Jerusalem To Rome

The Acts of the Apostles

By Charles Fremont Sitterly


Advance from the Capital of the Province to that of the Empire A. D. 44 To A. D. 62

Chapter 16

The Second Missionary Tour Continued


Paragraph 1. FORMER FIELDS REVISITED. Verses 1-5.

He also came to Derbe and to Lystra. At the latter place there was a disciple named Timotheus, son of a Jewish mother who was a believer, and a Greek father. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium, and Paul wanted to take him along with him, so he took and circumcised him, on account of the Jews in those regions, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they passed from city to city they handed over to the brothers for their observance the injunctions which had been adopted ‘by the Apostles and elders at Jerusalem. Thus the churches kept gaining in faith and increasing in numbers day by day.



Having delivered the Jerusalem decree to the churches named in it, Paul crossed the frontier of the wild, uncivilized country lying between the provinces of Cilicia and Galatia, about one hundred and twenty miles, and came to Derbe, which had been the most eastward city visited in his former tour. Nothing of note occurring, they go on soon to Lystra and there find Timothy, already called of the Holy Spirit and widely known and respected for his gifts and graces as an Evangelist. Paul greatly desired this young man to join his group of workers, and since he was only half Jew, his father being a Greek, and had never been circumcised, Paul felt that he would be more useful to the cause, especially where Jewish prejudices were still dominant, if the rite were performed upon him. This he did, and thereby made favorable impression upon all who took note of his own scrupulous care not to offend the weakest believer while promulgating the injunctions of freedom sent forth by the Jerusalem church. Paul’s refusal to allow the circumcision of Titus at Jerusalem when it was demanded in the interests of bigotry shows how courageous as well as charitable he could be on occasion, and how even-handed was his sense of justice. The general results of Paul’s second visit to the churches of Province Galatia were very gratifying, and he left after a few weeks, taking Timothy with him for a great campaign which he but dimly felt was awaiting him still further westward. He was now well started on the great highway across Asia Minor, and the lure of Greece and imperial Rome had seized him. Fortunately, neither Barnabas nor Mark could hinder his making the great adventure.  


Then they crossed the Phrygian and Galatian territory, for they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit from preaching the Word in Asia. When, however, they reached the border of Mysia they tried to make their way into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not permit them. So they passed by Mysia and came down to Troas. Here a vision appeared to Paul one night: a Macedonian was standing and making appeal to him, saying,

“Cross over into Macedonia and help us.”

So as soon as he had seen the vision we tried at once to go on unto Macedonia, coming to the conclusion that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

  They soon entered the most important Greek Province in the Roman empire, and doubtless Paul felt that Asia, and particularly its famous capital, Ephesus, was to be the scene of his activities for years to come. It was his intention to cross it from the high-lands to the coast, preaching in city after city along the great south road until he reached Ephesus, which metropolis had been in his thought as a possible goal on his first foreign tour. At the first favorable point, however, where he decided with Silas that they might wisely begin their work, the Holy Spirit peremptorily forbade any preaching at all anywhere in Asia and yet seemed to sanction their further advance. Turning northward, they planned to make for the next province, Bithynia, and after days of travel, just as they were about to enter it, again the Spirit thwarts their designs and drives them straight west to the Ægean Sea. They cross Mysia, a district of Asia where still they dare not preach, and come out at Troas, just south of the Dardanelles. Professor Walter Leaf, in one of his late books entitled “Troy, a Study in Homeric Geography,” shows what the location of ancient Troy, which lay just above Troas, meant to the ancient classical world. For hundreds of years it was the natural key to the commercial prosperity or conquest of either Greece in Europe or greater Greece in Asia. When Paul and: Silas came down from the Anatolian plateau and looking across the Troas, saw that little hill crowned with gleaming palaces and porticos, they gazed upon the ninth city which had successively risen out of its own ruins since the days of its foundations centuries before Priam. As they looked upon the white crested sea they said, “Surely, we can now turn southward and enter Pergamum and Thyatira at least, and see if the Spirit will not be pleased to accept our services there.” But again, they are diverted and this time by a vision in which Paul sees a man of Macedonia, standing as it were on the shore opposite Troas and calling, loudly, “Come across to Macedonia and help us!” The Apostles at once decide what this means and embark on the very next vessel, crossing for Neapolis of Macedonia. The last verse in this paragraph introduces clearly its writer as a member of the party which accompanied Paul from Troas to Philippi. Renan and Ramsay have agreed that Luke was the “man from Macedonia.” Others think that Luke here inserts as elsewhere excerpts from the diary of one of his “sources” without adapting it to the third person as he usually does in his book. Of course, it is not possible now to determine who is included in “we,” and the natural view to take is as far from difficulty as any other, namely, that Luke was with Paul at least wherever he uses “we,” and falls into this direct way of speaking for that reason, or that he was with Paul on all his tours and only occasionally discloses that fact. The latter theory goes well with the argument based on the prevailing similarity of language in all parts of Acts as textual students widely admit.



Paragraph 3. THE BEGINNING OF THE WORK IN EUROPE. Verses 11-15.

Therefore, setting sail from Troas, we made a straight run to Samothrace and on the next day reached Neapolis. Thence we went on to Philippi, a Roman colony and the foremost city of that part of Macedonia. In that city we were staying for a number of days. Now on the Sabbath we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we thought there would be a place of prayer, and sitting down we began to talk to the women who had assembled. Among those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple, of the city Thyatira. She was a very devout woman whose heart the Lord had opened to give heed to what Paul was saying. So when she and her household had been baptized, she pleaded with us, saying,

“If you really consider me a true believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.”

And she compelled us to do it.



The winds are favorable. The ship makes a straight course across to the beautiful island of Samothrace the first day, and after lying to off shore as the wind fails with the light, the following day they proceed on their voyage and land in Neapolis, the port of Philippi. In chapter xx we see that when the winds were contrary this same trip took five days. From Neapolis they go up to Philippi, and for the first time since leaving Pisidia are permitted to feel that they can here help heal the world’s sin. When Paul saw the splendid almost modern Roman city of Philippi and realized that in its vicinity Brutus and Cassius had only a century earlier gone down in defeat before the Triumvirate, Antony, Octavian, afterward the Emperor Augustus, and Lepidus, thereby ending the old Republican regime and thus making possible the Empire, he may have felt for the first time that Rome itself lay inevitably before him. There was evidently no synagogue in Philippi, and although a small Jewish “place of prayer” was found by the river outside the walls, it was not the resort of men nor was its most prominent woman patroness a Jewess but a convert or proselyte. Lydia of Thyatira was a woman of means, as her business and household indicated, and also her ability to entertain freely, or of course Paul, Silas, Timothy, and possibly Luke, could not have accepted the generous invitation of her hospitality. She was probably a widow and another of that remarkable group of fine women whom Luke is always bringing into the foreground. It is also to be noted that Luke is right both in reflecting a more liberal social attitude toward women in Macedonia than in Achæa and in Jewish than in Gentile communities.  


Now, it happened one day as we were going to the place of prayer that a slave girl with a divining spirit met us, who made a great deal of money for her masters by her fortune-telling. She kept following Paul and the rest of us, crying out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God; they are announcing you news of a Way of Salvation.”

This she continued doing for a considerable period until Paul, thoroughly annoyed by it, turned and said to the spirit,

“In the name of Christ I command you to come out of her.”

And it came out of her at once. When her owners, however, saw the hope of their gain gone they seized Paul and Silas, dragged them into the public square before the magistrates, and, leading them up to the Prætors, they said:

“These men here are causing a great disturbance in our city. They are Jews, announcing customs which it is not possible for us Romans either to accept or practice.”

The crowd also joined forces against them, and the Prætors, after having their garments stripped from them, ordered them to be beaten. After they had received a great many lashes the officers threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to guard them safely. He, on getting so strict an order, put them in the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.



Lydia had her counterpart in the demon-possessed slave girl, a type of mixed clairvoyance and ventriloquism, suggesting the frenzied Pythian priestess, as Luke’s term suggests. So capable was her gift of profitable manipulation that a syndicate made wealth thereby. Like most of her kind, she had powers of discernment very unusual and her enslaved soul recognized its thraldom and rebelled. For several Sabbaths, at least, she hovered on the outskirts of the little gathering by the riverside, and as Paul and Silas came and went away, followed them with distressing shrieks like those of a lost soul crying out,

“These are servants of God Himself; they can bring us salvation!”

Of course the Apostles knew the woman did not sense the full import of her words, and yet they could not help but pity her deeply and wonder at the foul iniquity of those who owned her. They also feared lest her persistent attentions might compromise their cause and embarrass Lydia and the rest. After long hesitation and much prayer, Paul determined, if possible, to save her and at the same time end the annoyance. He, therefore, took the case in hand, and in the name of Jesus exorcised the demon completely. But Paul and Silas had to suffer shamefully for their merciful act, and, though Romans themselves, were so severely dealt with in the name of Roman citizenship, that Roman law was set aside in the interest of race hatred, for the clamor raised against the Apostles as meddlesome Jews overruled not only their protest but all reason and justice besides. The slave girl’s owners got the ear of the mob and the Prætors without hindrance. The latter hurried their victims on to the lictors and Paul and Silas were stripped and flogged and flung into the inner keep of the common jail almost before they could draw breath. When their feet were finally roughly locked in the stocks they realized that this was a plain case of satanic persecution, which they must take in the spirit of their Master and turn somehow into a great victory for His name.



Now, about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, while the prisoners listened to them, when suddenly there was a great earthquake which shook the prison to its foundations, and on the instant all the doors flew open and every-one’s chains fell off. Then the jailer, roused from his sleep and seeing the doors of the prison open, drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had fled. But Paul called out in a loud voice,

“Do yourself no violence, for we are all here.”

Then he called for lights, and rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas, and leading them outside, exclaimed,

“O, sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

“Believe on the Lord Jesus,” they answered, “and you and your household will be saved.”

And they told him and every-one that was in his house the Word of the Lord. Then he took them at that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and he and all his house were baptized. Moreover, he took them up into his house and placed food before them, and rejoiced with all his household because he believed in God.



They began to pray, and found such communion so sweet that soon they fell into singing, making use of some of the grand Old Testament psalms, possibly adapted by some Antiochian musician to Christian use. With their rise in spirits their voices grew louder until the prison rang with the melody, both unusual and wonderfully appealing, and the prisoners were caught and deeply moved by its spell. Then came the earth tremor, shaking down the door posts and crossbars, and strangely rending the walls just where the fastenings pierced them. The jailer, confused by the din, yet realizing that his prisoners might escape, seizes his sword to commit suicide. But Paul saves his life, cheerily assuring him that none had gone nor intended to; so he has his deputies secure the other prisoners, too startled by all that is occurring to make their escape before it is too late, and then approaches Paul and Silas with penitent inquiries, showing that the Apostolic teaching had by no means been confined to the riverside or to the few women, and that he well knew in his heart what kind of salvation the street woman had referred to, and that he and all sinful men needed. The fine spirit of Paul and Silas and the calm equanimity they had displayed that desperate afternoon, and now in an earthquake, having saved his life already assures the jailer that these Jewish prisoners have the key to life eternal. He brings them to the outer ward. He orders water to be brought. He carefully sponges their wounded backs, restores their outer garments, and adds fresh linen from his own stores.

“O, sirs, is there any salvation for me?” he cries with tears streaming down his face.

“Yes, indeed,” say the Apostles. “Salvation for you and all who are here . . . Believe in the Word of God . . . Believe in the gospel of Jesus. He is the Saviour from sin. . . . Believe it and you and all yours shall be saved.”

“Come into my house,” says the jailer. “Come and tell us all this beautiful teaching. Come and have food and refreshment and tell us more of this wonderful truth.”

As they finally baptize the jailer’s entire household, Paul and Silas see why God had not permitted them to escape the insane frenzy of the mob the previous day and more songs are sung before that Philippian jail is quiet again.  


When morning dawned the Prætors sent their lictors with orders, “Release those men.” So the jailer announced his orders to Paul.

“The Prætors,” he said, “have sent to release you. Now then, come, take your departure in peace.”

Paul, however, answered: “They scourged us in the open market place without a trial, though we are Roman citizens! They threw us into jail, and now are they going to send us off secretly? By no means! Let them come here and take us out themselves.” The lictors repeated these words to the Prætors, who when they heard the men were Roman citizens became alarmed. They therefore went to pacify them, brought them out of the prison, and courteously asked them to leave the city. So they left the prison and went to the house of Lydia, and after meeting the brothers and encouraging them they departed.  


For some reason not clearly disclosed, the lictors appeared at the prison on the following morning with an order signed by the Prætors for the immediate release of Paul and Silas. The jailer is overjoyed and at once conveys it to his guests, the lictors waiting below meanwhile to see it executed. Paul goes down with the jailer. He sees in this document an admission of complete

breakdown in the case against him and Silas. The Prætors must have learned by some means, quite possibly through Lydia or her attorney, that Paul and Silas were utterly innocent of causing any illegal disturbance in the city or of teaching any doctrine subversive of morals or good government. Lydia may even have arranged to buy the slave girl and reimburse her owners. At any rate, the admission of miscarriage of justice on the part of the Prætors was clear. Paul decides that he and Silas must stand by their Philippian friends and give them all the benefit they can arising from their Roman citizenship. He, therefore, tells the lictors to report back to their masters that to subject Romans like him and his companion to the rods of the lictors was illegal; that it was especially so if done with intent to cause public humiliation before a rabble in open forum or market place; that the offense was triply heinous if no legal process nor judgment had taken place, and, finally, that they would refuse to leave the prison until the Prætors came personally and made amends in as open and public a manner as they had disgraced them the day preceding. This soon brings its intended results. The chief officials of the. city visit the jail. They ask to see Paul and Silas. They implore the Apostles to overlook the irregularity and assure them that if they will only leave the city, nothing more shall be heard of the action concerning the slave girl and her cure. This was really a great victory for the Apostles and gave added standing to the group of believers which was already of marked credit to the cause. They retire for a few days of quiet and earnest conference at the house of Lydia, and in due time take up their journey on the great Egnatian Road, leading directly west toward Rome. Some hold that Luke was left at Philippi.