Acts 16:1-5 Paul met a believer named Timothy in Lystra. His mother was Jewish and his father was Greek. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, so he circumcised him because of his Jewish heritage. Paul delivered the decree to the brothers that was written in Jerusalem. They were strengthened in their faith and they increased in size daily.
Notes: Timothy’s circumcision was done to aid his acceptance by the Jews and provide full access to the synagogues (see note on 6:9) he would be visiting with Paul and Silas. If Timothy had not been circumcised, the Jews could have assumed he had renounced his Jewish heritage and had chosen to live as a Gentile.
Acts 16:6-15 The Holy Spirit forbade Paul to preach in Asia (modern Turkey) and Bithynia. He had a vision of a man in Troas to come to Macedonia (on the mainland of Greece) to help them. Paul took this vision as a sign to preach in Macedonia, so they left and entered the city of Philippi of Macedonia. There they met a woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God. God opened her heart to hear what Paul preached, and she was then baptized by Paul, and asked Paul and company to lodge with her household.
Acts 16:16-24 Paul met a slave girl who was possessed of an evil spirit of divination that brought much money to her master. For many days she harassed Paul, telling the people that Paul preached a way of salvation. Paul had enough, and commanded the spirit to leave her, which it did. Her master was not happy and dragged Paul and Silas to the rulers of the city for judgment. They were ordered to be beaten by rods for disturbing the peace and then placed in the inner prison with their feet in stocks.
Notes: Jews . . . disturbing our city. Anti-Semitism was alive even then. The emperor Claudius issued an order around that time expelling the Jews from Rome (18:2). This may explain why they apprehended only Paul and Silas, since Luke was a Gentile and Timothy half-Gentile.
The words of the fortune-telling girl (v. 17) were true in a formal sense, but Paul was greatly annoyed, probably because he did not want it to appear that she was his partner in the gospel.
Acts 16:25-34 While Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns, there was an earthquake that caused the prison doors to open and their bonds to fall off. Fearing that the prisoners escaped, the jailer was about to kill himself, but Paul stopped him assuring him that no one had fled. The jailer asked Paul how to be saved. Paul spoke to the jailer and his household about faith in Jesus. They received Paul’s message, and afterwards cleaned their wounds from the beaten they received in the marketplace. They were then baptized. The jailer then invited Paul and company to his home and fed them.
Notes: Paul did not view their freedom as a means of escape, however, but as an opportunity for witness (cf. 5:17–21). As a result, the jailer and his household became believers. The jailer’s question most likely refers to being saved from the judgment of God, which he would have heard about through listening to his prisoners’ prayers and songs.
Acts 16:35-40 The next day, the leaders of the city told the police to let Paul and Silas go free. At this point, they were back in the prison. Paul was not happy that they would free them without a trial. In other words, they were beaten publicly (as Jews) without being officially condemned, and being Roman citizens and all too! Paul wanted the leaders to come personally to the jail, apologize, and set them free. They did as Paul asked, and after they were set free, went to Lydia, and seeing the brothers there, encouraged them and then departed.
Notes: Paul was concerned for the public reputation of his gospel message and also, no doubt, for the good standing of the church that was being established at Philippi. Thus he insisted on public vindication lest the people of Philippi continue to believe that he was a troublemaker and a lawbreaker, ideas that would have presented barriers to the gospel in Philippi for years to come. Paul wanted to make it clear that a mistake had been made.
To inflict corporal punishment on a Roman citizen was a serious crime, and made more so since Paul and Silas did not receive a trial. As a result, the magistrates faced the possibility of being removed from office, and having Philippi’s privileges as a Roman colony revoked.