Acts 16


“He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.” Acts 16:1-5

Timothy Joins Paul And Silas

Lystra was the place where the apostle Paul was stoned almost to death, Acts 14:9-20, and that alone might have discouraged some men from returning.

However, Luke told Theophilus that Paul and Barnabas went back through the city as they were strengthening the churches at the end of their missionary tour.

And it’s then, that Paul returned with Silas and discovered a young convert with great potential. His name is Timothy, whose mother was Eunice, he was a Jewish convert with a Greek father but more importantly, he was highly recommended by the brethren.

Why Did Paul Have Timothy Circumcised But Not Titus?

Sometimes in the Scriptures, we come across an event that appears, on the surface, to be confusing, misleading or contrary to other Scriptures. One such event is recorded in Acts 16 when the apostle Paul took his young friend Timothy and had him circumcised.

Paul knew the old covenant was nailed to the cross, Colossians 2:13-15, and he was very much aware that there’s no need for anyone to be circumcised anymore, Galatians 5:2 / Galatians 5:6, but why would Paul have Timothy circumcised?

We also know on another occasion, Paul refused to let Titus be circumcised, Galatians 2:3-5, why was that? Was he hypocritical in his dealing with Timothy and Titus? Before we answer these questions let’s go ahead and look at the context of both these events.

On the surface, it appears as though Paul had Timothy circumcised because of peer pressure from the Jews but notice that these same Jews knew that Timothy’s father was Greek.

They concluded that because his father was a Greek, not a Jew, Timothy wouldn’t be circumcised, and just like his father, wouldn’t be practising Judaism.

Of course, they may have come to the wrong conclusion about Timothy being circumcised because many people from other cultures became Jews throughout history, Joshua 5:6-7.

On this occasion, their conclusions were correct concerning Timothy and so, in accordance with the Law of Moses, Timothy was circumcised because he had the legal right to do so.


It’s important to remember that Paul is dealing with legalism and false teachers throughout the Book of Galatians, Galatians 2:3-5. These people were insisting that Jesus didn’t do enough for people to be saved, and so, they were teaching that everyone needed to be circumcised too.

Notice that it says the reason Titus wasn’t circumcised was that it would have ‘made them slaves’ and ‘the truth of the Gospel might be preserved.’

In other words, if Paul had given in to Titus being circumcised, to please these false believers, then that would have nullified the Gospel, it would have discredited everything Jesus had taught and done.

It would have undone everything which had been taught about being right with God by faith and enforced on others the idea of being right with God is through law-keeping, i.e. circumcision.

Different Characters

When we look at Timothy and Titus, we can see that they are both completely different characters. The first difference is that Titus had parents who were both Greek, Galatians 2:3, while Timothy had a Jewish mother, Jewish grandmother, 2 Timothy 1:5, but a Greek father, Acts 16:3.

Titus doesn’t appear to have any Jewish upbringing, whilst Paul tells that Timothy had been raised by being taught the Old Testament Scriptures from childhood, 2 Timothy 3:15. This implies that his Jewish mother, Eunice and his Jewish grandmother, Lois, brought him up as a Jew.

Although we don’t know, it’s highly possible that Timothy’s Greek father was happy for him to be raised as a Jew but refused to allow him to be circumcised. Imagine having parents, one is a believer and the other isn’t, the father is happy for their son or daughter to go and worship God and study His Word with their mother and other Christians. However, he won’t allow their son or daughter to be baptised to become a true Christian.

Different Circumstances

When we look at the events surrounding Timothy being circumcised and Titus not being circumcised, we can see that they are both completely different circumstances.

For example, in Galatians Paul was dealing with those false believers, those so-called Christians, who were insisting that all Christians must also be circumcised. The genuine Christians in Galatia were being pressured into being circumcised by these legalistic Christians in order to be accepted.

But notice in the Acts event, that ‘the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him’, that is Timothy. In other words, there were no Christians, no legalistic Christians putting any pressure on Timothy to be circumcised, as Titus had.

Was Paul Being A Hypocrite?

Many people believe that Paul was being a hypocrite in the way he dealt with Timothy and Titus concerning their circumcision, but we must take into account that these are two different characters, in two different circumstances.

Paul refused to allow Titus to be circumcised in Jerusalem, Galatians 2:1, because that action would have nullified the whole Gospel, but he had Timothy circumcised simply because he was going to be travelling with Paul and it would make his ‘outreach’ efforts to the Jews much easier.

Timothy would still be a Christian, but he would be accepted in Jewish society, therefore this would make his ‘outreach’ efforts easier in the long term.

How Would Anyone Know You Were circumcised?

A question that comes up from time to time is, how would anyone know if Timothy or Titus were circumcised in the first place? In Bible times sharing the bathing facilities and toilet facilities was common practice, so it would be very easy for someone to notice if a person was circumcised or not.

I guess that Paul, Timothy and Titus could have bluffed their way through meetings with the Jews, but this would imply lying, the reality is that people would simply ask, kind of like what people do today when they are asked if they are a Christian.

When we look at all the evidence it’s clear that Titus’ case was all about defending the freedom Christians find in Christ, whilst in Timothy’s case, it was all about utilising that same freedom to win more souls for Christ.

It was freedom that led Paul not to allow Titus to be circumcised and it was freedom that led Paul to allow Timothy to be circumcised, 1 Corinthians 9:20 / 1 Corinthians 10:23-24.

And so Paul left with Timothy and Silas to carry the message from the meeting at Jerusalem to all the churches with which the apostle had previously worked, Acts 15:30. In this way, he prepared them to fend off the potential attacks of the Judaizers.

And so because Paul avoided another possibility of division, the churches were strengthened in the faith and continued to grow in number.

“Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.” Acts 16:6-8

Just west of the cities in south Galatia was the Roman province of Asia and Luke says Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to enter that region to teach. This might have been done directly or through the agency of a prophet inspired by the Spirit, Acts 20:23 / Acts 21:10-11.

How it happened is not important, but one thing we do know is that it wasn’t a part of God’s plan at this point. Because as we will see later in Acts 19, Paul did get his opportunity to preach in Asia and the church grew there in a fine way, as is evidenced by the Lord’s letters, Revelation 2-3.

In the meantime, Paul and those with him continued to work their way along until they came to Mysia, which was at the northern border between Asia and Bithynia.

They would have gone into Bithynia, but again, the Spirit wouldn’t let them go, so they turned westward to Troas and it was during this time that Paul received a vision.

Paul’s Vision Of The Man of Macedonia

“During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we travelled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.” Acts 16:9-12

They may not have understood why the Lord wouldn’t allow them to go to Asia. They may not have even understood why the Lord wouldn’t allow them to go to Bithynia. But Paul and his company determined, after a vision the apostle had in the night that the Lord wanted them to preach in Macedonia.

So, they immediately made arrangements and set sail from Troas to Samothrace, then Neapolis and, finally, Philippi, which Luke described as ‘the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony’, and it’s here we’re introduced to a woman named Lydia.

Lydia’s Conversion In Philippi

“On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.” Acts 16:13-16

It was customarily to take ten Jewish heads of households and form a synagogue within a community. But here in Philippi, there was no synagogue, there was just a group of Jewish women who met by the riverside for prayer.

Paul’s company joined the women on the Sabbath day and spoke to them and one of the women, whose name is Lydia, was a seller of purple.

Now this was an expensive purple dye, made of the murex shell and it was one of the most valuable commodities of antiquity, and Lydia’s engaging in trade of such a product surely indicates some considerable capital. Did you notice where Lydia’s home city is?

Lydia’s home city was Thyatira. We might wonder what’s so significant about that? Well, Thyatira is in the province of Asia. And so even though Paul had been forbidden by the Lord to go to Asia personally, he actually got to teach one of its citizens.

Luke doesn’t go into the details of Pauls’ message to Lydia but common sense tells us, the central message of the Gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

Paul shared with Lydia the story about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. And after God had her heart opened by hearing the words spoken by Paul. Lydia and other members of her household obeyed the spoken word by being baptized.

Paul must have explained the importance of baptism in terms of being united with Christ, Romans 6:3-5. Paul tells the Galatian Christians that they were all children of God by faith, Galatians 3:26-28. How did that happen?

It happened because when they were baptized into Christ they entered by faith into Christ and clothed themselves with Christ so that there was no longer anything to divide them.

In other words, when Paul was preaching to Lydia, he explained the whole story about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and he explained what she needed to do to be right with God.

Lydia understood how the old covenant worked in relation to sin but now she had her heart opened to the new convent, and she understood that to enter this new covenant with Christ, she needed to be baptised into Christ for the forgiveness of her sins.

And so after Lydia and her household were added to the Lord’s church, she then pleaded with Paul and the others to stay as guests in her house.

Paul may have hesitated because she was a single woman, which seems to be indicated by the reference to her house. However, when she prefaced her request by saying, ‘if you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord’, Paul yielded. And so, here we have the first European converts to Christ.

Lydia didn’t wake up one morning and think to herself, I’ll go down to the river and pray and I’ll become a Christian. No! God sent Paul to share the message with her. She heard the message of Christ through Paul and God opened her heart to respond to the message, Romans 10:17.

What Luke records next is just that very thing but the reaction to the healing is interesting, to say the least.

Paul And Silas In Prison

“Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks”. Acts 16:16-24

Luke reported that the group went for prayer, possibly daily and this demon-possessed slave girl followed them crying out, ‘these men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’

Normally we would think that such an occurrence would be very helpful in furthering the Gospel, but Paul clearly did not think so. After all, the people believed this girl could foretell the future and her masters made a considerable profit in the process.

But to accept the recommendation of demons would have been to lend credence to anything else the demon might have made her say, even lies and so, Paul cast out the demon by the authority of Jesus.

Look at the reaction of her masters, after Paul had healed her, they only saw one thing, they saw their income going right out the window.

And so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities in the marketplace. And once again, we see the mob rule and the magistrates had Paul and Silas beaten, cast into the inner prison and their feet placed in stocks.

We would think her masters would be grateful that this girl was now demon freed and healed, but if our values are in the wrong place and all we see is an income and not a human life, then we won’t place much value on human life.

Let me share a few thoughts about so-called modern-day psychics’ and fortune-tellers, etc. I have often wondered how many of the speculative predictions that fit in the realm of the fantastic but have failed, are ever revisited.

I am persuaded that the reason psychics, astrologers, fortune tellers, and such like are an abomination to the Lord is because they encourage people to place their confidence in someone or something other than God and His will for their lives.

The only place we should be looking for guidance is in the Scriptures, Psalm 119:105, and there’s no place on earth or in heaven that God cannot guide us, Psalm 139:7-10. God has blessed us with two compasses to help guide us, He has blessed us with a conscience, and the Bible.

But our conscience is affected by our surroundings and by the way we have been taught or trained. The conscience has a history of giving inaccurate readings, Proverbs 14:12 / Proverbs 16:25.

He has also blessed us with His Word, the Bible, and it is given to us as the more reliable compass to guide us when those big decisions of life are to be made.

Back in the Old Testament before God’s people entered the Promised Land, God warned His people to stay away from people who are involved in any form of fortune-telling and don’t get involved with that kind of sinful acts, Deuteronomy 18:10-12 / Leviticus 20:27.

Make no mistake about it, people who practice these things or people who place their trust in these things will not enter the kingdom of heaven, Galatians 5:19-21 / Revelation 21:8.

Paul and Silas are in prison for doing good, but what they are doing is just amazing, they are rejoicing.

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God-he and his whole family”. Acts 16:25-34

Luke tells us that at midnight, while the other prisoners listened to Paul and Silas singing and praying, a great earthquake shook open all the prison doors and released all those bound in stocks.

And believing his prisoners had escaped, the Jailor prepared to kill himself rather than face the torturous Roman judgment. But Paul stopped him by crying out that they were all there and he should not harm himself.

The jailor called for lights, leapt into the prison in trembling fear, fell before Paul and Silas, brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ The inspired response was the same as any other conversion we find in the Book of Acts.

The questions were similar but the response is always the same. It was the same in the beginning when Peter preached to the Jewish brethren on Pentecost, Acts 2:37-39. It was the same on the Damascus road for the apostle Paul, Acts 22:10.

The jailor was told, ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And so Paul and Silas spoke the Word of the Lord to him so that faith could be produced, Romans 10:17.

And so at the same hour of the night, he washed their stripes, which is clear evidence of repentance. Immediately afterwards, he and all the members of his household were baptized just like Peter’s audience did and just like the apostle, Paul himself did.

And so Luke tells us then, and only then, ‘he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household’. The jailor and his household weren’t saved just because they believed. They had to do something with that belief, they needed to express that belief in action.

Their action was to follow the commands which Paul and Silas gave them and that was to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. The rejoicing didn’t begin until after they had been baptised into Christ. Why?

Because that was the point in time when their sins were washed away, Acts 2:38, and they entered into a new relationship with Christ Himself, Matthew 28:19-20 / Romans 6:1-4.

And so the church which meets at Philippi is beginning to grow thanks to God adding to their number.

“When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.” But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.” Acts 16:35-40

Luke tells us that the next morning, the magistrates were sent to the prison to quietly release Paul and Silas but the apostle refused to go quietly, why? One possibility is that Paul wanted the authorities to realize even Roman citizens had believed in Jesus.

Remember that a Roman could not be beaten and imprisoned without due process of law and so it is possible that Paul had tried to stop the previous day’s actions by appealing to his citizenship but he had been ignored. And now, he would only leave the jail if the magistrates personally escorted him.

Instead of being run out of town, they were asked to leave but before they went, they returned to Lydia’s house and encouraged the brethren there first before they bid them farewell.

Go To Acts 17


"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."