Acts 16:27-34

Sunday Morning Bible Study

May 17, 1998

Introduction

Paul, Silas, Luke, and Timothy have arrived in the great city of Philippi.

They had been holding meetings down by the river, where folks would gather who wanted to pray, and there they had met a business woman named Lydia, who gave her heart to the Lord.

They had also attracted the attention of a young demon possessed slave girl, who would follow them around and cry out to people that these men were servants of God.

When Paul turned and cast the demon out of the girl, the girlís masters were so upset that their profits were just removed, that they had Paul and Silas arrested, stripped naked, beaten with rods, and then thrown into prison. Itís there in their dark, stinking prison cell, that while they were praying and singing, that an earthquake shook the prison, opening all the doors and breaking all the chains.

:25-34 Singing in prison

:27 he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself

sword Ė machaira Ė a large knife; a small sword, as distinguished from a large sword

It was customary for prisoners to flee when the doors are opened! The usual punishment for allowing your prisoner or prisoners to escape was that you were to take their place and receive their punishment. If you had some men condemned to die, and they escape, then youíd be executed. Rather than face the punishment he was expecting he would get for allowing the prisoners to escape, the jailer decided to take his own life.

:29 and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas

The man is awestruck that all the prisoners are still there, and his job is safe. Paul and the others could have escaped, they could have let him kill himself, they could have jumped the man at the door. But they didnít.

:30 Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

Where has the man gotten an idea about being "saved"?

If this man, being a pagan Roman, had never seen Paul before having him placed in his jail, how in the world would he have come up with a crazy question like this? Saved from what?

I donít think itís too wild to imagine that this man must have already been exposed to Paulís preaching.

Perhaps he had only heard of Paulís message at the brief hearing that Paul received along with his beating, or while Paul preached at the riverside, or perhaps in town, or maybe at Lydiaís house.

But though he had heard the message, he didnít get serious about the message until he saw Paulís mercy in action. When Paul and the others could have escaped, causing the jailer to face a death sentence, then didnít.

It was kindness that brought him to salvation. Mercy in the midst of tragedy.

(Rom 2:4 KJV) Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Lesson:

Your actions make the message real.

Greg Laurie has said,

"There are two reasons people donít become believers. One is because they donít know a Christian. The other is because they do know a Christian."

Iím afraid that sometimes our actions and attitudes towards unbelievers are so critical and judgmental, that the message somehow comes across as phony.

Our message is all about the kindness, mercy, and love of God.

Though we are deserving of His harshest, swiftest judgment against our sins, He shows us kindness and mercy instead.

You can share this message with people, and some people will respond to nothing more than just the message, but others need to see the message lived out in your life.

If you are not a kind, merciful, or loving person, theyíre going to have a REAL HARD TIME receiving the truth of the message.

Itís not until they SEE the love of God in our lives that they make the connection between us and Jesus.

(John 13:35 KJV) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Example:

Wives with unbelieving husbands.

I have seen in some marriages where a wife will come to the Lord, and at first she is all caught up in Godís love for her. But after a while, she begins to look at her husband, the pagan, and starts seeing all the ugly, worldly things in him, and she starts pointing all those things out to him. All he sees in his wife is that since she became a Christian, sheís critical of him, and isnít any fun anymore. We need to remember that an unbelieving person CANíT change until they come to the Lord. They donít need criticism, they need mercy and love.

:31 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved

Lesson:

Salvation comes through believing in Jesus.

The problem.

We are saved from a problem, the penalty of our sins.

The problem we humans have is that in order for us to relate to a holy and just God, and in order for us to spend eternity forever with him, we have to take care of the problem that keeps us from him, and thatís our sin.

There are some restaurants that have a "dress code". You canít get in the door unless you have on a coat and a tie. Heaven is a little like that. We canít get in the door unless weíre dressed in the appropriate outfit, and that outfit does not include sin. Somebody has to take care of the sin stains.

The solution.

Jesus is the one who has paid for our sins.

The price for taking care of our sins is death. For someone to pay for your sins, they would have to die for each on of your sins.

But because Jesus was God come in human flesh, when He died, He paid an infinite, eternal life, enough to cover all of our sins.

Applying the solution.

Salvation is a gift from God. God offers you eternal life for free, through the death of Jesus Christ for you.

But like any gift, it isnít any good unless you receive it. If you did not open your Christmas presents, to this day you would still not have any benefit from them.

We receive the gift of salvation through faith, through believing in Jesus. We ask Him to pay for our sins, and we believe that He will. We ask Him to come into our lives and be our Lord, and we believe that He will.

Illustration Ė " THE ROOM " (Author unknown)

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings.

As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I Have Liked". I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed". The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read", "Lies I Have Told", "Comfort I Have Given", "Jokes I Have Laughed At". Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've Yelled at My Brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger", "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents". I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my lifetime to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts", I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

"No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished."

:31 and thy house

house Ė oikos Ė a house; all the persons forming one family, a household

Lesson #1:

You canít get to heaven on your parentsí coat tails.

This verse does NOT mean that if he believes, that both he and his family are saved, just through his belief.

As weíre going to see, Paul is going to preach the Word to the entire household, and not just to the jailer (vs. 32).

Weíre going to see that his whole household is believing in God, as well as he is (vs.34, "with all his house")

For those of you who are here in church this morning because your parents brought you, you face a particular danger, trusting in your parentsí faith, and not your own.

You may believe in Jesus, but itís because your parents raised you that way, and youíve never stepped over the line to make it your own faith.

To you, God may be the "God of my fathers", but He may not yet be "My God".

Judg 2:7-13 And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel. {8} And Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. {9} And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. {10} And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. {11} And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: {12} And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. {13} And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.

The people served the Lord as long as Joshua and those who had been through the Exodus were still around. But when the "parents" were gone, so was their faith.

If your parents were to die, would you still be going to church? Even more to the point, if you were to die, would you go to heaven? Are you sure?

Lesson #2:

God wants to impact your family.

God is interested in families, always has been, always will be. As parents, we have a God-given responsibility to teach our children the ways of the Lord:

(Deu 6:6-7 KJV) And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: {7} And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

:33 washed their stripes; and was baptized Ö straightway.

straightway Ė parachrema Ė immediately, forthwith, instantly

Baptism is one of the chief ways of identifying yourself as a Christian.

Itís a public display of repentance, that youíre turning from your sins and God is washing you. Itís a public display that you are identifying with Jesus Christ, intending to follow Him, in being dunked under the water you have been crucified with Him, and in being brought up you have been raised with Him.

Lesson:

Make it public.

There is no place for secret service Christians. Those who follow Jesus must do it openly and publicly.

(Mat 10:32-33 KJV) Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. {33} But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

:33 he and all his

The early church father Chrysostom, said that this jailerís name was Stephanas, whom Paul mentions to the Corinthians Ė

1Co 16:15 I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and [that] they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)

1 Co 1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

:34 And when he had brought them into his house

I guess if he wanted to, the jailer could have just said thank you to Paul and Silas, and then locked them back up. Instead he took them into his house.

Lesson:

The church belongs in your house.

Sometimes we like to keep church in a distant place, where we have a little more control over it. If you donít feel like being a Christian this week, you just donít go to church.

But Godís desire is that your entire home, your entire life, all the closets and secret places, are made open to Him.

How do we do this?

Do you have friends that go to church with you? Do your church friends ever come over to your house? Do you have any friends at church? Has anyone at church ever seen the inside of your house?

Try to get involved in a smaller group at church. One of the home studies, Wednesday night, even teaching a Sunday School class will help begin to build relationships with others in the church. Family Campís theme this year is "Knit together in love". Real fellowship canít take place just within the confines of a Sunday morning service. It has to extend into your life during the week.

:34 and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

rejoiced Ė agalliao Ė from agan (much) and hallomai (to leap; to spring up, gush up: of water) Ė to exult, rejoice exceedingly, be exceeding glad

The jailer and his family were bubbling over with a new joy in their hearts.

Lesson:

Joy comes from knowing God.

Itís sad, but some people think that becoming a Christian means you never get to smile anymore.

Charles Spurgeon, in addressing young men who wanted to be pastors, said, "An individual who has no geniality about him had better be an undertaker, and bury the dead, for he will never succeed in influencing the living. I commend cheerfulness to all who would win souls; not levity and frothiness, but a genial, happy spirit. There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar, and there will be more souls led to heaven by a man who wears heaven in his face than by one who bears death in his looks."

How do we get this joy?

Some people have crazy ideas of what it takes to be happy Ė

A Chinese proverb states, "If you wish to be happy for one hour, get intoxicated. If you wish to be happy for three days, get married. If you wish to be happy for eight days, kill your pig and eat it. If you wish to be happy forever, learn to fish." Ė This isnít Godís idea of joy.

Godís joy

1. His presence.

When we spend time knowing weíre in His presence, the result should be joy.

Ps 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence [is] fulness of joy; at thy right hand [there are] pleasures for evermore.

The Hebrew word used here, as in most places in the Old Testament is simchah Ė joy, mirth, gladness, pleasure.

2. Put your life in His hands.

When weíve learned to let go of our fears and anxieties, and we begin to realize that Heís REALLY GOING TO HELP US, thatís when the joy comes.

Ps 5:11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.

Your car starts making funny noises. The steering wheel begins to shake at odd times. You have visions of your car falling apart on a busy freeway. You call up your mechanic friend and he says, "Donít worry, Iíll have it fixed in no time!" Relief. Joy.

Illustration

Fanny Crosby was famous for the thousands of hymns she wrote, as well as for her happy attitude toward life. She was also blind. A friend in England thought she knew the reason Miss Crosby could be so happy and brave and she wrote the following:

Sweet blind singer across the sea,

Tuneful and jubilant, how can it be?

That the songs of gladness, which float so far,

As if it fell from the evening star.

Are the notes of one who never may see,

Visible music of flowers and tree?

How can she sing in the dark like this?

What is her fountain of light and bliss?

Her heart can see, her heart can see!

May long she sing so joyously!

For the Lord himself in His tender grace ,

Hath shown her the brightness of His face.