"Showing the way, Teaching the truth,
Experiencing the life in Christ"
Timothy Joins the Missionary Team
(Acts 16:1, NKJV)
“Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.”
During our previous lesson from the Book of Acts, we watched as Paul and Barnabas had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. In the aftermath of their conflict, Paul chose Silas and traveled through Syria and Cilicia on a discipleship ministry to the churches that had been planted on the first missionary journey. Luke described the scene when he wrote, “Paul chose Silas and departed…And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 16:40a…41, NKJV).
Paul evidently realized that evangelism alone isn’t enough. He and Barnabas had done evangelism during their first journey and hundreds of people had believed in Jesus. But now he sensed that these new believers needed to be discipled so they would become consistent, devoted followers of Jesus. That must have been Paul’s primary focus on this second missionary journey. Luke wrote, “As they went through the cities…the churches were strengthened in the faith” (Acts 16:4a…5a, NKJV).
After all, Jesus had said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV). It isn’t enough to simply make “converts”—people who only believe in Jesus. He commanded His people to make “disciples”—people who consistently follow Jesus!
II. The Story
The story of Timothy joining the missionary team of Paul and Silas begins with a bold statement both introducing and describing Timothy. Luke wrote, “Then he [Paul] came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1, NKJV).
Timothy evidently grew up in one of the twin cities of “Derbe and Lystra.” By the time Paul and Silas arrived there during the early weeks of the second missionary journey, Timothy has already become a “disciple.”
He was probably a “convert” of Paul and Barnabas as a result of their ministry at “Derbe and Lystra” during the first missionary journey. If so, early in his Christian experience, he would have witnessed Paul being stoned and left for dead at Lystra, God raising Him up, and his going back into the city to spend the night, and then preaching at Derbe, just across town from the residence of the people who had just attempted to execute him. Luke described this horrific scene when he wrote, “They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples” (Acts 14:19b-21, NKJV). No doubt, witnessing this event made a deep impression on young Timothy; and Paul, because of his “I-just-won’t-quit” attitude, earned the respect of this young “convert!”
During the months that had passed between the end of the first missionary journey and the beginning of the second missionary journey, Timothy had grown in the faith to the point that the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to describe him as “a certain disciple”—a consistent, devoted follower of Jesus. He is no longer a “convert.” He is now a “disciple!”
Even though, Timothy is a “disciple,” he still has a few disadvantages that hinder his ability to engage in effective ministry. Luke alluded to one of them when he described Timothy as, “The son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek” (Acts 16:1b, NKJV). Timothy was from a mixed marriage in a culture, the Jewish culture, where mixed marriages were frowned upon. His mother was a Jew and his father was a Gentile.
On one occasion Paul wrote this to Timothy, “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:15, NKJV). His mother was a devout enough Jew that she and her mother did teach Timothy the Scriptures from the time he was a small child, but she was not so devout as to refuse to marry a Gentile.
At some point, possibly during Paul’s ministry at “Derbe and Lystra,” she became a believer. Luke described her as “A certain Jewish woman who believed” (Acts 16:1b, NKJV). On another occasion Paul described her faith, along with the faith of her mother, as if he was personally involved in evangelizing her. He wrote, “I thank God… when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also (II Timothy 1:3a…5, NKJV). He knew that Timothy’s grandmother was saved first, then his mother, then Timothy himself. She was evidently a much better Christian than she had been a Jew!
Timothy was not only a “disciple,” he also had a good reputation among the believers at “Derbe and Lystra.” Luke wrote, “He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2, NKJV). His character was so good and his reputation so well known that Paul wanted him to join the missionary team. Luke wrote, “Paul wanted to have him go on with him” (Acts 16:3a, NKJV).
The disadvantage Timothy faced was that his Gentile father had evidently refused to have his half-Jewish-son circumcised according to the Jewish Law. So Timothy’s spiritual credibility among the Jewish population of “Derbe and Lystra” was diminished. In order to help Timothy overcome that social disadvantage, Paul convinced Timothy, a young man of about 16-18 years of age, to undergo circumcision. Luke wrote, “He [Paul] took him [Timothy] and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek” (Acts 16:3b, NKJV). The Jewish population of that region would then consider Timothy a respectable Jew and would be more likely to listen to what he had to say. His evangelistic effectiveness would be enhanced. Unpleasant personal sacrifices are sometimes necessary in order to engage in effective ministry!
By undergoing circumcision Timothy was following the personal ministry philosophy of Paul who later wrote, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews… I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake” (I Corinthians 9:20…22b-23a, NKJV). Timothy was willing to accommodate the misguided social and religious ideas of non-believers in order to more effectively evangelize and disciple them… even if it meant undergoing circumcision as a young adult!
When God adds men to a ministry team who are so focused on making an eternal impact on the lives of people that they are willing to accommodate their misguided social and religious ideas, churches are strengthened and people are saved. Luke wrote, “As they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith [that’s discipleship], and increased in number daily [that’s evangelism]” (Acts 16:4-5, NKJV).
Discovering the Will of God:
The Missionary Team Goes to Macedonia
(Acts 16:9, NKJV)
“A vision appeared to Paul in the night.
A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying,
‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’”
During our previous lessons from the Book of Acts, we saw Paul team up with Silas to begin his second missionary journey. Luke wrote, “Paul chose Silas and departed… And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:40a…41, NKJV).
When they reached Derbe and Lystra, at Paul’s request, Timothy joined the missionary team. Luke wrote, “He came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy…Paul wanted to have him go on with him” (Acts 16:1a…3, NKJV).
Leaving Derbe and Lystra, the three missionaries—Paul, Silas, and Timothy—travel through the district of “Phrygia” and the “region of Galatia” before attempting to move into “Asia” [actually Asia Minor, not to be confused with the continent of Asia]. Luke described this part of their journey when he wrote, “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6, NKJV). Asia Minor is the peninsula on the Western edge of the continent of Asia between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea where modern day Turkey is located.
II. A One-Step-at-a-Time Process
At this point the story gets really interesting. The missionaries had left Derbe and Lystra from the east travelling west. They passed through Galatia and then through Phrygia when suddenly the Holy Spirit forbid them to preach anywhere in Asia Minor. By the way, both Galatia and Phrygia were in Asia Minor.
So they continued travelling due west until they reached Mysia. Then they considered turning north toward Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let them do it. Luke wrote, “After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them” (Acts 16:7, NKJV).
They had come from the east, God wouldn’t let them go north, and the Mediterranean Sea lie to the south; so there was only one thing to do. They continued travelling west until they reached the coastal city of Troas. Luke wrote, “So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas” (Acts 16:8, NKJV).
Troas was a port city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. From there the missionaries could have taken ship and headed to dozens of different places. So at that point, God told Paul exactly where he wanted them to go. Luke wrote, “A vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’” (Acts 16:9, NKJV). An important spiritual lesson to learn from Paul’s experience at Troas is: “God often reveals His will to His people on a need to know basis!” Sometimes discovering God’s will is a one step at a time process.
After passing through Galatia & Phrygia, all the missionaries needed to know was that there ministry was not to be in Asia Minor. At Mysia, all they needed to know was that they were not to turn north toward Bithynia. So there was only one practical decision to make—continue traveling west. If they turned south, they would wade off into the Mediterranean Sea! But when they arrived at Troas, they needed specific direction, because from Troas they could have boarded ship and ended up in dozens of different places. So God gave Paul a vision directing him to go to Macedonia, and Paul got the message. Luke wrote, “Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:10, NKJV).
III. Desiring God’s Will
It is apparent that Paul had a deep desire to do God’s will. After all, the very reason he had completed one dangerous missionary journey and was currently on his second journey was his pursuit of God’s will. That was what God had called him to do. Luke described Paul’s calling when he wrote, “Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2b, NKJV).
When God gave Paul a night-time vision, he interpreted it as a revelation of His will—indicating where the missionary team should go next. Luke wrote, “Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:10, NKJV).
An important spiritual lesson to learn from this experience in Paul’s life is: “Whether or not we do God’s will is determined, to a large degree, by how deeply we desire God’s will!” That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9b-10, KJV). The more you pray for God’s will the greater your desire for God’s will becomes. Jesus set the example of praying for God’s will a few short hours before His crucifixion when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42, KJV).
IV. Not Always Easily Identified
The missionaries evidently thought it was God’s will for them to preach in Asia Minor, but they were wrong. If that were not the case, it would not have been necessary for the Holy Spirit to forbid them to preach there. Luke wrote, “They were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6b, NKJV). It would seem a bit ridiculous to forbid someone to do something they weren’t planning to do.
While at Mysia they thought it was God’s will for them to preach in Bithynia, but again, they were wrong. Luke wrote, “After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them” (Acts 16:7, NKJV).
Seeing no other feasible course of action, they continued to travel west until they reached Troas. At Troas, with God’s help, they accurately identified His will. Luke wrote, “A vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’” (Acts 16:9, NKJV). Entering Macedonia they would be taking the Gospel to Europe! It was God’s will for them to be the first Christian missionaries to preach in Europe, but they almost missed God’s will twice before they final identified it. An important spiritual lesson to learn from these events is: “God’s will is not always easily identified; but when the time is right, He will reveal it to you!” God wants you to know His will more intensely than you could ever want to know it.
As we do the will of God, He sometimes takes into situations designed to correct some of our social and cultural hang-ups so that we can more effectively do His will in the future. Paul, as a devout Jew and member of the sect of the Pharisees would have adopted a worldview that placed little value on the humanity of three distinct categories of people—women, slaves, and Gentiles.
It is ironic that as He followed God’s will by preaching the Gospel in Macedonia, his first three converts were a woman, a slave-girl, and a Gentile! The woman was Lydia. Her story is recorded in Acts 16:11-15. The slave-girl’s story is recorded in Acts 16:16-24. The Gentile was the jailer at Philippi. His story is recorded in Acts 16:25-34.
An important spiritual lesson to learn from Paul’s early missionary ministry in Macedonia is: “As we do God’s will He begins to work in us to change us so that we can more effectively do His will in the future!” That is at least part of what Paul must have had in mind when he wrote, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13, NLT).
Lydia: Paul’s First European Convert
(Acts 16:14, NKJV)
“A certain woman named Lydia heard us.
She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God.
The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”
At the conclusion of our last lesson from the Book of Acts we left Paul and his missionary companions in the city of Troas where they planned to board a ship in route to “Macedonia.” Luke wrote, “A vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:9-10, NKJV).
After brief stops at “Samothrace” and “Neapolis,” the missionary team reached the city of “Philippi” where they became the first Christian missionaries to preach the “Good News” on the continent of Europe and Lydia became Paul’s first European convert! Luke wrote, “Sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days” (Acts 16:11-12, NKJV).
True to his character, Paul and the missionary team immediately began to go to the places in Philippi where the people were. On their first Sabbath in the city—by the way that was a Saturday—they attended a women’s riverside prayer meeting. Luke wrote, “On the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there” (Acts 16:13, NKJV).
The fact that this prayer meeting was held on the Sabbath Day indicates that it was a prayer meeting for Jewish women. We know that it was a women’s prayer meeting because Luke wrote, “We sat down and spoke to the women who met there” (Acts 16:13b, NKJV). It is then safe to conclude that Lydia, Paul’s First European Convert, was a Jewish woman.
II. A Snapshot of Lydia
God inspired Luke to give us a snapshot of Lydia and Paul’s interaction with her. He wrote, “A certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14, NKJV). We can learn two important spiritual lessons from Luke’s snapshot of Lydia.
The first important spiritual lesson is: “Non-believers must hear the Word of God in order to be saved!” Luke wrote, “A certain woman named Lydia heard us” (Acts 16:14a, NKJV). Jesus confirmed this spiritual lesson when He said, “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:25, KJV).
The fact that people cannot be saved without hearing God’s Word is what motivated Jesus to tell His disciples to preach the Good News to everyone. He said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15, NIV).
The second important spiritual lesson is: “Jesus must open the hearts of non-believers in order for them to respond positively to His Word!” Notice how Luke described Lydia’s experience—“The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14, NKJV).
Jesus working in the hearts of non-believers is part of the process of their being drawn to Him to be saved. Jesus said, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32, NIV).
Jesus’ ministry of drawing people to Himself to be saved is at least part of what He was describing when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV).
III. Immediate Obedience & Involvement
As Luke continued to write he gave us a quick overview of Lydia’s life immediately after she became a believer. He wrote, “When she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So she persuaded us” (Acts 16:15, NKJV).
Another important spiritual lesson we can learn from Lydia’s conversion experience is: “Authentic believers are willing to get baptized immediately after they are saved!” Luke wrote, “When she and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15a, NKJV). There was immediate obedience on Lydia’s part! She was saved and then was “baptized” which is the first act of obedience God asks of every believer.
Not only did Lydia get saved and baptized, she also influenced her family to do the same. Luke wrote, “When she and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15a, NKJV). I call that “household salvation!” God likes it when entire families get saved and become obedient to Him.
Lydia evidently became a witness for Jesus immediately after she became a believer. That shouldn’t be surprising. After all, that is God’s plan for every believer. Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV).
Soon after her conversion, Lydia also developed a strong desire for involvement in ministry. She wanted to contribute in whatever way she could to the ongoing ministry of the missionary team in her city. Luke wrote, “She begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So she persuaded us” (Acts 16:15, NKJV). There were many things she couldn’t do, but what she could do was provide lodging for the missionary team. So she did what God had equipped and enabled her to do.
An important spiritual lesson we can learn from Lydia is: “Authentic believers are willing to get involved in ministry in whatever ways God has equipped and enabled them to do so!” After all, Jesus set the example for us. Matthew wrote, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, KJV). By the way, the word “minister” simply means “to serve.” Lydia served the missionary team by providing lodging for them in her home so they could serve the people of Philippi by preaching the “Good News” to them!
When God reveals His will, Christians should never hesitate to obey and get involved! Although sometimes we do, because we aren’t convinced that we have everything we need to get the job done. We don’t have enough people. We don’t have enough space. We don’t have enough money. The list goes on and on. An important spiritual lesson to learn is: “We don’t have everything we need to do God’s will, but He does; and He is more than willing to give it to us when the time is right!” That’s what Paul meant when he wrote, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NKJV).
Here at The Open Door Church we have seen God supply money to purchase food for the “Food Pantry.” We have seen Him supply more clothing than we can give away for the “Clothes Closet.” We have seen Him provide a building to house the “Food Pantry” and “Clothes Closet” ministries. We have seen Him provide $75,000.00 for the construction of a new building to house our Children’s Ministry so we can launch Freedom House in “The Big House.” And we have seen Him provide people, Gary and Susan Smith, who have the experience and skill needed to operate Freedom House. I think we can claim Paul’s promise, “My God shall supply all your need!” (Philippians 4:19a, NKJV).
The Demon-Possessed Slave Girl:
Paul’s Second European Convert
(Acts 16:16, NKJV)
“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.”
The section of the Book of Acts that we will examine today introduces us to Paul’s second European convert—a demon-possessed slave girl. Luke began the story of her conversion by writing, “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” (Acts 16:16, NKJV).
In order to understand the story about this “slave girl,” we need to accurately answer a couple of important questions—“Who are these evil spirits?” and “Where did they come from?” To answer these questions we must review some important Biblical background material. So here goes…
Who are they? Both the Old and New Testaments document the reality of evil spirits that we called demons. During His ministry on Earth, Jesus repeatedly encountered these spirit creatures. Matthew wrote, “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick” (Matthew 8:16, NIV).
In Scripture demons are consistently portrayed as evil spirits seeking to infiltrate and take control of the bodies of human beings in an effort to destroy them. A clear example of this fact was recorded by Matthew when he wrote, “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. ‘Lord, have mercy on my son,’ he said. ‘He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.’ ‘O unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’ Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment” (Matthew 17:14-18, NIV). This demon had obviously taken control of the boy’s body and was attempting to destroy him.
Where did they come from? In order to accurately answer this question, we need to go all the way back to the Book of Genesis and briefly review what the Bible teaches about creation. Moses wrote, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2, NIV).
In order to correctly understand these two verses we know that in the Hebrew language there are no “being” verbs. Therefore, we must examine the phrase, “Now the earth was formless and empty” (Genesis 1:2a, NIV). The Hebrew word translated “was” is “hayah” and literally means “became.” The phrase actually reads, “Now the earth became formless and empty.”
The same Hebrew verb is used to describe what happened to Lot’s wife. Moses wrote, “Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26, NIV). This verb indicates a change in condition, and this is a significant factor in accurately understanding the first two verses of Genesis chapter one.
When Moses wrote, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, NIV), he was saying that God created a wonderful, perfect creation; but then something terrible happened to God’s wonderful creation causing it to “become” formless and empty. That is what Moses was describing when he wrote, “Now the earth was [became] formless and empty” (Genesis 1:2a, NIV).
The cosmic that event that virtually destroyed God’s original creation is commonly called the angelic conflict. Lucifer, the archangel rebelled against God and attempted to overthrow Him and set himself up as God. As a result war broke out in heaven and Lucifer was thrown out of heaven and became the evil creature that we call Satan. Isaiah described the scene when he wrote, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12-14, NKJV).
Jesus described this same event when He said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18, NIV). When Satan fell “like lightning” from heaven, the result was the virtual destruction of God’s original creation. That’s why Moses wrote, “Now the earth was [became] formless and empty” (Genesis 1:2a, NIV). Then God spent six days reconstructing His “formless and empty” world. That is the story recorded in Genesis 1:3-31. This rebuilt world is the world in which we live today.
God created the original world “to be inhabited.” Isaiah wrote, “Thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited” (Isaiah 45:18, NKJV). We do not know exactly what kind of creatures inhabited the original world, but the fact that it was created “to be inhabited” provides a logical explanation for the prehistoric fossils buried deep beneath the surface of the world in which we live.
When God’s original creation was suddenly destroyed during the angelic conflict, the bodies of these prehistoric creatures were destroyed and their spirits were left in a disembodied state. These disembodied spirits of a prehistoric race of creatures are the demons who roam around in the world in which we live looking for bodies to inhabit. In fact, they can’t find “rest” until they have infiltrated and taken control of a body. Jesus said, “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none” (Matthew 12:43, NKJV).
It was one of these evil “unclean spirits” that had infiltrated and taken control of the body of the “slave girl” in today’s story from the Book of Acts.
II. The Slave Girl
There are two significant facts to notice about this “slave girl.” First, she was “possessed with a spirit of divination.” Second she was engaged in “fortune-telling.” Let’s briefly examine exactly what each of these things mean.
A Spirit of Divination. There are different kinds of evil spirits. When Jesus’ disciples were unable to drive an evil spirit from a tormented boy, they asked Him why they couldn’t drive it out. His reply was, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21, NKJV). Luke described the particular “kind” of evil spirit that had infiltrated the body of the slave girl when he wrote, “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us” (Acts 16:16a, NKJV).
The word “divination” is translated from a Greek word which means “to foresee.” To practice “divination” is to reveal hidden knowledge about the future by supernatural means. The spirit that had possessed this slave girl enabled her to do exactly that—she could tell people what would happen in their future.
Fortune-telling. We commonly call divination “fortune-telling.” Luke described this girl as, “A certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination…who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling” (Acts 16:16b, NKJV). From ancient times, people have used “divination” to get knowledge about the future. It is practiced today by people who claim supernatural power to reveal the future by reading palms, tea leaves, tarot cards, Zodiac signs, etc. There are evil spirits who can give people the supernatural ability to practice “divination”—to predict the future. This slave girl “brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling!”
God’s view of “divination” was revealed by Moses when he wrote, “Let no one be found among you…who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft… Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:10a…10b…12, NKJV). “Divination” is “detestable to the Lord.”
If you have ever consulted with a fortune-teller, or had your palm read, or relied on Zodiac signs, or used a Ouija Board, or participated in a séance in order to learn about your future, then you need to confess to the Lord and seek His forgiveness—because those things are “detestable to the Lord.” John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness [including the sin of ‘divination’]” (I John 1:9, NKJV).
The Demon-Possessed Slave Girl:
A Clear Case of Spiritual Warfare
(Acts 16:17, NKJV)
“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.’”
In our last lesson from the Book of Acts, Luke introduced us to Paul’s second European convert—a demon-possessed slave girl. Luke began the story by writing, “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” (Acts 16:16, NKJV). We talked about the reality of demons, the origin of demons, and the agenda of demons.
In this lesson we will learn a few valuable facts about spiritual warfare from the story of this demon-possessed slave girl. By the way, when I talk about “spiritual warfare,” I am talking about the fact that Satan has declared war against the Lord Jesus, His people, and everything He stands for. Jesus described Satan’s declaration of war when he said, “The thief [referring to Satan and his demons] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10a, NKJV).
By the way, the spiritual warfare that erupted at Philippi during the ministry of the missionaries in that city was about more than the soul of the slave girl. It was about the spiritual well-being of an entire city. God wanted a church there and the Devil didn’t want it there!
II. Demons Know the Truth
Demons actually know the truth. In fact, as sad as it is, they are more familiar with the truth than many contemporary Christians. Notice what the demon that possessed this slave girl motivated her to say: “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. And this she did for many days’” (Acts 16:17-18a, NKJV). Did you get that? This demon knew that the message preached by Paul and his fellow missionaries was true, and they stated that fact through the words of this slave girl.
What the demon said was true—“These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17b, NKJV). Satan and his demons often speak words that are true, but only when they want to use a statement of truth to confuse or deceive people.
Remember, Satan’s agenda is deception. John referred to him as the one “who deceives the whole world.” Describing a yet future eviction of Satan from heaven, John wrote, “The great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9a, NKJV).
In the case of the slave girl, the demon who had infiltrated her body and taken control of her was attempting to make it appear that he was in league with the missionaries. This deception would have discredited the missionaries in the minds of the people of Philippi who knew that this “spirit of divination” had been commercialized by her owners into a lucrative business enterprise. Luke wrote as if these facts were common knowledge in Philippi—“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” (Acts 16:16, NKJV).
An important spiritual lesson we can learn from the story of this demon-possessed slave girl is: “There are some people whose verbal endorsement you don’t want!” It can be counter-productive in the long run. Paul’s response to the continuing “testimony” of this demon on his behalf indicates that he understood the potential damage of this demonic “testimony.” In fact, this “testimony” from the demon “greatly annoyed” Paul. Luke wrote, “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” (Acts 16:18b, NKJV).
III. Satan Often Resorts to “Plan B”
When “Plan A” fails, Satan often resorts to “Plan B.” Failing to hinder the success of the missionaries by a truthful, yet damaging, “testimony” from a demon, Satan shifted to the use of purely human opposition to stop the preaching of the missionaries. Luke wrote, “When her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, ‘These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.’ Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:19-24, NKJV). When the demon lost the battle on the spiritual front which was “Plan A,” he launched a new offensive on the human front…”Plan B.” Luke described this new offensive when he wrote, “The multitude rose up together against them” (Acts 16:22a, NKJV).
The owners of the formerly possessed slave girl, whether they realized it or not, did exactly as Satan wanted them to do. They used emotionally charged words to instigate the people of Philippi to mob action! They said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe” (Acts 16:20b-21, NKJV). Buried beneath the surface of this explosive accusation was racism—“Jews” verses “Romans.” Racist attitudes have been used by Satan to hinder the work of God’s kingdom since the very dawn of human history…and it is still going on today!
Driven by “wrath,” which is nothing more than unrestrained anger, the mob joined the slave owners in their opposition to the missionaries, and even the judges of the city court were caught up in the frenzy. Notice again how Luke told the story: “The multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely” (Acts 16:22-23, NKJV).
An important spiritual lesson to learn is: “Man’s ‘wrath’ never motivates him to do the right thing!” James wrote, “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20, NKJV).
IV. Neither Demons nor People Can Frustrate God’s Plan
I’m sure Satan thought he had frustrated God’s plan when the missionaries were placed in the city jail’s maximum security cell. Luke described the scene when he wrote, “Having received such a charge, he [the jailer] put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:24, NKJV).
However, God’s plan was not frustrated. He had sent the missionaries to Philippi to start a church. And during their unexpected incarceration, the missionaries evangelized and baptized the jailer and his entire family. We’ll examine that story next week, but for now let me read you a couple of key verses: “He brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house… And immediately he and all his family were baptized” (Acts 16:30-32…33b, NKJV). Thus the church at Philippi was launched with Lydia the business woman, a formerly demon-possessed slave girl, and the jailer’s family as charter members. An important spiritual lesson to learn is: “The Devil and all the demons and people he can recruit can never prevent God from working His plan!”
The conclusion is clear. The Devil can’t stop God because God is bigger and more powerful than the Devil and all the help he can get. We get a vivid glimpse of that fact in this story about the demon-possessed slave girl. Look again at what Luke wrote, “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” (Acts 16:18b, NKJV). When Jesus decides it’s time for the demon to go…the demon goes!
The power of Jesus over the Devil, his demons, and his people is at least part of what John was referring to when he wrote, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4b, NKJV).
The Philippian Jailer:
Persecution that Led to Prayer & Praise
(Acts 16:29-30, NIV)
“The jailer called for lights,
rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.
He then brought them out and asked,
‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’”
Let’s begin this lesson from the Book of Acts with a little review. When we last saw Paul and Silas they had been arrested for casting a demon out of a slave girl, stripped naked, beaten severely, thrown into the worst section of the worst prison imaginable, and placed in a nightmarish torture device. Luke described the unfolding of these events when he wrote, “The magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:22b-24, NIV).
Persecution led to praise and praise unleashed the power of God in the prison at Philippi… because God wanted to save the jailer. Luke communicated the climax of the story when he wrote, “The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.
He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’” (Acts 16:29-30, NIV).
The story of the Philippian jailer’s conversion is naturally divided into three sections: Persecution, Prayer & Praise, and Power. In this lesson we will briefly examine Persecution and Prayer & Praise. Then in our next lesson we will examine the Power of God.
The first act of persecution against the missionaries was designed to humiliate them. Luke wrote, “The magistrates ordered them to be stripped” (Acts 16:22b, NIV). In major Roman cities, like Philippi, the city judges hired a band of degenerate men to carry out the sentences of the court which usually included prisoners being beaten with wooden rods. This was so much a part of their duties that these men were commonly called “rod-bearers.”
In preparation for their beating the city judges ordered the “rod bearers” to tear off the clothes of the missionaries so as to expose their naked bodies. The Greek word translated “stripped” emphasizes the roughness with which their clothing was torn from their bodies.
The second act of persecution against the missionaries inflicted physical injury. Luke wrote, “The magistrates ordered them to be…beaten with rods” (Acts 16:22b, NIV). Luke described their beating as being “severely flogged,” which means that they received the maximum number of blows allowed by Roman law—forty! This brutal beating would have left open, bleeding wounds on the back of the missionaries. Paul was beaten with rods “three times” during his missionary career. He wrote to the church at Corinth, “Three times I was beaten with rods” (II Corinthians 11:25a, NIV).
The third act of persecution against the missionaries was intended to cause a slow, miserable death. Luke wrote, “They were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully” (Acts 16:23b, NIV). The Roman prison in Philippi was not much more than pit dug into the side of a hill, with a roof and a narrow opening across the front right at ground level that provided only minimal ventilation and through which family and friends could throw food to the prisoners. There were no toilet facilities and no provision for cleaning out the human waste that accumulated from the hundreds of men incarcerated there. Into this rat-infested breeding ground for disease the missionaries were thrown with bleeding wounds on their backs—a sure path to disease and a slow, miserable death.
The fourth act of persecution against the missionaries resulted because the jailer had been commanded to guard them carefully. Therefore, “He put them in the inner cell” (Acts 16:24b, NIV). “The inner cell” was the portion of the prison that was buried deepest into the hillside from which there was no possibility of escape. It was also farthest from any light or ventilation. Humanly speaking, there was no chance of survival for men with open wounds on their bodies when locked away into “the inner cell.”
The fifth and final act of persecution against the missionaries was an added security measure that was also designed to inflict as much physical trauma and suffering as possible. Luke wrote, “He…fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:24c, NIV). “The stocks” was an instrument of both confinement and torture. Made of wood and iron with shackles for the feet, it was adjustable so the prisoner’s legs could be kept spread as far apart as possible without dislocating the hips, which often happened anyway. With his feet “fastened…in the stocks” all a prisoner could do was lay flat of his back and stare into the darkness of “the inner cell.”
III. Prayer & Praise
Suddenly in the midst of the darkness of “the inner cell” with its foul odors of disease and death, strange and unexpected sounds began to resonate through the thick, putrid air. Softly at first and then louder as they continued—Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God! Luke wrote, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25, NIV).
Prayer. If there was ever a circumstance that demanded prayer, Paul and Silas were certainly right in the middle of it. Maybe Paul was reminiscing about this incident in his missionary career when he wrote, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV).
No doubt, the missionaries knew that something big needed to be done if they were going to survive this ordeal, so they prayed. Paul and Silas had probably heard James say things like “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b, NIV).
Those two guys probably remembered stories they had heard about Jesus preaching the “Sermon on the Mount,” during which He had said, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen’” (Matthew 6:9-13, NIV). Did you notice that casually hidden in the opening line of Jesus’ lesson on prayer are the three words “you should pray?”
Imagine Paul and Silas laying, legs painfully spread in the stocks, the eerie sounds of disease and death all around them when Silas asks, “What are we going to do?” and Paul replies, “I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I know what you should do—“you should pray!”
Praise. The only interruptions in the prayers of the missionaries were “hymns” that burst forth from their hearts intermittently. Luke described this scene when he wrote, “About midnight [the darkest hour of the night] Paul and Silas were…singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25, NIV). The word used by Luke and translated “hymns” refers to a specific set of six Psalms (Psalms 113:1-118:29) that were traditionally sung by Jews during their Passover celebrations. These Psalms are literally stuffed full of praise to God. So in the darkness of “midnight” resonating from “the inner cell,” there was prayer and praise, prayer and praise, prayer and praise!
Do you know why I think they started praising God in the middle of these horrible circumstances? They knew they needed God to show up right where they were, and as devout Jewish men, they would have known that God shows up when His people praise Him. King David declared that God actually inhabits the praise of His people. He wrote, “You are holy,
you who inhabit the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3, WEB). Did you get that? God lives within the praise of His people. That means that whenever and wherever His people praise Him God is there. No wonder King David concluded the Book of Psalms with this statement: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6, NIV).
When God’s people praise Him, He shows up…and when He shows up, things happen—open hearts, earthquakes, freedom, deliverance, and salvation! In short, the power of God is present…but we’ll talk about that next week.
If we want God to show up in our circumstance, whether those circumstances are good or bad, we need to pray and praise!
God listens when we pray. Ezra wrote, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (II Chronicles 7:14, NKJV).
God shows up when we praise. King David wrote, “You are holy, you who inhabit the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3, WEB).
The Philippian Jailer:
Paul’s Third European Convert
(Acts 16:29-30, NIV)
“The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.
He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’”
During our previous lesson from the Book of Acts we watched as the missionaries were mercilessly persecuted, but that persecution led to praise & worship. Their praise & worship unleashed the power of God in the prison at Philippi… because God wanted to save the jailer. Luke communicated the climax of the story when he wrote, “The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’” (Acts 16:29-30, NIV).
The story of the Philippian jailer’s conversion is naturally divided into three sections: Persecution, Prayer & Praise, and Power. In our last lesson we briefly examined the missionaries’ persecution and their prayer & praise. In this lesson we will examine how the power of God brought about the conversion of the Philippian jailer—Paul’s third European convert!
II. The Power of God
God is always present when His people are willing to do His will—regardless of what it is. Jesus made that remarkable promise when He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV).
As long as His people are doing what He wants them to do—in this case “make disciples”—then we can rest in the promise of His presence. He said, “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20b, NIV).
Whenever God is present His power is available. Jesus had already assured His disciples of the availability of His “power” when He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV).
Jesus clearly told His disciples what to do with God’s “power.” He said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8b, NKJV). Let’s examine how God displayed His “power” in the jail at Philippi.
The Actions of His Missionaries. First, He set His “power” on display through the actions of His missionaries. Even though they were incarcerated “in the inner prison” lying flat on their backs staring up into the darkness with their feet “fastened…in the stocks,” the missionaries were worshiping rather than complaining! Luke wrote, “At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25a, NKJV). It takes the “power” of God for His people to worship rather than complain—especially when we are in less than ideal circumstances!
A Listening Audience. God’s “power” was also displayed in the behavior of the other prisoners. It isn’t natural for non-believers to want to listen to God’s Word, especially when they are in the kind of environment these prisoners were in. Without the intervention of God’s “power,” those men would have been pondering how they were going to survive their incarceration in this Roman prison. “Listening” to two new prisoners pray and sing about their God would have been the farthest thing from their minds. But the “power” of God was at work, so Luke explained that as Paul and Silas prayed and sang, “The prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25b, NKJV). One of the ways I determine whether or not God’s “power” is at work in our worship services by observing the level of your “listening!”
Precise Timing. God also sets His “power” on display through His precise timing. Notice, not only did God reveal His “power” by causing an earthquake, He caused it at the precise moment when it would have the greatest impact on the jailer and the prisoners. Luke wrote, “Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken” (Acts 16:26a, NKJV). A few moments earlier and the prisoners would not yet have had time to comprehend the content of the prayers and songs of the missionaries. A few moments later and they would have become bored and had time to dismiss the significance of what they were hearing.
At the precise moment when God brought the earthquake, their hearts were at their most receptive condition. They were so captivated by the praying and singing of the missionaries that when they could have used the earthquake as an opportunity to escape, they didn’t. They stayed right where they were, eager to hear more. I know this is true, because when the jailer was about to commit suicide, Paul cried out, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here” (Acts 16:28b, NKJV).
Doing the Unexplainable. God sets His “power” on display, not only through ordinary, explainable events, but also through extraordinary, unexplainable events. Luke wrote, “Immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed” (Acts 16:26b, NKJV). The fact that “all the doors were opened” by an earthquake certainly displays the “power” of God; however, it could be considered quite ordinary and explainable. After all, an earthquake could shake doors open.
The next thing that happened, however, is absolutely extraordinary and unexplainable apart from the “power” of God. After all, under normal circumstances an earthquake would not cause “everyone’s chains” to be “loosed.” Imagine what the prisoners must have thought when the chains unexplainably fell from their hands and feet. This display of God’s “power,” no doubt, got their attention!
Crisis Intervention. God often displays His “power” by intervening in the crises in the lives of non-believers in order to get their attention so He can begin the process of drawing them to Himself. He did exactly that for the jailer at Philippi. Luke wrote, “The keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here’” (Acts 16:27-28, NKJV). I love it when God has His man in the right place at the right time with the right words to save the day!
Non-believers Drawn to Jesus. Another incredible way God displays His “power” is by drawing non-believers to Jesus. We know that is what happened in the case of the Philippian jailer, because he suddenly asked life’s most important question. Luke described the scene when he wrote, “He called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house” (Acts 16:29-32, NKJV).
Jesus explained that nobody will come to Him by their own choosing. God must take the initiative to “draw” them to Jesus. He said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44, NIV).
Jesus promised that He would “draw” everyone to Himself at least once during their lifetime. He said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32, NIV).
The fact that both Jesus and the Father “draw” men to Jesus is clearly proves that what Peter wrote is true: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9, NIV). Jesus wants everyone to be saved!
Changed Lives. One final way God put His “power” on display in the jail at Philippi was by changing the lives of the jailer and his family. Luke wrote, “He [the jailer] took them [the missionaries] 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” (Acts 16:33-34, NKJV). The jailer was transformed from a hard-hearted non-believer who doomed the missionaries to certain death by throwing them into the disease-ridden environment of the inner prison with open wounds on their backs into a tender-hearted believer who provided much needed medical attention for them. He “washed their stripes.” What a change!
When God put the right man in the right place with the right words to intervene in the life of a non-believer, God’s man must be willing to speak up! Remember the story: “The keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here’” (Acts 16:27-28, NKJV).
When God’s people speak up He uses those words to save people and change their lives! Remember what Luke wrote, “Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’” (Acts 16:29-30, NKJV).
So the bottom line is that we must speak up…and when we speak up we must be ready to share the “Good News!” Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16a, NIV).
The Boldness of the Missionaries
(Acts 16:37, NKJV)
“They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans,
and have thrown us into prison.
And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed!
Let them come themselves and get us out.”
During the dramatic scenes of our previous lesson from the Book of Acts, Paul and Silas led a prayer and praise meeting “in the inner cell” of the prison at Philippi. God interrupted the meeting with a huge display of His power—a precisely timed earthquake that provided the missionaries the opportunity to do crisis intervention in the life of a suicidal jail keeper by explaining the “Good News” to him and his family. As a result the jailer became Paul’s third European convert.
Luke described these events when he wrote, “At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 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 chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’ Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house… And immediately he and all his family were baptized” (Acts 16:25-32…33b, NKJV).
II. The Story Continues to Unfold
A Strange & Unexpected Turn of Events. The next morning God orchestrated a strange and unexpected turn of events. Let’s see how Luke told the story: “When it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, ‘Let those men go.’ So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, ‘The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace’” (Acts 16:35-36, NKJV). Isn’t it rather strange and definitely unexpected that the same “magistrates” who had commanded these Jewish missionaries to be beaten and thrown into prison, not caring whether they lived or died, would have such a change of mind that less than twelve hours later they would give the order to “Let those men go?” Obviously God was at work!
The Boldness of the Missionaries. At this point the missionaries demonstrated incredible boldness. Paul said to the officers who brought the message of freedom from the magistrates, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out” (Acts 16:37, NKJV). What boldness—telling the authorities ‘No,’ and then demanding that the authorities escort them out of the prison. In all probability the “magistrates” had led a procession of enraged citizens to the prison along with the missionaries to be certain that they were duly incarcerated. So now Paul is insisting that those same “magistrates” personally come to the prison and lead a procession as they bring them out. I say it again—“What boldness!”
III. Biblical Boldness
Boldness is the willingness to undergo suffering for doing what is right. It is the fearless and daring courage to do what God calls us to do. There are three Greek words that are translated bold:
Let’s briefly examine each of these three kinds of boldness:
Boldness to Face Death. One of the greatest hindrances to boldness is the fear of death. That’s why Paul encouraged the believers at Corinth to overcome the fear of death by developing boldness. He wrote, “We are always confident [tharrheo—boldness to face death], and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord…We are confident, I say, [tharrheo—boldness to face death], and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:6…8, NIV). Boldness to face death is the result of the assurance of salvation! No believer needs to fear death if he has the bold confidence that “to be away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord.”
By the way, the assurance of salvation means to “know that you have eternal life” and therefore will go to heaven when you die. John wrote, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13, NIV).
Boldness to Speak the Truth. Boldness to speak the truth comes through the prayers of other believers. Paul requested prayer for such boldness, when he asked the believers at Ephesus to continue “Praying always…for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly [parrhesiazomai—boldness to speak the truth] to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly [parrhesiazomai—boldness to speak the truth], as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18a…19-20, NKJV). Paul obviously realized that when other believers prayed for him consistently, his boldness increased.
When the apostles in Jerusalem were commanded by the Jewish council to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, the church prayed for them; and, as a result, they received additional boldness. Luke wrote, “They called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus…And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said…Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word…And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:18…23-24a…29…31, NKJV). When the church prayed for them, the apostles “spoke the word of God with boldness.”
Boldness to Attempt Great Things for God. When a believer conquers the fear of death and boldly speaks the truth, he is then equipped with “tolmao”—boldness to attempt great things for God. Ezra wrote, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong [tolmao—boldness to attempt great things for God] on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (II Chronicles 16:9, NKJV). God is looking for people to whom He can give this kind of boldness so He can demonstrate His strength through them.
Attempting great things for God and His kingdom is the result of knowing Him intimately and understanding His character and His purposes in the world. Daniel wrote, “The people who know their God shall be strong [tolmao—boldness to attempt great things for God], and carry out great exploits” (Daniel 11:32B, NKJV).
God initiates the boldness to attempt incredible things for Him as His people faithfully study His Word. The Word of God is so valuable and helpful to mankind that God commands us to study it. Paul wrote, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15, KJV). When Paul commanded us to “Study…the word of truth,” the Greek word he used that is translated “word” was “logos” which refers to the whole Word of God—Genesis 1:1 all the way to Revelation 22:21.
As we “study…the word [logos] of truth,” God will bring to our attention verses that have special meaning to our lives. When God gives us a special “word” from His “word” [logos] it is called—in Greek—a “rhema.” As we meditate on these verses and apply them, they build faith in our lives. Paul wrote, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word [rhema] of God” (Romans 10:17, NKJV). So as we study the whole “word of truth” [logos], God will give us a special “word” [rhema] which causes our “faith” to grow!
Only by “faith” can God’s people develop the boldness to attempt to do great things for Him! Without faith we can do nothing to please God. The author of the Book of Hebrews wrote, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, NKJV).
God wants His people to be righteous and boldness is one of the characteristics of authentic righteousness. That’s why God inspired wise King Solomon to write, “The righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1b, NKJV).
God often honors those who are bold! This was the case with Paul and Silas after their ordeal in the jail at Philippi. The “magistrates” honored them by requesting that they leave the city… rather than ordering them to do so. Luke wrote, “They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city” (Acts 16:39, NKJV). God honors Biblical boldness in the lives of His people!
Sunday Service Times
Morning Worship: 10:00 a.m.
M*PACT Kidz: 10:00 a.m.
Helping Hands: 6:00 p.m.
ONE WAY Youth: 6:00 p.m.