The Work in Philippi: Part 1 of 14

by John Lowe
(Laurens, SC)

Paul arrived in Philippi about 20 years after the foundation of the Church at Jerusalem, and after the Pentecostal outpouring.

Paul arrived in Philippi about 20 years after the foundation of the Church at Jerusalem, and after the Pentecostal outpouring.

January 28, 2015


Acts of the Apostles



Founding a Church with Lydia (16:11-15; KJV)
11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;
12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.


Introduction

The remainder of chapter 16 concerns Paul’s work in Philippi. It falls into four separate scenes. Verses 11-15 relates the group’s (Paul, Silas, Mark, and Timothy) journey to Philippi and the conversation of a prominent woman named Lydia. Verses 16-24 deal with the healing of a possessed servant girl and its unfortunate result. Verses 25-34 tell of the conversion of the Philippian Jailer. Verses 35-40 deals with the final encounter of Paul the Roman citizen with the city magistrates.


Commentary

11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;

Verses 11-12 relates the journey from Troas to Philippi. The weather must have been good and the winds favorable because their ship cited Samothrace(an island located off the Thracian coast on a direct line between Troas and Neapolis1.) the first day. Samothrace was a mountainous island with a peak rising 5,000 feet above sea level. It was an unmistakable point of interest midway between Troas and Neapolis, the port of Philippi. The Island had been, from ancient times, the seat of the Cabiri cult. It would need evangelizing, of course, but Paul’s sites were now set on the mainland of Europe. The island was soon left far behind, and the next day they arrived at Neapolis (From Troas to Neapolis was a distance of about 150 miles.) and Paul’s feet stood at last upon European soil2. Luke may have seen this good crossing as a sign of God’s approval. In Acts 20:6 the voyage from Philippi to Troas took considerably longer—five days in all, apparently because of contrary winds and a strong current in the opposite direction.


12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

The group would have taken the “Via Egnatia” (also called the “Ignatian Way”)—a Roman road that linked the Aegean Sea with the Adriatic Sea—the ten miles or so to Philippi. This route was the main east-west highway through Macedonia, beginning at Dyrrhachium on the Adriatic coast, traveling through Thessalonica, Amphipolis, and Philippi and terminating at Neapolis. Paul often traveled this road. Again, Paul did not linger at Neapolis. He had his eyes on bigger fields.

And from thence Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia . . .
Paul arrived in Philippi about 20 years after the foundation of the Church at Jerusalem, and after the Pentecostal outpouring. Philippi was 10 miles inland from Neapolis. It crowned a steep hill that was encircled by two Rivers. It was settled from ancient times largely because of the copper and gold deposits in the region. Formerly known as Krenides, it was seized in the fourth-century b.c. from the native Thracians by Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. Philip renamed the city for himself and enlarged the gold-mining operations. It came under Roman domination in 168 b.c. and was enlarged in 42 b.c. when Antony and Octavian (later to be Emperor Augustus, in whose reign Christ was born) defeated Brutus and Cassius on the plains southwest of the city, thus avenging the murder of Julius Caesar. In 31 b.c., after defeating Antony at the battle of Actium, Octavian granted the city the status of a colony.

. . . and a colony.
One of the ways Rome ruled the world was through her colonies. At strategic points on the map, she founded Roman settlements, where Roman citizens set up outposts for the empire. Such colonies promoted the Roman way of life a “Rome away from Rome,” gave Rome loyal bases abroad, provided secure locations for the military, and enabled Rome to hold down the outlying areas. In return, they were given certain political privileges, not the least of which was an exemption from taxes. This was their reward for leaving their homes in Italy and relocating elsewhere. In the book of Acts, Philippi, Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, Ptolemais, and Corinth are all Roman colonies. They were transplants of Rome, patriotic and proud ambassadors of a way of life; these people had Roman customs and they spoke Latin. Later, writing to the church he founded at Philippi, Paul said, “For our citizenshipliterally is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Moffett translates that,“We are a colony of heaven”. What a magnificent concept of the role of the Christian in this hostile world. We are here to represent a way of life and to represent an empire, not of this world.

The Roman influence was particularly strong in Philippi as reflected in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, and in the present narrative; it was also where the Roman governor resided. When Macedonia had first come under Roman influence, it had been divided into four administrative districts. Although these were later dissolved into a single provincial structure with Thessalonica as the capital, the distinction between the four districts seems to have persisted. This is perhaps reflected in Luke’s designating the city as “the leading city of that district of Macedonia3”. Actually, Amphipolis was the larger city and had been the capital of the district before the provincial reorganization. Perhaps Luke reflected a local claim that Philippi was Macedonia’s “foremost city,” a claim not totally unjustified when one considers its illustrious history.

. . . and we were in that city abiding certain days.
For the first few days, he seems to have scoured the city making inquiries and looking for a friendly face.

13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

The four missionaries evidently set themselves up in the city and waited until the next Sabbath before beginning their witness. Paul and his friends did not plunge immediately into evangelizing the city, even though they knew God had called them there. No doubt they needed to rest and pray and make their plans together. On the Sabbath, according to Paul’s usual pattern, they sought out the Jewish place of worship first. In this instance, there does not seem to have been a Jewish synagogue at Philippi4. Paul was unable to follow his usual practice of making his first point of contact in the synagogue, whereas a trained rabbi he could always be assured of a warm initial welcome and at least one good initial hearing for the gospel. Instead, they learn of a place of prayer(where prayer was wont to be made) outside the city gates5. Luke’s comment was, “we went out of the city,” but what is meant is that they went outside the (city) gate. The “place of prayer” is a technical phrase. Jewish places of prayer were found throughout all these cities where no synagogues were built. They were almost invariably placed by the side of a river; sometimes they consisted of a circle enclosed by some kind of wall and yet under the open sky; sometimes without any outward sign of enclosure. That was “the place of prayer,” and there, in cities where no synagogue was built, the Hebrews gathered on Sabbath for prayer.

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