Introduction: When I was a growing up, I sang hymns at school, in
church and at home. All that repetition burned the words (or at
least something that sounded like the real words) into my brain. I
sang about “throwing out the lifeline,” “volunteers” “for the rescue
of mankind,” building “my hope on nothing less than Jesus Christ” and
“cling[ing] to that old rugged cross” “on a hill far away.” The theme
running through many of the old hymns is what I will do. I will
throw, climb, volunteer, hope and cling. Those are fine things to
sing about, but I have a very strong preference for contemporary
praise songs because, in general, they praise God. They are focused
more on God than on me. Our lesson this week is about this idea of
living a life that focuses on praising God rather than focuses on our
problems. Is that possible? Can we look past our personal pain and
praise God? Let’s dive in and see what we can find out!
- Blocked and Disappointed
- Read Acts 16:6-10. Paul runs into a closed door! Why would
the Holy Spirit prevent Paul from preaching in Asia? (God
had a different preaching plan in mind.)
- If you made plans to open up a new territory for the
gospel and God slammed the door shut, how would you
- Read Acts 16:12-15. What is unusual about Paul’s audience?
(They are all women! In Acts 16:9 it was a man who begged
Paul to come to Macedonia, but when Paul and his
companions get there, they find only women.)
- How do you think this made Paul feel? (The whole
thing seems odd. God steers him in a different
direction, and when he arrives he finds only women.
According to The Bible Exposition Commentary, the
contemporary attitude of the rabbis was reflected in
this statement: “It is better that the words of the
Law be burned than be delivered to a woman.” I’ll
assume that Paul did not have this attitude
( Galatians 3:28), but it surely would not be an
inspiring start for Paul to be speaking only to
- Annoyed and Frustrated
- Read Acts 16:16-17. Here is a woman with a “spirit” that
can tell the future and promotes the kingdom of heaven by
doing public relations for Paul. This spirit is right in
the place the Holy Spirit has directed that Paul go.
Consistent with his past fortunes here, it is a woman. Is
this a good or bad thing? A good or bad spirit?
- If you say “bad” (as you will), how do you explain
that this woman/this spirit was promoting the kingdom
- What does this teach you about hastily making a
judgment on whether a person is motivated by the
Holy Spirit or Satan’s spirit helper?
- Adam Clarke’s Commentary has a great insight on
the reason why this was bad for Paul’s ministry.
He says that the Jews knew that they should
steer clear of this woman because of the Old
Testament warning against “familiar spirits.”
It would ruin Paul’s work for the Jews if it
appeared that Paul and his friends were in
league with evil spirits. It would ruin Paul’s
work for the Gentiles if they were confused
about whether Paul’s work was just an extension
of the work of this demon-possessed woman. So,
things are getting worse, not better, for Paul
- Read Acts 16:18. Is Paul annoyed about the noise or is he
annoyed about the dilution of the gospel? (Several
translations use the term “annoyed” which seems to me to
be more than just unhappy about the dilution of the gospel
message. Paul is irritated by this woman.)
- Why didn’t Paul cast out this demon at the very
beginning? Why wait several days? Why wait until his
patience runs out? (The answer is in our next text.)
- Unfairly Treated and Beaten
- Read Acts 16:19-21. Analyze the charges brought against
Paul and Silas. Do they “fit” the “crime?”
- Is there an attempt to prejudice the crowd? (Yes,
they call them “Jews.” Acts 18:2 reveals that Emperor
Claudius had driven the Jews out of Rome.)
- Are Paul and Silas disturbing the peace? (It seems
“their girl” was disturbing the peace with her
- What unlawful customs were Paul and Silas advocating?
(Most likely this charge is that they were promoting
an unlawful religion. The Bible Knowledge Commentary
points out that the local officials probably did not
know the difference between Judaism and Christianity,
but neither was an approved Roman religion. It was
unlawful to try to proselytize Roman citizens.)
- Why not just say, “These guys interfered with our
business by ruining our fortune teller?” (This was
not ordinary commerce. This was “otherworldly.” In
that context, the rulers might think this was a clash
between two unapproved religions. If it got down to
that, you would realize that Paul and Silas had the
more powerful God. Why get into that mess, who wants
to oppose what might be a powerful god?)
- Read Acts 16:22-23. Is this fair? (This is mob rule. The
crowd joins in, and without any hearing Paul and Silas are
stripped and whipped. So much for due process of law.)
- How serious was their whipping? (The Bible says they
were “severely flogged.” They were hurt very badly.)
- Read Acts 16:24. Is there any justification for this? (The
whole thing is ridiculous from a human point of view.
They have done nothing dangerous. They are severely
whipped without a trial. They are then treated like
dangerous criminals. The jailor, of course, knows nothing
different. He is just following orders.)
- What would cause this whole terrible sequence of events to
make logical sense? (Paul has attacked one of Satan’s
demons. In that context, the rough punishment makes sense.
Satan’s forces inspired the rough treatment.)
- Imagine having the flesh of your back and bottom severely
lacerated. Then you get your feet put in stocks so you
cannot move around. This might force you to lay in the
dirt on your badly damaged back. How would you feel?
- The Power of Praise in Terrible Times
- Read Acts 16:25. Would you feel like singing? Praising
- Would you be blaming God for this rough treatment?
- Read Job 35:9-10. Think about this a minute. This
whole trip is one big mistake. You wanted to go
somewhere else. God lead you to this town. There, you
find only women. Nevertheless, you are obeying and
spreading the gospel. Completely false charges are
brought against you. Your “trial” is very unjust.
The punishment is worse. Why would God drop you in
this terrible place and then forget about you?
- Would this be cause for praising or complaining?
- Would you be asking for God to execute judgment
on those who hurt you?
- Would you be asking God about His planning?
- Why were they singing and praising? (A Commentary,
Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New
Testaments suggests, based on the Greek word used,
that they were singing the same hymn as Jesus and the
disciples sang at the Last Supper. This consisted at
least of Psalms 113:1-118:29. Take a few minutes and
read these Psalms. They are rejoicing to be suffering
like their Master. They are looking forward to the
victory of God.)
- Read Acts 16:26-28. Just when they are praising God in the
worst situation, God comes on the scene. Why wouldn’t Paul
and Silas take this as God’s sign they should run away?
(They might have, but Paul is still focused first on
saving souls. That includes the soul of this rough
- Why would the rest of the prisoners “be there?”
(Notice in Acts 16:25 they were listening to Paul and
Silas singing praises. Apparently, Paul had captured
- Read Acts 16:29-34. Who else was apparently listening to
Paul and Silas? (The jailer and his family!)
- Friend, think for a minute about how things would have
turned out differently if Paul and Silas had laid in the
dirt complaining! Will you determine that, whatever your
situation, you will praise God?
- Next Week: Meekness in the Crucible.