Households & Promises
There is a passage in Philippians which is important to the text of Acts 16. In the concluding statements of Philippians Paul says, “Caesar’s Household Greets You Guys.” What a statement! Caesar’s Household was his Administration. These are men of influence and power.
Now to Acts 16 where we are told that Philippi is a Roman Colony. A city of retired Roman Military. Lydia the Lydian is here doing business with her Household: which could be her family, but they aren’t actually mentioned anywhere in the text. It could be nothing more than het staff. You see in the Roman world one’s “household” included slaves, and anyone else associated with the authority of the “dominus” or Lord.
As Paul and Silas preach, they are shouted at by the young girl which the Greek text says has the spirit of a Python. This places her squarely with the Temple at Delphi. Its very possible that she is a Pythones Priestess. Paul casts out the spirit, then he and Silas are drug before the town military authorities in the market where it is stated that they are teaching things that no Roman can legally embrace and that these men were Jews. “They are Jews!” The Roman military, and the Roman world knew that the Jews had been a great bother for the order of the empire. Jerusalem was a constant Hot-Spot for the Roman Military. Now this Roman Colony of retired and patriotic retired military hears these words. Grabbed, stripped, beaten, thrown into maximum security at the prison, and placed in stocks,they were out of the way.
Paul and Silas were singing hymns to God. I wonder if they were singing about the one who has come to set the captives free when the earthquake freed everyone in the prison. All the doors were opened and all restraints fell off. The prisoners had perhaps a live demonstration of the message in music.
The military jailor runs in, pulls his military sword, and Paul yells “Stop!” As a soldier his life is forfeit if he looses a prisoner under his responsibility.
Now we get to the thick of it. Two phrases are easily misread.
“What must I do to be saved,” the jailor says. The problem here is that he does not know the full meaning of these words. How could he. Paul says “believe on the Lord Jesus (Christ) and you shall be saved AND YOUR HOUSEHOLD. Then Paul preaches the meaning of his words. He did not stop with words which may not be understood. So he preached and explained to the jailor and his household the godpel.
“and your household.” These words have been claimed for “Headship-Salvation.” i.e. the kids are saved because of the father. But the “household” is in the Roman world not just the kids but also the slaves and staff. It is also at times a business or government with its staff. Here it is not the house of his family, but seems to be his office and staff. Like “Caesar’s House” or “household” this man also brings in his prison staff to hear Paul. All of the staff could forfeit their lives for being involved in the supposed prison-break.
So here is the gospel in business with a Lydian woman, in government with magistrates and prisons, in the market with the competing Python Maiden, and among prisoners. No wonder Jesus told them not to go to Asia (Turkey, etc.) and actually blocked them. They had work to do in Philippi with “households.”
One other note. Historically a community had to have ten Jewish families to form a Synagogue. The Jewish Proselyte Lydia was meeting at the river, as was Paul and his team because this was tradition in such matters. Paul and his team simply were faithful to their task regardless of location. So must we be. He that is faithful in little is faithful in much (Luke 16:10). There is great success in little things. They define what we will do with big things.
May you lead your “household” whether at home, in business, in government, or in anything into faithfulness.
This article was published with written permission of the author, Dr. Dennis Dickinson of Whitestone Christian Fellowship and the Charnock Institute of the Bible.