The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker

Lesson 29

Text: ACTS 15:36 - 16:15


  1. Acts 13 and 14 records the apostle Paul's first missionary journey. He was accompanied by Barnabas (cf. 13:1-4).
  2. They took John Mark along to be "their minister" (assistant or helper). John Mark was a nephew of Barnabas (13:5).
  3. John Mark was Barnabas' sister's son. This sister was named Mary, and believers met at her home in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12; Colossians 4:10).
  4. Acts 13:13 tells us that John Mark departed from Paul and Barnabas when they came to Perga in Pamphylia. He returned to Jerusalem.
  5. The first missionary journey had been about five years before the events of chapter 16, and Paul was eager to follow up the work of the Lord among these churches he had founded five years before (15:36).
  6. For the second missionary journey, Barnabas was determined to take John Mark along with them, but because of what happened in Pamphylia, Paul thought it would not be good to take him with them (15:36-38).
  7. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas (15:39, 40; cf. 15:27, 32, 34).
  8. Often preachers and churches split over non-doctrinal issues. But good can come out of it. In this case, two teams of missionaries went out, instead of just one (15:39-41).
  9. Furthermore, John Mark was later restored to the ministry. In II Timothy 4:11, Paul told Timothy, "Take Mark, and bring him with thee; he is profitable to me for the ministry."
  10. And a few years later, John Mark later wrote the Gospel of Mark.



Charles Ryrie said Paul's second missionary journey was noted for three things:

          (1) Confirming -- the chief purpose of the trip (15:41).

          (2) Circumcising -- 16:1-3

          (3) Communicating -- 16:4, 5; cf. 15:23-29.

  1. Paul had Timothy circumcised in order to avoid offending some of the Jews. The book of Acts is a transitional book. Most of the early Christians were Jewish. Some Jews were attempting to force circumcision on Gentile converts (cf. 15:1, 2).
  2. There is an important principle here (I Cor. 9:19-22). This was not compromise because Timothy's mother was Jewish (Acts 16:1-3). Had Timothy not been circumcised, the Jews would have assumed he was renouncing his Jewish heritage and choosing to live as a Gentile.
  3. Paul had Timothy circumcised for expediency's sake, to avoid placing a stumbling block in the way of Jewish evangelism.
  4. Timothy's circumcision allowed him access to the synagogues he would visit with Paul and Silas.
  5. F.F. Bruce said, "By Jewish law Timothy was a Jew, because he was the son of a Jewish mother, but because he was uncircumcised he was technically an apostate Jew. If Paul wished to maintain his links with the synagogue, he could not be seen to countenance apostasy" (The Book of Acts).
  6. In another instance, Paul insisted that Titus, who was a Gentile, not be circumcised (Gal. 2:3).



  1. Sometimes the Holy Spirit opens doors, and sometimes He closes doors (16:6-10). F.B. Meyer said, "The Spirit of Jesus often shuts doors in the long corridors of life. We pass along, trying one after another, but find that they are all locked, in order that we may enter the one that He has opened for us."
  2. George Muller said these were his steps in discerning the Lord's leading:
  1. Surrender your own will.
    I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord's will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.
  2. Do not depend on feelings.
    Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions.
  3. Seek, the Spirit's will through God's Word.
    I seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusion also. If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.
  4. Note providential circumstances.
    Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God's will in connection with His Word and Spirit.
  5. Pray.
    I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me aright.
  6. Wait.
  1. After preaching in Phrygia and Galatia, Paul and his companions attempted to go into Asia Minor, but they were forbidden by the Holy Ghost (16:6).
  2. After that they tried to go into Bithynia: "but the Spirit suffered them not" (16:7). This was not God's time for that particular area.
  3. Matthew Henry said, "Though their judgment and inclination were to go into Bithynia, yet, having then extraordinary ways of knowing the mind of God, they were overruled by them, contrary to their own mind. We must now follow providence, and submit to the guidance of that pillar of cloud and fire; and, if this suffer us not to do what we assay to do, we ought to acquiesce, and believe it for the best."
  4. In any event, the Lord kept the door shut for a short period of time, because it was only a few years later that Peter wrote his first epistle to Christians to "scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (I Peter 1:1).
  5. They were traveling from the east. The Holy Spirit closed the door to the south, and then the Holy Spirit closed the door to the north.
  6. That left only one door open, and that was west into Europe.
  7. Then they came down to Troas (ancient city of Troy), and the Lord gave a vision to Paul in the night. "There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us" (16:8, 9).



  1. Charles H. Gabriel wrote the beloved Gospel song: "We have heard the Macedonian call today, Send the light! Send the light!”
  2. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is divine guidance. Our Lord said, “He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
  3. Isaiah 58:11 says, "And the LORD shall guide thee continually."
  4. Psalm 32:8 says, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye."
  5. Proverbs 3:6 says, "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
  6. Acts 16:9 says, “There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9).
  7. This was a divine call, and of this they were certain (Acts 16:10, 11).
  8. Note "we" and "us" in Acts 16:10-17. Luke was now with them.
  9. In fact, some Bible teachers think Luke was the man of Macedonia.
  10. Immediately they sailed from Troas, went straightway to Samothracia (a small island in the northern Aegean Sea), and the next day to Neapolis. From Troas to Neapolis, the port of Philippi, was a distance of about 150 miles, and it took them two days to make the journey.
  11. Later on, the trip in the opposite direction would take them five days, apparently because of contrary winds (Acts 20:6).
  12. They crossed the Aegean Sea (an embayment of the Mediterranean Sea) to get to Neapolis, the seaport which was about ten miles from the city of Philippi (16:11, 12).
  13. Finally, they arrived in Philippi, which was the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a (Roman) colony: and they "were in that city abiding certain days" (16:12).
  14. Acts 16:12 calls Philippi "the chief city of that part of Macedonia," because it was the wealthiest and the most prominent.
  15. Philippi received its name from Philip of Macedonia (father of Alexander the Great), who seized it and renamed it after himself. Philippi passed into the hands of the Romans, along with the rest of Macedonia, in 168 BC.
  16. It was here in Philippi that Brutus and Cassius were defeated by Marc Antony and Octavius (who would later become the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus) in 42 BC.
  17. You may recall the ghost of Julius Caesar appearing to Brutus in Shakespeare’s play and telling him, “Thou shalt see me at Philippi.”
  18. After Octavius defeated Brutus and Cassius, he turned Philippi into a Roman colony (a military outpost).
  19. And it was here in Philippi that the Gospel was first preached in Europe. And it was here at Philippi that Lydia was saved. The Scofield Bible calls Lydia "the first convert in Europe."
  20. Paul, Silas, Luke (cf. 16:10, 15), and the others waited “certain days” (16:12b) until the sabbath, and then went down to the river side because that’s where the Jews met for prayer.
  21. Paul had seen a man of Macedonia in the vision at Troas, but here he was preaching to a group of women (16:13).
  22. Harry Ironside says, “It was a very up-to-date prayer meeting – nobody was there but a few women! All the men were absent.”
  23. So they “went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made” (16:13). Apparently there were not available ten Jewish men in Philippi (required to establish a synagogue).
  24. Here we see how the Lord opened the door to Europe. Then Acts 16:14 says the Lord opened Lydia’s heart.
  25. Lydia believed God and worshipped God according to the light that she had. John 1:9 says Jesus "was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
  26. When people respond to the light, God gives them more light. Lydia went down to the river side to worship God. She had already been seeking the truth, and so God gave her more light and then He opened her heart (16:14).
  27. Her sincerity is shown by the fact that she submitted to baptism (16:15). She was gloriously saved, and then she was baptized, “and her household” (Acts 16:15).
  28. Oftentimes when a parent gets saved, the whole family will get saved – and baptized (16:15; cf. vss. 30-34).
  29. Pedobaptists have tried to create mischief here by suggesting that these Scriptures allow for infant baptism. They do not. There is no hint of infant baptism here or anywhere in the Bible.
  30. First God opened the door for Paul and the other missionaries. Then God opened Lydia’s heart. Then Lydia opened her home to Paul and his companions (Acts 16:15).
  31. This was the beginning of the first church of Philippi. Later, Paul wrote an epistle to this church, and in Philippians 1:5 he commends them for their “fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” This day at the river side would be the first day.
  32. Lydia was very hospitable – she “constrained” Paul and his friends to stay with her. We need more Christian hospitality like that today.
  33. Romans 12:13 says we should be “distributing to the necessity of saints,” and “given to hospitality.”
  34. First Peter 4:9 says, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”
  35. “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:1, 2).



  1. There are many lessons here in Acts 16. God closes doors, and God opens doors.
  2. A.T. Pierson said, "Many a time in history has supernatural restraint and constraint changed the course of God's servants. Livingstone assayed to go into China, but God suffered him not, and sent him to Africa to be its missionary general, statesman, explorer. Before him, Carey planned to go to the Great Polynesia in the South Seas, but God guided him to India to lay foundations for giving a vernacular Bible to one-sixth of the people of the world. Judson did go to India, but was driven to Burma, where he built up an apostolic church for all the age" (Acts of the Holy Spirit).

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