Acts 16:12-24

Sunday Morning Bible Study

May 3, 1998


Paul is now on his second missionary journey. After having gone through the churches of Galatia to encourage them, Paul and Silas began to head off into new territory.

They spend three hundred miles looking to find the place God wanted them to preach until finally, at Troas, Paul has a vision that sends them to Europe.

:12-15 Down by the riverside

:12 to Philippi …of Macedonia, and a colony

Macedonia – the area of northern Greece.

Philippi – Originally known as Krenides, the city was captured and fortified by Philip of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great) about 360 B.C., and renamed for him. If you want extra credit, read Philippians this week!

colony – A Roman colony was like a piece of Rome transplanted abroad so that those who held citizenship in a colony enjoyed the same rights they would have had if they had lived in Italy. These rights included things such as freedom from scourging, freedom from arrest save in extreme cases, and the right of appeal to the emperor.

:13 And on the sabbath …

It was Jewish custom to start a synagogue in a city if there were at least 10 Jewish men. If there was no synagogue in a city, it was common practice to have open air places of prayer, usually by a body of water, like a lake, river, or ocean. Apparently there is no synagogue in Philippi, and so Paul goes down to the river and finds a few women there.


It may not look like your dream, just be faithful.

Remember why Paul went to Philippi in the first place?

He went in response to a vision he had where a man from Macedonia was calling out to him saying, "Come and help us!" (Acts 16:9)

But now that he’s in Macedonia, all he finds is a small group of women!

Some people would say, "This must not be the place!" In fact, the Rabbis said, "It is better that the words of the Law be burned than be delivered to a woman!"

But Paul stopped and preached.

Sometimes we get dreams of what we want to do for the Lord. And sometimes those dreams are exactly what God wants for us to do. But when things first start to happen, they don’t always look like we expected them to.

When the nation of Israel came back from the Babylonian captivity, and began to rebuild their temple with the help of Ezra and Zerubbabel, they had much the same problem.

Ezra 3:12-13 But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: {13} So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.

The old men who remembered Solomon’s temple wept because the foundation of the new temple didn’t look near as wonderful as Solomon’s. Zechariah was one of God’s prophets at that time, and this is what God had to say for those people:

Zec 4:6-10 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. {7} Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. {8} Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, {9} The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. {10} For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

We can get silly ideas about ministry when we look at people who have "large" ministries, but ministry often starts on the small side. I kind of have the idea that God wants you to learn to be involved in people’s lives, one at a time, and not just to some big crowd.

I remember years ago starting a home Bible Study when there was just four of us. I remember at starting an evening service at Calvary Chapel Anaheim, and for years it seemed there were no more than a half dozen people that came. You get discouraged and think you don’t have to prepare as hard, because there’s not that many people coming. But over and over again, I felt the Lord teaching me that you have to prepare just as hard whether there are two people coming, or fifty, or a hundred.

I think God is looking for people who will be faithful, even if it’s in something that seems small and insignificant.

(Luke 16:10 KJV) He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

:14 a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of Thyatira

Lydia = "travail". We don’t know for sure if she is a Jew or a Gentile.

Thyatira – a city which was famous for it’s exporting of a specially died purple cloth. It is about 250 miles southeast from Philippi.

seller of purpleporphuropolis – a seller of purple dye or of fabric dyed in purple. This special fabric was in demand since it was the color of the official toga of Rome and it’s colonies. This gal isn’t just selling Tupperware out of her home, but is more like a travelling representative of the world famous Thyatira fabric unions.

:14 which worshipped God …

which worshippedsebomai – to revere, to worship. Luke’s use of this phrase could mean that Lydia was a Gentile who hadn’t fully converted to Judaism yet, but was seeking after God.

heard us – imperfect tense, "was continually hearing us"

openeddianoigo – to open by dividing or drawing asunder, to open thoroughly (what had been closed)

attended toprosecho – to bring to, bring near, to bring a ship to land; to turn the mind to, attend to be attentive.

:15 she was baptized, and her household

householdoikos – it could be her associates, her servants, and her children.


The single mom.

We don’t have any idea that there’s a Mr. Lydia. It appears that Lydia is a single, working mother. And when she comes to the Lord, she brings her children and possibly some servants as well to the Lord. God is going to be using Lydia as the church in Philippi starts in her home.

Single moms: You are precious to the Lord! God wants and does use you!

:15 come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

constrainedparabiazomai – to compel by employing force; to constrain one by entreaties. Probably a little like how a mom makes her children eat their vegetables. How can Paul refuse?


The processes in salvation.

If we look at Lydia’s conversion, we can see some of the processes involved in a person coming to the Lord. A person coming to trust in the Lord doesn’t always happen instantaneously, but sometimes it goes through a process.

1) She was a seeker.

She wanted to worship the God of the Bible.

De 4:29 But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find [him], if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.

2) She was listening.

She took the action of listening to the gospel.

She exposed herself to the truth. Some of you here this morning are searching for God. I commend you on being here. Listen to what God has for you.

3) God opened her heart.

There is a sense in which God has to be involved. He is the one who draws us.

Joh 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

4) She brought it home.

As God opened her heart, she took hold of it, bringing the truth home into her heart.

No doubt as Paul was sharing with her how all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s plan for us, she realized it was true.

No doubt as Paul told her that the only thing keeping her from a relationship with the Living God was her own sin, she realized it was true.

No doubt as Paul began sharing how God love the world so much that He sent His only Son to come and die on a cross, to pay for the sins of the world, her heart was warmed with God’s love.

No doubt as Paul shared with her that she needed to respond to God’s offer of love and salvation from her sins by believing in Jesus and receiving His gift of eternal life, it all made sense as she opened her heart up fully.

5) She openly responded

She was baptized.

Baptism is a public demonstration of our faith. It’s a public display that we have chosen to turn from our sins and have chosen to follow Jesus. It’s a public display that we have chosen to identify with Jesus’ death and resurrection as we are buried in the water, and then raised out of it again. Jesus said,

(Mat 10:32-33 KJV) Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. {33} But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

6) She bore fruit

This wasn’t some religious ritual that never changed anything in Lydia. God started working in her life. She invited Paul and company to stay with her.

Some people say all the right things, even doing some of the religious kinds of things. But if their life isn’t changed by God, then it isn’t real.

:16-24 Dealing with devils

:16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer


The devil is very active on Sundays.

Have you ever noticed how often you have your worst family fights on Sunday morning before church? Have you ever wondered where those extremely bizarre thoughts come from right when you’re in the middle of singing to the Lord?

Have you ever wondered why you get so many distractions every time you sit down to pray or read your Bible?

:16 a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination

damselpaidiske – a young girl, a young female slave, late childhood and early youth.

possessedecho – to have, possess. The verb is active, not passive, in other words, she wasn’t possessed by the demon, but she possessed the demon. She "had a spirit of divination".

divinationPuthon – literally, "the spirit of Python", or "the spirit Python". This was a name attached to the god Apollo who supposedly killed a serpent named Python, and now this name was tied to him and those who prophesied for Apollo. It could be that it’s just being used to talk about divination in general.

gainergasia –gain got by work, profit. This gal was a fortune telling industry. She may have been traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

soothsayingmanteuomai – to act as a seer; we call this "channeling" today.

Lesson #1:

Even children can have demons.

I’m not saying this to scare you, but we can have this idea that demons are generous enough to only pick on someone their own size.

There are plenty of things in our world today that can open up a young person to the world of demons.

Drugs. Music. TV. Cartoons. Games.

Parents: We need to be involved in the lives of our kids. We have a responsibility to know what our kids are exposed to. We have a responsibility to know who our kids’ friends are. We have a responsibility to be involved with our kids. Even if they’re teenagers. Especially if they’re teenagers. Talk to their teachers at school and find out how they’re doing first hand. Get to know their friends. Real well. Not as a Gestapo agent, but as a loving, caring parent. Talk to their youth pastor and find out how things are going in their youth group. Get involved.

Lesson #2:

Beware of divination.

The latest craze today is these "Psychic Hotlines". The concept of divination also includes things like palm reading, Ouija boards, astrology, seances, contacting the dead, tarot cards, fortune telling, etc.

The Bible forbids divination.

(Deu 18:10-12 KJV) There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, {11} Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. {12} For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

The reason these things are intriguing is because sometimes they really work. Guess how? Demons. Exposure to divination opens the door to demons.

Lesson #3:

Christians and demons.

Can a true Christian be "possessed" by a demon?

No! A person in whom the Spirit of God dwells cannot also be indwelt by a demon as well –

(1 Cor 10:21 KJV) Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be troubled by demons. Just because they can’t get into your body doesn’t mean they can’t stand outside and give you a hard time, giving you all sorts of strange ideas, giving you all sorts of trouble.

Don’t give the devil a foothold in your life.

:17 These men are the servants of the most high God …

Hey, free advertising. What can it hurt?


Demons can speak the truth.

This often happened to Jesus:

Mark 3:11 And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.

Why would a demon say something like this?

Perhaps it was so that those who would turn to the Lord might think that she too was part of following the Lord.

One of the tactics that cults use is to agree with you until you let your guard down, and then they’ll start turning you towards their version of the truth.

If you have a pair of Mormon missionaries at your front door, they’ll agree with you if you talk about believing in the Jesus. But it’s not until later that you begin to find out that it’s a different Jesus.

I understand that in years past, Mormon missionaries would come to the outreach concerts at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, and then after the concert they’d go approach the people who came forward.

:18 And this did she many days.

this did she – imperfect tense, continuous action in the past, she was continually following them and crying these things out.


Paul didn’t respond immediately.

I’m curious why. Perhaps Paul didn’t recognize immediately that it was a demon. Perhaps he wasn’t sure what to do.

:18 But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit

being grieveddiaponeo – to be troubled, displeased, offended, pained, worn out.

It might be that Paul is worn out with this little girl yelling out at them every time they went out. It might be that Paul is just deeply grieve at the condition of this poor slave girl, enslaved by greedy masters and possessed by demons.


Our fight is with the demonic world, not with people.

Notice that Paul doesn’t rebuke the little girl. He speaks to the demon.

(Eph 6:12 KJV) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Too often we get upset with the people, when even in the worst case scenario where a person is actually possessed, it’s not the person we should be angry with, but the demon.

:18 I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.

We have a beautiful example of the simple, but powerful authority that Jesus gives to His followers.


The authority of the believer.

John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Mark 16:17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

Our authority is not in the fact that we are awesomely powerful spiritual people. Our authority is in the powerful name of Jesus Christ.

Greg Laurie likes to say this, "When Satan comes knocking at my door, I just turn around and say, "Lord, it’s for You!""

:19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone

When you see what kind of trouble these men are going to cause Paul and Silas, keep in mind, their real motive is money.

:20 These men, being Jews

There is quite a mood of anti-Semitism going on in the Roman Empire at this time. It was just a year (AD 49) or so earlier that Emperor Claudius expelled "all the Jews in Rome", sending them fleeing to all parts of the Roman Empire. Even though we look at Paul and Silas as Christians, they are in fact Jews too.

:22 rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them

They are having their clothes torn off and being beaten with rods.

:24 thrust them into the inner prison

inner prison –a dungeon with no light or air save what came through the door when open.



This is the price for following Jesus.

(2 Tim 3:12 KJV) Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

The early Christian historian Tertullian said: "The limb feels nothing in the stocks when the mind is in heaven."