Paul and Silas are traveling over some of the same roads they travelled back in Chapter 14 when God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. (Acts 14:27) So now about five years later they are coming back around over these same roads and through these same towns, and there are now areas of strong faith and churches that are growing. And here Paul and Silas find a young believer named Timothy.
Vs 1-3 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. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 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.
Paul sees in Timothy a Christian man that can be a great help to him, and someone who is a servant of God. Seeing this in Timothy, Paul decides to take him along out to the mission field. As we see in verse 1, Timothy was the son of a Jewish woman who believed. We learn more about Timothy’s family and their faith from Paul’s first letter to Timothy.
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.
~1 Timothy 1:5
Timothy’s mom and grandma had probably become saved during Paul’s previous missionary trip through Lystra five years earlier. Perhaps Timothy was saved then as well. Regardless, it’s a beautiful thing to see The Lord at work in a family, and the way Jesus expands His kingdom using mothers and fathers in the lives of their children. Often in families, God will show us His love to the children by using the parents. That’s how I came to know Jesus. He used my mom in my life when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Many of the kids that come to Sunday School come here because Mom or Dad brings them to church.
Other times, He uses the children in the lives of their parents to show Mom or Dad the love of Jesus. I know many people who became saved because of the witness of Christ through the kids. God wants to save your whole family! Many of us know people in our family (or folks that seem like family to us) that we want to see go to heaven. God knows our hearts. Pray for those people and never give up praying for them! God hears your cries for them.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise. ~Psalm 51:17
You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?
We’ll see more about God working in two other families further into this chapter.
Vs 4-5 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them these decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.
The previous work and teaching of Paul and Silas was fruitful. Now they return to encourage the churches, to teach them, and to help grow them grow their faith.
Vs 6-10 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. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 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.” 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.
As they continue (now with Timothy) to travel and teach, they find that God is preventing them from going into certain areas. In my small human mind, I think: “Why would God stop these missionaries? Doesn’t God want to reach these other cities? Doesn’t He care about the work Paul is doing? Doesn’t God want to expand His kingdom?” The team is prevented from going to Asia and Bithynia, and it sounds like they barely had any time in Mysia and Troas.
We know God cares about these people as much as He cares about and died for all mankind.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. ~1 Timothy 2:3-6
But the Lord is stopping the team for a reason. They had no idea why. Even today, 2,000 years later, we don’t know exactly why God stopped them from ministering to these other cities. We can look back and see that God greatly expanded His kingdom using Paul in Macedonia, but we don’t know exactly why God chose that route versus the one Paul wanted to take. God’s plans are so much bigger than our little brains can comprehend! God knows our future and has plans for each and every one of us. How many of us ride to church with someone else driving the car? When we’re on the trip, do we ask why the driver is using the route they are taking? Why not go a different way? Why not take that street instead of this street? We trust the driver to get us there, and we trust that they’ll use the route they think is best.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~Jeremiah 29:11
Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works Which You have done; And Your thoughts toward us Cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, They are more than can be numbered. ~Psalm 40:5
God has plans (thoughts) for each and every one of us. We need to trust that His path is best. That’s what Paul decides to do – to simply trust God.
Vs 11-15 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 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. 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. 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. 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.
Now we see the first of the other families I mentioned. We meet a woman named Lydia who was from Thyatira (in modern-day Turkey) but is living in the Greek city of Philippi. Philippi was a key city on the trade route into Europe, and this woman Lydia is a seller of purple, meaning she sold purple dye.
We read that the Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul similar to the way God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. We see that using her new faith and salvation in Jesus, God also moves her family to accept salvation and grace from Jesus so that she and her household were baptized. God uses the one family member, probably a wife and mother, to testify of Himself to her whole family so that the family accepts Jesus as their savior. What a witness! That’s what God wants to do through each of us in our own families.
“This is how God wants our lives to be: Natural magnets drawing people to Him. Our Christianity should make others want what we have with God.” ~David Guzik
Vs 16-24 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. 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.” 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.
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. And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Here we see Paul irritated with this demon-possessed girl because he doesn’t want the ministry of God to be closely associated with demonic power. He turns around and commands the spirit to get out, and as a result she can no longer make money for her masters. The wealthy profiteers get upset and stir up the local authorities to lock them up in jail, fastening their feet in the stocks, and beat them severely.
When we are witnesses of Jesus to others it can be upsetting to people. Some folks don’t tend to want to hear the truth, and they don’t want their world shaken or changed. Yet there are others that don’t want to continue to live the way they do. They may be at the end of their rope, and see nothing but darkness in their lives. Jesus died for all, and everyone needs to hear the Gospel – that Jesus died for our sins, and rose again to eternity. He wants us to live with Him forever in heaven, and we can have that eternal life with Him if we believe and accept His free gift! Watch what happens next.
25-32 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 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. 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. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
I love that this prison guard’s world was shaken. He was not only shaken by the earthquake, but shaken by the Gospel. He was awakened by the earthquake, and awakened by the Gospel. The lights came on in the jail and he could see, and the light of Jesus opened His eyes to the truth of His salvation for us all. He was in such a desperate situation that he was ready to kill himself. He was like one of those people around us that are living in such dark despair, and are longing to hear the Gospel.
“You and your household seems to be a specific promise for that Philippian jailer. Paul was, under inspiration by the Holy Spirit, telling the keeper of the prison that his household would trust Jesus just as he did. This was a promise made specifically to the keeper of the prison. But it is a promise that the Holy Spirit may well make alive to us, helping us to trust Him for the salvation of our families. However, the jailer’s household was not saved merely because he was; Paul came and spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. They were all saved because they all trust the word of God and the Jesus revealed to us through the word.” ~Guzik
I love to see another family changed by the truth that Jesus died and rose again for every one of us! God wants to use you and me to change the lives of those around us. He wants to change our families. He hears your cries for help. Hang on, trust Him, and keep praying! He has a plan for you.
Also check out If You Are Willing by Desiring to Walk Humbly With My God