Summary: Compares the salvation of Lydia, the possessed slave girl and the Philippian jailer.

A Study of the Book of Acts

Sermon # 29


Acts 16:11-40

Every morning and every evening the head of a Jewish household would pray, giving thanks that God had not created him “a Gentile, a woman or a slave.” It hardly seems coin-cidental that the first three conversions which take place at Philippi, come from those despised categories. Paul himself, writing under divine inspiration, would later write, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Immediately following the “Macedonian vision” of verse nine, this band of missionaries sailed directly to the Island of Samothrace, and then on to Neapolis, the port city of Philippi, which was some ten miles inland.

Verse eleven says, “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.”

It seems that God favored their expedition for the journey the phrase they “sailed straight for Samothrace” was a nautical term that meant the wind was at their backs. The winds were so favorable that they sailed the 156 miles in two days,it took five days on the return trip (20:6).[R. Kent Hughes. Acts: The Church Afire. ( Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1996.) p. 211]

Philippi was considered a colony of Rome, somewhat in the same way that Hawaii and Alaska are considered states of the U.S.A. Although separated geographically from the mainland people who live there live under the same laws and have the same privileges and are considered citizens of the U.S. So it was with Philippi it inhabitants were considered citizens of Rome with all the same rights and privileges.

The Salvation of a Cultured Woman 16:13-15

“And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the river-side, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.”

When Paul and his companion arrived in Philippi, they discovered that there was no synagogue. According to Jewish tradition ten male heads of households were necessary before a synagogue could be formed. If those requirements could not be met the faithful were to meet under the open sky near a river or the sea. So Paul, Timothy, Silas and Luke went to the riverside on the Sabbath there they discovered a small group, all women.

Verse fourteen begins, “ 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.”

One of the women listening to Paul was named Lydia, a rich God-fearing Gentile woman from the city of Thyatira in Asia. Scripture says “the Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” Here was a woman who as holding on every word Paul had to share about Jesus.

Lydia the Gentile woman became the first believer in Europe. The opening of Lydia’s heart resulted in the opening of her home. Her profession of faith resulting in baptism and her provision of hospitality were outward evidence of her new found faith in God.

The Salvation of a Possessed Slave Girl 16:16-28

“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…..”

One day while they were on their way to prayer a slave -girl began to follow them. When it says she was “possessed with a spirit of divination,” it means she was demon possessed or demonized. Today we would say that she was a medium or a psychic, but she was possessed by a demon who used her as a channel to convey clairvoyant messages, interpreting the events of the day and predicting the future for people. She would follow the missionary team shouting, “these men are the servants tof the most high god who proclaim the way of salvation.” What she said was true as far as it went. She was saying that they were declaring “the way of salvation.” But in the original language there is no definite article here. She was saying that they were declaring “a” way not “the” way. Even today there are many who are willing to call the gospel “a ” way of salvation, but are unwilling to concede that it is “the” way – the “only” way of salvation!

Finally Paul had enough, “….. 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.” It is not because she was wrong that she was silenced. It is almost as if Paul finally says, “Oh for goodness sakes, this girl is driving me to distraction. I am going to put a stop to this once and for all.” She was immediately delivered. But was without a doubt a tremendous blessing to her was not so to her employer, because she no longer had the ability to predict the future.

Beginning in verse nineteen we have the reaction of her masters. “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.” (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.”

What happens when something terrible happens in your life? You going along doing your best to live right when all of a sudden out of the blue you are bowled over by some terrible situation. Here were Paul and Silas, all they are guilty of is preaching the Gospel, but not everyone liked what they were doing. The masters of the slave girl got hit in the pocket book and they did not like it at all. This girl’s masters cared little or nothing about her, it was her powers that brought them profit.

Paul and Silas dragged before the magistrates on trumped up charges and were summarily sentenced and beaten. The officials who administered this beating are called lictors in Latin. This is where we get the expression “getting your licks” from.

Not only were they beaten they were thrown into “the inner prison” and they were fastened by their feet in the stocks. They could have easily been consumed with asking the question, “Why?” Instead we are told that they focused on prayer.

The Salvation of a Callous Soldier 16: 25-40

“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

You have to admire Paul and Silas they are not murmuring or complaining they are praying and singing praises. Why were they singing, because they knew they were in the center of God’s will. In the original language the words singing and praying are continuous action, they were continually praying and singing. While we do not know if any of the prisoners were saved because of Paul and Silas, we do know that they were listening with great interest. It seems that the way Paul and Silas have responded to their cruel treatment has not gone unnoticed by the other prisoners.

Suddenly the singing and praying was interrupted, verse 26 says, “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.”

When the earthquake came the jailer rushed to check on the prisoners. The door was open and no one was around. The jailer quickly came to the conclusion that all the prisoners had escaped. Because the law would demand his life for the lives of his prisoners the jailer prepared to kill himself. Can you imagine the jailer standing outside the prison, thinking that all was lost, that all the prisoners were gone, then hearing a voice from inside the prison telling him not to harm himself. It is no wonder that he rushed into the room and fell at the feet of Paul and Silas. Verse 27 reveals, “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.

Because of what he had seen in Paul and Silas their jailer asked the question, “What must I do to be saved?” (v. 30). Some think that the jailer asked this question because he was afraid for his life, and that he was asking, “What must I do to be safe?” I don’t believe that is what he was asking at all for two reasons. First, the same Greek word is used when the demon possessed women was declaring, “These men …are telling you the way of salvation.” And secondly, Paul’s answer lets us know that he regarded it as a request for knowledge about eternal salvation. Paul replies in verse 31, “….Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” How could the Roman jailer be saved? By placing his faith in Jesus as his Savior. The answer is still the same today as it was in that Philippian prison two thousand years ago.

It is obvious from what happens now that this calloused soldier was a new man. (vv. 32-36) “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.

The man, who had at least played a part in inflecting the wounds on these men, now cleaned and dressed their wounds. The man who had been responsible for thrusting these men into the inner-most prison now took them into his own house. The man, who given them prison-fare to eat now set before them the best that he had.

The next morning after the earthquake the city officials came to the prison to release the missionaries. But they did not get the response that they expected. Verse 35 says, “And 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.

They had expected Paul to gratefully accept his release and quietly leave town. Instead they found Paul refusing to leave his cell until he received and apology from those who had been responsible for his illegal treatment. It seems that in the heat of the moment no one had bothered to ask Paul and Silas if they were Roman citizens. One of the rights that they had was that they could not be beaten.

Now in verse 40 we learn, “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.”

It seems that after they are released from the prison that the missionaries go Lydia’s house to encourage the brethren, we might think that it would be the other way around. I would have loved to been present at the fellowship at Lydia’s house after they were released. I believe that there was more praying and singing. There was undoubtedly tears and perhaps laughter as Paul recounted how the city officials had come hat in hand and begged them to leave the city.