Read: Acts 17:1 & Psalm 121 (www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/acts/17.html)
Amphipolis and Apollonia were both probably overnight stops for Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke. There are local traditions that Paul preached the Good News in both cities and that new believers started and continued churches in each of these places. In Amphipolis there is a hill known as “Paul’s Hill” or Toupolo. In Apollonia there is a rock from which Paul is said to have preached.
Amphipolis was founded by the Athenians in 437 BC. As its name indicates it was surrounded by water on three sides – the Strymon River (now known as the Struma). The Spartans occupied Amphipolis in 424 BC and then Philip II of Macedonia conquered it in 357 BC. Built on a hill less than a mile from the mouth of the river that surrounded it and with forests all around, Amphipolis was well situated for ship building. When the Romans took over in 168 BC they divided Macedonia into four administrative regions with the easternmost region’s capital at Amphipolis. In 49/50 AD Paul and friends would have found a thriving city with Greeks, Romans, and a few Jews. The Lion of Amphipolis, pictured below, was built in the late 4th century BC in honor of either Laomedon or Nearchus, both friends of Alexander the Great.
The apostles kept traveling west on the Via Egnatia. About ten miles west of Amphipolis the road left the coast to bypass the Chalkidiki Peninsula. A choice had to be made to either go to the north or the south of Lakes Volvi and Koronia. The modern highway was built along the northern shores of those two lakes but the ancient road was built on the southern shores. One of the main reasons for picking the southern route was the city of Apollonia.
Apollonia was founded in 432 BC by Athenian settlers invited by king Perdiccas II of Macedonia. It was named for the god Apollo and a large temple of Apollo was built in the city. Apollonia remained important through the Roman and Byzantine eras and into the Ottoman occupation because it was located on the Via Egnatia.
Do you ever feel like a well-trampled road? From where does your help come?
Read: Acts 16:35-40 (www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/acts/16.html)
After Silas and Paul had been whipped and put in jail they had kept the jailer from committing suicide when he thought his prisoners had escaped. They spoke with the jailer and his family about Jesus and then baptized them into the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The next morning the city officials sent some officers with orders for the jailer to release Paul and Silas.
But Silas and Paul refused to go, “We are Roman citizens, and the Roman officials had us beaten in public without giving us a trial. They threw us into jail. Now do they think they can secretly send us away? No, they cannot! They will have to come here themselves and let us out.”
There were three levels of Roman citizenship in Paul’s day: optimo iure, non optimo iure, and Latini. These citizens could not be tortured or whipped. They had the right to a fair trial in which they could offer a defense. They had the right to appeal decisions by lower courts. There were other rights as well but these seem to me to be the ones applicable to Paul and Silas.
Many of the city leaders of Philippi would have been former Roman legion soldiers. They would have understood the saying of the centurion who encountered Jesus in Luke 7:8; “I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” They had acted beyond their authority. They had mistreated two men they were charged to protect. They were afraid. They apologized to Silas and Paul and led them out of jail. Then they asked Silas and Paul to leave their town.
But Paul and Silas went to Lydia’s home. They met with the new believers of Philippi and they offered them words of encouragement. And then, when they were ready to go, they left Philippi.
Have you ever used the freedom that God gives you to do something you knew was right?
Read: Acts 16:19-36 (www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/acts/16.html)
Paul and Silas are whipped and thrown in jail for being outsiders causing trouble for locals. It is bad enough to be an outsider who just seems to be hanging around but when you add causing trouble for the local people to that then you are just asking for trouble. Trouble was not far away.
In the prison, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God while the other prisoners listened until about midnight. Remember that times of day in the Bible were estimates, they did not have phones, watches, or clocks. The only certain times each day were 6am (sunrise) and 6pm (sunset). Daylight and darkness were each divided into 12 hours with the mid-points being noon and midnight respectively (called the sixth hour). If we are correct in assuming that Paul and friends were in Philippi during the winter of 49-50 AD then the nights would have been quite long (Philippi is on about the same latitude as New York City).
At about midnight an earthquake struck, shaking the prison, opening the doors, and releasing the prisoners’ chains. The jailer was wakened and seeing the prison doors open assumed the worst and was about to give up his life for the escape of his prisoners. But Paul called out to stop him. The man went to Paul and Silas and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Had he heard their message of salvation before they had been arrested? Or had he been listening as they prayed and sang in his prison? Did the jailer take Silas and Paul down to the river where they had met Lydia to wash their wounds and were he and his household all baptized in the same place? There is so much that the book of Acts does not tell us. But the Bible does tell us what is most important: because Silas and Paul went to prison more people believed in Jesus Christ.
Does your story include the salvation of others?
Read: Acts 16:16-24 (www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/acts/16.html)
Verse 16 of chapter 16 in Acts tells us all that we know about the “slave girl” at Philippi who followed Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke around town yelling, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They are telling you how to be saved.” We do not even know whether she was young, old, or middle-aged because referring to a slave as a “boy” or a “girl” did not indicate their age (something all-too-familiar still today).
She could have been taken captive anywhere along the borders of the Roman Empire. If she was a recent captive she would have most likely been from Britain. Or, she could have been born a slave or acquired when her parents sold her or left her abandoned as a baby. However she became a slave, she was a slave in a slave society. (The Roman Senate once debated a bill to distinguish slaves from free people by their dress. The bill was defeated when the senators realized that this would plainly demonstrate to the slaves their great numbers.)
After several days of her repeated announcements Paul had had enough. He turned and cast the unclean spirit of divination out of the woman. When her owners, who appear to have known how to work the system, discovered that she could no longer tell the future and earn them money, they went and complained to the city officials. They knew the “magic words” to use to get a rise out of the officials: “These Jews are upsetting our city! They are telling us to do things we Romans are not allowed to do.” Paul and Silas are beaten and put in jail (it seems that Timothy and Luke were not with them).
What happened to the slave girl? Had she listened as Paul and friends proclaimed the Good News? Some think she remained a slave but also became a believer in Jesus Christ.
Has the truth of God ever just come tumbling out of your mouth?
Read: Revelation 2:18-29 (www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/revelation/2.html)
Lydia was not a Jew, but she was “a worshiper of the Lord God.” That means that she was attracted to Judaism but had not converted, or was simply a pious Gentile who worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. She was from the city of Thyatira (if you have trouble with pronouncing Biblical names just do the best you can and pronounce every letter you see – so it would be Thy-a-ti-ra – put the emphasis wherever you want because no one knows for sure). This is interesting because the city of Thyatira was part of the Kingdom of Lydia. Lydia existed as a kingdom from about 1200-546 BC when it was conquered by the Persians. The Macedonians under Alexander took over in 334 BC and then the Romans in 189 BC. The Lydians were the first people to mint gold and silver coins (600 BC).
The Bible tells us that Lydia was a seller of purple cloth. Purple goods were very expensive because they were made with a dye extracted from sea snails in a complicated and lengthy process. Purple cloth was a luxury item and because of its great expense was a status symbol connected to royalty in many societies. The fact that Lydia lived in Philippi also tells us a bit about a community that could be the home of a high-end dealer.
Lydia does not appear to have been attached to any man and was the head of her own household. This is not unheard of in the Roman Empire but it also is not typical. Lydia may have been widowed or divorced and seems to have had some wealth. Lydia listened to Paul and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She and her whole household were baptized and then she invited Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke to stay in her home and they accepted the invitation.
What is/was your hometown like? How have your early years shaped who you have become?
Read: Acts 16:11-15 (www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/acts/16.html)
I have done my research on this but I have not found many definitive answers. So some of what I write here will be my “best guessing.”
Paul and friends were in new territory. Europe was different from the areas they had traversed to get there: very few of the cities and towns of ancient Greece had Jewish meeting places. These Jewish meeting places were not yet known as synagogues because the temple in Jerusalem was still standing and functioning (until 70 AD). These meeting places were usually built near flowing water so that community members could ritually clean themselves before their time of Scripture reading and prayer.
So, “Then on the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to a place by the river, where we thought there would be a Jewish meeting place for prayer.”(Acts 16:13) Were Paul and friends looking for a building or just for a spot along the river where Jews might meet for prayer? They seem to have found neither. There were some women who had come. Had they come to pray or to wash clothes? In the home where I grew up Saturday was washing day. I do not know why the women were there but at least one of them received the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The video attached is of a baptismal spot created by the Greek Orthodox Church outside the city gate of ancient Philippi by the Zygaktis River. It was a beautiful spot – turn up your volume and listen to the water flow by.
Where do you go to pray? Perhaps we could us “washing day” as a time of prayer.
Read: Galatians 1:11–2:10 (www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/galatians/1.html)
There is a line of hills, running parallel to the coastline, that separate Neapolis and Philippi. The Via Egnatia crosses a saddle between two of these hills on its way northwest to Philippi. Philippi is located at the tip of the western arm of the Lakanis Mountains with a relatively flat plain before it and a good farmland valley spreading 270o around it. Humans have lived here for about 10,000 years.
Greek settlers came to the area in 360 BC for the fertile land and for the gold deposits in the mountains on the west side of the valley. In 356 BC, when the Thracians threatened to invade, the residents asked Philip II, king of Macedonia (father of Alexander the Great), for his help. Philip saw an opportunity to expand his kingdom and strengthen his border with Thrace while also acquiring the means to pay for all of this and more. He took charge of the city, built sturdy walls around it, sent Macedonian settlers to live there, relocated Macedonia’s coin-making facility there, and renamed it Philippi.
During the reigns of Philip and Alexander the city of Philippi continued to grow and prosper. A theater was built, infrastructure projects were planned and completed, and many public buildings were erected. In 168 BC the Romans took over. In October of 42 BC the armies of Octavius and Antony defeated the armies of Cassius and Brutus on the plain below Philippi. Afterwards Philippi became a Roman colony and many of the Roman soldiers settled here.
In the winter of 49/50 AD Paul and his friends arrived in Philippi and founded the first church in Europe. We all have a past – how has your history shaped who you are?
Read: Acts 26:9-18 (www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/acts/26.html)
One of the reasons why Paul and the other apostles were able to travel so far and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ so quickly in the first century was that the Romans were great road builders. For the first two stops on his first trip to Europe Paul used the Roman road known as the Via Egnatia.
The Via Egnatia is named for Gnaeus Egnatius, proconsul of Macedonia, who ordered its construction in the 2nd century BC. It was the first Roman road built outside of Italy and connected the Adriatic coast opposite Italy with Byzantium (modern Istanbul) a distance of about 700 miles. The part of the road that Paul walked would have been about 20 feet wide and was paved with flattened stones. Elongated stones were used to mark a center line that separated opposing directions of traffic and also as curb stones on each side of the road.
The photo below shows the Via Egnatia climbing the valley from Neapolis and leading to Philippi. Since Neapolis served as the port for Philippi this section of the road was very busy. Paul and his friends did not stay in Neapolis because there was not a Jewish community there and Paul was still in the habit of going first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.
Most of us normally take mobility for granted but these last few months have heightened our appreciation of (and longing for) getting out and about.
Read: Acts 16:9-12 & Revelation 21:9-27 (www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/acts/16.html)
Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke left Troas by boat and sailed to the island of Samothrace, where they spent the night. Homer wrote that Poseidon watched the Battle of Troy from Mount Phengari, the highest point on Samothrace (5,328 feet). Samothrace was also the religious center of a Thracian mystery cult that was popular through the 2nd century AD.
After spending the night at Samothrace our band of believers set sail for the mainland coastal city of Neapolis. This can be another confusing place name because there were several Greco-Roman cities with the name Neapolis – which means “New City.” This particular Neapolis served as the port city of Philippi (Paul & friend’s immediate destination) and was sometimes considered part of Macedonia and sometimes part of Thrace.
We did not go into Neapolis (which is now called Kavala). There is a Byzantine castle and an aqueduct built by Suleiman II on the peninsula where Paul & friends would have landed. The modern city has spread onto the mainland as well and the few remnants of ancient Neapolis that have been discovered are now displayed in the Archeological Museum of Kavala. We stopped at a good overlook point to stretch our legs and take a few photographs of Neapolis and the Via Egnatia which connected Neapolis to Philippi and rest of the Roman Empire.
One day you and I will live in a New City!
Read: Acts 16:6-10 & 20:5-12 (www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/acts/16.html)
We start our journey in Greece across the Aegean Sea, in modern day Turkey, in the city of Troas. Troas was founded in 310 BC on the Aegean coast about 12 miles southwest of the ancient city of Troy. Its artificial harbor was very busy and the city was also a commercial and administrative hub. At its height there may have been as many as 100,000 residents of Troas. Today there is only enough of Troas left to attract archeologists and curious tourists.
Paul and Silas had picked up Timothy in Lystra on what was Paul’s second missionary journey. On his first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas had founded churches in the cities of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (of Pisidia). Biblical passages about these journeys can be a bit confusing because the place names are unfamiliar to us and refer sometimes to cities and sometimes to areas. Pamphylia, Pisidia, Galatia, Phrygia, Asia, and Mysia are all regions of the Anatolian peninsula, modern day Turkey, mentioned in the book of Acts.
In Troas it appears that Paul had need of a physician and they found one, Luke. You may have noticed a change in the narrative of Acts between verse 16:6 and 16:10: the action changes from “what they did” to “what we did.” Luke, writer of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, has become the fourth person in the group.
And, as if that were not enough excitement for this group, Paul has a nighttime vision in which “a man from Macedonia” begs him to come to Macedonia to help the people there. How did Paul know that it was a man from Macedonia? The same way that we know who people are in our dreams. Here are some more confusing names: the region we know as Greece was called in parts Thrace, Macedonia, Attica, Thessaly, Peloponnese, Ionia, and Achaia.
Has God ever spoken to you through a dream?
In matters of faith, we at First United Methodist Church, Sealy put primary reliance on the Bible. In scripture, we understand that we are all God’s children; therefore, we will be a church that cares for the needs of our church and local community through prayer, deeds, inspiration, and love in the spirit of Christ.
Caring for the needs of our church and community through prayer, deeds, inspiration and love in the Spirit of Christ.
Sunday Worship: 10 am
Adult & Children & Youth Sunday School 9 am
First Kids Mother's Day Out
(Tuesday & Thursday; 8am to 2pm; Ages 1-3)
Rev Pat Bell, Pastor
First United Methodist Church Sealy
200 Atchison Street
Sealy, Texas 77474