Acts 16-17 The Message Bible

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Timothy Accompanies Paul and Silas

16 1  Paul came first to Derbe, then Lystra. He found a disciple there by the name of Timothy, son of a devout Jewish mother and Greek father. 2  Friends in Lystra and Iconium all said what a fine young man he was. 3  Paul wanted to recruit him for their mission, but first took him aside and circumcised him so he wouldn't offend the Jews who lived in those parts. They all knew that his father was Greek. 4  As they traveled from town to town, they presented the simple guidelines the Jerusalem apostles and leaders had come up with. 5  That turned out to be most helpful. Day after day the congregations became stronger in faith and larger in size.

Paul's Vision of the Man of Macedonia

6  They went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. 7  So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn't let them go there either. 8  Proceeding on through Mysia, they went down to the seaport Troas. 9  That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" 10  The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans.

The Imprisonment at Philippi

11  Putting out from the harbor at Troas, we made a straight run for Samothrace. The next day we tied up at New City 12  and walked from there to Philippi, the main city in that part of Macedonia and, even more importantly, a Roman colony. We lingered there several days. 13  On the Sabbath, we left the city and went down along the river where we had heard there was to be a prayer meeting. We took our place with the women who had gathered there and talked with them. 14  One woman, Lydia, was from Thyatira and a dealer in expensive textiles, known to be a God-fearing woman. As she listened with intensity to what was being said, the Master gave her a trusting heart - and she believed! 15  After she was baptized, along with everyone in her household, she said in a surge of hospitality, "If you're confident that I'm in this with you and believe in the Master truly, come home with me and be my guests." We hesitated, but she wouldn't take no for an answer.

16  One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. 17  She started following Paul around, calling everyone's attention to us by yelling out, "These men are working for the Most High God. They're laying out the road of salvation for you!" 18  She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, "Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!" And it was gone, just like that. 19  When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. Then the police arrested them 20  and pulled them into a court with the accusation, "These men are disturbing the peace - dangerous Jewish agitators 21  subverting our Roman law and order." 22  By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood. 23  After beating them black and blue, they threw them into jail, telling the jailkeeper to put them under heavy guard so there would be no chance of escape. 24  He did just that - threw them into the maximum security cell in the jail and clamped leg irons on them.

25  Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn't believe their ears. 26  Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose. 27  Startled from sleep, the jailer saw all the doors swinging loose on their hinges. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he pulled out his sword and was about to do himself in, figuring he was as good as dead anyway, 28  when Paul stopped him: "Don't do that! We're all still here! Nobody's run away!" 29  The jailer got a torch and ran inside. Badly shaken, he collapsed in front of Paul and Silas. 30  He led them out of the jail and asked, "Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?" 31  They said, "Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you'll live as you were meant to live - and everyone in your house included!" 32  They went on to spell out in detail the story of the Master - the entire family got in on this part. 33  They never did get to bed that night. The jailer made them feel at home, dressed their wounds, and then - he couldn't wait till morning! - was baptized, he and everyone in his family. 34  There in his home, he had food set out for a festive meal. It was a night to remember: He and his entire family had put their trust in God; everyone in the house was in on the celebration.

35  At daybreak, the court judges sent officers with the instructions, "Release these men." 36  The jailer gave Paul the message, "The judges sent word that you're free to go on your way. Congratulations! Go in peace!" 37  But Paul wouldn't budge. He told the officers, "They beat us up in public and threw us in jail, Roman citizens in good standing! And now they want to get us out of the way on the sly without anyone knowing? Nothing doing! If they want us out of here, let them come themselves and lead us out in broad daylight." 38  When the officers reported this, the judges panicked. They had no idea that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. 39  They hurried over and apologized, personally escorted them from the jail, and then asked them if they wouldn't please leave the city. 40  Walking out of the jail, Paul and Silas went straight to Lydia's house, saw their friends again, encouraged them in the faith, and only then went on their way.

The Uproar in Thessalonica

17 1  They took the road south through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica, where there was a community of Jews. 2  Paul went to their meeting place, as he usually did when he came to a town, and for three Sabbaths running he preached to them from the Scriptures. 3  He opened up the texts so they understood what they'd been reading all their lives: that the Messiah absolutely had to be put to death and raised from the dead - there were no other options - and that "this Jesus I'm introducing you to is that Messiah." 4  Some of them were won over and joined ranks with Paul and Silas, among them a great many God-fearing Greeks and a considerable number of women from the aristocracy. 5  But the hard-line Jews became furious over the conversions. Mad with jealousy, they rounded up a bunch of brawlers off the streets and soon had an ugly mob terrorizing the city as they hunted down Paul and Silas. 6  When they couldn't find them, they collared Jason and his friends instead and dragged them before the city fathers, yelling hysterically, "These people are out to destroy the world, and now they've shown up on our doorstep, attacking everything we hold dear! 7  And Jason is hiding them, these traitors and turncoats who say Jesus is king and Caesar is nothing!" 8  The city fathers and the crowd of people were totally alarmed by what they heard. 9  They made Jason and his friends post heavy bail and let them go while they investigated the charges.

The Apostles at Beroea

10  That night, under cover of darkness, their friends got Paul and Silas out of town as fast as they could. They sent them to Berea, where they again met with the Jewish community. 11  They were treated a lot better there than in Thessalonica. The Jews received Paul's message with enthusiasm and met with him daily, examining the Scriptures to see if they supported what he said. 12  A lot of them became believers, including many Greeks who were prominent in the community, women and men of influence. 13  But it wasn't long before reports got back to the Thessalonian hard-line Jews that Paul was at it again, preaching the Word of God, this time in Berea. They lost no time responding, and created a mob scene there, too. 14  With the help of his friends, Paul gave them the slip - caught a boat and put out to sea. Silas and Timothy stayed behind. 15  The men who helped Paul escape got him as far as Athens and left him there. Paul sent word back with them to Silas and Timothy: "Come as quickly as you can!"

Paul at Athens

16  The longer Paul waited in Athens for Silas and Timothy, the angrier he got - all those idols! The city was a junkyard of idols. 17  He discussed it with the Jews and other like-minded people at their meeting place. And every day he went out on the streets and talked with anyone who happened along. 18  He got to know some of the Epicurean and Stoic intellectuals pretty well through these conversations. Some of them dismissed him with sarcasm: "What an airhead!" But others, listening to him go on about Jesus and the resurrection, were intrigued: "That's a new slant on the gods. Tell us more." 19  These people got together and asked him to make a public presentation over at the Areopagus, where things were a little quieter. They said, "This is a new one on us. We've never heard anything quite like it. Where did you come up with this anyway? 20  Explain it so we can understand." 21  Downtown Athens was a great place for gossip. There were always people hanging around, natives and tourists alike, waiting for the latest tidbit on most anything.

22  So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. "It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. 23  When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I'm here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you're dealing with. 24  "The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn't live in custom-made shrines 25  or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn't take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don't make him. 26  Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living 27  so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. 28  We live and move in him, can't get away from him! One of your poets said it well: 'We're the God-created.' 29  Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn't make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it? 30  "God overlooks it as long as you don't know any better - but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he's calling for a radical life-change. 31  He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone by raising him from the dead."

32  At the phrase "raising him from the dead," the listeners split: Some laughed at him and walked off making jokes; others said, "Let's do this again. We want to hear more." 33  But that was it for the day, and Paul left. 34  There were still others, it turned out, who were convinced then and there, and stuck with Paul - among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris.

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