Paul takes Timothy to be his assistant. (1-5) Paul proceeds to Macedonia, The conversion of Lydia. (6-15) An evil spirit cast out, Paul and Silas scourged and imprisoned. (16-24) The conversion of the jailer at Philippi. (25-34) Paul and Silas released. (35-40)
Verses 1-5 Well may the church look for much service from youthful ministers who set out in the same spirit as Timothy. But when men will submit in nothing, and oblige in nothing, the first elements of the Christian temper seem to be wanting; and there is great reason to believe that the doctrines and precepts of the gospel will not be successfully taught. The design of the decree being to set aside the ceremonial law, and its carnal ordinances, believers were confirmed in the Christian faith, because it set up a spiritual way of serving God, as suited to the nature both of God and man. Thus the church increased in numbers daily.
Verses 6-15 The removals of ministers, and the dispensing the means of grace by them, are in particular under Divine conduct and direction. We must follow Providence: and whatever we seek to do, if that suffer us not, we ought to submit and believe to be for the best. People greatly need help for their souls, it is their duty to look out for it, and to invite those among them who can help them. And God's calls must be complied with readily. A solemn assembly the worshippers of God must have, if possible, upon the sabbath day. If we have not synagogues, we must be thankful for more private places, and resort to them; not forsaking the assembling together, as our opportunities are. Among the hearers of Paul was a woman, named Lydia. She had an honest calling, which the historian notices to her praise. Yet though she had a calling to mind, she found time to improve advantages for her soul. It will not excuse us from religious duties, to say, We have a trade to mind; for have not we also a God to serve, and souls to look after? Religion does not call us from our business in the world, but directs us in it. Pride, prejudice, and sin shut out the truths of God, till his grace makes way for them into the understanding and affections; and the Lord alone can open the heart to receive and believe his word. We must believe in Jesus Christ; there is no coming to God as a Father, but by the Son as Mediator.
Verses 16-24 Satan, though the father of lies, will declare the most important truths, when he can thereby serve his purposes. But much mischief is done to the real servants of Christ, by unholy and false preachers of the gospel, who are confounded with them by careless observers. Those who do good by drawing men from sin, may expect to be reviled as troublers of the city. While they teach men to fear God, to believe in Christ, to forsake sin, and to live godly lives, they will be accused of teaching bad customs.
Verses 25-34 The consolations of God to his suffering servants are neither few nor small. How much more happy are true Christians than their prosperous enemies! As in the dark, so out of the depths, we may cry unto God. No place, no time is amiss for prayer, if the heart be lifted up to God. No trouble, however grievous, should hinder us from praise. Christianity proves itself to be of God, in that it obliges us to be just to our own lives. Paul cried aloud to make the jailer hear, and to make him heed, saying, Do thyself no harm. All the cautions of the word of God against sin, and all appearances of it, and approaches to it, have this tendency. Man, woman, do not ruin thyself; hurt not thyself, and then none else can hurt thee; do not sin, for nothing but that can hurt thee. Even as to the body, we are cautioned against the sins which do harm to that. Converting grace changes people's language of and to good people and good ministers. How serious the jailer's inquiry! His salvation becomes his great concern; that lies nearest his heart, which before was furthest from his thoughts. It is his own precious soul that he is concerned about. Those who are thoroughly convinced of sin, and truly concerned about their salvation, will give themselves up to Christ. Here is the sum of the whole gospel, the covenant of grace in a few words; Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. The Lord so blessed the word, that the jailer was at once softened and humbled. He treated them with kindness and compassion, and, professing faith in Christ, was baptized in that name, with his family. The Spirit of grace worked such a strong faith in them, as did away further doubt; and Paul and Silas knew by the Spirit, that a work of God was wrought in them. When sinners are thus converted, they will love and honour those whom they before despised and hated, and will seek to lessen the suffering they before desired to increase. When the fruits of faith begin to appear, terrors will be followed by confidence and joy in God.
Verses 35-40 Paul, though willing to suffer for the cause of Christ, and without any desire to avenge himself, did not choose to depart under the charge of having deserved wrongful punishment, and therefore required to be dismissed in an honourable manner. It was not a mere point of honour that the apostle stood upon, but justice, and not to himself so much as to his cause. And when proper apology is made, Christians should never express personal anger, nor insist too strictly upon personal amends. The Lord will make them more than conquerors in every conflict; instead of being cast down by their sufferings, they will become comforters of their brethren.
PAUL'S SECOND MISSIONARY JOURNEY.
Acts 15:41-16:5'. VISITATION OF THE CHURCHES FORMERLY ESTABLISHED, TIMOTHEUS HERE JOINING THE MISSIONARY PARTY.
41. he went through Syria and Taking probably the same route as when despatched in haste from Jerusalem to Tarsus, he then went by land
1-5. Then came he to Derbe and Lystra; and, behold, a certain disciple was there--that is, at Lystra (not Derbe, as some conclude from Acts 20:4 ). own son in the faith" ( 1 Timothy 1:2 ), he must have been gained to Christ at the apostle's first visit; and as Paul says he "had fully known his persecutions which came on him at Lystra" ( 2 Timothy 3:10 2 Timothy 3:11 ), he may have been in that group of disciples that surrounded the apparently lifeless body of the apostle outside the walls of Lystra, and that at a time of life when the mind receives its deepest impressions from the spectacle of innocent suffering and undaunted courage [HOWSON]. His would be one of "the souls of the disciples confirmed" at the apostle's second visit, "exhorted to continue in the faith, and" warned "that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" ( Acts 14:21 Acts 14:22 ).
the son of a certain . . . Jewess--"The unfeigned faith which dwelt first in his grandmother Lois" descended to "his mother Eunice," and thence it passed to this youth ( 2 Timothy 1:5 ), who "from a child knew the Holy Scriptures" ( 2 Timothy 3:15 ). His gifts and destination to the ministry of Christ had already been attested ( 1 Timothy 1:18 , 4:14 ); and though some ten years after this Paul speaks of him as still young ( 1 Timothy 4:12 ), "he was already well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium" ( Acts 16:2 ), and consequently must have been well known through all that quarter.
but his father was a Greek--Such mixed marriages, though little practiced, and disliked by the stricter Jews in Palestine, must have been very frequent among the Jews of the dispersion, especially in remote districts, where but few of the scattered people were settled [HOWSON].
3. Him would Paul have to go forth with him--This is in harmony with all we read in the Acts and Epistles of Paul's affectionate and confiding disposition. He had no relative ties which were of service to him in his work; his companions were few and changing; and though Silas would supply the place of Barnabas, it was no weakness to yearn for the society of one who might become, what Mark once appeared to be, a son in the Gospel [HOWSON]. And such he indeed proved to be, the most attached and serviceable of his associates ( Philippians 2:19-23 , 1 Corinthians 4:17 , 1 Corinthians 16:10 1 Corinthians 16:11 , 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6 ). His double connection, with the Jews by the mother's side and the Gentiles by the father's, would strike the apostle as a peculiar qualification for his own sphere of labor. "So far as appears, Timothy is the first Gentile who after his conversion comes before us as a regular missionary; for what is said of Titus ( Galatians 2:3 ) refers to a later period" [WIES]. But before his departure, Paul
took and circumcised him--a rite which every Israelite might perform.
because of the Jews . . . for they knew all that his father was a Greek--This seems to imply that the father was no proselyte. Against the wishes of a Gentile father no Jewish mother was, as the Jews themselves say, permitted to circumcise her son. We thus see why all the religion of Timothy is traced to the female side of the family ( 2 Timothy 1:5 ). "Had Timothy not been circumcised, a storm would have gathered round the apostle in his farther progress. His fixed line of procedure was to act on the cities through the synagogues; and to preach the Gospel to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. But such a course would have been impossible had not Timothy been circumcised. He must necessarily have been repelled by that people who endeavored once to murder Paul because they imagined he had taken a Greek into the temple ( Acts 21:29 ). The very intercourse of social life would have been almost impossible, for it was still "an abomination" for the circumcised to eat with the uncircumcised" [HOWSON]. In refusing to compel Titus afterwards to be circumcised ( Galatians 2:3 ) at the bidding of Judaizing Christians, as necessary to salvation, he only vindicated "the truth of the Gospel" ( Galatians 2:5 ); in circumcising Timothy, "to the Jews he became as a Jew that he might gain the Jews." Probably Timothy's ordination took place now ( 1 Timothy 4:14 , 2 Timothy 1:6 ); and it was a service, apparently, of much solemnity--"before many witnesses" ( 1 Timothy 6:12 ).
4, 5. And as they went through the cities, they delivered . . . the decrees . . . And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily--not the churches, but the number of their members, by this visit and the written evidence laid before them of the triumph of Christian liberty at Jerusalem, and the wise measures there taken to preserve the unity of the Jewish and Gentile converts.
Acts 16:6-12 . THEY BREAK NEW GROUND IN PHRYGIA AND GALATIA--THEIR COURSE IN THAT DIRECTION BEING MYSTERIOUSLY HEDGED UP, THEY TRAVEL WESTWARD TO TROAS, WHERE THEY ARE DIVINELY DIRECTED TO MACEDONIA--THE HISTORIAN HIMSELF HERE JOINING THE MISSIONARY PARTY, THEY EMBARK FOR NEAPOLIS, AND REACH PHILIPPI.
6-8. Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia--proceeding in a northwesterly direction. At this time must have been formed "the churches of Galatia" ( Galatians 1:2 , 1 Corinthians 16:1 ); founded, as we learn from the Epistle to the Galatians (particularly Galatians 4:19 ), by the apostle Paul, and which were already in existence when he was on his third missionary journey, as we learn from Acts 18:23 , where it appears that he was no less successful in Phrygia. Why these proceedings, so interesting as we should suppose, are not here detailed, it is not easy to say; for the various reasons suggested are not very satisfactory: for example, that the historian had not joined the party [ALFORD]; that he was in haste to bring the apostle to Europe [OLSHAUSEN]; that the main stream of the Church's development was from Jerusalem to Rome, and the apostle's labors in Phrygia and Galatia lay quite out of the line of that direction [BAUMGARTEN].
and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost--speaking by some prophet,
to preach the word in Asia--not the great Asiatic continent, nor even the rich peninsula now called Asia Minor, but only so much of its western coast as constituted the Roman province of Asia.
7. After they were come to Mysia--where, as being part of Roman Asia, they were forbidden to labor ( Acts 16:8 ).
they assayed--or attempted
to go into--or, towards.
Bithynia--to the northeast.
but the Spirit--speaking as before.
suffered them not--probably because, (1) Europe was ripe for the labors of this missionary party; and (2) other instruments were to be honored to establish the Gospel in the eastern regions of Asia Minor, especially the apostle Peter (see 1 Peter 1:1 ). By the end of the first century, as testified by PLINY the governor, Bithynia was filled with Christians. "This is the first time that the Holy Ghost is expressly spoken of as determining the course they were to follow in their efforts to evangelize the nations, and it was evidently designed to show that whereas hitherto the diffusion of the Gospel had been carried on in unbroken course, connected by natural points of junction, it was now to take a leap to which it could not be impelled but by an immediate and independent operation of the Spirit; and though primarily, this intimation of the Spirit was only negative, and referred but to the immediate neighborhood, we may certainly conclude that Paul took it for a sign that a new epoch was now to commence in his apostolic labors" [BAUMGARTEN].
8. came down to Troas--a city on the northeast coast of the Ægean Sea, the boundary of Asia Minor on the west; the region of which was the scene of the great Trojan war.
9, 10. a vision appeared to Paul in the night--while awake, for it is not called a dream.
There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us--Stretching his eye across the Ægean Sea, from Troas on the northeast, to the Macedonian hills, visible on the northwest, the apostle could hardly fail to think this the destined scene of his future labors; and, if he retired to rest with this thought, he would be thoroughly prepared for the remarkable intimation of the divine will now to be given him. This visional Macedonian discovered himself by what he said. But it was a cry not of conscious desire for the Gospel, but of deep need of it and unconscious preparedness to receive it, not only in that region, but, we may well say, throughout all that western empire which Macedonia might be said to represent. It was a virtual confession "that the highest splendor of heathendom, which we must recognize in the arts of Greece and in the polity and imperial power of Rome, had arrived at the end of all its resources. God had left the Gentile peoples to walk in their own ways ( Acts 14:2 ). They had sought to gain salvation for themselves; but those who had carried it farthest along the paths of natural development were now pervaded by the feeling that all had indeed been vanity. This feeling is the simple, pure result of all the history of heathendom. And Israel, going along the way which God had marked out for him, had likewise arrived at his end. At last he is in a condition to realize his original vocation, by becoming the guide who is to lead the Gentiles unto God, the only Author and Creator of man's redemption; and Paul is in truth the very person in whom this vocation of Israel is now a present divine reality, and to whom, by this nocturnal apparition of the Macedonian, the preparedness of the heathen world to receive the ministry of Israel towards the Gentiles is confirmed" [BAUMGARTEN]. This voice cries from heathendom still to the Christian Church, and never does the Church undertake the work of missions, nor any missionary go forth from it, in the right spirit, save in obedience to this cry.
10. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia--The "we," here first introduced, is a modest intimation that the historian himself had now joined the missionary party. (The modern objections to this are quite frivolous). Whether Paul's broken health had anything to do with this arrangement for having "the beloved physician" with him [WIES], can never be known with certainty; but that he would deem himself honored in taking care of so precious a life, there can be no doubt.
11, 12. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came--literally, "ran."
with a straight course--that is, "ran before the wind."
to Samothracia--a lofty island on the Thracian coast, north from Troas, with an inclination westward. The wind must have set in strong from the south or south-southeast to bring them there so soon, as the current is strong in the opposite direction, and they afterwards took five days to what they now did in two ( Acts 20:6 ) [HOWSON].
next day to Neapolis--on the Macedonian, or rather Thracian, coast, about sixty-five miles from Samothracia, and ten from Philippi, of which it is the harbor.
12. Philippi . . . the chief--rather, perhaps, "the first"
city of that part of Macedonia--The meaning appears to be--the first city one comes to, proceeding from Neapolis. The sense given in our version hardly consists with fact.
a colony--that is, possessing all the privileges of Roman citizenship, and, as such, both exempted from scourging and (in ordinary cases) from arrest, and entitled to appeal from the local magistrate to the emperor. Though the Pisidian Antioch and Troas were also "colonies," the fact is mentioned in this history of Philippi only on account of the frequent references to Roman privileges and duties in the sequel of the chapter.
Acts 16:12-34 . AT PHILIPPI, LYDIA IS GAINED AND WITH HER HOUSEHOLD BAPTIZED--AN EVIL SPIRIT IS EXPELLED, PAUL AND SILAS ARE SCOURGED, IMPRISONED, AND MANACLED, BUT MIRACULOUSLY SET FREE, AND THE JAILER WITH ALL HIS HOUSEHOLD CONVERTED AND BAPTIZED.
12, 13. we were in that city abiding certain days--waiting till the sabbath came round: their whole stay must have extended to some weeks. As their rule was to begin with the Jews and proselytes, they did nothing till the time when they knew that they would convene for worship.
13. on the sabbath day--the first after their arrival, as the words imply.
we went out of the city--rather, as the true reading is, "outside of the (city) gate."
by a river-side--one of the small streams which gave name to the place ere the city was founded by Philip of Macedon.
where prayer was wont to be made--or a prayer-meeting held. It is plain there was no synagogue at Philippi (contrast Acts 17:1 ), the number of the Jews being small. The meeting appears to have consisted wholly of women, and these not all Jewish. The neighbor. hood of streams was preferred, on account of the ceremonial washings used on such occasions.
we sat down and spake unto the women, &c.--a humble congregation, and simple manner of preaching. But here and thus were gathered the first-fruits of Europe unto Christ, and they were of the female sex, of whose accession and services honorable mention will again and again be made.
14, 15. Lydia--a common name among the Greeks and Romans.
a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira--on the confines of Lydia and Phrygia. The Lydians, particularly the inhabitants of Thyatira, were celebrated for their dyeing, in which they inherited the reputation of the Tyrians. Inscriptions to this effect, yet remaining, confirm the accuracy of our historian. This woman appears to have been in good circumstances, having an establishment at Philippi large enough to accommodate the missionary party ( Acts 16:15 ), and receiving her goods from her native town.
which worshipped God--that is, was a proselyte to the Jewish faith, and as such present at this meeting.
whose heart the Lord opened--that is, the Lord Jesus (see Acts 16:15 ; and compare Luke 24:45 , Matthew 11:27 ).
that she attended to the things . . . spoken by Paul--"showing that the inclination of the heart towards the truth originates not in the will of man. The first disposition to turn to the Gospel is a work of grace" [OLSHAUSEN]. Observe here the place assigned to "giving attention" or "heed" to the truth--that species of attention which consists in having the whole mind engrossed with it, and in apprehending and drinking it in, in its vital and saving character.
15. And when . . . baptized . . . and her household--probably without much delay. The mention of baptism here for the first time in connection with the labors of Paul, while it was doubtless performed on all his former converts, indicates a special importance in this first European baptism. Here also is the first mention of a Christian household. Whether it included children, also in that case baptized, is not explicitly stated; but the presumption, as in other cases of household baptism, is that it did. Yet the question of infant baptism must be determined on other grounds; and such incidental allusions form only part of the historical materials for ascertaining the practice of the Church.
she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord--the Lord Jesus; that is, "By the faith on Him which ye have recognized in me by baptism." There is a beautiful modesty in the expression.
And she constrained us--The word seems to imply that they were reluctant, but were overborne.
16-18. as we went to prayer--The words imply that it was on their way to the usual place of public prayer, by the river-side, that this took place; therefore not on the same day with what had just occurred.
a . . . damsel--a female servant, and in this case a slave ( Acts 16:19 ).
possessed of a spirit of divination--or, of Python, that is, a spirit supposed to be inspired by the Pythian Apollo, or of the same nature. The reality of this demoniacal possession is as undeniable as that of any in the Gospel history.
17. These men are servants of the most high God, &c.--Glorious
this did she many days--that is, on many successive occasions when on their way to their usual place of meeting, or when engaged in religious services.
18. Paul being grieved--for the poor victim; grieved to see such power possessed by the enemy of man's salvation, and grieved to observe the malignant design with which this high testimony was borne to Christ.
19. when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas--as the leading persons.
and drew them into the market-place--or Forum, where the courts were.
to the magistrates, saying, &c.--We have here a full and independent confirmation of the reality of this supernatural cure, since on any other supposition such conduct would be senseless.
20. These men, being Jews--objects of dislike, contempt, and suspicion by the Romans, and at this time of more than usual prejudice.
do exceedingly trouble our city--See similar charges, Acts 17:6 , 24:5 , 1 Kings 18:17 . There is some color of truth in all such accusations, in so far as the Gospel, and generally the fear of God, as a reigning principle of human action, is in a godless world a thoroughly revolutionary principle . . . How far external commotion and change will in any case attend the triumph of this principle depends on the breadth and obstinacy of the resistance it meets with.
21. And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans--Here also there was a measure of truth; as the introduction of new gods was forbidden by the laws, and this might be thought to apply to any change of religion. But the whole charge was pure hypocrisy; for as these men would have let the missionaries preach what religion they pleased if they had not dried up the source of their gains, so they conceal the real cause of their rage under color of a zeal for religion, and law, and good order: so Acts 17:6 Acts 17:7 , Acts 19:25 Acts 19:27 .
22. the multitude rose up together against them--so Acts 19:28 Acts 19:34 , 21:30 , Luke 23:18 .
the magistrates rent off their--Paul's and Silas'
clothes--that is, ordered the lictors, or rod-bearers, to tear them off, so as to expose their naked bodies word expresses the roughness with which this was done to prisoners preparatory to whipping.
and commanded to beat them--without any trial ( Acts 16:37 ), to appease the popular rage. Thrice, it seems, Paul endured this indignity ( 2 Corinthians 11:25 ).
23, 24. when they had laid many stripes upon them--the bleeding wounds from which they were not washed till it was done by the converted jailer ( Acts 16:33 ).
charged the jailer . . . who . . . thrust them into the inner prison--"pestilential cells, damp and cold, from which the light was excluded, and where the chains rusted on the prisoners. One such place may be seen to this day on the slope of the Capitol at Rome" [HOWSON].
24. made their feet fast in the stocks--an instrument of torture as well as confinement, made of wood bound with iron, with holes for the feet, which were stretched more or less apart according to the severity intended. (ORIGEN at a later period, besides having his neck thrust into an iron collar, lay extended for many days with his feet apart in the rack). Though jailers were proverbially unfeeling, the manner in which the order was given in this case would seem to warrant all that was done.
25. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises--literally, "praying, were singing praises"; that is, while engaged in pouring out their hearts in prayer, had broken forth into singing, and were hymning loud their joy. As the word here employed is that used to denote the Paschal hymn sung by our Lord and His disciples after their last Passover ( Matthew 26:30 ), and which we know to have consisted of Psalms 113:1-118:29', which was chanted at that festival, it is probable that it was portions of the Psalms, so rich in such matter, which our joyous sufferers chanted forth; nor could any be more seasonable and inspiring to them than those very six Psalms, which every devout Jew would no doubt know by heart. "He giveth songs in the night" ( Job 35:10 ). Though their bodies were still bleeding and tortured in the stocks, their spirits, under "the expulsive power of a new affection," rose above suffering, and made the prison wails resound with their song. "In these midnight hymns, by the imprisoned witnesses for Jesus Christ, the whole might of Roman injustice and violence against the Church is not only set at naught, but converted into a foil to set forth more completely the majesty and spiritual power of the Church, which as yet the world knew nothing of. And if the sufferings of these two witnesses of Christ are the beginning and the type of numberless martyrdoms which were to flow upon the Church from the same source, in like manner the unparalleled triumph of the Spirit over suffering was the beginning and the pledge of a spiritual power which we afterwards see shining forth so triumphantly and irresistibly in the many martyrs of Christ who were given up as a prey to the same imperial might of Rome" [NEANDER in BAUMGARTEN].
and the prisoners heard them--literally, "were listening to them," that is, when the astounding events immediately to be related took place; not asleep, but wide awake and rapt (no doubt) in wonder at what they heard.
26-28. And suddenly there was a great earthquake--in answer, doubtless, to the prayers and expectations of the sufferers that, for the truth's sake and the honor of their Lord, some interposition would take place.
every one's bands--that is, the bands of all the prisoners.
were loosed--not by the earthquake, of course, but by a miraculous energy accompanying it. By this and the joyous strains which they had heard from the sufferers, not to speak of the change wrought on the jailer, these prisoners could hardly fail to have their hearts in some measure opened to the truth; and this part of the narrative seems the result of information afterwards communicated by one or more of these men.
27. the keeper . . . awaking . . . drew . . . his sword, and would have killed himself, &c.--knowing that his life was forfeited in that case ( Acts 12:19 ; and compare Acts 27:42 ).
28. But Paul cried with a loud voice--the better to arrest the deed.
Do thyself no harm, for we are all here--What divine calmness and self-possession! No elation at their miraculous liberation, or haste to take advantage of it; but one thought filled the apostle's mind at that moment--anxiety to save a fellow creature from sending himself into eternity, ignorant of the only way of life; and his presence of mind appears in the assurance which he so promptly gives to the desperate man, that his prisoners had none of them fled as he feared. But how, it has been asked by skeptical critics, could Paul in his inner prison know what the jailer was about to do? In many conceivable ways, without supposing any supernatural communication. Thus, if the jailer slept at the door of "the inner prison," which suddenly flew open when the earthquake shook the foundations of the building; if, too, as may easily be conceived, he uttered some cry of despair on seeing the doors open; and, if the clash of the steel, as the affrighted man drew it hastily from the scabbard, was audible but a few yards off, in the dead midnight stillness, increased by the awe inspired in the prisoners by the miracle--what difficulty is there in supposing that Paul, perceiving in a moment how matters stood, after crying out, stepped hastily to him, uttering the noble entreaty here recorded? Not less flat is the question, why the other liberated prisoners did not make their escape:--as if there were the smallest difficulty in understanding how, under the resistless conviction that there must be something supernatural in their instantaneous liberation without human hand, such wonder and awe should possess them as to take away for the time not only all desire of escape, but even all thought on the subject.
29, 30. Then he called for a light, and sprang in . . . and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out and said--How graphic this rapid succession of minute details, evidently from the parties themselves, the prisoners and the jailer, who would talk over every feature of the scene once and again, in which the hand of the Lord had been so marvellously seen.
30. Sirs, what must I do to be saved?--If this question should seem in advance of any light which the jailer could be supposed to possess, let it be considered (1) that the "trembling" which came over him could not have arisen from any fear for the safety of his prisoners, for they were all there; and if it had, he would rather have proceeded to secure them again than leave them, to fall down before Paul and Silas. For the same reason it is plain that his trembling had nothing to do with any account he would have to render to the magistrates. Only one explanation of it can be given--that he had become all at once alarmed about his spiritual state, and that though, a moment before, .he was ready to plunge into eternity with the guilt of self-murder on his head, without a thought of the sin he was committing and its awful consequences, his unfitness to appear before God, and his need of salvation, now flashed full upon his soul and drew from the depths of his spirit the cry here recorded. If still it be asked how it could take such definite shape, let it be considered (2) that the jailer could hardly be ignorant of the nature of the charges on which these men had been imprisoned, seeing they had been publicly whipped by order of the magistrates, which would fill the whole town with the facts of the case, including that strange cry of the demoniac from day to-day--"These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation"--words proclaiming not only the divine commission of the preachers, but the news of salvation they were sent to tell, the miraculous expulsion of the demon and the rage of her masters. All this, indeed, would go for nothing with such a man, until roused by the mighty earthquake which made the building to rock; then despair seizing him at the sight of the open doors, the sword of self-destruction was suddenly arrested by words from one of those prisoners such as he would never imagine could be spoken in their circumstances--words evidencing something divine about them. Then would flash across him the light of a new discovery; "That was a true cry which the Pythoness uttered, 'These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation! That I now must know, and from them, as divinely sent to me, must I learn that way of salvation!'" Substantially, this is the cry of every awakened sinner, though the degree of light and the depths of anxiety it expresses will be different in each case.
31-34. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved--The brevity, simplicity, and directness of this reply are, in the circumstances, singularly beautiful. Enough at that moment to have his faith directed simply to the Saviour, with the assurance that this would bring to his soul the needed and sought salvation--the how being a matter for after teaching.
thou shalt be saved, and thy
32. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord--unfolding now, doubtless, more fully what "the Lord Jesus Christ" was to whom they had pointed his faith, and what the "salvation" was which this would bring him.
and to all that were in his house--who from their own dwelling (under the same roof no doubt with the prison) had crowded round the apostles, aroused first by the earthquake. (From their addressing the Gospel message "to all that were in the house" it is not necessary to infer that it contained no children, but merely that as it contained adults besides the jailer himself, so to all of these, as alone of course fit to be addressed, they preached the word).
33. And he took them--the word implies change of place.
the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes--in the well or fountain which was within or near the precincts of the prison [HOWSON]. The mention of "the same hour of the night" seems to imply that they had to go forth into the open air, which, unseasonable as the hour was, they did. These bleeding wounds had never been thought of by the indifferent jailer. But now, when his whole heart was opened to his spiritual benefactors, he cannot rest until he has done all in his power for their bodily relief.
and was baptized, he and all his, straightway--probably at the same fountain, since it took place "straightway"; the one washing on his part being immediately succeeded by the other on theirs.
34. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them and rejoiced, believing--that is, as the expression implies, "rejoiced because he had believed."
in God--as a converted heathen, for the faith of a Jew would not be so expressed [ALFORD].
with all his house--the wondrous change on himself and the whole house filling his soul with joy. "This is the second house which, in the Roman city of Philippi, has been consecrated by faith in Jesus, and of which the inmates, by hospitable entertainment of the Gospel witnesses, have been sanctified to a new beginning of domestic life, pleasing and acceptable to God. The first result came to pass in consequence simply of the preaching of the Gospel; the second was the fruit of a testimony sealed and ennobled by suffering" [BAUMGARTEN].
35, 36. when it was day, the magistrates sent the sergeants, saying, Let those men go--The cause of this change can only be conjectured. When the commotion ceased, reflection would soon convince them of the injustice they had done, even supposing the prisoners had been entitled to no special privileges; and if rumor reached them that the prisoners were somehow under supernatural protection, they might be the more awed into a desire to get rid of them.
36. the keeper--overjoyed to have such orders to execute.
told this . . . to Paul . . . now therefore . . . go in peace--Very differently did Paul receive such orders.
37. Paul said unto them--to the sergeants who had entered the prison along with the jailer, that they might be able to report that the men had departed.
They have beaten us openly--The publicity of the injury done them, exposing their naked and bleeding bodies to the rude populace, was evidently the most stinging feature of it to the apostle's delicate feeling, and to this accordingly he alludes to the Thessalonians, probably a year after: "Even after we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated (or 'insulted') as ye know at Philippi" ( 1 Thessalonians 2:2 ).
uncondemned--unconvicted on trial.
and cast us into prison--both illegal. Of Silas' citizenship, if meant to be included, we know nothing.
and now do they thrust us out--hurry us out--see Mark 9:38 , Greek.
privily?--Mark the intended contrast between the public insult they had inflicted and the private way in which they ordered them to be off.
nay verily--no, indeed.
but let them come themselves and fetch us out--by open and formal act, equivalent to a public declaration of their innocence.
38. they feared when they heard they were Romans--their authority being thus imperilled; for they were liable to an action for what they had done.
39, 40. And they came--in person.
and besought them--not to complain of them. What a contrast this suppliant attitude of the preachers of Philippi to the tyrannical air with which they had the day before treated the preachers! (See Isaiah 60:14 , Revelation 3:9 ).
brought them out--conducted them forth from the prison into the street, as insisted on.
them to depart out of the city--perhaps fearing again to excite the populace.
40. And they went out of the prison--Having attained their object--to vindicate their civil rights, by the infraction of which in this case the Gospel in their persons had been illegally affronted--they had no mind to carry the matter farther. Their citizenship was valuable to them only as a shield against unnecessary injuries to their Master's cause. What a beautiful mixture of dignity and meekness is this! Nothing secular, which may be turned to the account of the Gospel, is morbidly disregarded; in any other view, nothing of this nature is set store by:--an example this for all ages.
and entered into the house of Lydia--as if to show by this leisurely proceeding that they had not been made to leave, but were at full liberty to consult their own convenience.
and when they had seen the brethren--not only her family and the jailer's, but probably others now gained to the Gospel.
they comforted them--rather, perhaps, "exhorted" them, which would include comfort. "This assembly of believers in the house of Lydia was the first church that had been founded in Europe" [BAUMGARTEN].
and departed--but not all; for two of the company remained behind "learned the proof" that he honestly cared for their state, and was truly like-minded with Paul, "serving with him in the Gospel as a son with his father" ( Philippians 2:19-23 ); and Luke, "whose praise is in the Gospel," though he never praises himself or relates his own labors, and though we only trace his movements in connection with Paul, by the change of a pronoun, or the unconscious variation of his style. In the seventeenth chapter the narrative is again in the third person, and the pronoun is not changed to the second till we come to Acts 20:5 . The modesty with which Luke leaves out all mention of his own labors need hardly be pointed out. We shall trace him again when he rejoins Paul in the same neighborhood. His vocation as a physician may have brought him into connection with these contiguous coasts of Asia and Europe, and he may (as MR. SMITH suggests, "Shipwreck," &c.) have been in the habit of exercising his professional skill as a surgeon at sea [HOWSON].