ACTS – Acts of God
Think about a time when you moved to another area of the country…or even another country. What do you notice first? Others in your new place of residence do not always do or say things they way you do. People who live in the culture see right away that you are different, too. You might question why, but there might not be an answer other than, “We’ve always done it this way.”
Now think about a time when you are settling into your new surroundings and you see that people do not know Jesus. When you talk about him, they don’t know what you’re talking about. So, you show them by the way God lives in and through you. God will take the lead. When He does, a difference can be seen and heard.
Paul and Silas are visiting the city of Philippi, a Roman colony. That is important to today’s story…that Paul is a Roman citizen. After church by the river, they go into town to the place of prayer. They are harassed by a slave girl, full of demons who use her to tell fortunes. Her owners love what she does and uses her as a side show act to make money. God’s Holy Spirit who now owns Paul put a stop to this demonic act and saves the girl from her abuse of satan and her owners. The peace of the culture was disturbed. This resulted in the “outsiders”, Paul and Silas, to be thrown into jail.
Acts 16, The Message
Beat Up and Thrown in Jail
16-18 One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. She started following Paul around, calling everyone’s attention to us by yelling out, “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!” She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” And it was gone, just like that.
19-22 When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. Then the police arrested them and pulled them into a court with the accusation, “These men are disturbing the peace—dangerous Jewish agitators subverting our Roman law and order.” By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood.
22-24 The judges went along with the mob, had Paul and Silas’s clothes ripped off and ordered a public beating. After beating them black-and-blue, they threw them into jail, telling the jailkeeper to put them under heavy guard so there would be no chance of escape. He did just that—threw them into the maximum security cell in the jail and clamped leg irons on them.
25-26 Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose.
27-28 Startled from sleep, the jailer saw all the doors swinging loose on their hinges. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he pulled out his sword and was about to do himself in, figuring he was as good as dead anyway, when Paul stopped him: “Don’t do that! We’re all still here! Nobody’s run away!”
29-31 The jailer got a torch and ran inside. Badly shaken, he collapsed in front of Paul and Silas. He led them out of the jail and asked, “Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?” They said, “Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you’ll live as you were meant to live—and everyone in your house included!”
32-34 They went on to spell out in detail the story of the Master—the entire family got in on this part. They never did get to bed that night. The jailer made them feel at home, dressed their wounds, and then—he couldn’t wait till morning!—was baptized, he and everyone in his family. There in his home, he had food set out for a festive meal. It was a night to remember: He and his entire family had put their trust in God; everyone in the house was in on the celebration.
35-36 At daybreak, the court judges sent officers with the instructions, “Release these men.” The jailer gave Paul the message, “The judges sent word that you’re free to go on your way. Congratulations! Go in peace!”
37 But Paul wouldn’t budge. He told the officers, “They beat us up in public and threw us in jail, Roman citizens in good standing! And now they want to get us out of the way on the sly without anyone knowing? Nothing doing! If they want us out of here, let them come themselves and lead us out in broad daylight.”
38-40 When the officers reported this, the judges panicked. They had no idea that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. They hurried over and apologized, personally escorted them from the jail, and then asked them if they wouldn’t please leave the city. Walking out of the jail, Paul and Silas went straight to Lydia’s house, saw their friends again, encouraged them in the faith, and only then went on their way.
What do we learn?
–A slave girl was abused by satan and her owners.
–Paul, in the name of Jesus, heals her. She is transformed but is now of no use to her owners.
–Plot twist: Instead of bemoaning their time in jail, they prayed and sang robust hymns to God!
–Earthquake cause the jail doors to open. No prisoners escaped.
–The witness of Paul and Silas resulted in a “night to remember” with the jailer pleading with them, “Sirs, what do I do to be saved, to really live?” Best question ever!
–The jailer invites Paul and Silas to his house so that his whole family could hear the story of Jesus. The whole household is saved by grace.
–Another plot twist: Jail time resulted in a great celebration of salvation!
–The court judges release them, but Paul reminds them that he is a Roman citizen. Judges are embarrassed so wants them to leave town.
–Paul and Silas go, instead, to Lydia’s house to encourage them in the faith.
Dear Heavenly Father,
May we always have the attitude of joy and thanksgiving no matter what the circumstance. Transform us to be and do all you intended. In the toughest times, it could turn out to be a night to remember!
In Jesus Name, Amen