The Last Chapter  |  The Next Chapter  |  NCB Acts Menu

Acts Chapter 16
An Understandable Version of ACTS
Translation by William E. Paul
by Charles Dailey

(Black underlined words match words in the Bible text.)
1) When Paul came to Derbe and [then] to Lystra, he met a certain disciple named Timothy, whose mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek [i.e., Gentile]. Luke now introduces us to a man who would become a major player Timothy. His mother was Eunice and his grandmother was Lois. That is an excellent name. 2 Timothy 1:5 (The name of this scribe's wife.)
- Timothy means "Honoring God."
- His mother was a spiritually single believer. Timothy's father was not only a Greek, but Luke implies that he was not a Christian either.
2) This young man had a very good reputation among the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Having a good reputation is always important in Christian circles. Eccl. 7:1 - "A good name is better than a good ointment . . ."
3) Paul wanted him to travel with him [on a preaching mission] so he had him circumcised in order to avoid prejudice by the Jews in that area, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek. Paul probably wanted him to travel and serve in a role like John Mark at first.
- Shelley remarks that "Pointless offense of others is not in keeping with the nature of love for one's fellows." So Timothy was circumcised. They were adapting to the prejudices, not requiring circumcision for salvation.
4) And as they traveled through the towns [of Asia Minor] they presented [to each church] the requirements they were to observe that had been decided on by the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem church. They delivered the list of four items. Acts 15:23-29.
5) So, the churches [of the region] were being [spiritually] strengthened in the faith and grew in number daily. The churches experienced daily growth, not weekly or monthly.
6) And then Paul, Silas, Timothy [and perhaps others by now] traveled through the districts of Phrygia and Galatia [i.e., provinces of central Asia Minor] because [an inspired message from] the Holy Spirit would not permit them to proclaim the message in Asia [i.e., the westernmost province of Asia Minor]. The team made their own decision on where to go, not waiting for the Spirit's "guidance." God expects us to plan carefully and then carry out the plan.
- The Spirit would not permit them certain choices. Those options were closed. This would have been puzzling to all of the team members.
7) When they came near Mysia [i.e., a northwestern province of Asia Minor] they attempted to travel into Bythinia [i.e., a northern province of Asia Minor] but [an inspired message from] the Holy Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to, Their next plan was not allowed either. This must have puzzled them more. Rather than providing a positive guidance, the Spirit kept them from executing their plans, but Paul returned later to this area.
- We do not know how the Spirit communicated with them, whether dream or vision or by circumstances.
8) so they went on through Mysia and came down to Troas, [i.e., a seaport on the Aegean Sea, from which they sailed over to Europe]. Was Paul sick and needed to see a doctor? Galatians 4:12-14.
- At this point, Paul met Dr. Luke, the author of Acts, in Troas. They may have known each other before. Eusebius says Luke was of "Antiochian parentage" (Book 3, Chapter 4, third paragraph) and Paul may have known him there.
9) Then one night [while asleep] Paul had a vision [i.e., an inspired dream] in which a man from Macedonia [i.e., northern Greece] stood in front of him begging, "Come over to Macedonia to help us." The group was still puzzled on where they were to be going. God had his special timing and they did not know his timetable before the vision.
- The vision WAS the Spirit's leading, a big step into the heart of Greece. Aside from a church at Rome, we do not know of the message of the Lord having been preached in Europe before this.
10) After seeing [the man in] the vision, we immediately made every effort to go to Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news [about Jesus] to the people there. [ Note: This is first use of "we" and "us" in the book of Acts and indicates that Luke, the writer of Acts, joined the party at this point. See 1:1 with Luke 1:1-3. ] Luke begins a "we" section of the book.
- "The King's business requires haste." They began looking for transportation immediately.
- us: Luke may have been a proclaimer before this call. He took the leadership of the first church that was established Philippi.
11) After setting sail from Troas we headed straight for Samothrace [i.e., an island in the Aegean Sea] and the next day we went on to Neapolis [i.e., a seaport in Macedonia], They traveled on small coastal vessels that generally were in a port at night.
- Neapolis is the port city of Philippi.
12) and from there to Philippi, a city of the principal district of Macedonia, [which was] a Roman colony. We stayed in this city for a number of days. Philippi was a colony of retired Roman soldiers. It may have been an active outpost, too. The town was named after Philip of Macedon and was considered an extension of the city of Rome.

Photos or Neapolis are at:
The Greek Ministry of Culture maintains a Web-site dedicated to Philippi at:
13) On a [particular] Sabbath day we went outside the city gate to a place beside a river where we thought people gathered for prayer. We sat down and began speaking [about the Lord] to some women who had gathered there. Worshipers of God without a synagogue always gathered by the nearest body of water.
- This was probably the River Gangites, a small body of water about one mile from town.
- "We" included Luke, Paul, Silas and Timothy.
- No men are mentioned and it took 10 located family men to form a synagogue.
- The "Man from Macedonia" turned out to be a group of women!
14) A certain woman named Lydia, from the town of Thyatira, who sold purple cloth [for a living], was there. She was a worshiper of God and when she heard us [telling about salvation through Christ], the Lord opened her heart to respond to the message being spoken by Paul. Lydia was a saleslady and owned a business extensive enough that she had a large home and other women on her staff.
- Lydia was not a Jewess, but a proselyte to Judaism.
- Much to her credit, she heard and responded as Paul told her about the Hope of Israel.
15) And when she was immersed [into Christ], along with her household [i.e., possibly relatives and/or employees] she urged us, saying, "If you consider me to be a faithful disciple of the Lord, come and stay at my house." And she insisted that we go [to her house]. Immersion was a part of the message. It was not a ritualistic option added weeks or months after the decision was made to respond to the Lord.
- The message had been discussed in their household gatherings and all of the members agreed that it was right.
- Her business was persuading men to act. Now she used her skills on the reluctant evangelistic team. She urged them to stay at her house. One translator said, "She just made us come." Hospitality is a godly virtue.
16) At a later time, when we were going to that [same] place of prayer, we met a certain young woman who was dominated by an [evil] spirit, [claiming to be] able to tell people's fortunes. This [claimed] power was the source of considerable income for the girl's slave-owner. While walking out to the river (verse 13) the team met a young woman possessed by an evil spirit. She was not out of control like some demon-possessed people in the Gospels. She told fortunes with her powers and her proprietors pocketed the profits from her prophecies.
- Note that Doctor Luke acknowledged control by a spirit.
17) She followed Paul and us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Supreme God and they are proclaiming to you the way to be saved." This is the last of the "we/us" statements for a while. The team will leave Luke behind when they leave Philippi.
- Her fortune-telling skills were accurate in this case and she served to get the attention of townspeople.
- A key ingredient in her shouting was that the team was proclaiming the way to be saved. The ideas of being lost and saved may have been entirely new here.
18) And she kept this up for a number of days. But Paul was very disturbed [over what she was doing] and [finally] turned [to her] and said to the spirit [in the girl], "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And the evil spirit did come out [of her] immediately. Jesus had stopped the mouths of demons because He did not want the reputation of being in a coalition with them. Mark 1:24-25. Paul chose the same course here.
- It sounds like the group met more than weekly because Luke says she kept this up for a number of days.
- As an add-on Apostle of Christ, Paul had the power to cast out evil spirits. Mark 16:17.
19) But when the girl's slave-owners saw that their prospects for income [from her activities] were [now] gone, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them to the open shopping market, in front of the authorities. Paul had annihilated the prospects for these pimps and they were provoked.
- Using a citizens' arrest, they dragged Paul and Silas into the shopping mall where city authorities conducted official business each day.
- This is a rare case of Gentiles opposing the team, but the issue was cash and not convictions.
20) And when they brought them before the city officials, they made this charge [against them]: "These Jewish men are causing too much trouble in our city, In this Roman colony, saying "These Jewish men . . ." was an anti-Semitic statement. The truth was they were also Romans citizens, regardless of their race, and were protected by the laws of Rome.
21) and they are teaching people to observe customs which we Romans are not permitted to accept or practice." These pocket-book provoked pretenders did not care about what the team taught, but they were seeking revenge.
- " Vengeance has no foresight." --Napoleon Bonaparte
- These slave-owners are suddenly civic-minded.
22) Then the large crowd began attacking them, and the city officials had their clothes ripped off and ordered them to be beaten. Emotions were running high. Justice has no input where the crowd is out of control.
- The beatings were not the restricted ones delivered by the Jews. There was no legal stopping point to a Roman beating.
23) After beating them severely, they threw them in jail and ordered the jailor to have them securely guarded. Luke mentions the beating twice. These men were beaten like Christ was beaten - without a cause. Paul recalled this incident years later. 1 Thessalonians 2:2
24) After receiving these orders, the jailor threw them into the maximum security cell and had their feet securely fastened in wooden restraints. It was business as usual for the jailor. The word threw is used in both 23 and 24. This does not sound gentle.
- Additionally, their feet were placed in stocks, boards with holes cut for their feet. Like gigantic ancient foot-cuffs.
25) But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God while the [other] prisoners listened. Pain during the day is one thing, but the same pain at night can keep us awake. No doubt Paul and Silas experienced great pain from both the beating and the throwing into jail. Their response was to pray and sing. The other prisoners had never heard the likes of this. These "new guys" had hope.
- Hymns were very unusual sounds from within a prison. This clearly defines hymn as vocal-only singing. The psalm is accompanied by an instrument.
26) Suddenly there was a terrible earthquake which violently shook the foundation of the jail. Immediately all the [cell] doors swung open and everyone's chains fell off. Some wit called this the jailor's New Birthday quake.
- While earthquakes were common here, we note God's marvelous timing with a few special earthquake features added.
- This is the third jail break in Acts. Even though the stocks were opened (implied in verse 30), no one left.
27) The jailor, who was awakened from sleep [by the commotion] saw the jail doors open so drew his [short] sword and prepared to kill himself, assuming that all the prisoners had escaped. [Note: He would have faced a humiliating execution himself if he had allowed capital offense criminals to escape. With that prospect in view, it was considered honorable by the Romans for a person to commit suicide]. Paul must have been able to see the jailor. He both knew the Roman custom that the jailor would kill himself and that he was about to do so.
28) But Paul shouted out, "Do not hurt yourself, for everyone is [still] here." More shouting. It is a miracle that all of the prisoners stayed in jail.
- Paul the prisoner was now in power.
29) The jailor called for torches [to be brought] , then rushed in [to the cell block] , shaking with fear, and fell down [on his knees] before Paul and Silas. Such a role reversal! The jailor is afraid of the jailed.
- This jailor knew that something much larger than he had ever encountered was going on. These two itinerant preachers were jailed and that triggered an earthquake that loosed the prisoners. But they did not leave.
- Probably there had been lots of laughter among the officials and the jailor about their message of being "saved." No one had saved the preachers from a harsh Roman beating.
30) After bringing them out [of the jail area] he said, "Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved?" The prisoners were secure and so the jailor's life was not at risk. Yet he asked "what do I have to do to be saved?" This implied a knowledge of God and a life hereafter.
31) Paul and Silas said, "You and your family can be saved if you [all] believe in the Lord Jesus." Faith in the Lord Jesus was the essential ingredient. Note the word "Christ" is missing because that is a message to Israelites and this family was either Greek or Roman.
32) Then they [continued to] speak the message of the Lord to him and everyone [else] in his household.
33) The jailor immediately took Paul and Silas, and cleansed [and soothed] their wounded [backs] and then he and his [believing] household were immersed [into Christ].
34) Then he brought them up into his house and prepared a meal for them. So, he and everyone in his household, who had believed in God [and were immersed], rejoiced greatly.
Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of conduct. This jailor soothed the wounds of the wounded.
- "Those who argue that the jailor obtained pardon by faith alone, leave the jail too soon. If they would remain one hour longer, they would see him immersed for the remission of his sins, and rejoicing in the knowledge of pardon after his immersion, not before it" - J. W. McGarvey
- Immersion was for salvation, not mainly for the public, so it was done immediately. Had it been for the public, it would have been scheduled so the public could attend.
35) The next morning the city officials sent their officers [to the jailor] with the message, "Release those men." Perhaps the earthquake and its timing bothered the city officials, too. They sent officers to have the men released.
36) The jailor then informed Paul [of the officials' decision], saying, "The city officials have decided to release you so you may leave the jail [if] you go peacefully." It is clear the prisoners were back in jail. After the back treatment from the jailor and a meal, Paul and Silas returned to their cell.
37) But Paul responded to the officials, "These city officials had us innocent Roman citizens publicly beaten and thrown in jail. Are they now trying to release us privately? No indeed! Let the officials themselves come and [publicly] release us." This is followed by another earthquake of a different sort. The city officials had arrested, beaten and jailed two Roman citizens. Their very jobs were in jeopardy if this violation of Roman rights came to the ears of Roman rulers above them.
- This arrest had no doubt stigmatized some new believers. What had they gotten into? A public apology by the officials would put this jailing in a much better light. Paul held out for an apology.
38) So, the officers reported what Paul had said and the city officials became fearful when they learned that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. The earthquake continued. The city officials now learned they had been deceived by the covetous slaver-holders and the crowd.
- Justice had miscarried completely.
39) So, they came and appealed to them [to leave peacefully]. Then the authorities themselves accompanied them out [of the jail] and asked them to leave the city. As Romans citizens, they had a right to remain, but the top-brass wanted this whole event off of their site and out of their sight.
- Paul is still in charge. First it was the jailor who appealed to him, now it was the city authorities.
40) When Paul and Silas left the jail they went to Lydia's house and, after seeing the brothers [and sisters gathered there] and encouraging them, they went on their way. Paul did agree, met with those assembled at Lydia's house and put the whole event in perspective for them, showing the Lord was in charge. Then Paul and Silas left, leaving Luke and Timothy. Luke remained in Philippi five years.
  The Next Chapter