Acts 16 Bible Study

Acts chapter 16

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Acts Chapter 16 Bible Study

ACTS 16:1  1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.

Who "came to Derbe and Lystra" (Acts 16:1)?
Paul, along with Silas: Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches." (Acts 15:36-41)

Where are Derbe and Lystra?
Lystra is the city in the Roman province of Lycaonia (present day Turkey) where Paul preached the gospel, healed a cripple, was mistaken as god, then stoned by a mob and left for dead; he had a less-eventful time in Derbe, nearby: "5 And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. 7 And they were preaching the gospel there. 8 And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. 9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked. 11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are ye doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that ye should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” 18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them. 19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:5-22)

How did Paul and Silas travel to Derbe and Lystra?
Previously, Paul and Barnabas had made a circuitous clockwise sea and land journey via the island of Cyprus from Antioch of Syria. This time, Paul and Silas travelled 250 miles westward by land from Antioch, traversing the rest of the Roman province of Syria, as well as Cilicia, the Roman province on the southeastern shores of present day Turkey: "... he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches." (Acts 15:41)

How old was Timothy?
Given the average life expectancy 2000 years ago and the fact that Paul knew his mother and grandmother, Timothy was young, probably a teenager: "... when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also." (2 Timothy 1:5)

ACTS 16:2-5  2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. 4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.

Why did Paul want Timothy "go on with him" (Acts 16:3)?
The son and grandson of women who had "genuine faith" (2 Timothy 1:5), Timothy had been taught the scriptures from childhood - "and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures" (2 Timothy 3:15) - and had genuine faith himself: "genuine faith that is in you ..." (2 timothy 1:5), and already respected by fellow Christians: "He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium." (Acts 16:2) Paul most likely saw in Timothy a fellow missionary whom he could train and disciple.

Which "decrees" (Acts 16:4) did they deliver to the "churches" (Acts 16:5) in the region?
The one written "by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem" (Acts 16:4): "23 They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “Ye must be circumcised and keep the law” - to whom we gave no such commandment - 25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that ye abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If ye keep yourselves from these, ye will do well. Farewell." (Acts 15:23-29)

How had Paul reacted to those who mandated circumcision that necessitated this decree?
He had had "no small dissension and dispute" against them (see Acts 15:1-2)

Then why was Timothy "circumcised" (Acts 16:3) by Paul?
Paul had disputed vehemently, and rightfully so, against those who claimed that circumcision was a requirement for salvation. But Paul's circumcision of Timothy had nothing to do with the salvation of Timothy, who is already described as a "disciple" (Acts 16:1). Instead, it had to do with giving Timothy the widest possible ministry. Without being circumcised, Timothy would have been limited to preaching to the gentiles only since "the Jews who were in that region ... all knew that his father was Greek" (Acts 16:3) and therefore would have been reticent at best to hear the preaching of someone whom they weren't sure was a real Jew. By being circumcised, as was his right since his mother was a Jew, Timothy could draw Jewish as well as gentile audiences to hear the gospel.

ACTS 16:6-10  6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Where are "Phrygia ... and Galatia" (Acts 16:6), and "Mysia ... and Bithynia" (Acts 16:7)?
Phrygia and Galatia were Roman provinces located in the present day central Turkey. Mysia was the Roman province at the northwest corner of the present day Turkey, and Bithynia was the province immediately northeast of Mysia on the northern (Black Sea) coast of present day Turkey. They had in effect traversed the present day Turkey from its southeast corner to its northwest corner (Mysia). And when they tried to head eastward into Bithynia, the Holy Spirit "did not permit them" (Acts 16:7), instead showing Paul a vision, which he concluded as the Lord's call for them to head westward across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia.

Why did the Holy Spirit turn them westward instead of toward "Asia" (Acts 16:6)?   
Some have speculated that it was because the Roman Empire had laid better roads across Europe, which would accelerate the spread of the Gospel. Irrespective of the Lord's reason for this westerly redirection, the major front of evangelization has been spreading westward ever since, from the Middle East to Europe to the American continent to Asia, where China's 100+ million and growing number of Christians now comprise the world's largest national church. Once the Indian subcontinent and the Muslim nations of the Middle East receive the gospel, the loop around the world will be complete.

Who came to Mysia, and then "down to Troas" (Acts 16:8)?
"They" (Acts 16:8)

Who "sought to go to Macedonia" (Acts 16:9) from Troas?
"We" (Acts 16:9)

What happened?
Luke, who wrote Acts of the Apostles, joined Paul, Silas and Timothy at Troas.

ACTS 16:11-12  11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days.

Where is "Samothrace" (Acts 16:11)?
Samothrace is a small, 11-mile long but tall (5000+ feet at its peak) volcanic Island in the Aegean Sea about half way between Troas and Neapolis. The ship carrying Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke most likely spent the night at Samothrace, to which they "ran a straight course" (Acts 16:11), before completing the voyage to Neapolis the "next day." (Acts 16:11)

Where are "Neapolis" (Acts 16:11) and "Philippi" (Acts 16:12)?
Founded by Philip II, the king of Macedon and the father of Alexander the Great, Philippi was "the foremost city" (Acts 16:11) of eastern Macedonia, which today straddles northern Greece and the Republic of Macedonia further north. Neapolis was the port of Philippi, which was located 8 miles inland and just north of the Gangitis River.

ACTS 16:13-15  13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.

Why would "prayer" be "customarily made" at "riverside ... outside" (Acts 16:13) Philippi?
Ten Jewish men were required to establish a synagogue, and until ten Jewish men could gather in a town, the Jews gathered for prayer on Sabbath under the open sky. Philippi most likely had neither the required ten Jewish men nor a synagogue, so "on the Sabbath day" (Acts 16:13) Paul's entourage went to preach to the Jewish "women" (Acts 16:13) who met for prayer apparently by "the riverside." (Acts 16:13).

What is meant by "a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira" (Acts 16:14)?
Thyatira was a city in present day western Turkey famous for its purple dye, which was extracted from the hypobranchial (mucus) gland of mollusks (shell fish), notably Murex. Because it took about a quarter million of these mollusks to extract one ounce of pure purple dye, purple dye, the color of royalty, was extremely rare, and therefore extremely expensive. Lydia was most likely a well-to-do exporter who had crossed the Aegean Sea to sell purple dye or purple dyed clothes to the Macedonians in Philippi.

What enabled Lydia "to heed the things spoken by Paul" (Acts 16:14)?
"The Lord opened her heart." (Acts 16:14)

Is this still true today?
Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him..." (John 6:44) Heeding the things written in the Bible is an act of God, who deserves all of the credit and glory for it.

ACTS 16:16-18  16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.

What did the "slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination" (Acts 16:16) cry out?
"These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation." (Acts 16:17)

Was she right?

Then why did Paul become "greatly annoyed" (Acts 16:18)?
For at least three reasons. First, she kept repeating this "for many days." (Acts 16:18). Second, crying this out during "prayer" (Acts 16:16) probably disturbed the prayer(s). Third, he was being introduced by an unclean spirit, and when people became convicted by Paul, the possessed girl and the unclean spirit of divination possessing her were getting credit for getting it right.

Were they used to being right with their divinations?
They were right often enough to have "brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling." (Acts 16:16)

How are they different from the psychics, witches and other who engage in fortune telling today?
They aren't. Today's psychics, witches and fortune tellers are also enabled by demonic spirits and also get it right, at least often enough to make a living.

What did God say about His people seeking advice from psychics, witches and fortune tellers?
He called them "abominations" and strictly forbade them: "When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you." (Deuteronomy 18:9-14) "Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:31) "And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people." (Leviticus 20:6)

Does this admonition also apply to things like daily horoscopes and fortune cookies?
What do you think?

ACTS 16:19-24  19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. 20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.”

Who weren't "seized" along with "Paul and Silas" (Acts 16:19)?
Timothy and Luke.

Why not?
One possibility is that they weren't around when Paul and Silas were seized or that they were somehow not recognized as companions of Paul and Silas. Another possibility is that they were excluded because Luke, a gentile Christian, couldn't be accused as being one of the "Jews" (Acts 16:20), and Timothy was too young to be included as one of the "men" (Acts 16:20).

What three errors are found in the accusations against Paul and Silas?
They didn't "trouble" (Acts 16:20) anyone. They didn't "teach customs which are not lawful." (Acts 16:21) And both Paul and Silas were Roman citizens (see Acts 16:37 below), as well as Jews.

What was the real reason for Paul and Silas getting "dragged into the marketplace" (Acts 16:19)?
The owners of the girl who had been possessed with a spirit of divination were angry that "their hope of profit was gone." (Acts 16:19)

Are any unchristian activities being retained as part of your job or business for the "hope of profit"?

ACTS 16:22-25  22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.  24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

What should "the magistrates" (Acts 16:22) have done?
They should have sought evidences for the accusations against Paul and Silas, and given them the opportunity to present their defense. Instead of conducting a trial and rendering a verdict, the magistrates went along with the racist mob and skipped directly to pronouncing and executing the punishment.

What was the punishment?
Getting "beaten with rods" (Acts 16:22) and then imprisoned.

Was this fair to Paul and Silas?
Not really.

How did Paul and Silas react to being falsely accused, unjustly beaten and jailed?
By "praying and singing hymns to God." (Acts 16:25)

Great was their reward in heaven, as Jesus had promised: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:10-12), and "the prisoners were listening to them." (Acts 16:25)

Why would they listen instead of telling Paul and Silas to shut up for making noise at midnight?
The Greek root of the verb translated "listening" is epakroaomai, which means to "listen attentively." Not only was the content of what Paul and Silus praying and singing worthy of careful attention, but it was coming from two men who had just been beaten and should have been angry at the world.

How do you react when you are teased, mocked, insulted and persecuted in other ways for Christ?

ACTS 16:26-29  26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.

Why would "the keeper of the prison" try to "kill himself" (Acts 16:27)?
A Roman guard's failure to guard a prisoner was a capital crime. "Seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled" (Acts 16:27), he thought he was as good as dead.

Why did he run and fall "down trembling before Paul and Silas" (Acts 16:29)?
He had just witnessed at least three miracles.

Which three?
For one, "all the doors were opened." (Acts 16:26) For another, none of the prisoners had left; his life had been spared. Thirdly, Paul had seen him through the darkness trying to kill himself, before he - the jailer - "called for a light". (Acts 16:29)

What would you expect him to have done at this point?
Thank Paul, Silas and the other prisoners for having stayed, put the chains back on them and lock their doors before they change their minds about not trying to escape, and consider his good fortune for having had his own life in effect spared.

ACTS 16:30-34  30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

What did the jailer do instead of securing Paul and Silas in prison?
"He brought them out..." (Acts 16:30), which means that he risked their escape and his own death.

Why did he do that?
The jailer's question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30) clearly isn't aimed at the death penalty he would receive if they escaped; had that been what he was concerned about being saved from, he would have kept them in the prison instead of bringing them outside. The jailer was concerned about being saved from something worse than physical death. The Lord had opened his eyes to see that he needed to be saved from his sins, which would damn him to the eternal fire of hell. He recognized that Paul and Silas could tell him about the antidote to his eternal problem, and was willing to risk physical death for it.

Are you?

According to Paul and Silas, what did the jailer have to do to be saved?
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 16:31)

How is that different today?
It isn't.

Believe what about Him?
That "... God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." (Romans 5:8-9)

ACTS 16:35-40  35And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.” 38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. 39 Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

Where did Paul and Silas go before the magistrates' officers arrived the next day?
Since they later "went out of the prison" (Acts 16:40), they had gone back into the prison.

Why were the magistrates "afraid" (Acts 16:38)?
They had broken the law - it was illegal to beat or bind a Roman citizen for any reason, and they had done both and done them without a trial conviction.

Did Paul refuse to leave quietly out of pride?
Given his Christ-centered nature, that is most unlikely. If he and Silas had left "secretly" (Acts 16:37) after having been falsely accused and beaten publicly, the Philippians could have concluded that the accusations and the punishment had been justified, which would have invited more mob violence against the small church that gathered by the riverside. The original Greek verb in the phrase translated, "get us out" (Acts 16:37) is exago, which means to "escort or lead out". Paul wanted the magistrates to personally escort them out of prison so that not only would they be careful in dealing with Christians the next time, but the word would also spread that through action, the magistrates had publicly admitted to making an error against the Christians.

Did Paul and Silas heed the magistrates' request to leave the city?
Not really. They did what they want, and then left at their choosing. They "entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed." (Acts 16:40)

Why does Luke write that "they ... departed"?
Because Luke stayed behind in Philippi, to rendezvous with Paul on his next visit.

When did that take place?
The Bible specifically mentions Paul spending 18 months in Corinth ("And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them." (Acts 18:11)), 3 years in Ephesus ("Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." (Acts 20:31)), and 3 months in Greece ("... he came to Greece and stayed three months" (Acts 20:2)) before returning to Philippi. Given the months mentioned totaling almost 5 years, the host of other places Paul visited and the travel in between, it was most likely 6 or more years later.

Did Timothy stay with Luke?
Since Acts chapter 17 records Paul leaving Silas and Timothy in Berea - "... but both Silas and Timothy remained there." (Acts 17:14) - Timothy had departed from Philippi with Paul and Silas.

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