The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker

Lesson 30

Text: ACTS 16:16-40


  1. In Acts 16:12, we read that Paul and Silas and Timothy travelled to Philippi, which is the chief port of that part of Macedonia…"
  2. The first convert in Philippi (and the first convert in Europe) was a lady by the name of Lydia (Acts 16:13-15).
  3. This was the beginning of the church at Philippi. Paul later commended them for their “fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:5). "The first day" would be that day down by the river side (Acts 16:13-15).
  4. After Lydia and her household were saved and baptized, Paul and his companions met "a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination" (16:16).




  1. The "certain damsel" was demon possessed (16:16).
  2. Notice the trouble began as they "went to prayer" (Acts 16:16). Oftentimes the devil will stir up trouble when we go to prayer.
  3. The "spirit of divination" means "a spirit of Python" (cf. margin). According to Greek mythology, the heathen god Apollo embodied a snake (a python) and therefore soothsayers, fortune-tellers, and ventriloquists were often said to have "the spirit of python."
  4. The ignorant people believed that the god Apollo spoke through this woman who then gave out advice. This very same practice is being carried on today by the new-age people, psychics and psychic healers, mediums, clairvoyants, tarot card readers, palm readers, spiritualists, et al. This demonic foolishness is increasing here in the USA.
  5. This demon-possessed damsel followed Paul around crying out, "These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17).
  6. But Paul did not appreciate her unsolicited testimonials. At first he tried to ignore her, but when that didn’t work he cast the demon out of her (16:18).
  7. Remember also, that we find in the Gospels that our Lord Jesus Christ never accepted the testimony of demons. He came to destroy the work of the devil. And one of Satan’s most terrible works manifests itself in demon possession.
  8. Millions of people are being deceived today by demons. Many do not seem to realize that the devil is a master in confusing people. Also, most people do not seem to understand that the devil is very religious. Just because this girl proclaimed the truth about Paul and Silas does not mean that she was right with God (16:17, 18).
  9. Sometimes demons tell the truth in order to deceive people. And once these people are caught in their trap, they begin to destroy them. There is a scene in Shakespeare’s Macbeth where three weird witches tell Macbeth and Banquo some information that seems far-fetched at first, but as events unfold, they begin to realize that their prophecies will probably turn out to be true. Concerning this demonic prediction, Banquo says:
  10. "But `tis strange

    And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,

    The instruments of darkness tell us truths,

    Win us with honest trifles, to betray us

    In deepest consequence."

  11. I would like to draw your attention to the contrast here: the demon came out of her (16:18), and "their gains were gone" (16:19).
  12. They should have been happy that this poor demon-possessed girl was delivered but they were more concerned with the money they were making off of her.
  13. There are some businesses that ought to be closed down – businesses that destroy people’s lives and break up families, and businesses that pander to lusts and trade on people’s vices, businesses that undermine society and ruin health and spread disease.
  14. One of these wicked businesses that ought to be closed down is the fortune-telling business, but these businessmen ("her masters") were not happy about their loss of revenue and so they dragged Paul and Silas off to the authorities (16:19-24).
  15. When you take a stand for God you can expect opposition. The devil is very happy when sinners waste their money and their health on gambling and booze and cigarettes and drugs and rock music and pornography, and so on. But when the Gospel is preached and his sin-business is affected, he starts roaring.
  16. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil – big money is behind fortune telling (which is now more sophisticated today with the physic network and the New Age movement), drugs, rock music, all of the filthy trash on television and in the movies – you name it – sin is big business (cf. Acts 19:19, 23, 24).
  17. Confusion and persecution are two of Satan’s chief methods. Today in America there is much religious confusion, and if the Lord tarries, we will soon see much persecution.
  18. So the work in Philippi was hindered by demonic interference, but thank God the Lord miraculously intervened.



  1. By divine intervention, I am referring specifically to the great earthquake (16:26).
  2. It is obvious that God sent this great earthquake in response to the prayers of Paul and Silas (16:25, 26).
  3. Can you "sing praises unto God" (16:25) even when things go wrong?
  4. One Christian met another Christian whose face was long, and he asked him: "How are you, brother?" He replied, "O.K. under the circumstances." The first man then said: "I am sorry that you are under the circumstances. Get above the circumstances, brother. Don’t allow yourself to be under the circumstances!"
  5. Paul and Silas would not allow themselves to be under the circumstances. And while they prayed, God miraculously intervened and sent an earthquake which shook the foundations of the prison (16:25, 26).



  1. The jailor was responsible for all the prisoners, and according to Roman law if he lost any of them, he lost his life (cf. Acts 12:19).
  2. That is why this Philippian jailor was preparing to kill himself (16:27). He preferred suicide to a cruel Roman execution.
  3. Paul and Silas apparently persuaded the other prisoners to stay. Paul told the jailer, "Do thyself no harm: for we are all here." (16:28).
  4. Acts 16:30 is the most important question in life.
  5. Many years ago, John Taylor Smith was the Chaplain-General of the British Army, and it was his job to interview the candidates for the chaplaincy. He always asked each man the same question: "Now suppose I am a soldier who has been wounded on the battlefield and I have only three minutes left to live. I am afraid to die because I am not saved. Tell me, how may I be saved?"
  6. If the applicant began to talk of joining a church or getting baptized or becoming a religious man, Chaplain Taylor Smith would remind him that he only has three minutes to live, no time for church membership or baptism. As long as John Taylor Smith was Chaplain-General, unless a candidate could properly answer that question, he could not become a chaplain in the British Army.
  7. Too bad we do not have those requirements today! Many chaplains today are unsaved and do not believe the Gospel.
  8. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (16:30). Today if the Philippian jailer were to walk up Elmont Road and ask that question he would get some very unscriptural answers.
  9. If he were to ask a Seventh Day Adventist, he would be told that nobody can know for sure if they are saved. Francis D. Nichol wrote a book entitled, Answers to Objections, A Major examination of the objections raised against the teachings of Seventh day Adventists.
  10. This is an official SDA book, and it is published by their publishing house. In this book Mr. Nichol said "claiming full and final salvation" is a "false doctrine."
  11. Ellen G. White is considered an inspired "prophetess" by the Seventh-Day Adventists. Mr. Nichol quotes her often in his book. Ellen G. White said, "Those who accept the Saviour, however sincere their conversion, should never be taught to say or to feel that they are saved. This is misleading" (quoted in an official SDA book, Answers to Objections, by Francis D. Nichol, published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington, D.C., p. 402).
  12. But Paul and Silas did not "mislead" the Philippian jailer! (16:31).
  13. What if the jailer were to ask a Jehovah's Witness (Acts 16:30)?  To a Jehovah's Witness, salvation requires that one accept their unique interpretation of Scripture, be baptized as a Jehovah's Witness, and then follow their program of works as laid out by their "governing body" (this program involves selling Watchtower magazines, etc.).
  14. So it would not be a good idea to ask a JW how to be saved. What if the jailer were to ask a Roman Catholic priest?
  15. The priest would talk about sacraments, and Mary, and the saints, and the pope, and purgatory, and so on.  The simplicity of the Gospel is obscured by all of their sacraments and traditions.  
  16. It is a waste of time to ask a priest how to be saved.  The priest will tell you that he himself is not saved.  If that Philippian jailer were to follow the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church he would die and go to hell.
  17. The Philippian jailer believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and he was saved. And his "house" (family) heard the Gospel and they too believed and were saved and were baptized (16:30-34).
  18. Please note the proper sequence: First, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Then: "Thou shalt be saved" (16:31). Then, after conversion comes baptism (16:33).
  19. This is the Bible way: (cf. Acts 2:41; 8:12, 38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14, 15; 18:8; 19:5).
  20. Many churches baptize little children and unconverted people, but there is no Biblical basis for this. The Bible says that the jailor’s house believed, were saved, and then Scripturally baptized (16:34b).
  21. Have you been Scripturally baptized? After you were saved? By immersion? Our English word "baptize" comes from the Greek word baptizo which means "immerse" or "dip" (cf. Acts 8:36-39).



  1. The next morning, the magistrates sent the sergeants, saying, "Let those men go" (16:35).
  2. It was then that Paul told them of his Roman citizenship and demanded an apology and public discharge -- not "privily" (16:36, 37). Roman citizenship carried with it many privileges and protections established by Roman law (cf. 22:24-30).
  3. The magistrates became fearful when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens (16:38).
  4. So they came and besought them (apologized to them), and brought them out of the prison, and asked them to leave the city (16:39).
  5. They did leave the city, but stopped off first at Lydia's house. "And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed" (16:40).
  6. Charles Ryrie said, "The ones who had been through the experience of prison comforted the household of Lydia!" (The Acts of the Apostles).



  1. Many years ago, the great evangelist D.L. Moody was holding a series of evangelistic meetings in St. Louis. One night he preached from the same text I am preaching this evening.
  2. The following day the Globe-Democrat, the local newspaper, reported the sermon (a common practice back in those days) under the sensational headline: "How the Jailor at Philippi Was Caught."
  3. A notorious criminal named Valentine Burke happened to pick up the paper in the city prison. He had already spent half his life in jail and was at this time awaiting trial for another crime that he had committed.
  4. Glancing at the headlines, he did not realize that it was about a sermon preached by D.L. Moody. He had once passed through a small town in Illinois named Philippi, and so he assumed that this was what the story was about.
  5. However, as he read the story he kept seeing the words: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." He threw the newspaper down and walked away.
  6. But it was too late – he was already under conviction. He picked up the paper and read the sermon carefully. Alone in his jail cell, he got on his knees and prayed. The following Sunday he spoke with some Christians who held services in the jail and was led into the light of the gospel. God miraculously saved him.
  7. A hardened sinner became a humble Christian. When his case came to trial, it failed through some legal entanglement, and he was released.
  8. He was later offered a position as deputy by the same sheriff who had once arrested him.
  9. Later the sheriff turned over to him his official photograph from the rogues’ gallery, Burke compared it with a recent one: “Notice the difference in the enclosed pictures. See what our holy religion can do for the chief of sinners” On the back of the old photograph he inscribed Psalm 113:7, 8: “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; that he may set him with the princes, even with the princes of his people.”

<< Back                                       Next >>