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Acts #59 (chapter 16:19-40)
The Book of Acts
How to Turn Persecution into Production
Acts 16:19-40
 
The 16th chapter of Acts is a rapid fire chapter.  It starts with the conversion of Lydia, then moves very quickly into the story of the demon-possessed girl that is following Paul and the other missionaries.  And right on the heels of that encounter is the story of the Philippian jailer and the earthquake that opens the jail.
 
Things are happening so quickly and so dramatically that it's sometimes easy to read those stories and be entertained, but miss the lessons that hold for us.  And I don't want to do that.  I want to make sure we find the truths that help us in our walk and witness for the Lord.
 
And I want to remind you that it is in this section of Scripture that the question is asked "What must I do to be saved?"  and this is the only place that question is asked.   So first and foremost, this section is the story of salvation.
 
Now, as with all stories of salvation, it has its own set of circumstances and we'll look at those, but ultimately this man comes to a point of asking, "What must I do to be saved?" And we need to keep in mind, that people are looking for salvation. 
 
We've convinced ourselves they aren't.  We say people in America aren't interested in church and God and all of that.  But I'm convinced they are and they are looking for answers, just as this man was.
I think that is true of the human heart no matter where he lives or what his circumstances may be.
 
In this case, we have a man who was most likely an  ex-Roman soldier who is running a little jail in the city of Philippi.  Typically that was the case and these guys were paid a little stipend from the Roman government to keep things in order at the jail and that was his life. 
 
And one day, his life fell apart, literally.  The doors flew open, the chains fell off and all of his security was gone and he decided to commit suicide because his little world was destroyed.
 
And no matter how he tried to wiggle around it and call it an earthquake, somebody would've blamed him. And there wasn't anything to do but draw a sword and kill himself because he had nothing to live for. And that's exactly the way it is with people. They reduce life to some kind of man-made security and if it's gone, they are hopeless.
 
That's where this man finds himself.  He had no answers so he decided to kill himself.  But instead of killing himself, God had something else in mind for him. And you know what he did? He just fell down at the feet of Paul and Silas and he asked the right question. He said "What must I do to be saved?" How do I get out of the mess of having my little box broken? Where do I turn to get rid of my fears and anxiety and loneliness and the meaninglessness of life and the fear of death and all this? Where do I go? And the answer came very clearly. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" and you'll be delivered, and not only you, but anybody else in your house who believes.
Now, that's the main message of this passage. It has to be because it's the main message of Christianity.
 
Now the beautiful result of his encounter with Paul and Silas actually developed out of a very bad situation.  In fact, if you ever want to know how to turn negatives into positives, this would be a good chapter to study.  It begins with Paul and Silas
 
1.  Suffering Persecution
 
Paul casts the demon out of a girl who has a spirit of divination and her masters saw their income dry up.  And instead of being happy the little girl is delivered, they're mad because it hits them in the wallet.  And notice what happened.
 
verse 19
 
By the way, one must wonder if Paul was remembering how many times he had been doing the dragging, but this time it's him that's being dragged before the authorities.
 
verse 20
 
They "exceedingly trouble our city", which means to " throw into total disorder, creating chaos".  And in technical sense they were right.
 
verse 21
 
Again, that was correct.  According to some historical writings, the Romans had a law that no Roman could believe in or follow the teachings of any religion that had not been approved by the Senate.
And as a rsult,
verses 21-23
 
It's mob rule that results in them being beaten and imprisoned.   No trial, just beaten and thrown in jail.
 
verse 24
 
Now, the jailer was just doing his job. He'd seen prisoners come and go. He just chucked them into the inner dungeon, dirty, filthy, dank, dingy, unsanitary jail in the inner dungeon. And to make it worse, he put them in stocks.
 
Now, we think of stocks in the sense of early America, you know, with your feet and your hands, which is bad enough. But according to archeology, the stocks that they used in those days had a series of holes that got wider and wider and the idea was to spread the legs of the individual as far as they could go in order to induce cramping. And so after all the beating was done, in this filthy dungeon where they would be living in absolute filth, their legs were stretched to the extremity to induce cramping that was excruciating.
 
Already having been flailed by a bundle of heavy rods in the hands of an expert, their backs would have been a horrible pulp. Sometimes these things caused internal hemorrhaging, almost always, injuries to organs, smashed vertebrae, broken ribs and very often, death.
 
Then the aching, bleeding, limping men were pushed into the dark cells with the lice and rats, that the disease, infested first century jails were.  And there they existed in their own filth.
 
And all of that, just because they preached the gospel.  Kind of shameful when we compare the price they paid to what we endure, huh?
 
Most of us will never go to any trouble to share the gospel and if we do, we make sure we are not offensive to anybody or turn anybody off or say the wrong thing. 
 
But that didn't bother Paul.  He primarily went from one prison to the next just because he preached the gospel.  He understood he was expendable.  So suffering persecution wasn't any big deal if that meant someone could hear about Jesus.
 
Then notice, suffering persecution led to
 
2. Singing Praises
 
verse 25
 
Apparently they couldn't sleep, so Paul says, "Hey Silas, why don't we sing some songs to God?"  So what did they sing?  Later Paul would instruct his readers to sing "songs and hymns and spiritual songs" so I would guess that's what they sang.  
 
Maybe there were early church songs in existence by then.  Perhaps they sang the Psalms .  I don't know for sure what they sang, but whatever they sang, they sang praises to God.
 
And I can just hear some old hypocrite saying, "What did they have to praise God for?"  See, that's where we get so mixed up.  We thing praise is dependent on circumstances."
No God is to be praised just because He's God and He never changes!  he's always good and faithful and righteous and merciful and tender and loving.
 
And if God is worth praising right now in the good times, He's worth praising in any circumstance you find yourself.  Praising God has nothing to do with your troubles or your joys.  We are to rejoice in the Lord always.
 
Listen:  They were in the circumstances they were in because they were faithful to God. They were where they were on purpose.  So they were just as well to praise God.  They were just sitting there, singing and praising and waiting on God to do what He was going to do. 
 
And they didn't have to wait too long because all of a sudden, things began to happen.
 
verse 26-27
 
All the sudden his jail was open, he assumes the prisoners are gone, his life is ruined, so he prepares to kill himself.  But out of the darkness, comes a voice and it's the voice of Paul.
 
verses 28-29
 
Isn't it amazing how quickly God can reverse a situation?  Just a few hours ago, Paul and Silas are being beaten and put in stocks, and now the jailer is on his knees and Paul and Silas are in control of the situation.  And keep in mind, it's all being done to bring one jailer to salvation.
 
Which brings us to the third thing which is
3.  Salvation Preaching
 
verse 30
 
Interesting, isn't it?  He doesn't ask about what just happened or who did it or why the prisoners are still there.  The only question he has is about how to be saved. He says, "What must I do to be saved?" He knew God was working in his heart. God had convicted him and all he could think about was his rebellion and sin.
 
And he fell on his knees and said, "'Sirs,'...the word is Lords or Masters...'what must I do to be saved?' And they said, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household."
 
I like the fact that he the way to be saved is stated so simply.  Their presentation is so simple. It's so obvious.  Salvation comes by believing in Jesus Christ.   And then they filled in the details.
 
verses 31-34
 
Isn't that amazing?  Suffering persecution led to singing praises led to salvation preaching and you know what happened. That led to the
 
4.  Salvation's Productivity
 
I love what happened in that the whole family got saved and gave evidence of their salvation.  . It says at the end of verse 34 they all believed.  And what I see in that is that salvation produces results.  One of the great burdens of the ministry is the numbers of people who get saved or join church and never produce. 
 
I mean by that, there is no visible evidence that the conversion was real or that hearts have been changed.  But no so in this case.  Notice what happened:
 
The fruit planted in this man's heart and family was productive.  Let me show you what I mean.  I see four proofs this man was really saved.
 
First,
 
- Baptism
 
verse 33
 
It not only a question of believing in your heart, but being willing to take a public stand and confess Him as Lord. He was baptized and his whole house, which is a public declaration of his commitment to Christ.
 
Second thing
 
- love
 
verse 33a
 
Before, this guy couldn't have cared less about them. In fact, while they were in jail, he was at home sleeping like a baby. But suddenly, in a flash, in an instant, he's washing their wounds. So what happened?  God changed his life. Jesus said, "by this shall all men know that you are My disciples, because you have love one for another."
 
He revealed the genuineness of his conversion through his love for Paul and Silas. 
 
Third thing that tells me they really were saved was
 
- Fruit
 
verse 34
 
I think old Paul must have sat there, eating and thinking of the 23rd Psalm where David wrote, "You  prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies."
 
Isn't it amazing what just a little singing in jail accomplished?  God changes this guys heart, saves his family, brings Paul and Silas into the jailer's home, cleans them up and feeds them!"
 
You say, well, that doesn't necessarily qualify as salvation. It does in my mind. In fact, it's exactly how James says you will know salvation is genuine.  In fact, he says any other kind of faith is dead.
 
That's why I know he was really saved. He had the fruit of it...the works that issue from true faith.
 
Fourth reason I know he was saved was his
 
- joy
 
Verse 34 says he feed them and rejoiced.  Now remember, a few minutes before he was about to commit suicide.  So what could make a man change that fast?  Only God.  His jail is in crumbles and the prisoners are sitting in his dining room having a party.  God changed him.
 
 
I have no question about the fact that he was a believer. The evidence is overwhelming!
 
One final thought and I'll be through. 
 
Suffering persecution led to singing praises which led to salvation preaching which led to salvation's productivity which leads to
 
5.  Securing Protection
 
Paul's greatest concern was that new believers would be taken care of.  He was always worried that he'd leave town and some false teacher would take advantage of those new believers.  Notice what happens here at Philippi
 
verses 35-40
 
It was forbidden under Roman law to use corporal punishment on a fellow Roman.  All a Roman had to do was say, I am a Roman citizen and they couldn't put one wound on his body. So those who punished Paul and Silas had violated Roman law. 
 
So why didn't Paul make that known earlier?  I guess God didn't want him to.  After all, if they hadn't got beaten, they wouldn't have got to jail. If they hadn't got to jail, this whole family wouldn't have gotten saved. But now, Paul brings it up and he knows he is now in charge.
 
He says, you go tell those boys I got something to say to them. Get those guys over here!  So these lictors, these policemen, go back and
 
verse 38-39
Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to the world of spiritual blackmail!
 
So now, Paul has the upper hand and he can say, "You touch one Christian and I'll report you to Rome."
 
What's Paul doing?  Paul is establishing some security measures.  In fact, he came back to Philippi later on and they didn't lift a finger. And so here he secures that little group of believers. Isn't that beautiful to see Paul care for his flock?
 
And by the way, he left Luke there to care for them, too. Isn't it important that they didn't take Timothy and Luke into prison since they didn't fit the perfect picture of the Jew and the Roman citizen that Paul and Silas did? God is in charge of the tiniest details. 
 
And in a way that only God could orchestrate,
 
verse 40
 
Paul just kind of stuck around town for awhile just to let them know who was in charge! 
 
We need to know that when we are committed to seeing lost men and women saved, God will go with us and stay with us and be with us to get the job done.
 
Let's pray.
 
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