New Defender's Study Bible Notes
16:13 wont to be made. Paul normally went first to a local synagogue when he arrived in a new city, but apparently there was none in Philippi. Since a group of only ten active men was required to constitute a synagogue, there must have been only a very small Jewish population there. The only such religious activity on the weekly Sabbath was apparently a ladies’ prayer meeting, so that was where Paul headed. Despite this unpromising beginning, this gathering became the nucleus of the first Christian church in Europe.
16:14 Lydia. Lydia was not a Jewish woman but, as a native of Thyatira, had evidently attended the synagogue there and become one of the worshippers of God in their congregation. When she heard the gospel, the Lord opened her heart and she believed—another example where divine election and human freedom are naturally juxtaposed.
16:15 her household. Lydia’s “household” consisted apparently of her servants. There is no indication that she was either married or a widow.
16:16 spirit of divination. The “spirit of divination” was actually a “pythonic spirit,” so named because of the legendary serpent slain by Apollo, who supposedly was the god of prophecy.
16:17 the most high God. The continual harangue by the girl, referring to “the most high God,” designed to produce ridicule and resentment against Paul, showed that her “spirit of divination” was actually a demonic spirit. Compare the experience of Jesus, whom they recognized as God, with such evil spirits (e.g., Matthew 8:31-32; Mark 1:24).
16:20 being Jews. The obvious prejudice against Jews displayed here by the citizenry and officials against Jews perhaps accounts for the minimal Jewish population in such a large city as Philippi.
16:26 a great earthquake. This was a notable miracle of providence, as distinct from creation miracles such as Paul’s restoration to life after stoning. There is nothing supernatural about earthquakes. However, the rate of occurrence of earthquakes in Philippian jails where Christian missionaries who had been unjustly imprisoned and beaten, yet were singing and praying and praising God at midnight, is very low! God—and no doubt His angels as well—can surely control the rate, timing and location of the processes of nature which He created.
16:30 what must I do. In such a city as Philippi, so thoroughly committed to pantheistic occultism and so antipathetic to Jewish monotheism, it would take a notable testimonial miracle to provide a breakthrough for the gospel among its Greek citizenry. The jailer immediately recognized that such a miracle had occurred, and that these men were, indeed, as the evil spirit in the damsel had proclaimed, “servants of the Most High God,” who could show him “the way of salvation.” Hence his question.
16:31 and thy house. It is noteworthy that Paul promised the salvation, not of the jailer only, but also all his “house,” if he would believe on Christ. Similarly God long ago told Noah: “Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (Genesis 7:1). Paul proceeded to speak to the jailer “the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house” (Acts 16:32), and they all believed and were baptized. Even though each had to believe individually, they did believe, just as Paul had promised. In some way we cannot comprehend, God works in such a way that, when a father believes and faithfully obeys the Lord, sooner or later, his children will come as well.
16:38 they were Romans. Paul’s father in Tarsus evidently had been awarded Roman citizenship for services to the state, so Paul (and presumably Silas) had been born with such citizenship. This involved many privileges and protections established in Roman law.