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An Exposition Of The Acts Of The Apostles


Passing through Lystra and Derbe, the Apostle fell in with Timothy whose father was a Gentile; his mother a Jewess. He was highly recommended; and Paul wishing to have him for companion, had him circumcised (1–3). They visited several cities, promulgating the decrees of the Apostles (4–7). They afterwards went to Troas, where a man of Macedonia stood before Paul in a vision, inviting him to pass over and help them (8, 9). At Philippi, a woman named Lydia entertained them hospitably (12–15). They were cast into prison at the instigation of certain men, whose gain they interfered with in the cure of a pythoness, who was their slave (15–26). The earthquake which caused the prison doors to be flung open. The conversion of the affrighted gaoler (26–32). Their liberation (35–40).


1. “He,” Paul, accompanied by Barnabas, came to Derbe &c. Their order in travelling here is the opposite of what is recorded (14:6). They now proceed from east to west.

“Timothy,” whether he was a native of Lystra or Derbe cannot be determined. To him St. Paul addressed two of his epistles. “Jewish woman,” Eunice, by name (2 Tim. 1:5) that had “believed,” a Christian woman distinguished for piety. “His father, a gentile,” clearly uncircumcised, and, probably, an Idolater. If he were circumcised, Timothy too would have been circumcised. The Jewish law prohibiting intermarriages between Jews and Gentiles (Nehemiah 13:3; Esdras 9:12) probably was not strictly enforced in countries where Jews lived among Pagans.

2. He was then young. For, later on, after the lapse of some years, St. Paul when giving him in charge the Church of Ephesus, addresses him, as a young man (1 Tim. 4:12).

3. Though a mere youth, St. Paul wished to take him as an associate. His birth of Jewish and Pagan parents would make him acceptable to both Jews and Gentiles, to whom the Gospel was to be preached. Before taking him, however, St. Paul as a matter of prudent accommodation to the feelings of the Jews, but, not as a matter of necessity, subjected him to circumcision, then allowable; but not necessary, as had been decreed in the Council of Jerusalem. Thus he became all to all, to gain all to Christ (1 Cor. 9:20). He thus removed the grounds for the insuperable objection on the part of the Jews to receive the Gospel at the hands of an uncircumcised Israelite. This he did not do as a matter of necessity; and hence he did not act against the Council of Jerusalem. He showed his firmness in maintaining the Decree of the Council by his persistent refusal to circumcise Titus born of Gentile parents, though strongly urged to do so (Gal. 2:3).

“They knew that his father,” &c., and they, therefore, knew that the rite of circumcision was neglected in his case.

4. “Cities” of Syria and Cilicia where Paul and Barnabas had lately founded Churches (15:36).

“They,” Paul and Silas delivered to the faithful of these cities.

“The decrees,” &c., “to keep,” to be obeyed and observed. Hence obedience is due to the laws of the Church.

6. “Forbidden,” either by an express revelation or some interior inspiration of the “Holy Ghost.”

“Asia,” Pro Consular Asia, that district of Asia Minor bordering on the Ægean sea, called Ionia, having Ephesus for capital. Here were situated the seven churches mentioned (Apoc. 1:11). The object of this prohibition probably was to have the preaching of the Gospel carried into Greece which would not have been done had they remained in Asia. This prohibition was the occasion of introducing the Gospel, for the first time, into Europe.

7. “Into Mysia,” to the confines of Mysia. Being prohibited to preach in Asia, to which Mysia belonged, they proceeded northward to “Bithynia,” a province of Asia Minor to the east of Mysia.

“Spirit of Jesus.” Hence the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father.

“Troas,” on the Hellespont. It designates sometimes a city; sometimes a whole district. Within the district of Troas was situated ancient Troy, so celebrated in Grecian history.

9. “A vision,” &c., whether in a dream while asleep—a mode of communicating the Divine Will not unfrequently employed by God—or while awake, cannot be ascertained.

“A man of Macedonia.” Paul, who may have seen Macedonians in his youth at Tharsus, knew him to be such from his dress, language, &c.

“And help us,” by dispelling through the light of the Gospel their spiritual darkness and helping them to abandon their sinful Pagan lives.

10. “We sought,” &c. For the first time St. Luke makes any reference to himself. It is clear he joined Paul and Silas at Troas. As to how he came there St. Luke is silent.

11. “Neapolis,” on the coast bordering on Thrace, some say it was in Thrace. The Apostle made no stay there as he was commanded to go to Macedonia.

12. “Philippi.” It was Philip, Father of Alexander the Great, that enlarged and beautified it. Hence, called after his name.

“Chief city,” &c. The Greek would also convey that it was the first or nearest city of Macedonia they came to. It was in one of the four parts into which Paulus Emilius, after having conquered it, divided Macedonia. Philippi was detached by King Philip from Thrace, to which it formerly belonged. Being made a Roman colony, it became the capital in course of time.

“A colony” inhabited by Roman citizens with advantages secured by the laws of Rome. Augustus confirmed its privileges of being a Roman colony, first conferred on it by Julius Cæsar.

“Some days.” The interval between his arrival and the next Sabbath. That he spent “many days” there is clear from v. 18. No doubt, he remained there for a sufficient period to discharge the duty for which he was sent there by God’s Spirit.

13. “Sabbath-day” immediately succeeding Paul’s advent to Philippi.

“By a river’s side.” The Jews were dispersed everywhere. No doubt, there were some in this city. They usually built their synagogues or oratories near water, in view of the numerous ablutions practised in their religious worship.

“Where it seemed that there was prayer.” The Greek would signify where prayer is usually offered, or “Prayer,” Proseuche, may also denote the place for prayer. The Jews, whenever they could not erect synagogues erected oratories for prayer meetings ando ther religious rites on the Sabbath.

“Spoke to the women,” probably before the congregation had assembled. He mentions the address to the women especially in order to introduce the case of Lydia next verse.

14. “Of the city of Thyatira,” born there, she resided at Philippi.

“A seller of purple.” Probably the trade of this woman, a native of Thyatira, where the art of dying purple was cultivated, was very profitable. “Worshipped God.” A Jewish Proselyte “did hear” points to the operation of the human will. “Whose heart the Lord opened,” &c., points to the operation of Divine grace. She, aided by God’s grace, corresponded with the strong impulse of Divine grace, the chief or principal cause in the assent of faith, without which no faith, no embracing the Gospel.

15. “If ye have judged,” &c. Since, whereas, ye have judged me to be “faithful,” &c., she says, “if,” out of a feeling of modest humility.

“Constrained us,” by repeated and modest entreaties she prevailed on them to accept her proffered hospitality, which, very likely, they declined at first, as the Apostle did not want to be a burden to anyone (2 Cor. 11:9).

16. “Went to prayer” may mean to offer up prayers, or it may refer to the place of prayer, Proseuche.

“A certain girl.” The Greek word means, a slave. In her, several masters had a common interest.

“Having a Pythonical spirit.” The word Python is allusive to the Serpent, said in Pagan Mythology, to have been slain by Apollo, who himself afterwards went by that name. Without dwelling on Pagan Mythology, it may be said briefly that the word here refers to an evil spirit, real Demoniac possession, like unto that recorded (Mark 1:23, &c.), and St. Paul treated it as such v. 18.

“Brought to her masters much gain” by exercising the art of divination, fortelling future events, and disclosing hidden mysterious matters. Those who had recourse to her for such knowledge paid her liberally; and hence she was a source of great gain to her masters who had in common a share in the profits. She acted under the influence of the wicked spirit, expelled by St. Paul (v. 18). Demons possess natural powers beyond those of man, being of a superior order of intelligence. They therefore knew things far beyond human reach or foresight, and it was the Demon that spoke through this girl whom he possessed.

17. Under the influence of the wicked spirit, she bore testimony to the Divine Mission of St. Paul, &c. Why she did so, we cannot exactly ascertain, as St. Luke says nothing of it. Likely, she was influenced by the same reasons that made the wicked spirit bear testimony to our Lord (Mark 1:24).

18. “Grieved.” The Greek means excessively grieved. Like our Lord Himself (Mark 1:25) he would not have testimony borne to the truth by the Father of lies, or seem to have any communication or enter into any league with him. He would not have this wicked spirit to put forward pretensions to respect equal to his own.

“In the name”—by the authority—“of Jesus Christ, to go out.” He was, therefore, interiorly in possession, “and he went out the same hour,” shows real possession by an evil spirit. There must have been some visible sign that he left her at that moment, in obedience to the mandate, otherwise, how could her masters know that their hope of gain was gone, without waiting for some time to test the matter, and see if the spirit of Divination—the loss of much gain—had left her? The whole passage shows there was real personal possession.

19. “Her masters” seeing all hope of gain was gone, out of a spirit of vengeance, seizing Paul and Silas, who were more prominent than Luke or Timothy, dragged them into the public square before the city magistrates, who, in the Roman colonies were generally two in number, Duumvirs, with the rank, or at least the assumed power of Prætors.

20. Artfully concealing their real motivess, they affect zeal for the public tranquility which these men were disturbing. They cunningly appeal to the prejudices of the people by calling them “Jews,” who practised a religious worship different from that of the Pagans, and were therefore, odious to the Roman colony at Philippi. Jews and Christians were regarded as all the same by the Pagans.

21. “And preach a fashion,” religious tenets, a new religious system. “Which it is not lawful,” &c. The Romans forbade the worship of any new God without the sanction of the Senate (Tertullian), and the teaching regarding Jesus as Lord and King was particularly objectionable. The twofold charge of disturbing the public tranquility and preaching up a new religion, without due sanction, called for punishment from the magistrates in vindication of the laws of Rome; Philippi, being a Roman colony, enforced the laws and institutions of Rome.

22. “Rending off,” violently tearing off, by the hands of lictors, their clothes, as far as the waist, to expose their persons to the lash, “beaten with rods.” St. Paul being a Roman citizen, this was a flagrant violation of the laws of Rome. It was, moreover, a gross violation of natural justice to punish men without hearing them in their own defence.

23. “Many stripes,” very likely in number exceeding that allowed by the Jewish law, “forty.” The Romans were not bound by this law. It may be to this St. Paul refers (2 Cor. 11:23).

24. “Stocks,” pieces of wood with holes to confine the feet of the prisoners.

25. Their acute suffering caused by having their feet pressed into stocks, probably without a resting place, for their bodies, covered with gore from the scourging (v. 23) did not prevent them from singing the praises of God.

26. “Suddenly,” as if in response to their prayers. “Earthquake,” always regarded as indicating the power, the presence and anger of God. “Hands of all were loosed.” This looks like miraculous, as the shaking of the earth while it had naturally the effect of throwing all the doors “open,” would not of itself loose the bonds without further intervention.

27. “Would have killed himself” to escape by self-destruction the severe punishment in store for the prisoners (c. 12:19, 27:42).

28. “All here.” Likely all the prisoners fled from the outer prison into that where St. Paul was confined.

29. “Light,” in Greek, “lights,” borne by his servants who accompanied him; or, it may have a singular meaning, according to the Greek idiom.

“Trembling,” from a feeling that all was supernatural. “Fell down,” in token of great reverence.

30. “Masters,” a term of respect. This man’s conscience was evidently touched. He concluded from all he saw—the Earthquake—his own prevention from self-destruction—possibly, from the testimony of the Pythoness, that these “men were servants of the most high God,” (v. 17).

He now, enlightened by God’s grace, asks what was the best means of securing eternal salvation.

31. “And thy house,” who after your example, believe and embrace the Christian religion. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” These words have the same meaning substantially as those addressed by our Lord to His Apostles, “Euntes docete,” &c.

Faith is the foundation of justification; but, not the only ingredient; other dispositions and acts are also indispensably necessary.

32. “The Word of God.” They more fully developed the words, “believe in the Lord,” &c., v. 31. Giving them a succinct summary explanation of the chief doctrines of the Christian religion, including the necessity of Baptism (v. 33).

“And to all that were in his house,” his entire family and domestics. Some say this occurred in the vestibule of the prison, whither the gaoler brought his entire household to hear the words of salvation; others, in the house of the gaoler. The former opinion derives great probability from the words, v. 34, “brought them into his house,” as if this did not occur before.

33. “Same hour,” &c. No doubt, an unreasonable time. The rite of Baptism was administered immediately, all at once.

35. Evidently, the Earthquake terrified the magistrates or Prætors, and made them reflect on the injustice of scourging strangers in order to please the multitude, without hearing their defence. Hence, at the earliest hour, they endeavour to undo their act by having them released, “Sergeants,” lictors, who carried rods or staves, as the Greek conveys.

37. St. Paul, with Silas, having patiently submitted to the outrage offered them as Roman citizens, deems it right now, as on other occasions, to assert his rights and clear his character. He, therefore, calls for public reparation, as the interests of religion demanded, that they should be publicly declared innocent of the charges publicly made against them, and should receive publicly reparation for the injuries inflicted on them being condemned unheard, contrary to the Laws of Justice and the Laws of the Roman Empire. He calls on the same judges, who publicly condemned them, publicly to declare them innocent and make reparation by coming themselves personally to release them. By thus asserting his rights, he strengthened the faith of his converts at Philippi, who might otherwise be depressed and disheartened. It might also have the effect of deterring the magistrates from hereafter interfering with the faithful.

39. The magistrates, fearing the consequences of their unjust and illegal treatment of Roman citizens, came themselves and “besough them” to pardon their illegal and unjust conduct. The violation of the rights of Roman citizenship was punished by Roman Law with the utmost rigour.

40. “Comforted them” by exhortations to perseverance, and by holding out the hopes and prospects of future rewards, in store for them.

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