Acts 16:11-40 

A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds

September 3, 2009 


Paul’s Second Missionary Journey – Part 2:  Philippi

(Acts 16:11-40)



In our previous session we began looking at Paul’s second missionary journey.  We saw that:   

  • The original purpose of the second missionary journey was to visit the churches established on the first journey to see how they were doing and to strengthen them (see Acts 15:36 and 41).  However, the Lord had much larger plans for this missionary effort.
  • The second journey was much more extensive than the first.  It covered a much larger geographical area, reaching into Europe for the first time, and it lasted between three and four years.  Most New Testament scholars date the journey between A.D. 49-52. 
  • Paul’s traveling companions included Silas (who was with him from the beginning), Timothy (who joined him at Lystra), and Luke (who joined him at Troas).  Silas took the place of Barnabas.  Timothy took the place of Mark.  Luke was Paul’s personal physician.

When Paul had is famous “Macedonian Vision” (Acts 16:9-10) is immediate response was to make arrangements to leave Troas and set sail to Macedonia.  After a brief stop on the Aegean Sea island of Samothrace, Paul and his party sailed to the port city of Neapolis and from their made their way by foot to Philippi.  Acts 16:12 indicates that Paul stayed in Philippi for “some days” or a rather longtime. 


Background to the city of Philippi

  • In 42 B.C. Octavius (Augustus) and Mark Anthony defeated Cassius and Brutus in the valley where Philippi is located.  This battle marked the downfall of the Republic of Rome and the beginning of the Roman Empire.
  • To memorialize the victory, Augustus made Philippi a Roman colony.  Roman colonies were like little Romes scattered across the empire.  They were populated with Roman soldiers, many of whom were retired from service.  They were given special privileges, such as the privilege of self-governance.  They also served as military outposts.
  • Philippi was in a strategic location, serving a sort of a gateway between Asia to the east and Europe to the west.  It was located on the famous Via Ignatia which ran from west to east.  To this day remnants of the road can clearly be seen in that part of the world.


Paul had a special feeling toward the Christians in Philippi.  Some have speculated it was Paul’s favorite of all the churches he established.  The letter to the Philippians is filled with tender references (see Philippians 1:3-4, 8).  Also, this church continued to support the ministry of Paul after he left their area (see Philippians 4:15-16).


Four key events are recorded in Acts 16 about the work in Philippi:

  1. The conversion of Lydia (16:13-15)

“on the Sabbath … outside the gate … place of prayer” – Apparently there was no synagogue in Phlippi.  It was customary for devout people to gather for prayer even if there was not synagogue to attend.  This place of prayer was attended by women.

“Lydia” – The town she was from belonged to the ancient kingdom of Lydia.  The name Lydia may have been her trade name, meaning something like “The Lydian Lady”

“from the city of Thyatira” – Located in Asia through which Paul had passed earlier in this journey.  He was forbidden by the Holy Spirit (see Acts 16:6) from preaching there.

“seller of purple fabrics” – Thyatira was famous for its purple dyes.  Lydia was a merchant who sold either the dye or clothe that had already been dyed.  Perhaps she was in Macedonia because there was much greater openness to woman in Macedonia than in Asia.  Women played key roles in the Philippian church.

“a worshiper of God” – She was a Gentile who was seeking God, much like Cornelius in Acts 10 and 11.  She may have been a widow since no mention is made of her husband.

“the Lord opened her heart to respond” – Her conversion was quiet and rather unspectacular.  She just believed!

“she and her household had been baptized” – Her household would have included dependents and servants.

“come into may house and stay” – This act of graciousness toward Paul and his companions gives evidence to the genuineness of her conversion experience.  Also, this indicates that she had a permanent residence in Philippi and that she was a woman of some means.

It is interesting that the man in Paul’s Macedonian vision turned out to be a woman!  Lydia was Paul’s first convert in Europe.


  1. The deliverance of the demon possessed girl (16:16-18)

“spirit of divination” – Through the presence of an evil spirit in her, she was able to foretell the future.

“bringing her masters much profit”- Her handlers were using her ability to make money for them.

“These men are bondservants of the Most High God” – She correctly recognized the true identity of Paul and his companions.

“Paul was greatly annoyed” – The verb carries the idea of being strongly irked or provoked.  After putting up with her following them around for “many days” Paul finally had enough and he ordered the evil spirit to leave her.


  1. The conversion of the Philippian jailer (16:19-34)

Verse 19 – The arrest of Paul and Silas

Verses 20-21 – The false charges made against Paul and Silas

Verses 22-24 – The illegal mistreatment of Paul and Silas

Verse 25 – The response of Paul and Silas.  This is an amazing verse.  Instead of feeling sorry for themselves and sulking, they were “praying and singing hymns of praise to God.”

Verse 26 – God’s answer to their prayers.

Verses 27-34 – The terror, conviction, and conversion of the jailer.  Notice the simplicity and directness of Paul’s response to the jailers question … “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved…” No theological lecture.  No lengthy list of moral codes.  Just a simple call to believe.  Also, notice the radical change in the jailer’s actions toward Paul and Silas after his conversion.  His actions give evidence of the reality of his conversion.


  1. The release of Paul and Silas (16:35-40)

“let them come themselves and bring us out” – Paul made the point that their case had been handled illegally.  He was not being vindictive in his actions.  Instead, the was laying the groundwork for a future defense against such illegal attacks.

“they went out they saw the brethren … they encouraged them and departed” – The wording indicates that Luke stayed behind in Philippi.  Some have suggested this indicates Philippi was his home.  It is interesting that the next time Luke joins Paul was on the third missionary journey when Paul again traveled through the area of Macedonia (see Acts 20:5ff) More likely, Paul left him there to oversee the new work until it became more established and he just stayed in the area.


Practical application from Acts 16:14-40:

1.      The gospel is for all who believe.  In Philippi we see three people from radically differing backgrounds being changed by the power of the gospel – a successful businesswoman, a slave girl, and a Roman jailer.  This is a reminder of the universality of the gospel.

2.  When a person is converted, the genuineness of that conversion will be evidenced by outward action.  Lydia invited Paul and his companions into her home.  The jailer washed Paul and Silas’ wounds and gave them food. 

3.  While we cannot control what happens to us, we can control how we respond to what happens to us.  Paul and Silas responded to adversity with prayer and praise.  We often cannot change what is happening around us but we can change our attitude! 

4. Baptism is an important part of the Christian experience.  Both Lydia and her household and the jailer and his household were immediately baptized after their conversions.

5.  Salvation is the result of believing in Jesus and nothing else!