What does Acts 16:39 mean?
ESV: So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city.
NIV: They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city.
NASB: and they came and pleaded with them, and when they had led them out, they repeatedly asked them to leave the city.
CSB: So they came to appease them, and escorting them from prison, they urged them to leave town.
NLT: So they came to the jail and apologized to them. Then they brought them out and begged them to leave the city.
KJV: And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.
NKJV: Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city.
Verse Commentary:
Christians are to obey their governments (1 Peter 2:13–14). God established government to uphold order (Romans 13:1–7). If a law goes against God's instruction, Christians are free to ignore that law, but they should expect to pay the cost. Christians should anticipate persecution as they follow Jesus (John 15:18–20). All those concepts are true, and important. What is also true and important is that Christians are justified to take advantage of their rights and to demand just treatment under the law.

Men from Philippi with a grudge against Paul and Silas have accused them of breaking the law. Magistrates have the two beaten with metal rods and imprisoned (Acts 16:19–24). The next morning, they send police to throw the prisoners out of town. They have just learned their terrible mistake: Paul and Silas are Roman citizens (Acts 16:35–37). Everything the magistrates have done is a federal crime.

When charged with a crime short of treason, Roman citizens were to be placed under house arrest until trial. They were not to be beaten, bound, imprisoned, or forcibly expelled from a Roman city, such as Philippi. Paul and Silas demanded that the magistrates publicly acknowledge their crime and apologize. They do not demand the magistrates be punished for their crime, and they do not demand to stay in Philippi.

Peter writes instructions which apply here. Servants are to be respectful, even to masters who are unjust. They are to endure unjust treatment graciously, as Christ did. They are not to echo their oppressors' insults and condemnation, but to trust God for ultimate judgment (1 Peter 2:18–23).

The rules apply to Paul and Silas before the Philippian magistrates and to us in the face of our own governing authorities. Paul and Silas show respect for themselves and the Roman law and mercy toward their oppressors. They will peacefully and voluntarily leave the city. In so doing, it's likely they protect and inspire the young church in Philippi. Paul will be able to return to Philippi twice (Acts 20:1–2, 6) and the church there remains a blessing to him as he continues his ministry (Philippians 4:10).
Verse Context:
Acts 16:25–40 records Paul's first imprisonment. The Philippian magistrates arrested Paul and Silas and had them beaten for spreading the news about Jesus. The two are now chained in a cell, praying and singing to God. An earthquake shakes the prison, releasing all the doors and chains. Paul assures the jailer no one has left, and the jailer tends to the pair's wounds. They share Jesus' offer of forgiveness of sins, and the jailer and his household accept Christ. In the morning, the magistrates attempt to release Paul and Silas, only to be confronted with their own crime: they have illegally punished two Roman citizens. After apologizing, the magistrates ask Paul and Silas to leave town.
Chapter Summary:
Acts 16 follows Paul and Silas as they take the letter of Acts 15 into modern-day Asia Minor and Macedonia. They collect Timothy in Lystra and Luke in Troas. In Philippi, they meet Lydia and baptize her family. After expelling a demon from a fortune-telling girl, city officials illegally beat and imprison Paul and Silas. An earthquake frees them of their chains, but they stay and bring the jailer and his family to Christ. The next morning, Paul and Silas refuse to leave quietly, politely insisting that their civil rights have been violated. The officials apologize, and Paul, Silas, and Timothy go to Thessalonica.
Chapter Context:
Acts 15 ends with Paul and Silas spreading the news that Gentile Christians don't have to be circumcised. Acts 16 begins with Paul circumcising a Jewish man, Timothy, to prevent difficulties in preaching to older Jews as the boy grows into church leadership. Paul's second missionary trip finds the church growing east, into Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth (Acts 16:11—18:18). On his way back to Syrian Antioch, Paul will stop by Ephesus and soften the Jews for the extended ministry of Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos. During his first trip, Paul planted churches and ordained elders; in his second, he commissions more missionaries.
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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