Chapters 16-18 by Sister Mary Core, OSB
Due to the death of our beloved Sister Peggy last week, I canceled our book club meeting. But with this installment, we are now caught up!
In chapter 16 Paul and Silas are joined by Timothy at Lystra and they move quickly through the region to the coastal city of Troas. The indication is that they were prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching in other provinces of Asia Minor. Why?
It may be a way of showing the urgency with which Paul is to move toward Macedonia (current day Greece). The man in his vision or dream clearly represents the Greek people Paul is called to evangelize. The use of the terms “at once,” “a straight run,” and use of the first person “we” all give a sense of urgency to the passages.
The introduction of “we” is very interesting: it may indicate that Luke, the author of Acts, has now joined the party.
Once they arrive in Macedonia, Paul and his companions move quickly to Philippi, where on the Sabbath they meet and baptize Lydia, a successful businesswoman from Thyatira. After becoming a follower of this “Way,” Lydia opens her home to Paul. They accept her invitation. Her home will become one of the early “house churches” in Europe.
Paul, seeking to proclaim the Word, is followed by a slave woman who uses ventriloquism to heckle him. Her words of accusation are really the truth, as she calls out: “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.”
Annoyed with her continued presence, Paul orders the spirit to come out of her. Because this ends her ability to make money for her owners, Paul and Silas are brought before the Roman magistrates who have them stripped, beaten and thrown into prison.
When an earthquake occurs during the night, the jail doors are opened and the chains of the prisoners are broken. The jailer – fearing punishment if the prisoners have escaped – is about to commit suicide, when Paul calls to him, “Do not harm yourself for we are all here.” So amazed is the jailer that he seeks salvation for himself and his entire household.
The next day when the magistrates try to quietly get Paul and Silas out of town, Paul asks for a public apology for having been imprisoned without a trial (the right of a Roman citizen). After an apology and a stop at the home of Lydia, Paul and companions head for Thessalonica.
The scene in Thessalonica is a classic example of how a few can stir a group into mob action. Jason, probably a Christian with whom Paul was staying, becomes the target when Paul can’t be found. He is dragged before officials, fined, and then released.
That night Paul and his companions are sent to Beroea where they have success in proclaiming the Word. However, the Jews of Thessalonica hear of Paul teaching in Beroea and go there to incite a riot against him.
Paul is given safe passage to Athens while Silas and Timothy remain behind with instructions to come to Athens as soon as possible.
Paul, waiting in Athens, becomes aware of the many idols and statues of gods and goddesses in the city. He takes the opportunity to speak to the men at the Areopagus. Using Greek religious beliefs to speak of God and Jesus, Paul preaches to the Athenians. Some are convinced and others intrigued by the concept of resurrection from the dead.
Paul presses on to Corinth where he finds lodging (and probably work) with a Jewish Christian couple, Priscilla and Aquila.
Paul fails to convince the Jews of Corinth, so turns to the Gentiles and finds a willing audience. The Jews once more attack Paul and want him punished, but the Roman tribunal, not wanting to get involved, dismisses Paul.
After a lengthy stay in Corinth, Paul – accompanied by Aquila and Priscilla – heads back to Antioch by way of Ephesus. There, we are introduced to a Christian named Apollos. New to the faith, but enthusiastic to spread the word, Priscilla and Aquila teach him. Then, encouraged by the Christian community, Apollos goes to Achaia to proclaim the Good News. This Apollos will be mentioned again in the Letters of Paul.
Upon Reflection …
Often we think only men were instrumental in the spread of the faith, but Lydia and Priscilla are shown to be dynamic women in the early church … and they would not have been the only ones!
What would their lives as Christians have been like? How might they – as women – have responded to the danger to their homes, families and lives?
Would you have opened your home to strangers? Would you have hosted a house church?
How do you, as a Christian woman or man, respond to the challenges in your life (and the world) today?
For Closer Study…
1. Why did Paul have Timothy circumcised? (16: 1-3) Doesn’t this seem a contradiction since at the same time he was telling the people to observe the decision handed down by the Church in Jerusalem? (16:4-5)
2. Why does it appear that Paul is so set on getting to Macedonia, (present day Greece) and into the area of what is Europe today?
3. The 2nd journey could have been as long as 10 years, yet it seems we are almost racing from one city to the next. What is Luke’s focus/intent in chapters?
4. Do you have any insights about Paul, after his encounter with the slave woman ventriloquist?
5. What is the reason for mentioning Paul’s “haircut” in chapter 18:18? Check out “Nazirite vow” in Numbers 6:1-21 and 1 Maccabees 3:49.
6. The story of Apollos which is added at the end of Chapter 18 must have some meaning. What is its purpose?
Next Week: Chapters 19-20