When you read Scripture I hope you know that it is a compilation of material that has been gathered over time. We do not have the original Acts of the Apostles as it was written by Luke, but rather scraps and bits and pieces that were gathered from the middle ages on. As a result there can be some inconsistencies that might seem alarming to some. Chapter 16 contains some elements in its writing that can seem a bit disjointed. The narrative switches from the third person to the first person where the author goes from speaking about “them” in vs.7 to speaking about “us” and “we” in vs.11 and following. Don’t allow it to bother you. It is obvious that Luke got this part of his story from someone who was very close to the action and so the account we have includes some great details that otherwise we would not have had if it had been just Luke writing.
We are introduced to Timothy in these first verses. I think it is interesting that even after the Jerusalem council where it was decided that gentile Christians did not need to become Jewish first, Paul still had Timothy circumcised. Paul knew what would be required and what the people of that area expected. How far are we able to go and what are we able to do even if we don’t want to do it in order for the Gospel to be proclaimed in such a way that it can be heard. If Timothy had not been circumcised then probably those in Lysta and Iconium, even though they spoke highly of him, would not have been able to listen to him because it would have been an obstacle to their hearing. What do we have that might be an obstacle to others hearing the Gospel and we just simply do not want to let it go?
Paul’s conversion of the jailer is a classic as well. Before that conversion they meet Lydia who is the dealer in purple and she becomes an iconic figure in Scripture. Just a few weeks ago we went to the dedication service of my daughter’s graduating class. One of the speakers went on to say how Jesus was rich and self funded the disciples. I don’t think that could be further from the truth, at least the part of self-funding. Throughout Scripture we find that the primary benefactors to Jesus’ ministry were women who supported him and his disciples. If you look at Luke 8:3, by the way remember it is Luke who wrote Acts of the Apostles, you see that there is a whole host of women who supported Jesus financially, and this continues in the early church with Lydia and others.
When Paul and Silas drive out the denom from the young girl who had become a real nuisance to them it nearly gets them killed. Beaten and stripped and thrown into prison they were still able to pray and sing hymns to God (vs.25). The earthquake that shakes the foundations of the prison sounds like a similar earthquake that we find in Scripture: Matthew 28:2 and then also 27:51 show an earthquake that took place at Jesus’ death and then another one at his resurrection. But this earthquake was one which opened up all the doors of the cells and even unfastened the chains of Paul and Silas while they were in the stockade. So the jailer had one job do to, and only one job. When he wakes up and sees all the doors open he assumes the worst.
I love how Paul tells him to stop from taking his life and leads him to Jesus. His entire family is baptized as a result of Paul and Silas’ action which were to show him love and not hatred for his role in their imprisonment. Again, another example of how far would we go to spread the Gospel, even if it meant staying in prison with the chance that we would be killed. Of course they were set free, but they didn’t know it at the time. Paul, again not my favorite, demands that those who put them in prison show them the respect that is due to them. They do, and then they go back to stay at Lydia’s home. Don’t forget Timothy, he comes up later and he is a very important figure in the New Testament.