Acts: For the Cause of Christ #24
Title: Paul’s Second Journey – Pt 2 – Paul’s Philippian Adventure
Review of 15:36-16:12
Last time we saw as Paul started his second journey. He and Barnabas decided to not serve together on this trip as Barnabas was determined to take John Mark along. Paul chose Silas and headed back to Southern Galatia. He and Silas added Timothy to the team at Lystra before continuing on. As they sought to continue on the Lord kept them from going in to the Provinces of Asia and Bithynia. Then when they reached the city of Troas, the Lord sent Paul a vision directing them to go into Macedonia, the northern region of Greece. This would also bring the gospel into Europe.
Philippi – vv 11-15
As we see here in the opening portion of our passage. Philippi was a Roman colony. This plays a big role in the coming events of this passage, so we should have an understanding on what a Roman colony was.
Philippi was named a Roman Colony by Caesar Augustus around 42 BC. Colonies were usually created as a place for Roman veterans to have homes as well as creating a military presence. The residents to these cities were given Roman citizenship and the rights that entitled them too. The city had an autonomous government, freedom for taxation and tribute and legal-ownership rights like those who lived in Italy. Being a colony was the highest status a city in a province could receive. Philippi was helping in the Romanization of Macedonia, so the city would have seemed like a “little Rome”. Other colonies mentioned in Acts are Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, Troas, Corinth, and Ptolemais.
Philippi was a wealthy city as it was on the famous Egnatian Way, and the nearby hills held deposits of copper, silver and gold, as well as having a fertile plain for crops. Though this city was not the capital of Macedonia, which was Thessalonica, nor was Philippi the capital of the district, that was Amphipolis, Philippi was a leading, major city in Macedonia. It also held various pagan religions including the emperor worship. Though it seems there was no Jewish Synagogue at this time. If there was a Jewish population, it must have been very small. At the time a minimum of 10 Jewish men was required to have a synagogue.
Since there was no synagogue there Paul adjust his tactic. On the Sabbath day they went outside the city gates to find a place where the small Jewish community or at least God-fearing gentiles would meet to pray. Paul and the others find a group of women meeting for prayer. Paul takes the opportunity to talk them and share the gospel. Lydia was one of the ladies there listening. She was God-fearing gentile from the city of Thyatira. “The Lord opened her heart” to the gospel during Paul’s gospel presentation. We have another example here of baptism coming after salvation as Lydia and her household were all baptized there in the river where they were meeting.
Lydia may have been a wealthy business woman. She is noted as a dealer of purple cloth. Purple dyed cloth was fairly expensive as the dye either came from a shellfish or the roots of a madder plant. For Lydia to have house large enough to house Paul and his team, she must have been fairly successful. Her household could refer to any children still living with her assuming she was married and possibly widowed, but that is unknown, or her household could include any servants in her business and home. Lydia’s household becomes the first recorded converts of Paul’s second journey and in Macedonia.
The Trouble with Demons – vv 16-24
Regular Prayer Meetings
Either Paul and the others established regular prayer meetings with this small band of disciples or they were still using the Jewish tradition of prayers at certain times. We know that Paul the others were in Philippi for several days, verse 12, and on their way to the place of prayer they were being followed by slave girl possessed by a demon that was shouting out unwelcomed testimony about Paul.
This slave girl was possessed by demon giving her the ability to serve as a fortune-teller. Her masters used her to make large profit for themselves. Remember, Philippi held several pagan idols, including the Greek god Apollo. Luke actually uses the term that refers to soothsayers and fortune-tellers that goes back to the myth of Apollo and the Oracle of Delphi. So for a slave girl telling the future would not be anything strange in this city.
After many days of this poor girl following Paul the others around acting like an unwanted herald, Paul had had enough. He turned and addressing the demon, he commanded it leave the girl using the authority of Jesus’ name. The exorcism happened immediately.
What was the girl saying? What was the annoyance? The phrase can be taken in an ironic sense as a demon is proclaiming truth about God, though because she represents many false gods, the testimony proves confusing. It is also possible that since what the demon is saying doesn’t directly refer to Yahweh, it could be understood that the God Paul is serving and preaching about was the highest of many gods. This would be confusing as many of the polytheistic religions represented in Philippi all had such phrases for certain gods. Also the phrase of offering salvation may have been heard as “a” way of salvation versus “the” way of salvation. Paul’s use of Jesus’ name in the exorcism primary shows that it is not Paul’s own authority by which he can expel demons, but only through the authority of Jesus. It also ties the God Paul proclaims is tied to the name of Jesus.
When the slave girl’s masters realized they lost significant income, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them to the chief magistrates, these are possibly the two men who ruled the colony called praetors.
Paul and Silas were accused of trying to proselytize as Jews and disturbing the city, or disturbing the peace. Most religions were allowed and tolerated by Roman law, while proselytizing wasn’t illegal it was discouraged; and religions that became destructive to the city was not allowed. Judaism was generally looked down upon because it was monotheistic and did not worship the emperor. These accussors are stretching the truth a bit as they slander Paul and Silas about disturbing the peace and proselytizing an illegal or unpopular religion. The idea of Roman is important here as Artemis is in Ephesus in chapter 19.
By claiming they are disturbing the city, the accussors are forcing the issue into the realm of the magistrates. It seems as if the crowd had been whipped into a mob as they begin to attack, probably verbally, Paul and Silas as well. The magistrates then take them have them beaten. This punishment was called adminitio, where we get admonition. It emphasized the warning element of the punishment. This particular beating was called fustigatio where the clothes were stripped off and then beaten in public. This was more liking a caning designed to discourage Paul from preaching any further. After the beating, they taken to prison and the jailer was ordered to watch them carefully. Paul and Silas were put into the inner prison, a more secure area, then their legs were placed in stocks.
Midnight Miracle vv 25-40
As Paul and Silas sit in jail, they probably can’t sleep from the pain of the beating and the discomfort of the stocks, they pray and sing to God. They know the other prisoners are listening, this makes them stand out. Praising God even though they were just beaten and imprisoned, Paul and Silas displayed their faith.
While they were praising the Lord, an earthquake came and shook the prison so violently that the chains came away from the walls and the doors swung open. This caused concern for the jailer when he awoke. He was about kill himself, why? There is thought that he assumed the prisoners would have escaped, which could have led to his execution as punishment, while this was certainly done at times, there is also the fact of the ancient values of shame and honor. It is also possible that he was acting out of superstitious fear. Concerned over who was in the prison and why the gods acted this way. Maybe he knew the punishment was unjust and was fearing the gods reaction.
Luke has condensed a lot of what was happening in these verses, somehow Paul knew what the jailer was about to do, and called out to him to keep him from harming himself.
The jailer seems to be aware of some sort of divine activity to what has been happening. He falls to his knees trembling before Paul and Silas, not worship them, but probably in fear and shock that none of the prisoners had escaped. He leads Paul and Silas out and asks how he must be saved. It appears that he knew why Paul and Silas were imprisoned and has linked the earthquake to the God they proclaimed.
Paul immediately shared that the jailer needed to trust Jesus. People try to take verse 31 out of context and think this verse doesn’t show the need for individual faith. However, if we correctly read verse 32 with verse 31 we see that Paul and Silas were explaining the gospel. The jailer took Paul and Silas home, where everyone in his house heard the gospel and believed. Next the jailer tends to their wounds, then the whole household receives believers baptism. The jailer provides a meal Paul and Silas. Again we see the element of joy of new believers over their salvation.
In the morning the magistrates decide to have Paul and Silas released. The term “police” is the same root as the word used earlier for the beating Paul and Silas received, so the men sent were possibly the ones who carried out the beating. These men carried bundles of rods and functioned as constables or police.
When the jailer informs Paul and Silas the magistrates are letting them go and telling them to leave town, Paul decides now to make it known that he and Silas are Roman citizens. It is greatly debated over why Paul did not make this claim before they beaten, possibly they made a strategic decision so there would be no confusion of their religious and cultural loyalties lay.
The secretive nature in the way the magistrates had tried to get Paul and Silas to leave would have left the idea that Paul was a troublemaker and would have left the new Christians open to persecution. The magistrates had acted illegally. Roman citizens were always supposed to receive a fair trial and were not to be whipped as Paul and Silas had been. Paul and Silas were publicly shamed by the beating, and since they were Roman citizens they deserved an apology in the very least. For the Magistrates to come publicly to appease Paul and Silas and to escort them from the jail would publicly resolve the issue that Paul and the Christians were not troublemakers seeking to disturb the peace. The magistrates could have faced serious punishments and at the very least may never have been removed from their position. The magistrates come, apologize and ask that Paul and his team leave Philippi. And after going to Lydia’s house, speaking encouragement to them Paul and team leave Philippi.
Today we saw how God had led Paul and the others to Philippi. We saw that God used Paul to found another church. We see how God’s gospel is not limited by race or gender. Paul proclaims the gospel to everyone. Luke has tendency to show accounts in pairs of men and women: Simeon and Anna (Luke 2), a raised boy and girl (Luke 7 & 8), the Holy Spirit descending on all (Acts 2), miracles for Aeneas and Dorcas (Acts 9), then here with Lydia and the Jailer. Though Paul and Silas face injustice and beating to please the crowd, they do not lose faith. They praise God in the midst of their trial. They know this is part of doing anything for the Cause of Christ.
But we also see the seeds being planted for Paul’s letter to the Philippian Church:
- In Philippians Paul reminds the disciples their citizenship is in heaven and that being citizens of Roman, which was a big deal, is secondary.
- Paul will remind them to humbly serve God. Paul was called a slave of God by the demon possessed girl, and then calls himself that in the opening verse to the Philippians, he also reminds them that Christ’s humility is to be regarded as the standard.
- Paul tells them to keep their priority on the future reward they will receive from God, and not trust in their flesh or own strength. Paul could have used his Roman citizenship earlier than he did, but would he have been trusting God to care for him or trusting in things of this world?
- In Philippians Paul discusses contentment and joy in all circumstances, good and bad. We saw how Paul and Silas sang hymns to and prayed to God while they spent a sleepless, painful night in prison. They were content with whatever God had planned for them.
Are these things true of us?