen almost always used only by roman citizens.  If Paul did not carry documents attesting his citizenship, it could be verified by records in Tarsus.  (A false claim on this matter was not normally expected since it would lead, once checked, to execution.)  Paul’s ancestors may have acquired citizenship after being freed from slavery in Rome.
  • Citizenship could be acquired by various means: being born to a citizen (as Paul was); under some conditions, being a freed slave of a Roman citizen (as Paul’s ancestors may have been); being a citizen of a Roman colony, such as Philippi or Corinth; being a veteran from the Roman army’s auxiliary forces; and, more rarely, an honor granted individuals for special service to Rome.  Some also purchased it with bribes (see 22:28).

38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city.
  • The officials could punish may people without trial, but not Roman citizens; the penalty for so treating Roman citizens could include being removed from office, or even trouble for the entire city.  While in practice such behavior was overlooked in some places, Philippi was too self-consciously Roman to overlook it.  Public honor and shame were important issues in this society; if Paul and Silas left town without some public vindication, it would be more difficult for the church in Philippi.  The officials, however, do not want to admit wrong very publicly, so after accompanying Paul and Silas as demanded, they want them and their controversies to leave town.
  • Paul’s insistence on an apology may seem arrogant, but in a first-century culture of honor and shame, public vindication was essential to legitimize Paul and the church he established. The church was founded not by shady Jewish itinerants who slunk out of town but by esteemed Roman citizens.  Luke takes pains throughout Acts to show that Christianity is legally innocent.

 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
  • By visiting the believers rather than leaving immediately, Paul and Silas reaffirm their honor; but they quickly comply with the officials’ demands rather than risk consequences for the church.
  • They leave the city on the Via Egnatia, which will take them to the cities mentioned in 17:1.

[1] Acts 16:12 The text and meaning of the Greek for the leading city of that district are uncertain.

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