Acts 16 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Acts 16)

Verse 6

[6] Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,

And having gone through Phrygia — And spoken there what was sufficient, as well as in the region of Galatia, being forbid by the Spirit (probably by an inward dictate) to speak as yet in the proconsular Asia, the time for it not being come.

Verse 7

[7] After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

Coming to Mysia, and passing it by, as being a part of Asia, they attempted to go into Bithynia; but the Spirit suffered them not - Forbidding them as before. Sometimes a strong impression, for which we are not able to give any account, is not altogether to be despised.

Verse 9

[9] And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

A vision appeared to Paul by night — It was not a dream, though it was by night. No other dream is mentioned in the New Testament than that of Joseph and of Pilate's wife.

A man of Macedonia — Probably an angel clothed in the Macedonian habit, or using the language of the country, and representing the inhabitants of it.

Help us — Against Satan, ignorance, and sin.

Verse 10

[10] And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

We sought to go into Macedonia — This is the first place in which St. Luke intimates his attendance on the apostle. And here he does it only in an oblique manner. Nor does he throughout the history once mention his own name, or any one thing which he did or said for the service of Christianity; though Paul speaks of him in the most honourable terms, Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; and probably as the brother whose praise in the Gospel went through all the Churches, 2 Corinthians 8:18. The same remark may be made on the rest of the sacred historians, who every one of them show the like amiable modesty.

Verse 11

[11] Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;

We ran with a straight course — Which increased their confidence that God had called them.

Verse 12

[12] And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

The first city — Neapolis was the first city they came to in that part of Macedonia which was nearest to Asia: in that part which was farthest from it, Philippi. The river Strymon ran between them. Philippi was a Roman colony.

Verse 13

[13] And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

We went out of the gate — The Jews usually held their religious assemblies (either by choice or constraint) at a distance from the heathens: by a river side - Which was also convenient for purifying themselves.

Where prayer was wont to be made — Though it does not appear there was any house built there.

We spake — At first in a familiar manner. Paul did not immediately begin to preach.

Verse 14

[14] And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

A worshipper of God — Probably acquainted with the prophetic writings whose heart the Lord opened - The Greek word properly refers to the opening of the eyes: and the heart has its eyes, Ephesians 1:18. These are closed by nature and to open them is the peculiar work of God.

Verse 15

[15] And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

She was baptized and her family — Who can believe that in so many families there was no infant? Or that the Jews, who were so long accustomed to circumcise their children, would not now devote them to God by baptism? She entreated us - The souls of the faithful cleave to those by whom they were gained to God.

She constrained us — By her importunity. They did not immediately comply, lest any should imagine they sought their own profit by coining into Macedonia.

Verse 17

[17] The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.

These men are — A great truth: but St. Paul did not need, nor would accept, of such testimony.

Verse 19

[19] And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

The magistrates — The supreme magistrates of the city. In the next verse they are called by a title which often signifies pretors. These officers exercised both the military and civil authority.

Verse 20

[20] And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

Being Jews — A nation peculiarly despised by the Romans.

Verse 21

[21] And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

And teach customs which it is not lawful for us to receive — The world has received all the rules and doctrines of all the philosophers that ever were. But this is a property of Gospel truth: it has something in it peculiarly intolerable to the world.

Verse 23

[23] And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

They laid many stripes upon them — Either they did not immediately say they were Romans, or in the tumult it was not regarded.

Charging the jailer — Perhaps rather to quiet the people than because they thought them criminal.

Verse 24

[24] Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

Secured their feet in the stocks — These were probably those large pieces of wood, in use among the Romans, which not only loaded the legs of the prisoner, but also kept them extended in a very painful manner.

Verse 25

[25] And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Paul and Silas sung a hymn to God — Notwithstanding weariness, hunger stripes, and blood.

And the prisoners heard — A song to which they were not accustomed.

Verse 28

[28] But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

But Paul cried — As they were all then in the dark, it is not easy to say, how Paul knew of the jailer's purpose; unless it were by some immediate notice from God, which is by no means incredible.

With a loud voice — Through earnestness, and because he was at some distance.

Do thyself no harm — Although the Christian faith opens the prospect into another life, yet it absolutely forbids and effectually prevents a man's discharging himself from this.

Verse 30

[30] And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

Sirs — He did not style them so the day before.

What must I do to be saved? — From the guilt I feel and the vengeance I fear? Undoubtedly God then set his sins in array before him, and convinced him in the clearest and strongest manner that the wrath of God abode upon him.

Verse 31

[31] And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Thou shalt be saved and thy household — If ye believe. They did so, and were saved.

Verse 33

[33] And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.

He washed their stripes — It should not be forgot, that the apostles had not the power of working miraculous cures when they pleased, either on themselves, or their dearest friends. Nor was it expedient they should, since it would have frustrated many wise designs of God, which were answered by their sufferings.

Verse 34

[34] And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

He set a table before them and rejoiced — Faith makes a man joyful, prudent, liberal.

Verse 35

[35] And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.

The pretors sent — Being probably terrified by the earthquake; saying, Let those men go - How different from the charge given a few hours before! And how great an ease of mind to the jailer!

Verse 37

[37] But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.

They have beaten us publicly, being Romans — St. Paul does not always plead this privilege. But in a country where they were entire strangers, such treatment might have brought upon them a suspicion of having been guilty of some uncommon crime, and so have hindered the course of the Gospel.

Verse 40

[40] And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

When they had seen the brethren, they comforted them and departed — Though many circumstances now invited their stay, yet they wisely complied with the request of the magistrates, that they might not seem to express any degree of obstinacy or revenge, or give any suspicion of a design to stir up the people.