2018-12-16 – Acts 16:25-40 – Shaken Foundations
Bible Text: Acts 16:25-40 | Preacher: Pastor Jerry Higdon | Series: Acts | 2018-12-16 – Acts 16:25-40 – Shaken Foundations
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us.
I have a little yarn to start us out today:
As a mother and daughter walked out of church one Sunday morning, the mother said, “That was a really nice service. I really liked the soft piano music during the prayer.” The little girl turned and asked her mother, “That was a piano?” The mother nodded, and the little girl said, “Oh. I thought God had put us on hold.”
You ever feel that God puts you on hold sometimes? Well let me assure you brothers and sisters that we never need to fear that God will put us on hold. Our God reaches down and enters into our trials and struggles with us. Our God is with us to the ends of the earth through the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Today we are going to read about a couple troublemakers, that being the apostle Paul and Silas, who finds themselves in a bit of a pickle and they as they were in the middle of Paul’s second missionary journey of the early church. In this New Testament story, they are in the area of Philippi and Macedonia (south-eastern Europe).
Please turn now to Acts 16, verse 16, page 983 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. But first let us pray..
Last week we read where and Paul, Silas were thrown into prison for trumped up charges. Our verses here today start as they are now in an inner room of prison.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
Anyone here ever been inside a prison cell? I have, and I can promise you we were not singing.. maybe I should have been, but I wasn’t. Let me explain.
I was living in North Carolina, and I was pulled over for speeding. I didn’t think I was going as fast as the officer claimed I was so I decided to fight it in court.
I got a lawyer and he convinced me that I should delay the court date until right before I was to be moving to Germany. That way, if I lose my license, it wouldn’t matter. The only problem was, my lawyer never got around to changing the court date. The police came and got me, put me in handcuffs and hauled me off to the pokey. It was not a good start of my day to say the least. It was a court-house prison cell and I was in there with about a dozen guys waiting for the judge to hear our cases. I was behind bars, and promise you there no singing hymns going on at all. I found it interesting that the only furniture in the whole place was a toilet in the center of the room, and none of us was interested in using it.
I will save the rest of the prison experience for the end of our message, but I was in jail and unlike Paul and Silas, I was scared to say the least.
So again, our verse says, 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
What uncommon faith they had. Singing hymns truly does calm the soul doesn’t it? What hymns might you be singing in such a dismal circumstance? And notice the other prisoners were listening to them too. I think I could do the whole sermon on this one passage. Paul and Silas’s attitude during this time of persecution and trial is just amazing. They chose to be a blessing in the middle of their pain and suffering. We read last week that right before they were thrown in prison they were stripped naked and beaten really badly. I praise the Lord for this testimony. I pray that I would be even marginally capable and willing to be used by God in such circumstances. That is true faith ladies and gentlemen.
26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose.
Notice it says that “all the doors (plural) were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose”. We don’t know how many other prisoners or cells were inside this prison, but this was more than just about Paul and Silas now. This violent earthquake must have been significant to cause such turmoil. Have any of you ever been in an earthquake? It is a scary proposition. You would even wonder if the ceiling or floors would cave in. I know I would be running for the door. But for some reason all of these prisoners stayed put. I tell you the Holy Spirit must have intervened for sure.
27 When the jailer woke up and saw the doors of the prison standing open, he drew his sword and was going to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped.
I would propose that the guard probably thought his life was through one way or the other. Either the prisoners would kill him as they would be trying to escape, or that the Roman authorities would be killing him subsequently. That is exactly what happened with Peter’s prison guards when the angel helped Peter escape back in Acts chapter 12. Sadly, all of the guards were executed as a result.
He may also be attempting suicide out of honor because he thought he failed in his role as a prison guard. We don’t know for sure.
28 But Paul called out in a loud voice, “Don’t harm yourself, because we’re all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He escorted them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
You might be thinking if God caused the earthquake, why didn’t Paul and Silas go through with the escape attempt? Well, what we are seeing in this verse is the real reason that God caused the earthquake. It wasn’t for Paul or Silas directly,
it was really for the prison guard, and perhaps later for the purposes of starting of the church in Philippi. It is obvious that through the praying and the singing of hymns that the prison guard realized these men were special. He was probably enamored already at their faith. Even the other prisoners were listening to them sing. Paul realized that God had turned that prison into a church. He was probably seeing God working in the prison even before the earthquake.
This message today is entitled Shaken Foundations, but it isn’t the prison’s foundation that I am referring to here. It is the foundations of the guard, and the foundations of the city even. They were shaken and God was moving in that area, and Paul was wise enough and mature enough in his faith and understanding of God’s will that he went along with God’s plan. We should be so sensitive to God’s will in our own life as well. I will even suggest to you that as a result, this prison guard and the other prisoners might have become the first members of the Philippian church that Paul started there perhaps. Our God is so Awesome! And now the prison guard asks “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They [Paul and Silas] said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house. 33 He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized. 34 He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had come to believe in God with his entire household.
The guard witnessed some amazing events that day. First Paul and Silas’s faith and the response of that faith on the other prisoners. Then the earthquake and the fact that the prisoners didn’t even attempt to escape. Then Paul caring enough to stop the guard from killing himself. This has been a night that none of them will ever forget. And notice that Paul spoke the word of the Lord to all the household, not just the guard. And all of them were subsequently baptized and rejoiced. A night of Shaken Foundations indeed. Lives were changed for eternity, praise the Lord.
35 When daylight came, the chief magistrates sent the police to say, “Release those men.” 36 The jailer reported these words to Paul: “The magistrates have sent orders for you to be released. So come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They beat us in public without a trial, although we are Roman citizens, and threw us in jail. And now are they going to send us away secretly? Certainly not! On the contrary, let them come themselves and escort us out.”
Paul was so smart. He was the perfect missionary apostle for the job at hand.
You might know that Paul, before being chosen by Jesus to be an apostle, was training to becoming a high-priest. Paul knew not only Jewish law but also Roman law. Paul also knew that this newly established Roman city of Philippi was on shaky grounds with the Roman government, and he knew that he now had leverage, and leverage is good. Sometimes, as Christ followers, we too will be persecuted for some higher purpose than what think is apparent. Jesus said, as written in Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” That is what Paul was doing, and that is what we should be realizing and doing ourselves.
38 The police reported these words to the magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. 39 So they came to appease them, and escorting them from prison, they urged them to leave town. 40 After leaving the jail, they came to Lydia’s house, where they saw and encouraged the brothers and sisters, and departed.
The city officials were smart to appease Paul in his request. This whole unfortunate incident that shook the foundations of the prison and prisoners, shook the foundation of the prison guard and his family, shook the foundations of the city officials, was actually now creating a new foundation for the new church in Philippi. God knew what He was doing. And Paul and Silas knew that God knew what He was doing. The question is, do you likewise believe that God knows what He is doing in your life circumstances as well? Many things in our lives will happen that we will not fully grasp the reasons why. Will you trust God in these? In Paul’s situation today, the results were shortly realized, but it may be generations before the results of God’s plan is fully understood. Will you trust God with your life and your joys as well as your sorrows? Will you trust that God is in control, and in that you can still have much faith? Even in the difficulties that this life has to offer, those that trust the Lord can still sing Him praises. Amen?
Now let me take you back to my jail-time experience. The judge finally called all us prisoners into the court-room, and I was told to stand before Judge Roy Clark. He asked if I had a lawyer, I told him I did. He ordered the bailiff to get my lawyer, and until he arrived I watched as several people get their speeding penalties of hefty fines or loss of licenses, over and over again and it wasn’t looking too good for me. When my lawyer finally showed up, the judge called us before him, and he and my lawyer had a side-bar conversation. Then the judge said something I believe in Latin and hit his gavel. I asked what that meant, to which my lawyer said, “shut-up, he’s letting you go”. Turned out that they recognized that I shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
It wasn’t my fault that the lawyer’s office never called to extend my court date. The term they used meant something like you should have learned your lesson through this experience, therefore we are letting you go.
The moral of this bible story today and my story as well is, as Christians we have nothing to fear, God is with us and He will never forsake us. In the gloomiest situations you can still have hope and peace despite your circumstance.
And just like the judge in my prison experience and the judge in Paul’s prison experience let us go, our Father in Heaven is offering you today His pardon for all your indiscretions, to free you from the guilt of all your sin. The prison guard asked Paul “what must I do to be saved?”
In Ephesians 2:8-10, the apostle Paul sums it up in three verses, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
So we are saved by Grace. The word grace has various meanings, but as it relates to salvation it speaks of kindness bestowed on one who does not deserve it. In Romans 3:24 Paul says that Christians “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” In other words, because Christ paid the price, it is now possible for a Christian to receive grace, or favor, that he does not deserve. In Ephesians 1:7-8 the apostle says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished upon us with all wisdom and understanding.” In every instance where grace is mentioned, it is entirely due to God’s favor, not human works.
We are saved by grace through faith. According to Ephesians 2:8, grace is only received by those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ. How then can one know whether he has put his faith in Christ or not? Answer: Through the convicting Work of the Holy Spirit. When we put our faith in Jesus, when we ask Him to forgive us of our sins and repent, then the Holy Spirit joins our soul on this life’s journey. That Holy Spirit inside us convicts us and guides us. That dynamic should be evident in your works. What comes out of you is an indication of what is inside of you. As written in John 5:36 Jesus said Himself that “the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me”. What does your works say brother and sisters. Does your works testify to the fact that you are a Christian and that you are saved?
There are really only two types of people in our world today. I’m not talking about the rich/poor, not male/female, not black/brown or white, no.. The only real difference that counts eternally are whether you are saved or lost.
Paul and Silas were behind bars, but they were not really prisoners. They still sang songs and had hope in their hearts despite their dismal circumstance because they had confidence that they were saved for eternity. God was with them even in that prison cell that day. There are many people that we know today that are not literally behind bars but they are still prisoners. Prisoners in their hearts and minds, without the joy of knowing their future is secure in heaven. Prisoners without hope and without the love of Jesus. Will you join me in prayer about this now. If you haven’t done so yet, call upon Jesus, I promise you He will not put you on hold today. For He loves you so.
Would you please stand with me now, as we close with an invitation..
“A FRIENDLY CHURCH IN A FRIENDLY TOWN”