For the last several weeks we have been looking at Paul’s second missionary journey. So far on this journey, Paul (along with Silas & Timothy) had revisited all of the churches that Paul had planted during his first missionary journey. Then after that, being joined by Dr. Luke in Troas, they went on to Macedonia to preach the Gospel to those who had never heard the Good News about Jesus!
Their first stop was in Philippi – and the first person who accepted their message was a woman named Lydia. After hearing the Gospel, she and her whole household believe in Christ and were baptized. From that point on, she invited Paul & his team to stay at her home – and it appears that her home become the central meeting place for the newly planted church in that city.
However, not all was smooth sailing for this missionary team. Before long a slave girl – who was a fortune teller empowered by a demon – began following them around the city, shouting after them. This went on for some time until finally, in the name of Jesus, Paul commanded the demon to leave the slave girl – and the demon immediately obeyed. This was wonderful news for this girl – who was now freed from the grip of this demon – but it was terrible news for the slave girl’s owners who had made a lot of money from her fortune telling!
Well, these slave owners stirred up the whole city against Paul & Silas – and the city officials had them beaten and thrown into prison.
And we didn’t talk about this last week, but you might have noticed that we’re only told that Paul & Silas were beaten and thrown into prison – there was no mention of Timothy or Luke being taken as well. This is probably because Paul & Silas were Jews, but Timothy and Luke were Greek. As we noted last week, the city of Philippi was a Roman colony and as such, their Roman’ loyalties were very strong. Of course, this also meant that they reflected Rome’s unfavourable view of Jews at this time. The emperor Claudius had just expelled all the jews from the city of Rome because he saw them as rebellious, trouble-makers. And so it’s easy to see how the city of Philippi (as a Roman Colony) could quickly be convinced that Paul & Silas were some of those rebellious trouble-makers as well!
But of course, being beaten up and thrown into prison was no hinderance to the ministry of Paul & Silas. It didn’t matter their circumstances, they were able to joyfully praise the Lord and share the Gospel message to anyone who listened – even the belly of a dark prison!
What’s more, God had carefully arranged all of this to happen so that the jailer and his entire household could come to faith in Christ! As we read last week, as Paul and Silas were praying and singing in the middle of the night, a tremendous earthquake struck the prison, and all the prison doors flew open and the prisoner’s chains fell off! Well, of course, the jailer woke up and saw all the doors open and assumed the prisoners had all escaped!
Now of course, the penalty for allowing a prisoner to escape was death! And so the jailer concluded that if the prisoners were all gone, he might as well kill himself as quickly and as painlessness as he could – since the Roman authorities would not likely be as kind!
But Paul quickly called out to the man “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here.”
And this is when the jailer realized that something was very different about these men. They had something that he wanted. And so as he brought them out, he fell before them and asked “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Well, Paul & Silas were able to tell the jailer exactly what He must to do to be saved – He had to believe in the Lord Jesus! And He did! Even in the middle of the night, the jailer brought them to his house, washed their wounds, gave them a meal, and He and his entire household were all baptized because they had all put their faith in Jesus Christ.
And so that brings us to our passage today! At this point, Paul & Silas are still in jail – or at least, under the guard of the jailer! Since they’ve been hanging out at the jailers house, I’d guess they probably didn’t return to get locked up in the actual prison cell after that – they had clearly proven to the jailer that they weren’t going to escape!
But regardless, their situation with the city officials was not yet resolved. So we’ll see what happens as we read on today.
Our passage today begins in Acts chapter 16 – starting at verse 35.
35 The next morning the city officials sent the police to tell the jailer, “Let those men go!” 36 So the jailer told Paul, “The city officials have said you and Silas are free to leave. Go in peace.” Acts 16:35-36
Now I’m just going to pause here for a minute. This brings up an interesting question. If God knew that Paul & Silas were going to be released from prison the very next day – why did God bother with the whole earthquake shaking the jail, having all the doors fly open, and the chains fall off the prisoners – as if He was miraculously rescuing them from prison? As we’ve read through the book of Acts, we’ve seen several times when God did similar things when the apostles have been in jail – and in those times, he actually rescued that them from prison through those miraculous events. But this time, there was no actual jail break! Paul & Silas stayed in the prison! And of course, God knew that they would – so why all the theatrics?
Well, it seems that this earthquake and the doors flying open and the chains falling off the prisoners was never intended as a means for a jail break. This was about creating a scenario where the jailer would hear and accept the Gospel message.
God already knew they would be released the next day – this was about putting the jailer in a crisis situation that would finally convince him that He needed a Saviour! You’ll notice that we don’t have any record of the jailer having anything to say to Paul & Silas before this – no questions about the Gospel or Jesus or anything like that…. but after this dramatic series of events, His first response was to ask Paul & Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
It seems that for the jailer, it took a significant life crisis to finally bring him to the point where he was ready to submit his life to God and to listen to what God had to say to him.
And sadly, that’s the case for many people. Sometimes God has to allow a crisis in our lives to get our attention and to convince us to listen to Him.
- For Jonah – it took being swallowed by an enormous fish!
- For Pharaoh – it took ten plagues and the death of his first born son.
- For Paul Himself – it took a traumatic experience on the road to Damascus!
Now that’s not to say that every crisis that comes into our lives is God trying to get our attention! I’m sure God has a multitude of purposes for everything He allows in our lives.
But if we refuse to listen to the still, small voice of God, then we should not be surprised if God has to turn up the volume! God loves us too much just to leave us alone in our foolishness! He pursues us by any means possible! And that might mean we have to go through a very difficult or painful experience in order for us to finally listen to God.
Many pastors that I’ve talked with say they would much rather do a funeral than a wedding because at a funeral, in that crisis – people are a lot more likely to listen to what God is saying to them!
And I think that’s what God was doing in the case of this Philippian jailer! I have no idea what God had been doing in his life prior to this – but I’m guessing, based on his earlier treatment of Paul & Silas, that his heart may have been pretty hard towards God. As so, God lovingly arranged for this crisis to come into his life to soften his heart so that he and his entire household could hear the Gospel and have their lives transformed! What a kind and gracious God to pursue us even while we ignore him!
But anyway, to get back to our story, now that God’s purposes have been carried out for the jailer and his family, the next day the city officials declare that Paul and Silas are free to go! We read in verse 36:
36 So the jailer told Paul, “The city officials have said you and Silas are free to leave. Go in peace.”
37 But Paul replied, “They have publicly beaten us without a trial and put us in prison—and we are Roman citizens. So now they want us to leave secretly? Certainly not! Let them come themselves to release us!”
38 When the police reported this, the city officials were alarmed to learn that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. 39 So they came to the jail and apologized to them. Then they brought them out and begged them to leave the city. 40 When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town.
Now just before we start into chapter 17, let me just quickly make a couple comments on these verses.
I should point out that Paul was not just being difficult and insisting on his rights as a Roman citizen out of his own sense of pride or arrogance or anything like that. I don’t believe he did this out of selfish motives… But rather, I believe Paul did this for the sake of the newly planted church.
Remember, as a Roman Colony, the people of Philippi did not have a lot of respect for Jews. However, they did have a lot of respect for their fellow Roman citizens. There was a certain status and respect given to you if you had Roman citizenship!
And so, if Paul had just left the prison and the city quietly, the church would have had a certain stigma attached to it because it would appear that this church have been founded by Jewish riff-raff… trouble-makers on the wrong side of the law. This would automatically be an extra barrier that the church would have to overcome as they tried to reach the people of Philippi for Christ.
But, if Paul was publicly pardoned as a Roman citizen, that would remove that barrier and would automatically add a sense of credibility to the church. A movement started by a Roman citizen had much more credibility among the Romans than one started by one of those Jews…
And so it wasn’t for Paul’s reputation and pride that He insisted on being publicly pardoned, but it was for the sake of the church and it’s future ministry.
Now of course, when the city officials heard that Paul & Silas were Roman citizens, they became quite alarmed! It was against Roman law to beat or imprisoned a Roman citizen without a trial – and so they were very much in the wrong! And so, as Paul requested, they quickly came to the jail to apologize and release them. And with that, they begged them to leave to city as to avoid any future conflicts!
So with their full and public pardon, Paul & Silas prepared to leave the city. They stopped in one last time at Lydia’s house to encourage the believers that met in her home, and after that, they headed for the next stop in their missionary journey.
We pick up the story now in chapter 17, verse 1.
Paul and Silas then traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people. 3 He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.” Acts 17:1-3
And by the way, this is a pretty good pattern for us to follow as we share the Gospel with people in our lives. Notice the three step process that Paul used.
#1. He use the Scriptures to reason with the people.
There is no substitute for the Scriptures in changing people’s hearts, minds and lives. There is real, life-transforming power in the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says…
12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12
It is not our eloquent words or logical arguments that has the power to change lives! It’s the Word of God! We have to keep the Scriptures as a central part of our Gospel presentations, our sermons, our personal devotions, our conversations with kids…. Anytime we want to see real life change happening – we need to involve the Word of God!
So Paul first step was to use the Scriptures to reason with the people. After that we read:
3 He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. Acts 17:3a
#2. He explained the prophecies. Or in other words, he helped people understand what the Scriptures actually meant! The Jews certainly knew the Scriptures, but they had totally misunderstood them. That’s why the Pharisees had crucified Jesus – and that’s why Paul Himself persecuted the church before he was saved! They knew the Scriptures, but had totally misunderstood them! And so Paul now explained the prophecies to them, and showed them what God was actually saying!
We need to do that too! As we share the Word of God with people – perhaps our co-workers, or our kids, or whoever we might be talking to about the Word of God – we need to make sure our listeners understand what the Scriptures actually mean!
It’s very easy for people to misunderstand or even intentionally twist the Scriptures to say something that was never intended to say. Even as we read through our own personal devotions, it’s so important that we put in the effort to accurately understand the Scriptures. And of course, that takes work! It means looking at the context of those verses – what’s going on in the rest of the passage, who’s talking, who’s being talked to, how does history or culture come into play here, how does this mesh with the rest of Scripture…. All those types of questions…
Those are all important elements that help us understand that is being communicated to us in any particular passage. And working through all that certainly takes work – but its so important that we do that work so that we don’t misunderstand what God is saying – or teach others wrong information about what the Scriptures say!
So that’s the second thing Paul did. He explained the prophecies so people understood what the Scriptures actually meant. And then thirdly,…
#3. He pointed people to Jesus.
He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.” Acts 17:3b
Through all the Scriptures that he shared, and through all his explanations of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah – Paul used all those things to continually point people to Jesus.
Which should be no surprise – because all of Scripture points to Jesus as well!
Jesus once said to the Pharisees:
39 “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!”
From the opening pages in Genesis to the final words in Revelation – all of Scripture points to Jesus! And so should we!
That’s really our purpose on this planet – we are to point others to Jesus. That’s been the whole theme of the entire book of Acts. Right from chapter 1, we read Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8…
“And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Or for us, He might say “And you will be my witnesses – telling people about me everywhere – in Penhold, throughout Red Deer County, as far as Edmonton, and to the ends of the earth!”
Where ever we go, we need to point people to Jesus. Which is exactly what Paul & Silas did – and with great results! Verse 4 says…
4 Some of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women.
As Paul presented the Scriptures, explaining what they meant, and how they pointed to Jesus – many people believed their message and put their faith in Jesus Christ! However, there were also others who did not. Verse 5 continues:
5 But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. 6 Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. 7 And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.”
8 The people of the city, as well as the city council, were thrown into turmoil by these reports. 9 So the officials forced Jason and the other believers to post bond, and then they released them.
So once again, the message of Jesus Christ causes a great uproar throughout the city! The angry mob looks for Paul & Silas – but not finding them, they instead grab this fellow Jason – whom it seems Paul & Silas were perhaps staying with. They drag Jason, along with some other believers, out of his home, and take him to the city council – and accuse him of harboring these treasonous trouble-makers!
Of course, in the end, the city officials force Jason and the other believers to post bond – and then released them.
But the part that caught my attention in these verses, and the part that I’ll end on this morning, is the accusations of the mob! Look at what they say in verse 6 & 7….
“Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. 7 And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.”
There are two really cool things that Paul & Silas get accused of – and I hope we can be accused of those things as well.
#1. They say “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world, and now they are here disturbing our city, too.”
I actually like the way the ESV says it…
“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…” Acts 17:6b ESV
Of course, these accusation were meant in a negative way – but this is actually a pretty cool compliment. Turning the world upside down is exactly that Paul & Silas had come to do – or more accurately, they had come to turn an upside-down world, right side up!
It was sin that had originally turned God’s good creation upside down, inside out, and completely backwards! But the mission of Jesus was to make things right again! And that’s what Paul & Silas were doing too! Through the message of the Gospel, relationships were being made right, people were experiencing healing and restoration, and God’s good creation was being redeemed! It was being turned right-side up!
But reading this made me think about our church here in Penhold. What sort of impact are we having on our town? Wouldn’t it be awesome if people of Penhold said of our church “These people have turned Penhold upside down!” Isn’t that our goal?
What a shame it would be if our church left this town exactly the way we found it! That woud be a tragedy! We need to pray that God would use us to turn Penhold upside down – or rather, right-side up!
And I think the key to doing that is found in the second part of this accusation against Paul & Silas. Their accusers say in verse 7:
“They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.” Acts 17:7
And again, this wasn’t intended to be a compliment, but this was exactly why Paul & Silas had been turning the world upside down! Both of them recognized that they had another king – a greater king than Caesar – a king named Jesus. And they fully submitted their lives to Him.
It didn’t matter what earthly authorities did to them. It didn’t matter if they got thrown into prison or beaten with rods. It didn’t matter if they were ridiculed or falsely accused! They were going to be loyal and obedient to their king, Jesus.
And I just wonder this morning if the same can be said for all of us? When we encounter difficulties, when we face temptations, when we are forced to choose between honouring God or staying comfortable – which king do we profess allegiance to?
Now mind you, we may profess allegiance to God – especially when we’re at church or when we’re talking with other Christians… But if we examine our actions and are really honest about our inner motives…, we may find that more often than we’d like to admit, we follow King “me” – ourselves – instead of King Jesus.
It seems we’d prefer to serve two kings… We’ll profess allegiance to God when it’s convenient – but when push comes to shove – “King Me” often wins out.
But you know, Jesus said in Luke 9:23…
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Jesus is not interested in followers who only sometimes follow Him. Being a follower of Jesus means giving up our own way ENTIRELY – taking up our cross DAILY – and following Him UNCONDITIONALLY.
We can’t just profess allegiance to him with our mouth – we need to prove it by the way we live – every moment of every day!
Let’s not fool ourselves – we can’t serve two masters – either Jesus is our King or He’s not.
And I would challenge you this morning to carefully consider that. I know as I wrote this message, I had to examine my own life. Do I truly and fully live like Jesus is my King? Is that evident in both my public life and my private life as well? Do I daily take up my cross – putting to death all my own desires and plans and selfishness – and instead seek to follow Him unconditionally?
Those are some good, hard questions that we all need to answer for ourselves.
This morning, we want to celebrate communion together. This is a time when we remember that Jesus literally took up his cross – gave up his own way – and followed the will of His Father.
He gave us the example to follow. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2…
6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus Christ is King. And one day every one of us will acknowledge that. Either with joy now or regret later! But how much better for us, and for the Kingdom of God, for us to humble bow before Him today – and to serve Him with our whole lives!
As we were reminded last week in the book of Revelation – King Jesus is coming back to finally and completely restore God’s good Creation. And even now, He’s at work, turning the world right-side up through those who follow Him.
I would encourage you to consider – Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your King? Have you truly believed that He is the Son of God who died on a cross and rose again from the grave? Have you completely surrendered your life to Him – inviting Him to be your King in every moment and every aspect of your life?
If you have never done that, then I would urge you to make that decision today! If you have more questions or would like to talk to someone about that – I’d love to talk with you after the service or over coffee sometime. But don’t delay making that decision any longer!
And if you have already made that decision some time ago, – I’d just encourage you to examine how you’ve been living… Perhaps you’ve been professing allegiance to God – maybe you’ve been a Christian for years, but you know in your heart that you’re still serving other kings. If that’s the case, then I would urge you to choose today to give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow Him!
Let’s pray together.