Paul and Silas obediently plant a church in Philippi

by Mike Ratliff

11 Ἀναχθέντες δὲ ἀπὸ Τρῳάδος εὐθυδρομήσαμεν εἰς Σαμοθρᾴκην, τῇ δὲ ἐπιούσῃ εἰς Νέαν πόλιν 12 κἀκεῖθεν εἰς Φιλίππους, ἥτις ἐστὶν πρώτη [ς] μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις, κολωνία. Ἦμεν δὲ ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ πόλει διατρίβοντες ἡμέρας τινάς. (Acts 16:11-12 NA28)

11 And having set sail from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the next day to Nepalis 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a prominent city of the District of Macedonia, a colony, and we stayed in this city some days. (Acts 16:11-12  translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Paul’s friend and companion Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts in the New Testament. In Acts 16:10, we read that after Paul and seen the vision to leave Asia and come to Europe after seeking the will of God for the next focus of his missionary journey, Luke includes himself in the narrative as an eyewitness, therefore, his account of what happened to Paul and Silas in Philippi are given as one who was there. 

In the passage above, Troas was a major Aegean port 14 miles south of ancient Troy and the primary Asian harbor for ships bound for Macedonia. Samothrace was an island on the direct route between Troas and Neapolis, the port for Philippi, which lay 8.5 miles inland. Philippi was a Roman colony, which means that it held the most privileged status for provincial cities.

13 τῇ τε ἡμέρᾳ τῶν σαββάτων ἐξήλθομεν ἔξω τῆς πύλης παρὰ ποταμὸν οὗ ἐνομίζομεν προσευχὴν εἶναι, καὶ καθίσαντες ἐλαλοῦμεν ταῖς συνελθούσαις γυναιξίν. 14 καί τις γυνὴ ὀνόματι Λυδία, πορφυρόπωλις πόλεως Θυατείρων σεβομένη τὸν θεόν, ἤκουεν, ἧς ὁ κύριος διήνοιξεν τὴν καρδίαν προσέχειν τοῖς λαλουμένοις ὑπὸ τοῦ Παύλου. 15 ὡς δὲ ἐβαπτίσθη καὶ ὁ οἶκος αὐτῆς, παρεκάλεσεν λέγουσα· εἰ κεκρίκατέ με πιστὴν τῷ κυρίῳ εἶναι, εἰσελθόντες εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου μένετε· καὶ παρεβιάσατο ἡμᾶς. (Acts 16:13-15 NA28)

13 And on the day of the Sabbaths, we went outside the gate beside a river where we were supposing there would be a place of prayer, and having sat down, we were speaking with the assembled women. 14 And a certain women named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth of the city of Thyatira, worshiping God, was listening, of whom the lord opened her heart to pay attention to the things being spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, enter into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. (Acts 16:13-15 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The fact that there was a few people gathered at the river on the Sabbath to pray reveals that there must have been a small Jewish population in Philippi. Lydia was not Jewish, but was σεβομένη τὸν θεόν, that is, “worshiping God.” That means she was a Gentile “God fearer” as were the other women with her. Notice her conversion. Paul simply spoke, but it was the Lord who opened her heart to believe what Paul was saying, which was, of course, the Gospel. She and her household believed and were baptized. She persuaded the entire missionary team to make her home their headquarters while in Philippi.

16 Ἐγένετο δὲ πορευομένων ἡμῶν εἰς τὴν προσευχὴν παιδίσκην τινὰ ἔχουσαν πνεῦμα πύθωνα ὑπαντῆσαι ἡμῖν, ἥτις ἐργασίαν πολλὴν παρεῖχεν τοῖς κυρίοις αὐτῆς μαντευομένη. 17 αὕτη κατακολουθοῦσα τῷ Παύλῳ καὶ ἡμῖν ἔκραζεν λέγουσα· οὗτοι οἱ ἄνθρωποι δοῦλοι τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ὑψίστου εἰσίν, οἵτινες καταγγέλλουσιν ὑμῖν ὁδὸν σωτηρίας. 18 τοῦτο δὲ ἐποίει ἐπὶ πολλὰς ἡμέρας. διαπονηθεὶς δὲ Παῦλος καὶ ἐπιστρέψας τῷ πνεύματι εἶπεν· παραγγέλλω σοι ἐν ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐξελθεῖν ἀπʼ αὐτῆς· καὶ ἐξῆλθεν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ. (Acts 16:16-18 NA28)

16 And it came about when we were going to the place of prayer that a certain salve girl having a spirit of the Python came out to meet us who was bringing much profit to her masters by her prophesying. 17 As she was following Paul and us, she was crying out saying, “These men are slaves of the most high God who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation!”  18 And this she was doing for many days, but having become annoyed, Paul, having turned to the Spirit said, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out from her!” And it came out that same hour. (Acts 16:16-18 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The evil spirit Paul cast out knew all about them and their mission. He could not stop them. He could not thwart them. The power of our Lord Jesus Christ is preeminent. However, this spirit of the Python had the power to speak through the mouth of this poor slave girl to prophesy and when she did around Paul and the rest of the missionary team, all he could speak was the truth, but Paul commanded the evil spirit to depart her in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and it was so. Should we be surprised about this? Some today are actually seeking to flirt with familiar spirits like this “spirit of the Python.” Those who do so yet claim to be Christian prove they are not by this foolishness for this is nothing but evil.

19 Ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ κύριοι αὐτῆς ὅτι ἐξῆλθεν ἡ ἐλπὶς τῆς ἐργασίας αὐτῶν, ἐπιλαβόμενοι τὸν Παῦλον καὶ τὸν Σιλᾶν εἵλκυσαν εἰς τὴν ἀγορὰν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἄρχοντας 20 καὶ προσαγαγόντες αὐτοὺς τοῖς στρατηγοῖς εἶπαν· οὗτοι οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἐκταράσσουσιν ἡμῶν τὴν πόλιν, Ἰουδαῖοι ὑπάρχοντες, 21 καὶ καταγγέλλουσιν ἔθη ἃ οὐκ ἔξεστιν ἡμῖν παραδέχεσθαι οὐδὲ ποιεῖν Ῥωμαίοις οὖσιν. 22 καὶ συνεπέστη ὁ ὄχλος κατʼ αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ στρατηγοὶ περιρήξαντες αὐτῶν τὰ ἱμάτια ἐκέλευον ῥαβδίζειν, 23 πολλάς τε ἐπιθέντες αὐτοῖς πληγὰς ἔβαλον εἰς φυλακὴν παραγγείλαντες τῷ δεσμοφύλακι ἀσφαλῶς τηρεῖν αὐτούς. 24 ὃς παραγγελίαν τοιαύτην λαβὼν ἔβαλεν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν ἐσωτέραν φυλακὴν καὶ τοὺς πόδας ἠσφαλίσατο αὐτῶν εἰς τὸ ξύλον. (Acts 16:19-24 NA28)

19 And her masters having seen that the hope of their profit was gone, having seized Paul and Silas they dragged them into the agora before the authorities. 20 And having brought them to the Chief Magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city, being Jews, 21 and they are proclaiming customs which are not permitted for us to accept nor to do, being Romans.” 22 And the crowd rose up together against them and the Chief Magistrates, having torn of their garments, were commanding them to be beaten. 23 Having inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into jail, having ordered the Jailer to guard them securely, 24 who having received such an order, threw them into the inner jail and fastened their feet in the stock. (Acts 16:19-24 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The loss of profit was then and is still in our day a major motivation for the opposition to the true Gospel. The rough treatment given to Paul and Silas by the magistrates was at least partially due to their response to the unruly crowd. They were beaten with wooden rods. This was not a fair trial at all. Paul himself referred to in 1 Thessalonians 2:2 as his being “Shamefully treated at Philippi.” He and Silas were thrown bleeding into a damp and dark prison with their feet bound in the stock. This in itself would have been very painful.

25 Κατὰ δὲ τὸ μεσονύκτιον Παῦλος καὶ Σιλᾶς προσευχόμενοι ὕμνουν τὸν θεόν, ἐπηκροῶντο δὲ αὐτῶν οἱ δέσμιοι. 26 ἄφνω δὲ σεισμὸς ἐγένετο μέγας ὥστε σαλευθῆναι τὰ θεμέλια τοῦ δεσμωτηρίου· ἠνεῴχθησαν δὲ παραχρῆμα αἱ θύραι πᾶσαι καὶ πάντων τὰ δεσμὰ ἀνέθη. 27 ἔξυπνος δὲ γενόμενος ὁ δεσμοφύλαξ καὶ ἰδὼν ἀνεῳγμένας τὰς θύρας τῆς φυλακῆς, σπασάμενος [τὴν] μάχαιραν ἤμελλεν ἑαυτὸν ἀναιρεῖν νομίζων ἐκπεφευγέναι τοὺς δεσμίους. 28 ἐφώνησεν δὲ μεγάλῃ φωνῇ [ὁ] Παῦλος λέγων· μηδὲν πράξῃς σεαυτῷ κακόν, ἅπαντες γάρ ἐσμεν ἐνθάδε. 29 αἰτήσας δὲ φῶτα εἰσεπήδησεν καὶ ἔντρομος γενόμενος προσέπεσεν τῷ Παύλῳ καὶ [τῷ] Σιλᾷ 30 καὶ προαγαγὼν αὐτοὺς ἔξω ἔφη· κύριοι, τί με δεῖ ποιεῖν ἵνα σωθῶ; 31 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν· πίστευσον ἐπὶ τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ σωθήσῃ σὺ καὶ ὁ οἶκός σου. 32 καὶ ἐλάλησαν αὐτῷ τὸν λόγον τοῦ κυρίου σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ. 33 καὶ παραλαβὼν αὐτοὺς ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ τῆς νυκτὸς ἔλουσεν ἀπὸ τῶν πληγῶν, καὶ ἐβαπτίσθη αὐτὸς καὶ οἱ αὐτοῦ πάντες παραχρῆμα, 34 ἀναγαγών τε αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν οἶκον παρέθηκεν τράπεζαν καὶ ἠγαλλιάσατο πανοικεὶ πεπιστευκὼς τῷ θεῷ. (Acts 16:25-34 NA28)

25 And about Midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 And suddenly there came a great earthquake so as the foundations of the jail were shaken and the all the doors were immediately opened and the chains of everyone were unfastened. 27 The jailer, having become awake, and having seen the doors of the jail having been opened, having drawn the sword, he was bout to kill himself thinking the prisoners had run away. 28 But Paul shouted with a loud voice saying, “Do nothing to harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And having asked for lights, he rushed in with trembling and fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 and having led them outside, he said, “Sirs, what must I do that I may be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you and your house will be saved. 32 And they spoke to him the word of the Lord with all the ones in his house. 33 And having taken them in that hour of the night, he washing their wounds, and he and his house were baptized at once. 34 And having led them to the house, he set before them a table and was overjoyed with the whole household having believed in God. (Acts 16:25-34 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

What a remarkable account of God’s grace! Paul and Silas were in pain with their feet in the stock, but were praying to and singing hymns to God. Then an earthquake sets everyone in the prison free, but no one escapes. When the jailer is about to kill himself, being responsible for the delivery of those prisoners, Paul calls to him that all is well and that they are all still in prison. Why do you suppose the jailer asked the question he asked? Most certainly, he also heard the prayers and hymns of Paul and Silas just as the prisoners did. Isn’t part of the Gospel the bringing to our knowledge our guilt before our Holy God of the sin debt that we cannot pay? God had opened the man’s heart to understand that. When he realized his prisoners had not escaped, suddenly realized he owed a far greater debt to God. That was why he asked that. The answer was what? They told him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, he and his entire household, but they did not stop there. Notice that in the very next verse that they spoke to him and his household the Word of God. The man and his family and all in his household believed and were baptized. He joyfully washed the wounds of Paul and Silas and prepared a table for them.

35 Ἡμέρας δὲ γενομένης ἀπέστειλαν οἱ στρατηγοὶ τοὺς ῥαβδούχους λέγοντες· ἀπόλυσον τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἐκείνους. 36 ἀπήγγειλεν δὲ ὁ δεσμοφύλαξ τοὺς λόγους [τούτους] πρὸς τὸν Παῦλον ὅτι ἀπέσταλκαν οἱ στρατηγοὶ ἵνα ἀπολυθῆτε· νῦν οὖν ἐξελθόντες πορεύεσθε ἐν εἰρήνῃ. 37 ὁ δὲ Παῦλος ἔφη πρὸς αὐτούς · δείραντες ἡμᾶς δημοσίᾳ ἀκατακρίτους, ἀνθρώπους Ῥωμαίους ὑπάρχοντας, ἔβαλαν εἰς φυλακήν, καὶ νῦν λάθρᾳ ἡμᾶς ἐκβάλλουσιν; οὐ γάρ, ἀλλʼ ἐλθόντες αὐτοὶ ἡμᾶς ἐξαγαγέτωσαν. 38 ἀπήγγειλαν δὲ τοῖς στρατηγοῖς οἱ ῥαβδοῦχοι τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα. ἐφοβήθησαν δὲ ἀκούσαντες ὅτι Ῥωμαῖοί εἰσιν, 39 καὶ ἐλθόντες παρεκάλεσαν αὐτοὺς καὶ ἐξαγαγόντες ἠρώτων ἀπελθεῖν ἀπὸ τῆς πόλεως. 40 ἐξελθόντες δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς φυλακῆς εἰσῆλθον πρὸς τὴν Λυδίαν καὶ ἰδόντες παρεκάλεσαν τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ ἐξῆλθαν. (Acts 16:35-40 NA28)

35 And day having come, the Magistrates sent the policemen saying, “Release those men.” 36 The jailer reported these words to Paul, “The Magistrates have sent that you may be released. Now, therefore depart and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “Having beaten us in public being uncondemned Roman men, they threw us into jail, and now secretly they are sending us out? No indeed, but have them come and let them lead us out themselves.” 38 And the policemen reported to the magistrates these words and they were afraid having heard that they were Romans. 39 And having come, they begged them and having brought them out, they asked them to depart from the city. 40 Had having come out from the jail, they came to Lydia and having seen them, they encouraged the brothers and went out. (Acts 35-40 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

True Christianity is apolitical. Paul did what he did here to make sure that the city and the authorities understood that the Church was no threat to Roman authority as long as that authority did not demand religious allegiance such as Caesar worship. In any case, he wanted everyone in Philippi to understand also that a mistake had been made with the way he and Silas had been treated. Christians are to be good citizens, but God’s rule is over all. The New Testament is full of admonitions for believers to obey the civil authorities as long as we are not commanded to disobey God. Nothing has changed.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “Paul and Silas obediently plant a church in Philippi

  1. Sadly far too many Christians are not only apolitical but have the exact opposite of the boldness of Christ or his disciples these days. The government makes ever more unholy demands on Christians and we obey man rather than God, maybe I should say we fear man more than we fear God. Oh that we could be as bold as Christ’s disciples, as bold as Daniel and God’s prophets of old, as bold as our brothers who paid for printing Bibles with their lives, as Bold as our founding fathers who formed America and loved Christ. To follow Christ is to be a big threat to many evil men, always has been, always will be.


  2. Your last paragraph is much needed counsel these days, my brother. So many Baptists are derailed by thinking too highly of this country and putting their hopes in “the right man” to lead it, just as did the Hebrews lust after a tall man to be their king. And both groups miss the point of Who is our King and of which country we are citizens!


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