Paul’s primary goal was to find people who were far from God and teach them the Good News of Salvation through Jesus Christ. Nothing could stop him — not even being publicly humiliated, flogged and thrown in prison.
Here in Acts 16, in Paul’s second missionary journey, we witness how God takes something bad and turns it around for good. They also meet some interesting people that Paul helps convert. Let’s dig in…
Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, 3 so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek. 4 Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.
A Call from Macedonia
6 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. 7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.
9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.
Lydia of Philippi Believes in Jesus
11 We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. 12 From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15 She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.
Paul and Silas in Prison
16 One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”
18 This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.
19 Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. 20 “The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials. 21 “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.”
22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! 27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. 33 Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. 34 He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.
35 The next morning the city officials sent the police to tell the jailer, “Let those men go!” 36 So the jailer told Paul, “The city officials have said you and Silas are free to leave. Go in peace.”
37 But Paul replied, “They have publicly beaten us without a trial and put us in prison—and we are Roman citizens. So now they want us to leave secretly? Certainly not! Let them come themselves to release us!”
38 When the police reported this, the city officials were alarmed to learn that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. 39 So they came to the jail and apologized to them. Then they brought them out and begged them to leave the city. 40 When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town.Acts 16 NLT
Map of Paul’s 2nd Missionary Journey
It helps to have a map so you can picture where all these places are….
Points to Ponder
- Here we meet Timothy who becomes a mentee of Paul’s to whom he later writes two very important letters. Here is a study on what Paul teaches Timothy that’s pertinent to us today. Timothy, who’s half Jew, half Greek, gets circumcised, just in case, to avoid any trouble down the line with other Jews.
- Imagine you set out to go on a road trip and then you hear a voice that says — no, don’t go that way! Then God gave Paul a vision of a man from Macedonia who begged Paul to go there. Here’s something to think about… Was there something worse in Asia that God didn’t want Paul and Silas to encounter? Or did God want Paul and Silas to be put in prison in Philippi, just so the prison guard and his family could be saved? Had they gone to Asia, they wouldn’t have met Lydia. Lydia was from Thyatira, in the area that God prohibited them from going. Lydia was a merchant. She spoke to a lot of people every day. What better person to help spread the Good News in Asia? God had a purpose in sending them to Macedonia. Moreover, Paul and Silas were obedient.
- In verse 11, Luke starts writing “we” and “us” instead of “they”, “he/him”, and “them”. Here is when Luke joins the missionaries. So for most of the rest of Acts, we’re getting a true eye-witness account rather than from the 3rd party reporter.
- Lydia’s house may have very well been one of the first house churches.
- Paul and Silas were singing hymns in prison and all the other prisoners heard them.
- Was the earthquake God’s response to their devotion?
- Through Paul and Silas’ imprisonment, a whole family came to know Jesus as their Savior.
Good out of Bad
Maybe this experience inspired Paul to write this verse in the letter to the Romans…
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.Romans 8:28 NLT
Read that again.
Most times we can’t see the good in a bad situation. For me, I’ve had 3 experiences that taught me to trust God…
- being stuck in an awful job with no way out
- going through 2 hurricanes, 2 weeks apart
- being unemployed for 2 years
With each experience, I had no one to turn to but God.
How do You Find and Trust God in Today’s World?
If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…