4. Gospel consolidation and expansion into Greece, 16:1-20:38

i] The call to Macedonia


Luke now moves to give his account of the evangelization of the Aegean shores. In v1-5 Paul and his mission team revisit many of the Gentile churches established during the first missionary journey. Luke makes a point of noting that Paul seeks to instruct his mission churches with respect to the decisions of the Jerusalem Council, cf., chapter 15. Luke goes on to tell us that Paul and his mission team wanted to head deeper into Asia, but are forbidden by the Holy Spirit. It is in this context that Paul has his vision of a man from Macedonia begging him to come over to Macedonia to "help us." So, the team head across the Hellespont to Neapolis and then to Philippi. It is at Philippi where Paul meets Lydia, "a worshiper of God", and is able to lead her, and her household, to Christ.


The progress of the way from Jerusalem to the ends of the world / Rome, next moves into Europe, a move which is divinely authorized.


i] Context: See 1:1-11. We now come to the fourth section of Luke's Acts of the Apostles, Gospel Consolidation and Expansion into Greece, 16:1-20:38. Of course, calling Luke's work the Acts of the Apostles misses the point somewhat. From the third section of his book, The Gospel moves outward from Antioch, 13:1-15:41, Luke records the Acts of the Apostle Paul and tells us very little about what the other apostles are up to.

Having established the authority by which Paul undertakes his mission to the Gentiles, both divine and ecclesiastical, and having also fully recorded the approval of the apostolic church in Jerusalem for Paul's Law-free gospel (although see "Background"), Luke now records the next stage of the Gentile mission. This stage records the expansion of the mission into Macedonia and the consolidation of Paul's mission churches around the Aegean coast, both in Macedonia, and Asia. Here we have the heart of Paul's missionary endeavors, a period when Paul writes the bulk of his letters. This section entails what is commonly called the second and third missionary journeys, although for Luke, it serves as a single period in Paul's missionary enterprise. It begins in Troas with a divine initiative in the vision of the man from Macedonia and ends with Paul's farewell sermon at Miletus, 20:13-38. In between these events, Paul and his team establish new churches and consolidate those already established. It is likely there are numerous trips between the different churches at this time not recorded in Acts. In Macedonia Paul evangelizes numerous towns, ch. 16-17, and then sets up a base-camp in Corinth around AD50; he works from this base for around a year and half, ch. 18. He then moves his base camp to Ephesus around AD53-54 and works from this base for over two years until he is forced to leave, ch. 19. Paul and his team then move back to Macedonia, spending some three months in Corinth around AD55, before heading off to Jerusalem, ch. 20.


ii] Background: Luke gives a cursory summary of events between the conclusion of the Jerusalem Council, 15:29, and Paul's move eastward into Europe, 16:6. The Jerusalem Council agreed with Paul that Gentiles are not bound to obey Mosaic Law as a requirement for divine approval and thus full membership of the way. The Council did lay down some requirements to assist table-fellowship between Jews and Gentiles, cf., 15:29. Given what follows, it seems likely that the Council agreed that a person is saved by grace through faith in Christ, but that the business of going on in the Christian life, of progressing one's sanctification, is a matter of obedience. So, Gentiles don't need law to get saved, but ethical behavior still sanctifies. If Paul hadn't already worked it out, he soon will, namely that holiness, as with salvation, is found in union with Christ, by grace, through faith, apart from obedience to the law.

It does seem that Luke is not telling us the full story of what followed the Jerusalem conference. Following the conference a team from the Jerusalem church visits the Antioch fellowship to explain the regulations and, on returning to Jerusalem, leave Paul and Barnabas in Antioch to managed the issue, 15:30-35. We know from Paul's letter to the Galatians that when the regulations for table fellowship were applied in Antioch, there was a major falling out between Paul and both Peter and Barnabas. For Paul, the regulations were little more than a guide, but for Peter and Barnabas and the other Jewish believers in Antioch, they were regulations which impacted on their holiness, irrespective of table fellowship. As far as Paul was concerned, law cannot make a believer holy, holiness is found in Christ as a gift of grace through faith. Luke simply tells us that Paul and Barnabas had a falling-out over Mark and that consequently Barnabas took Mark and headed for Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas and journeyed through Syria toward Asia, 15:36-41, visiting Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, etc., strengthening his mission churches on the way, 16:1-5, until he arrived at Troas, v6-8. It is possible that the dispute in Antioch not only disturbed Paul's association with the church in Antioch, but also with Peter and members of the Jerusalem church. The increased attempts to counter Paul's antinomian theology by members of the circumcision party in Jerusalem indicates that the rift is deeper than Luke lets on - Dunn argues that it is terminal, although this is speculative. Luke is not interested in widening the rift and so stays with a glass-half-full scenario. For Luke, Paul's mission and gospel rests not only on divine authorization, but also on the authorization of the apostles and the Jerusalem church.

In the section before us, Paul focuses on his mission churches around the coast of the Aegean sea over the years AD50-55, chapters 16-20. Although Paul is constantly forced to defend his gospel from visiting members of the circumcision party, he none-the-less seeks to maintain his standing with the other apostles and the believers in Jerusalem. Luke's account of Paul's subsequent visit to Jerusalem serves to reinforce the fact that Paul is no secessionist. None-the-less, the consequences of this visit give us some idea of how deep the rift goes - the chasm between the temple / Jerusalem and Rome, Jew and Gentile, law and grace, "the righteous" and "sinners", cf., Mat.9:13, Lk.15:7, or even as one wag put it, "Good people don't go to heaven, only bad people!"


iii] Structure: This passage, The call to Macedonia, presents as follows:

Paul revisits his mission churches, v1-5;

Paul's mission plans disrupted by the Holy Spirit, v6-8;

The vision of the man from Macedonia, v9;

The journey across the Hellespont, v10-11;

The conversion of Lydia, v12-15.


iv] Interpretation:

Luke's account of Paul's move to Macedonia and his mission in Philippi is quite detailed, running to the end of chapter 16. Whereas Paul's mission has, up to this point, been synagogue focused, here it is focused on individuals and households. Paul's vision of the way is shifting from a Jewish church to a Gentile church. "Salvation, rather than the kingdom of God or eternal life, is highlighted as the message proclaimed in this city", Peterson.

The geographical significance of Paul's move into Europe is quite limited. The language and culture is similar on both sides of the Hellespont and all the related provinces are united under the power of Rome. None-the-less, for Luke there is significance and this is found in the steady movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the world, or better, its center, Rome. Again Luke relates this movement as divinely directed, even to the point of frustrating the plans of Paul's missionary team.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 16:6

i] The call to Macedonia, v1-15. ii] Paul's mission are disrupted by the Holy Spirit, v6-8: Paul, along with Silas and Timothy, visits Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch, but they are restrained by the Holy Spirit from heading into the province of Asia, going north into Bithynia. So, they end up at Troas. Luke again recounts Paul's sensitivity to the leadings of the Spirit, either through an inward prompting, a prophetic word, or some physical, social or political restraint.

v9. In a vision, the Spirit leads Paul to journey to Macedonia.

kwluqenteV (kwluw) part. "having been kept" - having been prevented. The participle may be causal, "because". We would love to answer the how and why questions, but the text gives little away. Was one of the other apostles working in this area? Paul's team was obviously heading for Ephesus, but the Spirit had another mission for them. "They made a tour of the Phrygian and Galatian districts, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit", Barclay.

uJpo + gen. "by [the Holy Spirit]" - by. Expressing agency.

lalhsai (lalew) "from preaching [the word]" - to speak. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verbal aspect of the participle "having been prevented".

th/ Asia/ "the province of Asia" - the Asia. Asia was an important Roman province bounded by Bithynia in the north, Lycia in the south, and Galatia in the east.


elqonteV (ercomai) aor. part. "when they came" - having come. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV.

kata + acc. "to" - up to, toward. Here expressing opposition, although in a spacial sense; "up against."

thn Musian "the boarder of Mysia" - the Mysia. Mysia was originally a separate cultural and geographic region, but had been incorporated into the province of Asia. Boarder/frontier is assumed. "In the region of / in the latitude of", are other possibilities.

poreuqhnai (poreuomai) aor. pas. inf. "to enter" - to go [into Bithynia]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "were trying".

kai "but" - and. Here with an adversative edge, as NIV.

to pneuma Ihsou "the Spirit of Jesus" - An interesting change from Holy Spirit in v6. Some commentators suggest the different way the travelers were prevented prompted the different title. It is more likely that the titles are interchangeable, but are not intended to blur the individuality of the Spirit and Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus.

ouk eiasen (eaw) aor. "would not allow [them]" - did not permit. The issue of closed doors is always an interesting one in the field of guidance. Given that Satan is the great deceiver and has the whole world in his hands (OK! he thinks he does, but Jesus didn't tell him that he was having himself on) isn't it possible that Satan is into opening and closing doors? In which case, George might be right; doing the opposite is the pathway to success!!!


parelqonteV (parercomai) aor. part. "so they passed by" - having passed by. The participle is adverbial, probably consecutive, "so as a result"; "So they passed Mysia by", Moffatt; "traversed", Peterson.

Trw/ada (Trw/aV) "Troas" - An ancient Greek city known as Alexandria Troas, now a Roman colony and important port.


iii] The vision of the man from Macedonia, v9: In a vision, the Spirit leads Paul to journey to Macedonia.

dia + gen. "during [the night]" - through [the night a vision appeared to Paul]. Here with a temporal sense; "during, in."Luke probably intends us to understand that it was that night, during that night, the first night after their arrival in Troas. The presence of the article in thV nuktoV "the night", makes this point, although the article is not found in all manuscripts. Without an article, the instrumental sense becomes dominant; "by night", Moule IB.

tw/ Paulw/ (oV) dat. "Paul" - Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage; lit. "a vision appeared to Paul."

oJrama (a) "had a vision" - a vision. An apparition.

h\n estwV (iJsthmi) perf. part. "standing" - had been standing. The participle conjoins the following participles which all take the present tense, and given that iJsthmi is not used in the present tense when taking the sense "standing", it is best to treat this participle with the imperfect verb to-be as an imperfect periphrastic, rather than a pluperfect periphrastic, cf. Cully; "a certain Macedonian man was standing and [was] begging him and [was] saying."

parakalwn (parakalew) pres. part. "begging" - urging, exhorting.... Paraphrastic imperfect, see above. The word "begging" carries a negative sense in English. The sense of the verb is carried better with a word like "urging", even "pleading".

legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Paraphrastic imperfect, as above.

diabaV (diabainw) aor. part. "come over [to Macedonia]" - having come over. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperative verb "help"; "come over .... and help us."

hJmin dat. pro. "us" - Dative of direct object.


iv] The journey across the Hellespont, v10-11: Paul immediately arranges transport to Macedonia. The change from "they" to "we" indicates that Luke now joins the missionary team. Luke carefully notes the route taken to reach Macedonia. Luke's use of "we" is often viewed by critical commentators as a literary device rather than a historical reality, but this seems unlikely.

wJV "after" - when. Adverbial, here temporal, Introducing a temporal clause, as NIV. "After" carries the sense better in English than "when".

ezhthsamen (zhtew) aor. "we got ready" - we sought, in the sense of to attempt to attain some state or condition*. They sought to act upon Paul's vision by immediately heading for Macedonia, ie. "we got ready." Note the "we". Luke has joined the mission team.

exelqein (exercomai) aor. inf. "to leave" - to go out. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "seek / got ready".

sumbibazonteV (sumbibazw) pres. part. "concluding" - putting together, showing for certain, proving = concluding. The participle is adverbial, probably causal; "for we concluded that God had called us", Barclay.

oJti "that" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they concluded.

proskeklhtai (proskaleomai) perf. "had called" - summon. The significance of "called" in English is losing its impact due to secularization. A word like "instructed" or "summoned" carries more meaning.

euaggelisasqai (euaggelizomai) aor. inf. "to preach the gospel" - to proclaim, preach, communicate. The infinitive may be treated as adverbial, final, expressing the purpose of the calling; "in order to preach the gospel to them", or as introducing a dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing what God had called them to do, namely, that the preach the gospel to the Macedonians. This word in the NT, meaning "to communicate", most often means to communicate the gospel.


anacqenteV (anagw) aor. pas. part. "we put out to sea" - having set sail, to put out to sea. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "we made a straight run / before a favorable wind", as NIV. "Samothrace was a good day's sail from Troas, as was Neapolis form Samothrace", Bruce.

th/ ... epioush/ dat. pres. part. "the next day" - the remaining / set upon. Compounded word epi eimi. The dative participle is adverbial, temporal; "on the next day."


v] The conversion of Lydia, v12-15. Disembarking at Neapolis, the missionaries travel to Philippi. Philippi was a Roman city colonized primarily by veteran soldiers who had served in the great battles of the era (42BC: Antony and Octavian's defeat of Brutus and Cassius. 31BC: Octavian's defeat of Antony and Cleopatra). In visiting the city, Paul seeks out the Jewish community, following his pattern of "to the Jew first." In Philippi there is no synagogue, only an unofficial meeting of a group of women, some of whom are God-fearers. At the meeting there is a business-woman named Lydia. She is obviously an intelligent, self-motivated, moral woman, but in particular, she is a God-fearer - a Gentile associate of religious Jews. In line with the principle, those who seek find, the Lord makes sure she can understand Paul's explanation of the gospel. On hearing the good news of the kingdom, she puts her trust in Jesus. Both she and her family (household) are baptized. She offers hospitality to the missionaries and her home soon becomes the centre for a new church in Philippi. The seed sown, now bears fruit.

kakeiqen "from there we traveled" - Compounded word kai ekeiqen (an adverb of place), "and from there."

kolwnia (a) "a Roman colony" - a colony.

prwth thV meridoV thV MakeoniaV poliV "the leading city of that district of Macedonia" - [which is] a prominent, leading city of the district of Macedonia. The Greek is unclear: i] prwth, variant genitive, prwthV, "first, chief, leading", is a problem because Philippi is not the first city of Macedonia, that honor goes to the capital, Thessalonica. Nor is Philippi the first city in its district, that honour goes to Amphipolis. Yet, it is a prominent / leading city, if not the chief city; ii] thV meridoV, variants meriV, meridoV, "the portion, share", is not thought to mean "the district". The TEV has a stab at the meaning with "a city of the first district (portion?) of Macedonia", but such a contortion is unnecessary.

meridoV (iV idoV) gen. "of that district" - of portion, share = district. The genitive is adjectival, locative; "a leading city located in the district of Macedonia."

hmen .... diatribonteV (diatribw) pres. part. "we stayed" - we were staying. An imperfect periphrastic construction, probably emphasizing aspect - the length of stay.

en + dat. "there" - in [that city]" - Locative, expressing space/sphere.


te "-" - and, so, ... Coordinative conjunction; "and on the Sabbath day."

th/ ... hJmera/ dat. "on [the Sabbath]"- on the day [of the Sabbath]. The dative is adverbial, temporal.

twn sabbatwn (on) gen. "the Sabbath" - of the Sabbath. The genitive is adjectival, of identification; "the day called / known as the Sabbath."

exw + gen. "outside [the city gate]" - out, outside [the gate]. The preposition is virtually redundant given the ek prefix of the verb exhlqomen, "we went out." "Outside the city" makes the point.

para + acc. "to" - Spacial; "beside, alongside, near." They have come out of the city and are beside the river.

einai (eimi) "[where we expected] to [find a place of prayer]" - [where we were supposing of prayer] to be. The infinitive forms a dependent statement of perception expressing what they "expected/supposed", "that there would be there a house of prayer." The word for "prayer" is not normally used of "a place of prayer", but that is obviously the intention here. The TEV "a place for prayer" is a better English rendering, since the site is certainly not an official, or unofficial synagogue. "The Jews meet at this spot for prayer."

kaqisanteV (kaqizw) aor. part. "we sat down" - having sat down. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "we were speaking"; "we sat down and spoke to the women who were assembled there."

taiV sunelqousaiV (sunercomai) aor. part. "[to the women] who had gathered there" - [to the women] the ones having gathered together. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "women", dative in agreement with the dative of indirect object "women".


polewV (iV ewV) gen. "[was a woman] from the city" - of city. The genitive is ablative, expressing source/origin, as NIV.

Quateirwn (a) gen. "of Thyatira" - The genitive is adjectival, of identification; "from a city called / known as Thyatira."

onomati (a atoV) dat. "named [Lydia]" - The dative is adverbial, reference / respect; "with respect to her name, Lydia" = "called Lydia." A common name for a slave, although she is obviously a free-woman.

porfuropwliV (iV ewV) "a dealer in purple cloth" - She is obviously involved in the marketing of dyed cloth from Thyatira. A purple dye, at this time, came from processing a particular fish, while a red-purple dye came from the madder-root (called today "Turkey red").

sebomenh (sebw) pres. part. "who was a worshiper of [God]" - worshiping [God]. The participle serves as a substantive which stands in apposition to "Ludia"; "Ludia , ..... a worshipper of God." The expression implies she is a God-fearer, rather than of Jewish descent.

dihnoixen (dianoigw) aor. "[the Lord] opened" - The phrase "opened her heart" is quaint in English, and given that for a Jew the "heart" is the seat of understanding rather than emotion, we could say "enabled her to understand." If we try to update the language to "made her receptive", or even worse, "caused her to accept", we move beyond a form of figurative language which both recognizes divine sovereignty and human free-will.

h|V "her [heart]" - [the heart] ..... of whom. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, as NIV.

prosecein (prosecw) pres. inf. "to respond" - to pay attention. The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose; "in order to make here a ready listener to what Paul said", cf. Cassirer. It is taking the meaning of this word too far to translate it as "respond" or worse, "accept" or "believe". "To listen eagerly", NRSV, is better. If a person is a seeker, the Lord makes sure that not only do they hear the gospel, but that they can understand it and so properly respond to it. Lydia is obviously a seeker, given that she is a God-fearer, and so the Lord not only shuffles the missionaries over to Macedonia to speak with her, but provides her with the wherewithal for her to understand.


wJV "when" - Here adverbial, temporal, forming a temporal clause, as NIV.

oJ oikoV (oV) "the members of [her] household" - the house [of her]. Again we see this interesting feature, found in the New Testament church, where the household (family members, possibly also staff) is included in the conversion of the head of the home. They are all baptized, but did they all believe? Did the faith of the head of the home somehow cover the members of the home? We are probably witnessing the high status given to the family in the scriptures. God has designed the family as the basic unit of human association and it is therefore only natural that kingdom blessings do not undermine this unit. None-the-less, it is going too far to suggest that salvation is realized in family units. It is often the case, but it is not the rule. Those who support family (infant) baptism find some support for their position in this New Testament feature.

ebaptisqh (baptizw) aor. pas. "were baptized" - were immersed. The oft figurative use of this word means that we cannot just assume that water baptism is intended. In this context it probably is, but immersed in teaching / the gospel, even immersed / baptized with/in the Spirit is an outside possibility.

legousa (legw) pres. part. "[she invited us to her home]" - [she urged, exhorted] saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "urged"; "she urged us and said."

ei + ind. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 1st. class, where the condition is assumed to be true, here with a perfect tense in the protasis, "if, as is the case ..... then ......" It takes a stative, or true-to-fact sense. "If you judge me to be faithful ....... stay."

kekrikate (krinw) perf. "you consider" - judge. "If you are really convinced", Barclay.

einai (eimi) "-" - to be. The infinitive of the verb to-be introduces a dependent statement of perception, expressing what they have decided / judged; "If you have decided / determined that I am a true believer." The subject of the infinitive me is accusative; "me to be" / "that I am."

pisthn adj. "a believer" - [to be] faithful [to the Lord]. The adjective serves as a substantive, object of the infinitive verb to-be; "me to be a genuine believer.

tw/ kuriw/ (oV) dat. "in the Lord" - The dative is locative, "in the Lord", or possibly a dative of direct object / interest, "faithful to the Lord."

eiselqonteV (eisercomai) aor. part. "come [and stay]" - having entered. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperative verb "stay/remain/abide"; "come and stay", as NIV.

parebiasato (parabiazomai) aor. "[and] she persuaded [us]" - The sense is better; "she prevailed upon us", ESV.


Acts Introduction



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