Year 2 Day 43
Read - Acts 16v25-40
Message - Scott Woodburn
We have already witnessed the great escape of Peter from prison and here in these verses we see a similar experience for Paul and Silas. They have been put in prison for the crime of releasing a slave girl from spiritual bondage but they are not down hearted. At midnight they are praying and singing hymns to the Lord (v25). Suddenly an earthquake shakes the prison's foundations. The doors are flung open and the chains of each prisoner are loosed. This is no ordinary earthquake, the Lord is the One who has shaken the chains loose.
This was bad news for the jailer. If the authorities had discovered an empty jail, the jailer would have lost his life. He is about to kill himself (v27) when Paul tells him "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." (v28). The jailer is amazed but asks no questions about the earthquake or the loosed chains, instead he asks the question which stands above all others "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (v30)
Paul and Silas immediately point to Jesus "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (v31) It is Christ who sets the prisoner free. It is Jesus who shook the world with His death and resurrection. It is the Messiah who we must look to and be saved. We are only explicitly told that the jailer believed (v34) but the sign of the covenant was applied to the whole household. (v33) The covenant of grace is for you and your children and for all who are far off and so the jailer's whole household were baptised.
The next day it becomes clear that Paul is a Roman citizen (v37). He deserved better than to be beaten and thrown in prison like a common thug. The magistrates were immediately afraid at this turn of affairs (v38). Roman citizens were not to be beaten without a fair trial. The magistrates existed to protect the rights of Romans and so they had categorically failed Paul and Silas in allowing them to be abused. An apology is offered (v39) and after encouraging the church, Paul and Silas leave the city (v40).
Status remains incredibly potent. Recent riots on the streets of Belfast have taken place because many fear that their status as British citizens is under threat. During the Brexit debate it was suggested that British passports would return to the colour blue rather than the current burgundy. Apparently such a change would be a sure sign of freedom from the EU.
I'll leave you to your politics but simply use this text to say that ultimately your status with Christ is all that counts. The jailer went to bed as an enemy of God but met the morning as a follower of Christ. He was justified by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. He was saved and declared righteous by the chief magistrate who is the Lord.
When you personally meet the Lord He will not enquire about your nationality, your politics or your status. The grand dividing line in human history sees Christ rejecters on one side and the faithful saints on the other. So what questions will rise in your soul today? How did the prison doors open? Who loosed the chains? Why did Paul wait to announce his status as a Roman?
Let me suggest this question..."what must I do to be saved?"...and let me furnish you with the answer..."Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved"
Q53 Which is the third commandment? The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.