Acts 16

Acts 16:What Must I Do To Be Saved?

As we came to the end of chapter 15- we see a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, his young relative, Paul did not.  It caused them to split up.  Who was right and who was wrong?  Well, let us look at both sides of the argument.

Paul looked at the work. He knew it would be dangerous as well as important. He did not want to take a chance with someone they might not be able to count on.

Barnabas looked at the person, John Mark. Of course he had made a mistake in quitting on their previous trip, but everyone deserved a second chance didn’t they? Everyone makes mistakes.

We can easily see both sides of the argument. In fact, the right thing to do was split up with Paul taking Silas and Barnabas taking Mark back to Cyprus. The wrong thing was to argue and quarrel. It is often God’s will we separate, but it is not His will we quarrel.

Sometimes it is acceptable and even natural to disagree and go your separate ways.Our spiritual gifts and temperaments often cause us to view the same situation from different viewpoints. What is not acceptable is to argue and quarrel. Rudeness is never acceptable, kindness always is.

Now in Acts 16 we see several events that are most noteworthy.  We see young Timothy and Dr. Luke join Paul’s company. We will look at  the principle behind Paul’s insistence on Timothy being circumcised, which seems so contradictory to Paul’s stand on circumcision. We will see how God directs and confirms our direction as Paul and company figure out where to go next. In addition we will meet two interesting women- Lydia and an unnamed young girl with an evil spirit who is a fortune teller.  But to me- the highlight of the chapter is the Philippian jailer’s question: “ What must I do to be saved?” We will hear Paul’s answer and see the clarity and power of the gospel.

Paul now heads to Cilicia and comes back to Derbe and Lystra where he meets Timothy, a young disciple. Timothy’s mother was Jewish and his father was Greek.  Paul decided to take Timothy with him, becoming his spiritual father and mentor. Then he does something that seems contradictory to what he has  fought so hard against- he has Timothy circumcised according to Jewish law.  Why? In Galatians 2, Paul talks about Titus a Greek Christian, who was compelled to be circumcised by the Jews, but they did not give in to their demands. What is the difference?

We must understand the underlying principle that Paul goes by as is explained in I Cor. 9: 19-23. Paul states: ‘Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone to win as many as possible. To the Jews, I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law ( though I myself am not under the law)  so as to win those under the law…. I do all this for the sake of the gospel.” (Also see; I Cor.8:9)

Timothy would be trained by Paul to minister to the Jews, therefore in order to be accepted and not offensive, he is circumcised.  Titus on the other hand was to minister to Gentiles and he must not offend them by submitting to circumcision. Paul said the same thing about eating meat sacrificed to idols, he could eat it but if it offended a brother, caused them to stumble- he would never eat meat sacrificed to idols.  Paul was against circumcision as necessary to salvation, he would not waver on that truth. However, he knew in order to win the Jews, Timothy needed to remove what would be a stumbling block for some Jews to hear the Gospel. Even today, Messianic Jews are the most effective witnesses to Jews.

Next Paul and Silas are forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word in Asia. Evidently this was a matter of timing, because later Paul would have an effective ministry in Ephesus, which is in Asia.  Next we read Paul attempts to go to Bythinia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them. They go to Troas and there during the night, a man of Macedonia appears in a vision to Paul and tells him to come over to Macedonia and help us.  A cry for help.

Paul and his companion respond and leave at once for Macedonia, a Roman province in Europe. This would be the entrance of the Gospel into Rome and to a primary audience of Roman citizens.

But before we move forward to Phillipi,the principal city in Macedonia, let us look at the actions of Paul in determining the will of God and the direction he should take. Note Paul is taking the initiative in where to go, depending on God to open or close the door.  Isaiah 30:21 states: “ you will hear a voice BEHIND  you saying, This is the way, walk you in it…”  BEHIND YOU indicates a sense of peace you are headed in the right direction.  It comes  after your decision has been made when you are trying to make the right decision and taking action.  Have you ever made a decision to turn this way while driving your car, but soon you had a sense you had made the wrong turn and turned back and went the other way?  It is an inner witness of the Spirit that will direct us by opening or closing the door or path until we are headed in the right direction- God’s direction.  God directs by denying us peace if the direction we are headed is wrong, or by giving us a sense of peace we are headed in the right direction .

Now if you are wondering why the Lord sent them in this direction, we see one of the reasons why in verse 11 of Acts 16. Notice the word- ‘we’. This indicates they have picked up a new traveling companion- Dr. Luke has now joined the endeavor.  Who knows- maybe the man in the vision was Dr. Luke?  Regardless, Dr. Luke will indicate his presence in the rest of Acts when he includes himself in the group with the pronouns –we .

They arrive in Philippi, a Roman colony. The group now consists of Paul, Silas, young Timothy, and Dr. Luke. Dr. Luke continues the story, now as an eyewitness.  He reports they were there several days. This was a Roman garrison with mostly Roman citizens. There is obviously no Jewish Synagogue. Custom said there must be 10 Jewish males residing in a location before you could have a synagogue.

Philippi had an interesting history. Almost a hundred years earlier, Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar had been defeated by Antony and Octavian- who later became Emperor Augustus. Because the people of Philippi gave help to his armies, he later granted Roman citizenship to all of the citizens of Philippi.  The citizens of Philippi were very proud of their status as Roman citizens.

After several days Paul and his entourage go outside the city gate to the river to find a place of prayer. Having no synagogue, what did Paul and company do? Being unable to do what they normally would do- they did what they could  do. They went to a place where they could pray. There they encounter a group of women. One of the women was a woman named Lydia. What an honor to be named in the Bible as a person of faith. Although as believers, our names do not appear in the Bible, they are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and the Lord Jesus knows my name. Since God has seen fit to give us her name- He must want us to remember her for what takes place next.

We are told the following facts regarding this woman: we are told her name, Lydia; we are told her occupation- a seller of purple; we are told she is from Thyatira; we are told she is a  worshiper of God.

Do not miss this important statement:  ‘ The Lord opened her heart, to respond to Paul’s message.” Opening of hearts to hear and receive the message of the Gospel is the work of the Holy Spirit. Apart from Him we can do nothing- for it is God who works in you both to do and will His good pleasure.  “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” ( Hebrews 4) The unconverted soul, the natural man, has the door to his/her heart closed and fortified against Christ.  But listen to what our Savior says: “ Behold, I stand at the door and knock . If anyone hears my voice and opens the door. I will come in and eat with him and he with Me. ( Rev. 3:20)

What if they have not heard the voice?  But Scripture tells us God has revealed Himself in two ways with two witnesses- external and internal. In Romans 1- Paul tells us God has revealed Himself and made it plain to men through creation. Psalms 19 says the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth SPEECH,  night after night they display KNOWLEDGE.  There is NO SPEECH OR LANGUAGE  where their VOICE IS NOT HEARD.  Romans 2, Paul tells us God has written his law in the hearts of all men, their conscience bearing witness. The two witnesses are clear to all- and therefore all are without excuse. When they hear the voice of these two witnesses they can do one of two things- they can harden their hearts or they can respond or apply or attend unto the things which were spoken by Paul.

And here is God’s promise to us: “ you will seek Me, and find Me when you search with all your heart.” ( Jeremiah 29:13)

The next memorable event the Holy Spirit has Dr. Luke record involves a slave girl with the spirit of divination.  She was a money maker for her owners with her talent for fortune telling. The girl followed  Paul and his company proclaiming these men are servants of the Most High God who are telling you how to be saved.  We see Paul casts the demonic spirit out of her- which renders her useless as a source of income for her owners.  This will lead to their arrest , beating and imprisonment. But let us look closer at the wiles of the enemy. For surely this is a puzzling episode.  The girl is proclaiming the truth. Why would the enemy use this girl proclaiming the truth of who these men are as a strategy of attack?

This is the enemy at his trickiest. He appears to be in alliance with the message of the Gospel. Immediately some would be turned off by the actions of a fortune teller- thus disbelieving these were men of God.  Others drawn by this fortune teller would have been drawn for the wrong motive. But also the enemy by appearing to be in alliance- put himself in the position of subverting the whole program of the gospel when Paul and others left the area. Even today we see false cults and sects come out of what first appeared to be the Gospel. Remember Jim Jones and Jonestown and the horrible mass suicides.   Jim Jones started out as a Pentecostal preacher of the Gospel.  Then having lead the people on,  he did as many false teacher do as they begin to mix error with truth and deceive those who follow them.

Perhaps even her owners saw this as a way to capitalize on this movement and make even more money, have even greater control.  But Paul realizing this- troubled by it- casts out the spirit.

The owners of the fortune telling girl bring charges against Paul and Silas for ‘advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.’ (vs 21)

Paul and Silas are beaten with rods and imprisoned in the dungeon of the jail and placed in stocks. At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Then a violent earthquake shakes the foundation of the prison. Doors flew open and chains came loose. The jailer takes up his sword when he sees the situation and prepares to commit suicide.  For he knew to lose a prisoner under your care was to lose your life. But Paul shouts out- “ Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

Sometimes hope comes at the most hopeless of time. God hates sin because it harms us. He calls from the pages of the Bible – do not harm yourself. He knows the harm of sin. He knows the wages of sin is death. So God warns us – DO NOT HARM YOURSELVES.   For that is what sin will do- it will harm you.

Can you imagine how open this jailer is to hear the Gospel?  Can you imagine how he must have wondered what would have happened to him and where he would end up if he had committed suicide? Whenever anyone begins to think about death- they must wonder what happens after one dies? It is one of man’s most fundamental questions.

So the jailer asks the question?  What must I do to be saved? His heart has been opened. His hearing is acute and we know he is now ready . A heart prepared by God is ready to receive the incorruptible seed of the Gospel. The hard ground has been broken, the stone underneath the shallow soil has been removed, He takes away the hardened heart of stone- the weeds and tares of deceitful sin have been cleared- the result of salvation is inevitable.

Paul put it this way- I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but it is God who gives growth.

Are you ready for the answer to the jailer’s question? Do you know what it takes to be saved? Are you ready to hear the clarity of the gospel? “ Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved- you and your household.” ( Meaning your household will also be saved if they believe in the Lord Jesus.)

“ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to me by which we must be saved.” ( Acts 4:12)

“ I am the Way,the Truth and the Life and no man comes to the Father  EXCEPT BY ME.” (John 14;6)

*What does it mean to believe in the Lord Jesus?  You must believe these two things:

1. You Must believe Jesus is who He says He is.  “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in HIS NAME.” ( John 20:31)

2. You must believe what He did.

“ For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and was buried , that He was raised on the third day according to Scriptures and that He appeared to Peter , then to the twelve. After that He appeared to over 500..” ( I Cor. 15: 3-5)

“That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with the heart you believe and are justified and with the mouth you confess and are saved.” ( Romans 10: 9-10)

“ I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” ( Romans 1)

“I want you to know, brothers, that the Gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man , nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” ( Galatians 1)

‘What must I do to be saved?.  They answered- BELIEVE IN THE LORD JESUS AND YOU WILL BE SAVED!

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14