Event(s): Paul and Silas imprisoned; The Philippian Jailer is saved; Paul refuses to depart secretly
Today’s Text: Acts 16:16-40
Tomorrow’s Text: Acts 17:1-15
Paul and Silas continue on their journey ministering. This, Paul’s second missionary journey again brings persecution, injustice, physical beatings and imprisonment. It’s staggering to see how undaunted he was. And while he was an incredibly brilliant and driven person, we must remember that it’s the presence of the Holy Spirit in him that enabled him to live in such a bold manner.
Acts 16:17 “These men are the servants of the Most High God…” Was the message this girl declaring true? Yes. However, what was influencing her declaration – the motive behind it – was impure. Truth and fact are not always the same. In this case, the spirit within her was looking to identify itself with and attach itself to what was true in order to distort it and bring deception.
Acts 16:19 “but when her servant masters saw that their hope of profit was gone…” Paul recognized the gift in others and released them into their calling. These leaders recognized this girl’s ability, but twisted it, exploiting her for their own gain. She was not valued as a person, she was only valued for the profit she brought them.
Acts 16:25 “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” “The world is watching Christians, and when they see Christians shaken by circumstances as they themselves, they conclude that after all there is very little to Christianity; but when they find Christians rising above circumstances and glorying in the Lord even in deepest trial, then even the unsaved realize the Christian has something in knowing Christ to which they are strangers.” Harry A. Ironside, Theologian
Acts 16:28 “But Paul called with a loud voice…” Again, we see another example of Paul restraining his freedom for the sake of another. He could have left the prison without a second thought about what would happen to the keeper, the man who had beaten them mercilessly, treating them as dangerous criminals. However, knowing that their escape would have cost the keeper his life, Paul remained. We can’t be sure exactly why everyone else in the prison also remained; however, it is likely that the power of the moment caused an awe and amazement of all who were there.
Acts 16:33 “he took them..and washed their stripes.” A very natural byproduct of true repentance is a humble, loving desire to make restitution wherever we have caused hurt or harm.
Acts 16:31 “…you and your household.” Personal salvation always depends on personal belief. However, as much as God celebrates even one person coming to salvation, He always has entire family units in mind.
If we can go back to our reference of “the kingdom of heaven is like leaven” which we’ve woven throughout this study, we get an idea of how an entire household can be saved as a result of one coming to Christ. Especially in the context of a home, where those who live in such close proximity know each other so well, to see such radical life change in someone is attractive. It’s contagious. A person who is walking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit has the ability to literally change the spiritual atmosphere of a home. But again, each person must still respond individually to Jesus and acknowledge Him as Lord.
Acts 16:37 “No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.” The Roman government guaranteed its citizens a public trial and freedom from degrading punishment such as beatings. Paul was now able to use his (and Silas’) citizenship to their advantage. The demands he was making were not from a place of trying to get personal revenge or make a point; he was no doubt doing this for the continued progress of the gospel.
Having lost virtually everything they owned in a fire, the Spafford family made new plans, including a move from Chicago to France. Horatio Spafford planned the trip for his wife and four daughters to be as trouble-free as possible. To transport them from America to France, he booked passage on a huge ship, and made sure they had Christians with whom to fellowship in route. He planned to join them a few weeks later.
In spite of much careful preparation, Mr. Spafford’s plans suddenly dissolved when the ship carrying his loved ones was rammed by another vessel and sank, carrying his four beloved daughters to the bottom. His wife arrived in Wales safely nine days later and telegraphed her husband the awful news that all four of their children had drowned. Spafford left Chicago to go and bring his wife home. As they cross the Atlantic, the captain came and told him when they were passing over the spot where his daughters had died. At that place, Horatio Spafford took a pen and paper and wrote these words while passing over the spot where his daughters perished:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It took great faith for Horatio Spafford to write those words. God took the worse prison experience of his life and turned it into a prison of praise and hope. Paul and Silas found themselves in a difficult prison of oppression and suffering. In that prison they experienced the great grace of God. They received everything they needed to transform a prison of pain into a prison of praise.
Being able to have this kind of response in the midst of trial is not about us trying to conjure up something in our own strength. It’s about accessing the presence of God to such a degree that it transforms us, our words, and the song of the heart. As His presence permeates our very being, and starts to overflow, it also begins to affect the atmosphere around us. Whenever we face a trial, or are dealing with an unsettling circumstance that may be causing anxiety in our soul, let us practice accessing His presence through praise and remain there until we can faithfully declare, “it is well with my soul.” The song of our heart in these moments will not just be a strength to us, but it will be a witness to those around us.