Saturday, October 10, 2015

Imprisoned to Set the Captives Free

Acts 16:16-34

What a wonderful story of triumph over travesty this section of scripture depicts.  Wonderful truths we can apply to our lives today live in these sentences.  A glimpse into a moment in the lives of Paul and Silas; can they forever change how we view events in our own lives?

16- Now it happened as we went to prayer that a certain slave girl, possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune telling.

Most of us today would expect that we are entitled to enjoy the favor and protection of God from any and all annoyances, especially when we are ‘about the work of the ministry’.  Certainly it is a good and godly thing to go to prayer!  Surely God would keep us from harm when we are about His business, won’t He?

So much of the feel good teaching in our western churches would leave us all with that impression.  But the truth is far from that rosy painted picture we’ve been distracted with.  The truth is that it is exactly when we are about the Fathers business that we find ourselves the target of the devil. That’s when he is trying hardest to fool, deceive and trick us into thinking we have “earned” something from God and therefore we misinterpret many evil events as being of God.  Take a look at the next verse.

17- This girl followed Paul and us and cried out saying “These men are the servants of the Most High God who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18- And this she did for many days.  But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her”  And he came out that very hour.

I am willing to step out in faith here and declare that most of us would think someone, anyone, proclaiming that we are speaking the truth of God would be a wonderful thing!  We’d probably puff out our chests a little bit and think to ourselves, “how great, even this possessed creature recognizes what great men or women of God we really are!”  Our church leaders would grin idiotically while we shared the story as a Praise Report at our next church meeting.  They might even brag a little about how proud they are that we were so publicly recognized, and did we remember to mention which church we attended and who our Pastor is?

But Paul was not fooled into trusting what his flesh experienced.  He was walking by the Spirit and not by his sight.  Paul realized and spiritually discerned that any declaration made from a platform of evil intent could not be “turned to good” but would result ultimately in something ungodly; something worldly that would have the form and appearance of godliness but would not be godly!

While surely God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28) God does not allow evil to stand in order to bring about good!

Next, Paul and Silas are rewarded by men for their good deed of heading off to prayer and taking the time to deliver a young girl from devil spirit possession.  THEY ARE THROWN IN JAIL!

A quick read of the rest of the story shows the stark contrast between living by the flesh; our thoughts, feelings and desires as opposed to living by the Spirit.  Paul and Silas sing hymns and praise God, in spite of the dark circumstances of having been beaten and then being chained and sitting in muck in a dungeon.

Then it appears God initiates their freedom from this unrighteous bondage!  An earthquake, and the prison doors are wrenched open and miraculously, the chains are loosed from every prisoner!  They can all run free!  That “miracle” must be Gods will, right?


If the prisoners had all fled, it would have cost the jailer and his whole family their lives.  When God initiates action, there is positive profit to the lives of all involved.

Thank God Paul and Silas had the spiritual discernment to understand what was happening.  They restrained all the prisoners from escaping, and then saved the life of the jailer.

27- And the keeper of the prison, awakening from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.

Paul calls out and lets him know that all the prisoners, not just he and Silas, but all the prisoners, are still there and accounted for.  In the face of such a truly Godly miracle, men willing to be obedient to the Lord even at their own peril and seemingly in the face of Gods provision for their escape, the jailer falls down trembling and asks “What must I do to be saved?”

God truly does work all things together for good for those who LOVE HIM and are called according to His purpose.  Gods purpose has been mis-taught and misinterpreted for far too long!  Gods purpose is not our creature comforts and to bless us with all worldly increase.  Gods purpose is to accomplish the salvation of all men!  (ITimothy2:4) His purpose is for each of us to bear fruit to His glory!  (Matthew 3:8-10; Luke 3:8, John 15:2)

32- 34 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes.  And immediately he and all his family were baptized.  Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

As a result of Paul and Silas walking by the Spirit and NOT by the flesh, this man and maybe another dozen or so souls were saved!  Fruit was borne that truly glorifies the Father and accomplished His will which is that ALL MEN SHOULD BE SAVED AND COME UNTO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH!

God loves His people; so much so that He sent His only begotten Son into the world to DIE as a substitute and final sacrifice to set His people free from SIN.  So we would once again have the privilege of Eternal Life with Him, a privilege lost when SIN caused Adam and Eve to fall from grace.  A privilege the Father went to great lengths to restore because of His great love. 

The grace of God extends so much further than material stuff and physical comforts.  The grace of God cost such a high price; what it bought is of far greater worth than momentary worldly conveniences.  

What it bought and paid for is your eternal life and mine!