Lesson 38: Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey (Continued/Conversion of the Philippian Jailor)
Hi, our last lesson we left Paul and Silas in jail at Philippi. Paul was grieved because a certain damsel having a spirit of divination followed them and harassed them. After Paul cast that spirit out of her; her masters became very angry and "caught." Paul and Silas and caused them to be put into jail, the inner prison. They were beaten with many stripes and their feet were made fast in the stocks. We'll .begin this lesson in verse 25 of Acts 16. But before we read, let me ask you: Where was the HOLY SPIRIT? Someone might ask, why didn't they use miraculous powers to release, themselves? Where was the HOLY SPIRIT? Well. He was there AND He was in control. But, so far as we know such powers were used ONLY to teach and confirm the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Well now, how did casting the spirit out of this fortune telling slave girl, by miraculous powers, help confirm or spread the gospel? Well, it had its effect. And, we are not told how many were looking on or abetting that situation, thus, we don't know the answer to that question. But the apostles never used such powers one time to save their own necks, or to heal their own diseases. After all, the HOLY SPIRIT acted and manifested Himself through the apostles, and the HOLY SPIRIT was a personage of the Godhead. We have discussed this before. The apostles understood and cooperated with the HOLY SPIRIT but the apostles did not control, or make any attempt to control the HOLY SPIRIT, because the HOLY SPIRIT was in control. It was not something they could turn on or off like a light bulb. Paul and Silas knew, that, if the circumstance became absolutely intolerable, i.e. beyond that they could bear, then the HOLY SPIRIT being in control, would make any corrections necessary. This apostle, feeing and remembering the sting at that hour, conveyed this very thought to the Corinthian disciples at a later time. He said; "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful who suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (I Cor. 10:13}. You see, God has placed a limit upon the intensity of pain YOU and I can endure. When we reach that limitation, some way of escape will be provided. THAT is a promise! First of all, we have a built in breaker, a sort of pain-o-stat (if there is such a word}. When it trips, we faint, black out or lose consciousness. Those nerve cells, that carry pain, stop reporting to the brain. The body relaxes and gives the other systems of the body time to catch up: before we resume consciousness. In extreme circumstances, the heart stops beating, and our spirit is rescued from the body. Of course, that is called death: separation of the soul from the physical body; but the promise is kept. I God...will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." Paul and Silas knew this. They were willing to suffer to the limit, just like those twelve apostles WERE when they were released by the council in Acts 5:41. It says: "they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." Paul and Silas knew they were suffering shame for the name of Jesus. This honor sustained them; WHERE those with no hope would have lapsed into disheartened despondency and dejection, becoming angry, losing all rationality, and retaliating with any hostility they could muster. If Paul and Silas had been put into prison at 4:00 P.M. midnight would have been eight hours of torture. Let's read verse 25-28. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his steep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here." I can understand Paul and Silas praying, that would come naturally to most of us under the circumstances. But, singing? I think I would have found it very difficult. Perhaps after many hours, they had become so numb, in such a stupor, the pain may have subsided somewhat. They sang praises to God! Can you fathom that? Most people would have blamed God for their predicament. Oh! God why me? But these men PRAISED GOD! They understood their mission and they were willing to sacrifice every ounce of life, if need be. Their songs penetrated the darkness and filtered through the prison bars to influence other prisoners. What did they sing? We don't know! Which hymn would you have selected? "Standing on the promises" -or- "Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home! It doesn't say that, but I think the implication is there; the HOLY SPIRIT and divine providence had a part in that earthquake. Suddenly! The prison shook! The doors came open. Their fetters came loose. No one was hurt. A miracle within itself. Did you notice? The Jailer was sleeping? It doesn't say he was having pleasant dreams; but undoubtedly he began that feeling all was secure; THAT nothing could give freedom to those prisoners but he, himself. There is something frightening about an earthquake. Something different, rumble and roar! We don't know what this quake would have registered on our Richter scale. But it was ENOUGH to accomplish what God wanted. That Jailer was shaken from his sleep; and he was shaken in thought. Any subconscious fears he might have had of his own execution resulting from escaped prisoners must have suddenly terrified him. He understood that if a prisoner escaped, the jailer was responsible with his own life. As sudden as the earthquake, his own life became his major concern. He must have from his own quarters, peering into the darkness; he could see the prison doors were open. He must have thought, "Oh! No! All the prisoners are gone!" In such a moment of terror he must have been TALKING to himself. I suppose, Paul and the other prisoners being inside the jail; had become more acclimated to the light and could see the jailer was going to commit suicide. Thus, Paul "cried with a loud voice" (verse 28) "Do thyself no harm: for we are all here." Perhaps the earthquake frightened the prisoners as much as it did the jailer. VERSE 29-30, let's read: "Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" This is a sudden twist! Panic gave way to investigation. The jailer obtained a torch or some kind of light, perhaps through the help of another member of his household. "He called for a light" it says. And seeing even the silhouette of those prisoners in the night was assurance enough (to this Philippian official) to break his spirit. He was suddenly humbled, realizing HIS worst fears were put to rest. WHY would such a trembling man fall down before Paul and Silas? He KNEW they were godly men! He KNEW they had been mistreated! Whether he had heard the singing that penetrated the night or not, we do not know. It says other prisoners heard it. At least, the Jailer had learned the DAY BEFORE that Paul and Silas were preachers. And, whether the earthquake was of divine origin or not the jailer must have thought so. He had a sudden urge to obey God. He had a change of heart. He brought these two preachers out of the jail, verse 30 says. And he inquired, undoubtedly in the humblest of terms: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" He was pleading: tell me! Tell me! He had decided in his heart, he was going to make a change. He was willing to conform his life to truth and right, whatever IS right. Now, back up just a moment, analyze with me, if you will isn't this man's actions! Essentially described by the definition of repentance? He was willing to change his mind and his actions but he did not know what to "Sirs, what must I that many people reform their life as a result of some similar earth shaking event in their life? Is there anything wrong with that? Obviously not! But, not everyone is SO fortunate as to have an apostle of Christ standing by to answer the question: "Sirs, what must I do? It's unfortunate but at such a critical moment, many react to false doctrines to be enslaved forever. Now, here is another case of conversion. Tune it in sharp! What will Paul and Silas tell this man? He wants to be saved. We have studied those five steps several times now. We have heard essentially, this question before. On Pentecost day, "They were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and Brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37) Isn't that the same question? Do you remember this preacher, Paul, when he was converted? He was called Saul (i.e. the destroyer) at that time. He was on his way to Damascus; a bright light blinded him AND he fell to the ground trembling and asked "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Isn't that the same question? O.K. it's your turn. What should Paul and Silas tell this Philippian Jailer, who asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" He understands it's a MUST, but what is it? What MUST he do? The book of Acts is called the book of conversions. That's why we study the book: to learn by example what the inspired apostles and early Christians taught. What was the will of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? I've said it before: all examples of conversion in the Christian age are in this book, the book of Acts. Now, if you WERE to ask this question today in the 20th century,) you could probably get forty-eleven different answers; depending on the religious, theological, experts that you ask what
their general conference had decided and written in their creed books. Which answer do we want? Twentieth century theological opinions? -or- the NEW TESTAMENT will of Jesus Christ? I think the answer is obvious. And the book of Acts is it "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Have you got the answer? Peter told those people on Pentecost: "Repent and be Baptize, ...in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." Paul, telling his own story, quoted Ananias, the preacher, in Acts 22:16 as saying: "Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." O.K. what did Paul and Silas tell the jailer? Let's read it, verse 31-32. "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house". And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. "Now, may I ask you (you figure it out), the same question is asked three times by different people on different occasions. Three different preachers answer the same question, Peter on Pentecost, Ananias to Paul, and Paul and Silas to the Philippian jailer. Now, is there agreement? Obviously, if all three preachers were guided by the same HOLY SPIRIT (and they were!), then, all three answers must agree. Why did one answer say: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ...here in Acts 16:31 AND another: "Repent and be baptized." that's Acts 2:38; and still another "Arise and be baptized". Well, I think you see the answer. We have talked about those five steps before: Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess, and be baptized. We have said: these are the only five steps mentioned In the Bible to become a NEW TESTAMENT Christian. Why do the answers vary? Well, you see, the answer depends upon where you ARE when you, ask that question. For example, assume you get in an elevator on the first floor and ask the elevator operator: "How many floors to the top, sir?" And his answer is, "five." Then, a little lady gets on at the second floor and asks the same operator the same question, "How many floors at the top sir? And he answers "four". A little bald man with a big fat wife both get on at the third floor and this little bald man asks the same elevator operator, "How many floors to the top, sir?" And that same operator answers, "Three." Now, he has given three different people, with exactly the same question three different answers. You say, "Yes, but all three answers were right." And, you are exactly right. You see, the correct answer depends upon where YOU ARE when you ask the question. You see, the people on Pentecost had heard of Jesus Christ and his claim to be the Messiah. After Peter preached to them on that Sunday morning, they believed Jesus' claim that he was the Son of God. And by their question, they showed that they were willing to speak out and convey their belief to others, i.e. in a sense they confessed Jesus was the Christ. When they asked: "What shall we do? (i.e. what they lacked) Peter said: Repent and be Baptized. Why didn't Peter tell them to hear the gospel? Well, you say, they had already heard that! AND you are right. Why didn't Peter tell them to believe in Jesus? And, you will say, they already believed. AND you are right. Again, why didn't Peter tell them to confess that Jesus is Lord? And your answer is, we have just said: the circumstances were such that when they asked the question they were admitting that Jesus Christ is God's Son. But, they had NOT repented and they had not been baptized for the remission of sins. So, what did Peter tell them? You got it! And you better believe it! What about Paul? When Paul saw the light on the Road to Damascus and he fell to the ground trembling, he realized: I Stephen was right, Jesus IS the Christ. Thus, Paul had heard and suddenly he believed. Paul changed his mind and decided to follow the Lord. He prayed and didn't eat a thing for three days. He must have confessed Jesus many times to those in the house of Judas on Straight Street back at Damascus during that three days. Then Ananias, the preacher, received a message from the Lord. He knew Paul's state. Paul had heard, believed, repented, and mare that confession. Thus all he needed was to be baptized. That's what Ananias told Paul to do: "Arise and be baptized", which he did. Now, what about the Philippian Jailer? Had he heard the gospel? Well, he may have heard some of it, we don't know. But apparently he did not understand enough because Paul and Silas: "spake unto him the word of the Lord." See it there in verse 32? He and his household were taught the gospel by Paul and Silas, i.e. Jesus Christ WAS and IS God's Son. Jesus died for our sins on the cross of Calvary. He was buried. He arose again the third day. He is now reigning on God's throne in heaven. Thus, these preachers explained the plan of salvation: repentance, confession, baptism, and the necessity of faithfulness all of one's life. Now, when they had conveyed that message, the jailer had heard, step one. They tpjd the jailer, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved..." that's verse 31. And that is step #two. Did the jailer believe? Did Paul and Silas tell the jailer to be baptized for the remission of sins? This text doesn't say they did. But, it is obvious they did teach baptism. Let's read verse 33-34, "And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house." The jailer gave first aid to Paul and Silas. That is, he washed their stripes where they were whipped and beaten the day before. Does that have anything to do with repentance? The jailer had sure changed his attitude from a few hours before. There's a good sermon right here, but I won't preach it now. Did you notice in verse 33, the jailer TOOK them some place to wash their stripes. Undoubtedly, where the water was. After the jailer had washed their backs, this jailer was baptized by the preachers. Also, others in the Jailer's household were baptized. And that's all we know about the others. This case cannot be used to prove infant baptism, just as the household of Lydia, CANNOT. Did you notice the word "straightway" at the end of verse 33? That simply means there was no hesitation. They didn't waste any time. When the jailer and his household learned what to do, they did it. After this heathen jailer was buried in a watery grave of baptism, in the middle of the night, verse 34 indicates the jailer set food before Paul and Silas. Can you visualize this breakfast in the wee hours of the morning? Enthusiasm? The conversation? They rejoiced, believing in God, it says. AND that confirms step # 2, doesn't it? What an ordeal! hi less than 24 hours these preachers were arrested, whipped imprisoned, an earthquake, more converts, breakfast in the wee hours, and NOW back to prison. You see, as much as he might have liked to, this jailer had no right to release these prisoners. The jailer was charged by the magistrates to keep these prisoners safely. And, as much as these preachers would have liked to return to their boarding house at Lydia's place and enjoyed her hospitality, they went back to prison. Oh! They shouldn't have been there. They were beaten, illegally. But, does that give them the right to escape prison? No sir! The Bible teaches us to obey civil laws...for conscious sake...Rom. 13:5. Does this mean they didn't have any rights? They were Roman citizens! Their rights had been violated; they had been beaten beyond their control. Should they sue for punitive damages? I'm not a lawyer, but I would assume they would have had a pretty good case, even under Roman law. Does this teach us to waive all our civil rights! Refuse protection from the government? Certainly not! Somebody will say: why didn't they just tell the magistrates they were Roman citizens? And prevent this mess? Well, who says they didn't? At least try? Undoubtedly they did! But, you know mobs don't listen or reason. The magistrates made a mistake. They over-reacted, trying to silence the mob. Did Paul and Silas have a legitimate complaint? Sure they did! But what can be done behind bars? Should they appeal to Caesar? How would you handle it? I'll give you some time to think about it. Have a good day! But, hurry back to lesson # 39.