Lesson 16--Paul's Second Missionary Journey: Antioch to Philippi

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Paul's Second Missionary Journey

Antioch to Philippi

What information does Luke give us about Timothy?

Acts 16:1-3

Why did Paul have Timothy circumcised? Acts 16:3 states, "…because of the Jews who were in that region." Was Paul being inconsistent in view of his sharp attack on circumcision as the Judaizers promoted it? In Galatians 5:2 Paul stated, "…if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing." What effect would Paul’s actions have on the Galatians, who had received his letter only a few months before? Would they understand? Paul’s actions, quite obviously, need some explanation!

It is true that Paul had strongly contested the teaching of the Judaizers who required circumcision only a few months before in his letter to the Galatians, the very congregations he was presently visiting. His opposition, however, was not to circumcision in itself, but rather to making circumcision a condition for salvation. In Galatians 5:6 he states, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." Because Timothy desired to serve his Lord at Paul’s side, and in view of the fact that the offspring of a Jewish mother and Greek father was considered illegitimate by the Jews unless circumcised, Paul apparently suggested and Timothy permitted himself to be circumcised. In this way, the work of the gospel ministry among possible Jewish converts would not be hindered.

What was Paul’s two-fold purpose for revisiting the churches of Galatia?

Acts 16:4-5

Where did Paul go from Galatia? What happened when he got there?

Acts 16:6-10

Acts 16:6 tells us that Paul was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia." What would have led Paul to go there in the first place? The reason is two-fold: 1) Asia was the largest and most populous province in Asia Minor and the major road in southern Galatia ran about 250 miles westward from Pisidian Antioch to Ephesus (cf. Note 50 for a list of other major cities in Asia); 2) All roads led to Rome—imperial messengers usually took the road to Ephesus, which allowed easy access to boats heading for Corinth and then Rome. Paul perhaps was already thinking in terms of evangelizing the empire’s capital.

Acts 16:8 tells us, "So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas." This verse raises some interesting questions with regard to Paul’s motives in going to Troas. We are told that the Spirit prevented work in Asia and Bithynia and that Paul and his companions had come to Mysia (verse 7). Students of 1st Century geography place them, therefore, at this point in the vicinity of Dorylaeum and Cotiaeum. Troas lies some 200 miles due west of there. While there were roads from this area going north, east, south, and southwest, there were no roads going directly west. To get to Troas you either had to go out of your way or travel overland through rather rugged country. This would indicate that if Paul chose to go to Troas, he had a purpose in mind—he had plans to go elsewhere. If Paul wanted to go to the areas surrounding the Black Sea; if he wanted to go to southern Greece; if he wanted to go to Italy; or if he wanted to return to Syrian Antioch, he would have not gone to Troas. The only region left to which Paul would have gone to Troas in route was Macedonia. It would appear that even as Paul planned to go to Asia and Bithynia, but was then hindered by the Spirit, so he planned to go to Macedonia. These plans, then, were confirmed by the Spirit in Paul’s vision.

Note the beginning of the "we" sections of the narrative of Acts. While Luke does not specifically mention it, it would appear that he joined Paul’s party at Troas. Note the use of "we" and "they" in the remainder of Acts, and you will be able to trace the activities of Luke!

What were the results of the Spirit’s work in the heart of Lydia?

Acts 16:11-15

Because there was no synagogue in Philippi, we may surmise that there was only a small Jewish population living there. It was Jewish custom that before a synagogue was established, there had to be at least ten Jewish males in the area. If there had been ten Jewish males present, there would no doubt have been a synagogue. Such a quorum of ten Jewish males was called a "munyon."

The purple dye for the cloth sold by Lydia was taken from molluscs of the Murex genus. It was very difficult to obtain and therefore terrifically expensive.

What led to the imprisonment of Paul and Silas?

Acts 16:16-24

The slave girl was literally a "Pythoness" from Delphi or Pytho, the then world famous shrine of Apollo on the southern slope of Mount Parnassus overlooking the Gulf of Corinth. These oracles were consulted at a great price by all types of people, including statesmen and ambassadors.

It is interesting to note how the owners of the slave girl presented their case in court. It is unlikely that they could have recovered their loses in a civil suit, and this quite apparently was not their purpose. They wanted revenge. They first mentioned Paul and Silas were Jews. The fact that Claudius had just demanded that all Jews leave Rome (cf. Acts 18:2 ) would lead the city magistrates to consider them suspect at the very least. They then accused Paul and Silas of teaching "customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe." This was all that was needed. Philippi was a "free city" and as such it enjoyed a special status in the empire, but only so long as Rome agreed. The magistrates had the duty of suppressing any political or religious activities, which would undermine public order or Roman authority. If Rome were to hear of any activity counter to its purpose, Philippi would lose its free status.

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, a Lutheran who was imprisoned years ago by the communists in Eastern Europe and who experienced beatings with rods, described the torture in this way: "The blows burn like fire. It was as if your back were being grilled by a furnace, and the shock to the nervous system was great."

How did the Spirit use that imprisonment to further His purpose?

Acts 16:25-34

How did Paul and Silas make use of their civil rights?

Acts 16:35-40

There were three laws in particular which protected Roman citizens in situations such as that in which Paul found himself—Lex Valeria, Lex Porcia, and Lex Julia. These three laws protected a citizen from being beaten except for the refusal to obey a direct order of a magistrate, and only then after a full trial and formal conviction. Even after being convicted the citizen had the right of appeal. This right was exercised by Paul later in his ministry (cf. Acts 25:11).

Discussion Topics:


The Christian experience can be expressed in this way—God renews, man responds. How was this true both for Lydia and the Jailer? How is this true in your experience?


Scripture teaches that all tragedies are tests permitted by God as well as opportunities provided by God. How was this true for Paul and Silas? How can this be true for today’s Christians?


Why did Paul demand that the city magistrates in Philippi personally release him from prison? Does Paul’s example have any bearing on how we exercise our civil rights as Christians?