Acts + Letters Lesson 17 Day 3

Acts 16:11–40

Questions for Acts and Letters of the Apostles Lesson 17


Backing up to verse 6, the Holy Spirit prevents, then redirects Paul, Silas, and now Timothy from going where Paul intended to go. It’s interesting to note that if Luke had not joined the team in Troas, we might not have Luke’s gospel or the book of Acts.

Here’s how the Spirit led them to Phillipi:

  • The Holy Spirit forbids Paul’s team to head toward Asia Minor (Ephesus). (v. 6)
  • Then “they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit didn’t allow them.” (v. 7)
  • “Passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.” (v. 8)

i. Paul didn’t set out to go to Troas. It was at least the third choice for him. But it was the Holy Spirit’s plan to lead him there. Paul, beautifully responsive to the Holy Spirit, was willing to lay down his will and his plans for the direction that the Holy Spirit brings.

ii. Paul was guided by hindrance. The Holy Spirit often guides as much by the closing of doors as He does by the opening of doors.

iii. David Livingstone wanted to go to China, but God sent him to Africa. William Carey wanted to go to Polynesia, but God sent him to India. Adoniram Judson went to India, but God guided him to Burma. God guides us along the way to just the right place. (Enduring Word)

  • During the night, Paul saw a vision. He saw a man from Macedonia begging him to come and help them. (v. 9)

That they ‘sailed straight for Samothrace’ is quite revealing, because this is a nautical expression that means the wind was at their backs. So perfect were the winds that they sailed 156 miles in just two days, whereas returning the other way at a later time (Acts 20:6) it took five days.” (Hughes)

6. Paul’s work in the Macedonian city of Philippi

Philippi was “the place where the armies of Mark Antony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius in the decisive battle of the second Roman civil war in 42 B.C.” (Hughes) Because of this, many Roman soldiers retired in the area, and Philippi was proud of its Roman connection.

Paul or one of the others may have inquired and learned there was no synagogue in Philippi. Since there wasn’t, they looked “outside of the city by a riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer.”

Had there been ten Jewish men, they would have [constituted] a synagogue. No number of women would compensate for the absence of even one man necessary to make up the quorum of ten. (Bruce via Enduring Word)

Luke writes, A business “woman named Lydia . . . who worshiped God” heard us. “The Lord opened her heart to listen to the things Paul spoke.” After he baptized Lydia and her household, she persuaded them to come and stay at her house. (v. 14–15)

Luke doesn’t mention if any others believed that day.

7. The Lord opened Lydia’s heart.

It’s necessary for the Lord to open someone’s heart before they can hear and believe. “An important element in evangelism is asking God to open heats, for without this there can be no genuine conversion.” (David Guzik)

8. a. The slave girl with the Python spirit.

[The Greek] says, ‘She had a spirit of Pythona.’ That does not mean much to most of us, which is why it is not translated literally. But ‘pythona’ was a certain kind of snake – a python. It is used here because the python was associated with the god Apollo…not far from Philippi, in this very area of Europe, there was a shrine to the Pythian Apollo.” (Boice)

One day on the way to pray, Paul and his team encountered a psychic slave girl. She mocked and followed them day after day. Paul got so annoyed, he cast the spirit of divination out of her.

Her owners were furious because they previously made a lot of money from her fortune-telling. They grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them off to the authorities, claiming they were causing a disturbance in the city and encouraging customs against the Roman laws.

The magistrates ordered them stripped off their clothes and beaten with rods. After beating them, they threw Paul and Silas into prison with their feet held in stocks.

The prison

Around midnight, while they were praying and singing in the dungeon, a massive earthquake shook all the prison doors open. The jailer freaked out, thinking all the prisoners escaped. He was about to kill himself to avoid torture, but Paul shouted, “Stop! We’re all still here.”

The jailer, still shaking, asked Paul and Silas how to be saved. He cleaned their wounds, and Paul baptized him and his whole household. The jailer invited them into his house and gave them something to eat. He and his entire family were filled with joy because they all believed in God.

b. They prayed and worshiped God at midnight.

This passage never ceases to challenge me when I think how differently I might react. They were in pain, tired, and hungry. But they worshiped.

They didn’t give into fear or hopelessness. They sang praises to Almighty God who set them free with an earthquake. Wow!

Lord, help my unbelief.

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Unless noted, all Scripture from public domain WEB translation.
My answers to BSF Bible Study Fellowship questions Acts + Letters of the Apostles Lesson 17 Day 3