In Acts 16 we read concerning the gospel being preached for the very first time in Europe and it will be accomplished by the Apostle Paul and his co-workers. Luke, the penman of the book of Acts, also informs us in the opening verses of the chapter that Timothy, Paul’s “son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), joined Paul and Silas as they traveled on Paul’s second preaching journey.
Paul, Silas, and Timothy will eventually come to the city of Troas (v. 8), on the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea, where they will be joined by Luke. We know Luke joins the group because he changes his terminology from “they” to “we” at this point in his narrative. They spend at least one night in the city of Troas and a vision will be given to Paul in the night. He sees in this vision a man from Macedonia and hears him say, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (v. 9). Paul and his entourage determine the Lord is sending them to the region of Macedonia and they immediately make preparations to sail by way of the Island of Samothracia and then to Neapolis, a port city of Macedonia. From Neapolis they will go to Philippi, “the chief city of that part of Macedonia” (v. 12). It is here they will come in contact with the households of Lydia and the jailer.
Paul and his brethren, having been in the city for several days, now go outside the city to the river on the Sabbath Day (v. 13) where women were gathered to pray. One of these women is named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, which is located in Asia (Rev. 1:11). She is a “seller of purple” (v. 14), which probably means she sold purple cloth. Many commentators conclude she was probably well off financially because generally purple cloth was considered affordable only by royalty and the very wealthy. Also, the fact that there is no husband mentioned to which she belonged, she has a household, and a house, “my house” (v. 15), it is assumed she was financially secure.
Paul will begin to teach these women the gospel of Jesus Christ. Lydia having heard and understood the teaching will, along with her household, be baptized (v. 15). To be baptized is to be immersed in water (Jn. 1:25-26; 3:23), in order to receive the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Many people attempt to justify infant baptism by reasoning that if Lydia had a household, she must have had infants in it. But the mention of her household does not demand the conclusion that there are any infants. We are aware of many households today overseen or headed up by women where there are no infants in them. Plus, what is stated concerning Lydia, as far as hearing and understanding the preaching of Paul, would also be required of her household because they were all baptized for the remission of their sins, to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16). Infants would not be able to hear, understand, and obey Paul’s teachings which includes being baptized. In addition, there is no need for infants to be baptized because they are not guilty of any sin.
After the conversion of Lydia and her household Luke will record concerning the damsel who was “possessed with a spirit of divination” (v. 16). It is not my intention to deal with the record of Paul demanding the evil spirit to come out of the damsel and the problems resulting from this action. But, needless to say, Paul’s deed will cause him and Silas to be beaten with many stripes and cast into prison. The magistrates who were responsible for this miscarriage of justice ordered the jailer to keep Paul and Silas safely (v. 23). The jailer will thrust them into the inner part of the prison and make “their feet fast in the stocks” (v. 24). It appears his intention is to make sure there would be no way that Paul and Silas could escape from the prison.
Luke says at midnight Paul and Silas are singing praises unto God (v. 25). They are singing loud enough to allow the other prisoners to be able to hear them. We should ask ourselves a question, “What would I have been doing at midnight after having been beaten unjustly with many stripes and thrust into the inner part of a prison?” It is certainly a soul searching question, is it not? How many of us complain, and sometimes strenuously, about our situation or circumstances in life even though we are not treated in nearly as cruel of a manner as Paul and Silas were at this time?
While singing these praises to God an earthquake shakes the very foundations of the prison (v. 26). The jailer is awakened from his slumber and seeing all the prison doors open he draws out his sword in order to kill himself. The reason for his action seems to be because under Roman law he would be killed or imprisoned for life if even one prisoner escaped while under his watch. The apostle Paul calls out to him, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (v. 28). The jailer calls for a light and finds that Paul has spoken the truth. He will then ask, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (v. 30). To which Paul and Silas reply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (v. 31). They will then teach them, the jailer and his household, the word of the Lord. Having heard and understood the teaching of Paul and Silas they will be baptized, immersed in water, in order to be saved from their sins (v. 33).
Such accounts of conversion like that of Lydia, the jailer, and their households which are recorded in Acts truly lift our hearts with thanksgiving for our Lord, His gospel, and salvation made possible through obedience of it.
Keith preaches for the Lord’s church in Mountain Grove, MO.