Main Text: Acts 16:16-40
As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas anddragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods.And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened.When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And herejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
We, the Church of Jesus, are sent – sent into the world to make disciples, teach, and baptize. In order for this to happen, each believer must embrace this as his or her mission. You are sent. So far, we have learned:
We have been sent by Jesus – Matthew 28:16-20
We have been sent with the Holy Spirit – Acts 1:1-9
We are sent in power – Acts 2:1-13
We are sent together – Acts 2:37-47
We are sent to bless others – Acts 3:1-10
We are sent to be witnesses – Acts 4:1-22
We are sent to die – Acts 7:54-60
We are sent to those different than us – Acts 10:44-48
So far in Acts, we have seen that the sending of all Christ followers is done with the power of the Holy Spirit and results in great witness for Christ. However, we are quickly and repeatedly shown that it is not all smooth sailing. To live a life for Christ is to live a life smack dab on target with His mission – to seek and save that which was lost. To live a life dedicated to this mission will mean that you sometimes willingly and unwillingly go to harsh places and suffer.
This was a tragic day for Paul and Silas (Acts 16:20-24).
Those who take up this mission will suffer in one way or another. The entirety of the Bible shows us that suffering is an integral part of the lives of those who were faithful to fulfilling God’s calling and mission. Godly people will experience suffering – including unfair treatment, the loss of family and fortune, and sickness and death. The fact that this suffering happened to these New Testament missionaries, Paul and Silas, establishes the fact that following Jesus Christ is not a guarantee of happiness, health, and wealth. Jesus warned his disciples of this fact (Matthew 5:11-12). It does rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:44-45).
Noah watched all humankind be destroyed.
Joseph was imprisoned and falsely accused.
Daniel was thrown into a lion den.
Other apostles were persecuted and some were martyred.
Later Paul penned a litany of his hardships that included this story (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)
Jesus Himself was crucified.
As followers of Christ, we are sent to participate in God’s mission. God has suffered to accomplish His mission to bring about the redemption of His whole creation from the ravages of sin and evil. God’s determination to bring His salvation led to the ultimate suffering – when Christ bore the sin of the world on the cross. Ever since then, God has suffered with His people as they have borne the cost of being witnesses and messengers of His Kingdom to the ends of the earth (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Praying and singing in the night
Verse 25 of our text says, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them”. No doubt Paul and Silas experienced humiliation, pain, and injustice that day and they felt those raw emotions like any human would. But when they prayed and sang they were resorting to a time-tested method of responding to suffering. Many psalms have been written from out of the depths of despair: (Psalm 27, 42, 43). Singing
helps us focus on the eternal realities vs. the gloomy temporary realities.
allows us to use the words of others when we cannot produce our own.
helps truth travel down to our heart.
causes objective biblical truth to challenge our subjective feelings.
causes our theology to address our experience.
Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Christ’s people have always been a singing people. New Testament characters often broke into song:
Mary sang the “magnificat” when told the good news about Jesus’ birth.
Zechariah sang about the coming of John the Baptist.
The angels sang, “Glory to God and on earth, peace.”
The last thing the disciples did after last supper was sing a hymn (Matthew 26:30).
Prisoners Paul and Silas sang at midnight (Acts 16:25).
We are to be a praying and singing people. We are to do it alone, and when we’re together. This is in stark contrast to self-pity, anger, and hopelessness.
Witnessing in suffering
Acts 16:27-32 records extraordinary commitment to the Great Commission of Jesus. The prisoners had already been listening to Paul and Silas pray and sing (verse 25). Now they use their miraculous jailbreak to witness to the jailer. Something in me wants to scream, “Let him be! Let him kill himself! Get out of there! Run for it! The jailer is not your problem!”
Paul and Silas had a different life mission than comfort, security, self-preservation, and their own happiness. They hadn’t lost sight of the promise of Jesus in Acts 1:8: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses”
How willing are you to witness for Christ in your suffering? Are you willing to welcome suffering in order for Christ to be glorified in you (James 1)?
We have been sent to suffer!
Apply to Life
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the new commandment “love your neighbor” (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
Discuss the Message
Read: Acts 16:16-40
What was the Holy Spirit speaking to you through the message? How do you think this applies to your life? What action are you taking towards that end?
How do you suffer for your faith?
How would you describe the zeal for the Gospel of Paul and Silas? What about their character challenges and/or intimidates you?
Why is the Gospel worth the price paid by prison, persecution, suffering, loss, poverty, etc.? How do we glorify God through our suffering?