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The Gospel Carried into Europe
Summary —Paul at Troas. The Call to Macedonia in a Vision. The Journey to Philippi. The Conversion of Lydia and Her Household. The Damsel with the Spirit of Divination Healed. The Rage of Her Masters. Paul and Silas Seized, Scourged, Placed in Prison in the Stocks. The Events at Midnight. The Jailer and Household Baptized. An Appeal to Rights of Romans.
1–3. He came to Derbe and Lystra. Compare 14:6–21. Behold, a certain disciple was there. A member of the church at Lystra, converted on the previous missionary tour. Timotheus. Born of a Jewish mother, but of a Greek father. The name is Greek and means one who fears God. Following his father, he was uncircumcised and, hence, regarded as a Greek instead of a Jew. Yet he had been taught the Scriptures from childhood (2 Tim. 3:15) by his pious mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5). These, Eunice and Lois by name, were Christians also. 1 Cor. 4:17 shows that Paul converted him. Compare Gal. 4:19. Well reported. As an active, efficient Christian. He had evidently labored for Christ in both places, and given such proofs as to show his fitness for the missionary work. Go forth with him. As a traveling companion. And circumcised him. Not because he thought it necessary to salvation, but because of the Jews. Wherever Paul traveled, he first labored in the Jewish synagogues. If one of his traveling companions was a Gentile, it would arouse Jewish prejudices so as to close their ears. Hence, since “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision was anything” (1 Cor. 7:19), he complied with the principle that he states in 1 Cor. 9:19, 20. In Gal. 2:3 it is stated that when Titus, a Greek, went up to Jerusalem, he was not compelled to be circumcised. Had he been, it would have been a concession to the Judaizing Christians who insisted that circumcision was necessary to salvation. Here the case was different. No Judaizing party made such a demand, and the act was one of pure expediency, in order to reach more readily unconverted Jews. These examples teach us to accommodate ourselves to the prejudices of others as far as we can without the sacrifice of principle. From other passages (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6), we learn that, at this time probably, Timothy was ordained by the elders, and received special gifts by the imposition of the hands of the apostle. 486
4, 5. They went through the cities. Where churches were already planted. As they went, they “delivered the decrees on circumcision and the law of Moses” decided upon at Jerusalem (15:23–29).
6–10. When they had gone throughout Phrygia. This was a Roman province west of Lycaonia in Asia Minor, running down to the seacoast of the Ægean Sea. Galatia lay on the north of Lycaonia, and was entirely in the interior. It received its name from a settlement of Gauls, an offshoot of a Gallic invasion of Greece in the third century before Christ. It became a Roman province in a.d. 26. No record is made here of the results of this tour, but as we elsewhere learn of numerous churches in Galatia shortly after this, we are justified in the inference that they were planted at this time. Forbidden … to preach the word in Asia. By Asia is meant, not the great quarter of the world so named, but the province so called by the Romans, of which Ephesus was the capital. The Spirit now had other work for them. In the same way they were kept from going into Bithynia, the province on the Black or Euxine sea, north of Galatia, and hence turned westward through Mysia to the sea-coast at Troas. This city was about four miles from the site of ancient Troy, and was a transit harbor for those who crossed from Asia to Macedonia, or Greece. A vision appeared. Like Peter's vision at Joppa, it was a revelation. Like Peter's, it called him to labor in fields before unentered. A man of Macedonia. Macedonia proper lies to the north of the Ægean Sea, within a few hours sail of Troas. This ancient kingdom, under Philip and Alexander, had first absorbed all Greece, then conquered Persia and spread the Grecian language and customs over all western Asia. In turn it had fallen before the Romans, and was now a Roman province. It had a number of large cities, but Thessalonica was the Roman capital.
10. We endeavored to go into Macedonia. Sought to find a ship to carry them across. There is no intimation that they preached at this time of Troas, but a few years later we find here a church (20:6–12). Here, first, the writer of Acts speaks of himself as one of the company and adopts the style of an eye witness. It is supposed that Luke joined the missionary band at Troas.
11, 12. We came with a straight course. Before the wind. To Samothracia. An island about halfway between Troas and Neapolis, the European port where they landed. And from thence to Philippi. Only a few miles distant. They sought it at once, because it was the chief city of that part of Macedonia. The apostles tried to leaven the centers of influence with the Gospel. The city had been rebuilt about 400 years before this by Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, who named it after himself. It was famous as the place of the decisive battle between Brutus and Cassius on the one hand, and Mark Antony and Octavius, afterwards Augustus Cæsar, upon the other. A colony. A Roman 487colony was a settlement of Romans in a foreign country, with all the privileges of Romans. The colony had its own senate, its own magistrates, observed all the Roman forms, and was a miniature Rome. This colony had been established by Augustus Cæsar, who settled at this place a multitude of the partisans of his rival, Mark Antony, after the death of the latter. Philippi is now a small village named Filiba.
13–15. Went out … by a river side. The Gangas, a small river which flows by the city. Where prayer was wont to be made. Where there was a praying place. There seems to have been no synagogue, but a few pious Jews, women at least in great part, met on the river banks, out of the city, for prayer. We … spake unto the women. Either Jewish women, or proselytes to the Jewish faith. Lydia. The name is Greek. She was probably a convert to Judaism. A seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira. Thyatira, afterwards one of the seven churches of Asia, was beyond the Ægean Sea, hundreds of miles away. It was on the borders of Lydia, which was famous for its purple cloths. She was at this distant place for purposes of trade. Thyatira was a Macedonian colony, and Lydia probably had acquaintances or kinsmen in Macedonia itself. Whose heart the Lord opened. How, it is not stated. Possibly some of his providences especially fitted her for the reception of the gospel. And when she was baptized. In the apostolic period baptism always at once followed acceptance of the gospel. And her household. Some have held that this implies the baptism of infants. It rather implies that her servants and friends also accepted the gospel. There is no ground for the inference that she was even married, or had children. Meyer (Acts, p. 311), himself a German Lutheran, says: “If, in the Jewish and Gentile families which were converted to Christ there were children, their baptism is to be assumed in those cases, when they were so far advanced that they could and did confess their faith on Jesus as the Messiah; for this was the universal, absolutely necessary qualification for the reception of baptism.… Therefore the baptism of the children of Christians, of which no trace is found in the New Testament is not to be held as an apostolic ordinance.” Olshausen and Neander, also Pedobaptists, take the same view. Lydia's household was probably composed of women who assisted her in her business. She constrained us. Paul did not usually accept aid from his converts (Acts 20:33; 2 Cor. 12:17), but it seems that her urgent entreaty prevailed.
16–18. As we went to prayer. To the place of prayer. A certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination. Literally, “The spirit of a Pythoness.” This meant, among the Greeks, a 488prophetic spirit, Pythias being one of the names of Apollo, the god of prophecy. The account shows that the damsel was “possessed,” that her strange power gave her value in that it was superhuman, that she was a slave, owned by several masters, and brought them much gain by soothsaying. Luke does not say that she foretold the future, but the people thought she did. She was a demoniac. See note on Matt. 8:29. These men are the servants of the most high God. For similar testimony of the evil spirits to the work and power of Christ, see Mark 3:12; Luke 4:34. The Lord silenced them, and Paul followed the example. He delayed for many days, for reasons we cannot explain, possibly on account of something connected with the afflicted damsel herself. In the name of Jesus Christ to come out. “In my name,” said the risen Lord, “shall they cast out devils” (Mark 16:17).
19–24. When her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone. Nothing inflames the rage of men more than to see their hope of ill-gotten gains taken away. In our country more than one man has fallen a victim to the rage of rum-sellers who have seen their hope of gain taken away. Caught Paul and Silas. As the leaders of the missionary band. Drew them into the market-place. The forum, or open square where meetings were held and the magistrates held their courts. To the magistrates. Roman officers, two in number, called duumviri, or prætors. These men, being Jews. A great prejudice against Jews at this time existed in Europe. Near this time, Claudius Cæsar expelled all Jews from Rome (18:2). Do trouble our city. Raise disturbances. Teach customs … not lawful. Roman law sternly forbade one not a Jew to be circumcised.—Howson. Paul and Silas did not teach this, but it was a safe charge to make, they being Jews. The multitude rose … against them. Inflamed with prejudice. The magistrates. Without inquiry, influenced by the outcries of the throng. Rent off their clothes. They ordered them at once to be scourged. The lictors, the executioners, were at hand. The Roman custom was to lay bare the body and to beat it with the rods borne by the lictors. Paul says (2 Cor. 11:25), “Thrice was I beaten with rods.” Laid many stripes upon them. Moses (Deut. 25:3) mercifully restricted the number of stripes; hence, Paul says: “Five times I received of the Jews forty stripes, save one” (2 Cor. 11:24). With the Romans there was no such restriction. Thrust them into the inner prison. A damp interior cell from which all light was excluded. The stocks. An instrument of torture as well as confinement. The feet, stretched wide apart, were thrust through holes in a wall of wood, and the prisoner was fastened there.
25–34. Prayed, and sang praises. Never before had such sounds at midnight been heard from that inner dungeon. Bound, fettered, tortured, the spirit still had liberty, could pray, and praise 489God. God heard them, too, for there was a great earthquake. See Acts 4:31. It was God's angel to loose their bonds, open the prison doors, and magnify their work. The keeper … drew out his sword. He was responsible with his life for the safety of his prisoners. Fancying them gone, he determined, like a Roman, to anticipate disgrace by death. Right there at Philippi, Brutus and Cassius had each inflicted self-death. Self-murder was very common among the Romans. We are all here. Paul and Silas had no inclination of escape; the other prisoners were probably too much astounded. Called for a light. “Lights” in the Revision. All was darkness. Fell down before Paul and Silas. Awed, believing that they were under Divine protection. Brought them out. Of the inner prison, probably into the prison court. What must I do to be saved? Saved from suicide, no danger of death because the prisoners are there, awed by the wonderful events, aware that these men preached a new religion and salvation, he asks this question. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a heathen. Faith was the first essential step. To Jews, on the day of Pentecost, already believing Peter's proposition, he said, in answer to the same question, “Repent and be baptized;” but the heathen jailer was not ready for this. Faith must first be wrought, and then that faith, leading to the acceptance of Christ, would save. His faith would save, because it would be the power that would lead him to follow Christ. And thy house. We learn from the next verse that “his house” could listen the word of the Lord, hence were not infants. It was needful to preach the word, for this heathen knew almost nothing of the gospel. In preaching it, Paul preached baptism, for that follows in verse 33. Washed their stripes. They were all covered with bruises, blood and dust. His heart is now changed and filled with the spirit of mercy. Howson suggests that they were washed in the tank or reservoir within the prison court, supplied by the water from the roof. Here also all were baptized straightway. On the baptism of his household, see notes on verse 15 above. Brought them into his house. The Revision says “up;” that is, from the court below where he washed their stripes, and was baptized. They were “brought out” (verse 30), the word was preached “in his house” (verse 32), they were then “taken” to 490the place of baptism (verse 33), after he “brought them into his house” (verse 34). Believing in God with all his house. All his household were, therefore, believers.
35–40. The magistrates sent the serjeants. The lictors are meant. It is possible that the magistrates had, in some way, heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. They wished, therefore, to quietly get rid of them. The Porcian and Valerian laws exempted all Roman citizens from stripes or torture. They had broken the law. Let them come themselves and fetch us out. They had been publicly scourged and tortured as evil doers, in violation of law. Paul insisted that they should be as publicly vindicated, not for their own honor, but for the sake of the church at Philippi. Being Romans. We learn from Acts 22:25 that Paul was born a Roman citizen. His father, or some remoter ancestor, had been admitted to Roman citizenship, a great privilege and honor. They feared. Had Paul insisted, the magistrates could have been severely punished. They might abuse aliens, but “to be a Roman was greater than to be a king.” Hence, they humbled themselves, and “came, and besought them, and desired them to depart out of that city.” When they had seen the brethren. Who now met at the house of Lydia. The church thus planted grew and was afterwards honored with an apostolic letter. Departed. To another field of labor. The reader should pause to reflect that Philippi was the first place, so far as we know, where the gospel was preached in Europe, that a woman was the first convert, that the messengers of the cross were met with blows, torture, and the dungeon, but through grace and the power of God triumphed gloriously. While Paul was in his next field of labor, Thessalonica, this young church of Philippi twice sent contributions to sustain him (Phil. 4:15, 16). 490
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