Paul’s Ministry at Philippi

But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out”

- Acts 16:11-40

We stopped our survey of Acts on February 25, when we considered the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Returning to it, we find Paul in Acts 15:36 beginning another missionary journey. He took along Silas and left Antioch to travel in Asia Minor and strengthen the churches he had planted.

At Lystra Paul decided to take Timothy along on the journey as a disciple. Paul always went “to the Jew first,” which meant preaching first in the local synagogues. Timothy was half-Jewish, and Paul knew that if Timothy were not circumcised, it would create additional unnecessary difficulties for him as he preached in the synagogues; so Paul circumcised him (Acts 16:1–5).

After several other stops, Paul came to Troas. Acts 16:8 says that “they” came to Troas, and 16:10 says that “we” departed from there, clear evidence that Luke joined the party at that point.

The next major stop was Philippi, a city founded during the Alexandrian empire, but now an important Roman city. There was no synagogue there, which means that there were fewer than ten Jewish men in the city. The believers, mainly Jewish and Gentile God-fearing women, met outside the city. There Paul went to preach, and one of the Gentile believers named Lydia accepted the new covenant message and hosted Paul in her home.

Paul cast a demon out of a slave girl who was a fortune teller, and her masters were infuriated. They had Paul and Silas beaten and cast into prison as troublesome Jews (leaving Luke alone, since he was not a Jew). During the night, an earthquake tore down the prison, and the jailer started to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. Paul stopped him and spoke the Gospel to him, and the man believed.

In the morning, the magistrates ordered Paul’s release. Paul might simply have gone, but he decided to instill some fear into the hearts of the rulers, so that they would not persecute any more Christians. He informed them that they had flogged and imprisoned two men who, though Jews, were full Roman citizens. Fearful that Paul would bring charges against them, the magistrates treated him with respect from then on.

Coram Deo

Paul never asked the civil magistrate to sponsor the Gospel. Following Jesus’ advice, the disciples avoided conflict with the “powers that be.” When calling on the magistrate was pointedly useful to the Gospel, however, the apostles did so. Here Paul scared the rulers into respecting the church. How does this fit today’s situation?

Passages for Further Study

Matthew 5:11–12
1 Corinthians 15:50–58
Philippians 1:27–30

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