by Greg Williamson © revised 2022
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation*

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Timothy Joins Paul and Silas; Paul's Vision of the Man of Macedonia (Acts 16:1–5; 6-10) | Lydia's Conversion in Philippi; Paul and Silas in Prison (Acts 16:11-15; 16–40)

Lydia's Conversion in Philippi; Paul and Silas in Prison (Acts 16:11-40)

Conversions & consternation (Acts 16:11-40)

(11) So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; (12) and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. (13) And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.

(14) A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (15) And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

(16) It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. (17) Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." (18) She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" And it came out at that very moment.

(19) But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, (20) and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, "These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, (21) and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans."

(22) The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. (23) When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; (24) and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

(25) But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; (26) and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened. (27) When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. (28) But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!" (29) And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, (30) and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

(31) They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (32) And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. (33) And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. (34) And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

(35) Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, "Release those men." (36) And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, "The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore come out now and go in peace." (37) But Paul said to them, "They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out." (38) The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, (39) and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. (40) They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

III. THE CONVERSIONS AT PHILIPPI (Acts 16:11–34): The gospel team wins two key people to Jesus and frees one person from a demon.
  A. A businesswoman (Acts 16:11–15)
    1. The place (Acts 16:11–13): It occurs at a prayer meeting beside a river.
2. The person (Acts 16:14): She is Lydia, a merchant of expensive purple cloth.
3. The proof (Acts 16:15): Lydia is baptized as a testimony of her newfound faith.
  B. A slave girl (Acts 16:16–21)
    1. The demon in this girl (Acts 16:16–17)
      a. The money it produces through her (Acts 16:16): The demon enables the girl to tell fortunes, earning much money for the girl's masters.
b. The message it proclaims through her (Acts 16:17): The demon pretends to agree with the message preached by Paul.
    2. The deliverance of this girl (Acts 16:18–23)
      a. The girl is set free (Acts 16:18): Paul commands the demon to leave her.
b. The apostles are set upon (Acts 16:19–23): Paul and Silas are arrested, beaten, and imprisoned.
  C. A prison guard (Acts 16:24–34)
    1. His command (Acts 16:24): He is ordered to secure the two prisoners or (most likely) forfeit his life.
2. His confusion (Acts 16:25–26)
      a. Because of the singing of the prisoners (Acts 16:25): He hears Paul and Silas praising God.
b. Because of the shaking of the prison (Acts 16:26): God sends an earthquake that frees all the inmates.
    3. His consternation (Acts 16:27–31)
      a. What he assumes (Acts 16:27): Believing the prisoners have escaped, he prepares to kill himself.
b. What he asks (Acts 16:28–31): Being assured by Paul that no one has left the prison, he asks how to be saved!
    4. His conversion (Acts 16:32–33): Responding to Paul's answer, the jailer and his family are saved and baptized.
    5. His celebration (Acts 16:34): With great joy the new convert washes the wounds of the disciples and feeds them.
  A. The authorities' fear (Acts 16:35–39): Upon learning that the men they have beaten and imprisoned are Roman citizens, the city officials apologize to Paul and Silas and beg them to leave the city.
  B. The apostles' freedom (Acts 16:40): Paul and Silas return to the home of Lydia to meet with other believers before leaving town. [ref]

  • (Acts 16:11-15) The missionary team makes its way to Phillipi, where they remain for several days. While seeking out a place of prayer, they meet a local businesswoman named Lydia who is a worshiper of God. She and her household accept the gospel (the things spoken by Paul) and are baptized, after which she urges Paul and his team to lodge in her home.
  • (Acts 16:11) Immediately following Paul's vision of a man of Macedonia ... standing and appealing to him (Acts 16:9), Luke records the first leg of their journey to Phillipi: So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace ... (Acts 16:11). As Lenski notes: "[A]lthough [Luke] was not a sailor, he writes with exactness about harbors and voyages. ... [T]o make a straight run is the proper term for sailing straight before a favorable wind without having to tack [= zig zag]. It was as though God himself speeded their vessel." [ref]
  • (Acts 16:12) Toussaint:
    From Neapolis the missionaries traveled the 10 miles on the Via Egnatia, the Egnatian Road to Philippi, which Luke described as a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. Quite clearly Luke displayed pride in the city he came to love. Some say he grew up and attended medical school there. Philippi, originally named Crenides (“Fountains”), was taken by Philip of Macedon and renamed after him. In 168 B.C. Philippi became a Roman possession. After Mark Antony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar, near Philippi in 42 B.C., the city was made into a Roman colony. This gave it special privileges (e.g, fewer taxes) but more importantly it became like a “transplanted” Rome (cf. comments on Philippi in the Introduction to Phil.). The primary purpose of colonies was military, for the Roman leaders felt it wise to have Roman citizens and sympathizers settled in strategic locations. So Octavian (who became Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor, in 27 B.C.) settled more colonists (primarily former soldiers) at Philippi after his defeat of Antony at Actium, on Greece’s west coast, in 31 B.C. [ref]
  • (Acts 16:13-15) Bruce:
    When Paul visited a new city, it was his practice, as we have seen, to attend the local Jewish synagogue on the first sabbath after his arrival and seek an opportunity to make his message known there. At Philippi, however, there does not appear to have been a regular synagogue. That can only mean that there were very few resident Jews; had there been ten Jewish men, they would have sufficed to constitute a synagogue. No number of women could compensate for the absence of even one man necessary to make up the quorum of ten. There was, however, a place outside the city where a number of women -- either of Jewish birth or Gentiles who worshiped the God of Israel -- met to go through the appointed Jewish service of prayer for the sabbath day, even if they could not constitute a valid synagogue congregation. [ref]
Don't Despise Humble Beginnings
R. C. H. Lenski: "One reason that no men were present [at the place of prayer outside Philippi] may be the fact that, when Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome, the colony city Philippi had followed his example. Only a little group of women -- yet Paul did not despise this humble beginning. Let no preacher despise even the smallest audience and imagine that he need not do his best for so few. The very smallness of a group of hearers is sometimes fraught with special blessing for the few who are present. It has often been remarked that the vision showed 'a man, a Macedonian,' and here Paul found a few women. Where two or three are gathered in my name, Jesus says, he will be present." [ref]
  • (Acts 16:14) Lydia is identified as a worshiper of God whose heart the Lord opened.
    ■ Arnold: "Many more women were God-fearers in the ancient world than men. Of all the Jewish inscriptions discovered thus far that mention God-fearers, about 80 percent are women." [ref]
    ■ Stott: "As [Lydia] listened to Paul's message, the Lord opened her heart to respond (Acts 16:14). That is, he opened her inner eyes to see and to believe in the Jesus Paul proclaimed. We note that, although the message was Paul's, the saving initiative was God's. Paul's preaching was not effective in itself; the Lord worked through it. And the Lord's work was not itself direct; he chose to work through Paul's preaching. It is always the same." [ref]
  • (Acts 16:15) Following the conversion and baptism of Lydia and her household, she prevailed upon the missionary team to lodge in her house.
    ■ Toussaint: "The members of her household probably refer to servants as well as to her children, if she was a widow. Other persons in the New Testament who along with their 'household' members came to Christ include Cornelius (Acts 10:24, 44), the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:31), Crispus (Acts 18:8), Aristobulus (Rom. 16:10), Narcissus (Rom. 16:11), and Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16). That she was a woman of considerable means is evidenced by the size of her house. It would have to be ample enough to house four men as well as her household without embarrassment (cf. Acts 16:40)." [ref]
    ■ Keener: "Paul and his companions might have been staying at an inn till the sabbath (a less than ideal choice; inns were notoriously dangerous and immoral), but Lydia immediately offers the proper Jewish hospitality and invites the apostles into her home, thus serving as a patron of their work (cf. 1 Kings 17:13-24; especially 2 Kings 4:8-11)." [ref]
    ■ Peterson: "The importance of practising hospitality, especially to encourage Christian ministry and fellowship, is stressed in Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9; and 3 John 5-8. In her open-hearted generosity, Lydia demonstrated the reality of her conversion." [ref]
  • (Acts 16:16) Dunn: "To be noted is the implication that Paul and the others continued to attend at the place of prayer (Acts 16:13). They did not immediately hive off into a small prayer group on their own in Lydia's house. They continued to regard themselves as part of the place of Jewish prayer as well as the place where they would find those most prepared for and open to their message." [ref]
  • (Acts 16:16-24) The missionary group is on its way to the place of prayer when they are met by a slave-girl having a spirit of divination. Toussaint: "The English words, a spirit by which she predicted the future, translate two Greek words, 'a spirit, a python.' This concept goes back to the Greek city of Delphi where the god Apollo was believed to be embodied in a python snake. The original priestess at Delphi was purported to be possessed by Apollo and thereby able to predict the future; therefore anyone possessed by the python spirit could foretell coming events. No doubt an actual demon gave such a person predictive powers. Demons took advantage of people’s worship of false gods (cf. Acts 17:23; 1 Cor. 10:20)." [ref] (The OT soundly condemns divination and the like: Lev 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deut 18:11; 1 Sam 28:3, 7; 2 Kings 21:6; 1 Chron 10:13; Is 8:19.)
  • (Acts 16:16-24) Paul performs a demonectomy on the fortune-telling slave-girl "whose owners exploited her condition for their material gain." [ref] Swindoll: "Someone with her abilities would have had a giant client base among the superstitious Romans in Philippi." [ref] With their cash cow now dried up, the girl's owners publicly accuse Paul and Silas of disturbing the peace. You could say that "Paul had touched the profiteers' hearts. The problem was, their hearts were in their wallets." [ref] The end result is that Paul and Silas are severely beaten (beaten with rods ... struck them many blows) and incarcerated (they threw them into prison).
  • (Acts 16:19-24) When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. (The Message)
    ■ Swindoll: "In most ancient cities, the marketplace (agora) was a public space not unlike a flea market. This large, open-air square, bounded by some permanent retail buildings and shelters, gave any paying vendor the opportunity to display his or her wares. The market also became the natural place to conduct public affairs and resolve disputes. In a Roman colony, the marketplace usually included a 'judgment seat' (bēma), a raised stone platform from which government officials tried cases and issued proclamations. The slave girl's masters apprehended Paul and Silas, dragged them before the city officials, and issued a charge they thought would stick." [ref]
    ■ Bruce: The slave girl's masters supposed that Paul and Silas were
    wandering Jews, engaged in propagating some variety of their own perverse superstition. They therefore dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates and lodged a complaint against them. Luke and Timothy were apparently unmolested: Paul and Silas were not only the leaders of the party but also most obviously Jews (Luke was a Gentile and Timothy a half-Gentile). Anti-Jewish sentiment lay very near the surface in pagan antiquity. ... There was great indignation that Roman citizens should be molested by strolling peddlers of an outlandish religion. Such people had to be taught to know their proper place and not trouble their betters. There was no serious investigation of the charge: Paul and Silas were summarily stripped and handed over to the lictors -- the magistrates' police attendants -- to be soundly beaten; the city jailer was then ordered to lock them up. [ref]
  • (Acts 16:19) Polhill: "The profit motive was a frequent obstacle to the gospel in Acts. It was certainly the downfall of Simon Magus (Acts 8:19f.). It would lead Demetrius and his fellow Ephesian silversmiths to violently oppose Paul (Acts 19:24–28). Here the greed of the slave girl's owners was in marked contrast to the generosity of Lydia, who shared her house with the missionaries and the Philippian Christians. One's relationship to material goods marks a major distinction between believers and nonbelievers in Acts. (Note how 'believer' and 'stay at my house' are closely linked in Acts 16:15.)" [ref]
Maltreated For Doing Good
William Barclay: "The tragic thing is that Paul and Silas were arrested and maltreated for doing good. Whenever Christianity attacks vested interest trouble follows. It is characteristic of men that if their pockets are touched they are up in arms. It is every man's duty to ask himself, 'Is the money I am earning worth the price? Do I earn it by serving or by exploiting my fellow men?' Often, the greatest obstacle to the crusade of Christ is the selfishness of men." [ref]
  • (Acts 16:22) Toussaint: "Impelled by the crowd … the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. The verb translated 'beaten' is from rhabdizō, which means 'to beat with a rod.' This was one of the three beatings Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians 11:25, the only other place where this verb occurs in the New Testament." [ref]
  • (Acts 16:24) The jailer throws them into the inner prison and fastens their feet in the stocks. Arnold: "The inner cell was typically reserved for those who committed serious crimes and for those of low social status. The magistrates intended to demoralize and humiliate the two men." [ref]
  • (Acts 16:25-40) Rather than proclaiming their innocence or cursing God or fretting over their situation [ref], from deep inside the jailhouse Paul and Silas conduct a midnight revival service, praying and singing hymns as a means of "[acknowleging] God's character and [expressing] their trust in him as their deliverer." [ref] God responds with an earthquake so severe that it opens all the doors and loosens all the chains. Instead of taking his own life, the jailer is told how to save it by giving it to Jesus -- which he does, along with his entire household. The whole episode ends with the chief magistrates, now having been made aware of the fact that Paul and Silas are Roman citizens, begging them to leave the city. Paul and Silas return to Lydia's house, where they encourage the brethren before leaving Philippi. Keener: "To visit the believers shows boldness and refusal to accept the humiliation [of being beaten and jailed]; but per the officials' request, Paul and Silas do leave quickly." [ref]
  • (Acts 16:30-33) The jailer asks Paul and Silas: Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
    ■ Bruce: "How much he meant by this question it would be difficult to determine. He might have heard (or heard about) the fortune-teller's announcement that these men had come to proclaim a 'way of salvation'; if so, he might have seen in the earthquake a supernatural vindication of them and their message. What was involved in this salvation would not have been clear to him, but he was thoroughly shaken, in soul as well as in body, and if anyone could show him the way to peace of mind, release from fear, and a sense of security, Paul and Silas (he was convinced) could do so." [ref]
    ■ When they say [b]elieve in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, Paul and Silas in effect squelch all notions of both works-based salvation [ref] and easy believism. In both Acts and the remainder of the New Testament saving "belief involves confession or acknowledgement of Jesus as the exalted Lord (kyrios, as in Acts 2:21, 36; Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11) -- trust and committal, not merely intellectual assent." [ref] The very next verse (Acts 16:32) tells us that Paul and Silas fully explained the gospel ("the word of the Lord") to both the jailer and his household prior to their being baptized (Acts 16:33).
    ■ Notice that three times Luke links together the jailer and his family: you will be saved, you and your household ... to him together with all who were in his house ... he was baptized, he and all his household. Marshall: "[T]he gift offered to the jailer is also offered to his whole household. The New Testament takes the unity of the family seriously, and when salvation is offered to the head of the household, it is as a matter of course made available to the rest of the family group (including dependants and servants) as well (cf. Acts 16:15). It is, however, offered to them on the same terms: they too have to hear the Word (Acts 16:31), believe and be baptized; the jailer's own faith does not cover them." [ref]
  • (Acts 16:34) Bruce: "There, in the jailer's house, into which Paul and Silas were brought up, they received hospitable treatment: food was set before them, and hosts and guests exulted together, united in Christian faith and love. The jailer was guilty of no dereliction of duty in thus taking two prisoners into his house; his responsibility was to produce them when called upon to do so. He had no reason to fear that they would run away and leave him in the lurch. Luke's third example of the power of the gospel at Philippi is the most wonderful of all. And perhaps Paul and Silas reckoned the rods and the stocks well worth enduring for the joy that they shared in the jailer's house." [ref]
Unity with Diversity (Acts 16:6-34)
Regardless of our diverse backgrounds, we are to become a unified family of believers. (Video link) [ref]
  • (Acts 16:35) At daybreak, the court judges sent officers with the instructions, "Release these men." (The Message) Swindoll: "Apparently the sun rose on a new day for the city officials. Luke doesn't explain the reason for their sudden change of heart, but they said, 'Release those men' (Acts 16:35). They may have received more information. Lydia may have interceded for Paul and Silas. The officials may simply have decided a sound beating and night in jail would temper the missionaries' rabble-rousing. Who knows?" [ref]
  • (Acts 16:36-37) Rather than simply going in peace, Paul chooses to speak his piece. He asserts his and Silas's Roman citizenship (men who are Romans) and demands to be treated respectfully. Polhill: "Paul may have seemed a bit huffy in his demand for a formal apology from the magistrates, but that is not the point. It was essential that the young Christian community have a good reputation among the authorities if its witness was to flourish. Christians broke none of the Roman laws. Luke was at pains to show this. It would continue to be a major emphasis in Acts. In this instance Paul and Silas were totally innocent of any wrongdoing. It was important that the magistrates acknowledge their innocence and set the record straight. This was why Paul made such a major point of it." [ref] (Toussaint: "In only two places in Acts was Paul harmed or threatened by Gentiles -- in Philippi and in Ephesus [Acts 19:23–41]. In both instances people were losing money in vested interests and in each case Paul was vindicated by a Roman official." [ref])

The Christian & The State
William Larkin:
This concluding scene yields some valuable principles for guiding Christians in their relations with the state (Talbert 1984:70). Paul's insistence that justice be done encourages Christians to appeal to their legal rights as protection against unjust treatment by non-Christians. The fact that Paul's request was granted gives us confidence that the state can be reasonable and correct its mistakes. Paul's innocence of the charges establishes the pattern that Christians are not to be troublemakers; when we do suffer at the hands of state power, it should be as innocent victims of those with questionable motives (compare 1 Pet 4:15-16). Only by such exemplary lives can we witness with integrity and, by the Spirit's power, answer the haunting question of that age or any age: What must I do to be saved? [ref]

False Peace
R. C. Sproul:
The spirit that so characterized the preaching and ministry of the Apostle Paul and of all the great saints of Christian history is sorely lacking in our own day. I hear complaints from people all over America that they cannot find a church with bold and accurate preaching. What they find instead are exercises in entertainment, pop psychology, or something about contemporary social ethics. The gospel is not heard with clarity. One reason for this is that when ministers do proclaim the Word of God without compromise, it always creates division. We want peace when there is no peace. We do not want to offend people, so we have learned to remove the offense from the gospel in order to keep the peace.

We do it in such subtle ways. During a recent Christmas season, my daughter ordered pizza, and when the delivery man came to the door, he wished my daughter a merry Christmas. Sherry said to him, "Thank you for saying 'Merry Christmas' instead of 'Happy Holidays.'" The delivery-man beamed and said, "I say 'Merry Christmas' because Jesus is the reason for the season." He was not willing to remove Christ from the holiday. I say "Merry Christmas" to everybody. If I see a Muslim, I say, "Merry Christmas." I hope he has a lousy Ramadan, because I know that Ramadan is an affront to the holiness of God, and I know the only way that a Muslim is going to have a merry Christmas is if he is converted to Christ. There is nothing like Christmas for the Christian, and it is my hope that every person will be able to share in that true joy. All too often, however, we back away from such an open testimony. We surrender to political correctness when the danger before us may be a little bit of social intimidation; as of yet, no one is throwing us in jail. The culture is getting more militant against all things specifically Christian, but we must remember our heritage. We would not have the freedom we do if not for people like Paul and Silas and Timothy and Luke who went from town to town in the ancient world being beaten with rods and stoned within an inch of their lives and cast into prison. [ref]
  • (Acts 16:11-40) Hughes offers a fitting final word for this section of Acts:
    Some meeting! Imagine the joy at Lydia's as Paul and his associates in the gospel recounted the events of the previous night. There were undoubtedly tears and maybe even some riotous laughter. Maybe they sang a few prison songs and acted out the seismos. Whatever the agenda, it culminated in praise.

    Some church! Lydia the merchant princess, the ex-Pythoness, the Philippian jailer, and probably a few ex-inmates made up the first European church. The rich and the poor, the slave and the free, male and female were all one in Christ. The flag of the gospel was unfurled on a continent that needed it desperately!

    Some life! Through thick and thin, despite the whirlwinds of Satan's opposition, the wind of the Spirit was always at the backs of Paul and his companions. Wherever they were—skimming the Aegean, preaching by the river, delivering souls from demons, taking their licks, singing in the night while the world shook away, or praying with a trembling man for his soul—they were serving an awesome God.

    Some gospel! "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of every one who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile" (Romans 1:16). [ref]


Salvation's Joy
Ajith Fernando:
Joy over salvation. Luke's report of joy over salvation in the home of the jailer (Acts 16:34) is evidence of one of the most important themes in his writings. Nearly 24 percent (79 of the 326 instances) of words for joy in the New Testament appear in Luke's Gospel (53) and Acts (24). The angels heralded the coming of Christ as "good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10). The sinner Zacchaeus "welcomed [Jesus] gladly" into his house (Luke 19:6), and salvation came to that home. When people find salvation, there is great rejoicing in heaven (Luke 15:7, 10). Even when believers are persecuted, they are to contemplate their heavenly reward and "rejoice … and leap for joy" (Luke 6:23).

After Jesus' resurrection the dominant emotion of the disciples that Luke records is joy (Luke 24:41, 52-53). It is not surprising, then, that the fellowship of the first Christian community was characterized by "unaffected joy" (Acts 2:46). Their joy withstood the test of persecution. After the apostles were flogged, they "left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" (Acts 5:41). After Paul and Barnabas had been driven out of Pisidian Antioch, "the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:52). Just as joy characterizes our entrance into the kingdom, it characterizes our life from that point on.

Emphasizing joy. It is important to underscore the biblical emphasis on joy in today's entertainment-oriented society. Through relentless media onslaught of an unchristian understanding of pleasure, we may be tempted to think that to be fully entertained, we must indulge in something that is displeasing to God. To counteract such thinking, Christians have long been motivated to follow Christ by the so-called debtor's ethic, which says, "He did so much for us. Now the least we can do is to live in obedience to him." But when faced with the strong force of temptation, the debtor's ethic proves powerless. Sinners look at us with pity and insinuate that we do not enjoy life. At such a time our resolve to repay our debt to God can be overcome by the promise of pleasure, and we can easily yield to the temptation.

John Piper, in his book The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace, challenges the idea that the Bible teaches a debtor's ethic. As one who has preached this ethic, I took up the challenge, but I could find no evidence for this method of motivation in the Bible. What I did find was that when Bible writers appeal to God's goodness and sacrificial love to us, it is to show that he can be trusted to give us everything we need. As Paul said, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32).

One of God's greatest gifts to us is the incomparable pleasure of true joy. As David said, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Ps. 16:11). What if we seek to pursue such pleasure in life? In our time of temptation to passing pleasure we can see how much more enjoyable is the incomparable pleasure that Christ gives. We will want to guard that pleasure and not let it be spoiled by lesser pleasures. [ref]
Note: The NASB contains 409 verses that include one or more of the following words: enjoy, enjoyed, enjoys, joy, joyful, joyfully, rejoice, rejoiced, rejoicing - AC21DOJ


*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.