Grace For The Jailer

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About midnight Paul & Silas were praying & singing hymns to God in the Philippian jail, and the other prisoners were listening to them (298).

Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, which shook the entire prison building.  All the doors of the cells opened & all the chains fell off all the prisoners!

When the jailer got up & saw the cell doors open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped.  Three thoughts flashed through his mind:

  • The prisoners had been under his watch.
  • Their escape would be blamed on him.
  • He would be executed for letting them escape.

In horror, the jailer pulled out his sword & was about to kill himself!

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But Paul shouted, “Don’t kill yourself! We’re all still here!”   The jailer called for a light, rushed in & was amazed to find all the prisoners!  Immediately, he fell trembling at the feet of Paul & Silas; the jailer knew he was in the presence of a power greater even than that of his superior officers.

Rising, he led Paul & Silas out of their cells & asked, “How can I be saved?”  They answered in a way the jailer did not expect: “You & your family members will be saved by believing in & following Jesus.”

The jailer wanted to understand this, and he wanted his family to understand it, too.  So he took Paul & Silas to his house, where they explained the word of God — to him, to his family and to all the others in his house.

The Holy Spirit caused everyone there to receive gladly the good news about Jesus.  The jailer washed the wounds of the two witnesses for Jesus.  Then, he & all his family were baptized.

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And then, they all shared a meal together as brothers & sisters in Christ.  The jailer & his family were filled with joy, because they now knew that God truly loved them.

At dawn, Paul & Silas returned to their jail cell, in order to spare the jailer from certain death.

LORD, please help us to love Your grace.

(298) Acts 16:25-34

Jailed For Jesus

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On another day in Philippi, the four witnesses for Jesus – Paul, Silas, Timothy & Luke — were going to the place of prayer (297).  On the way they were met by a slave girl who had an ungodly spirit that enabled her to predict the future; she earned a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes.

This girl followed Paul & his small band, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They are telling you how you can be saved!” The slave girl continued doing this for many days.

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Suddenly one day, the Holy Spirit prompted Paul to turn around & say to the evil spirit in the girl: “In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you to come out of her!” The ungodly spirit left the girl immediately!

The slave girl’s owners soon realized that they had lost any chance of making more money from her fortune telling ability.  In anger, they seized the two more prominent witnesses, Paul & Silas, and dragged them before the Roman officials in the public square.  “These men are Jews & they are causing trouble in our city,” they claimed.  “They are teaching customs that are against Roman law.  As Roman citizens, we cannot accept these customs.”  A crowd gathered & members of the crowd joined in the attack against Paul & Silas.

In response to the growing chorus of accusations, the Roman officials ordered that Paul & Silas be stripped & beaten as punishment for their presumed crimes!

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Then the two witnesses were thrown into jail, with orders that they be kept under constant guard.  So the jailer locked them in the inner cell & chained their feet.

LORD, please help us to love all our trials.

(297) Acts 16:16-24

From Asia To Europe

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At first, Paul, Timothy & Silas confined their travels to Galatia, because the Holy Spirit didn’t let them preach the message in any other regions of western Turkey or of northern Turkey (296).

But then the Spirit made a way for them to travel between these two regions — to the port city of Troas in northwestern Turkey.  There they were joined by Luke — a physician who followed Jesus Christ & who subsequently recorded the acts of the Holy Spirit in growing the early church.

On the very night they arrived in Troas, the Holy Spirit gave Paul a vision — in which he saw a man standing in Macedonia in northern Greece & begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”

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As soon as Paul had this vision, Luke would later write, they all got ready to leave for Greece, because they were sure God had called them to preach the good news about Jesus to the people there.

The party left by ship from Troas & sailed along the north coast of the Aegean Sea to the port of Samothrace, and the next day to the port of Neapolis. From there they went inland to Philippi, a city of Macedonia in northern Greece, which was then a Roman colony.

On the Sabbath they went outside the city to the river, seeking the place where Jews gathered for prayer. They met some women there, including Lydia (from Thyatira in Turkey), who was a well-to-do merchant of purple cloth.

Lydia worshiped God.  The Holy Spirit opened her mind to believe what Paul was saying about Jesus!  As a demonstration of their belief, Lydia & her friends were baptized.

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Then Lydia invited the little band of missionaries to stay in her house as long as they were in Philippi.

LORD, please help us to love the dreams You send us.

(296) Acts 16:6-15

Servants of Jesus: Matthew & Paul

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For centuries it was thought that around this time — almost 20 years after Jesus had returned to heaven from earth — Matthew recorded his testimony of the good news about Jesus, which recounts key events in the life & ministry of Jesus on the earth.

More recently, the prevailing opinion is that Matthew’s testimony was written much later and was built on Mark’s testimony of the life & ministry of Jesus.  Precise dating of the document is difficult.  But it remains the main means by which the Holy Spirit helped Matthew serve Jesus (294).

The Holy Spirit led Paul to continue serving Jesus in another way (295).  After staying in Syrian Antioch for some time, he said to Barnabas: “Let’s go back & visit our brothers in the new church fellowships in Turkey & see how they’re doing.”

Barnabas was willing, but he wanted to take Mark along.  Paul, however, insisted that they should not take Mark, since he had left them in the middle of the first mission trip.

The contention was so sharp that Paul & Barnabas decided to journey separately.   Barnabas took Mark and sailed on a mission trip to his native Cyprus; Paul chose Silas and departed for Turkey.  The church in Syrian Antioch commended all four ambassadors for Jesus to the grace of God.

Paul & Silas began by going first through Syria & then through Cilicia, in southeastern Turkey, strengthening the local churches as they went.

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Eventually they made their way west to the Turkish cities of Derbe and then Lystra, where a new Christian named Timothy lived.

Timothy’s mother Eunice was Jewish, but she had converted to become a follower of Jesus Christ.  She and her mother, Lois, had raised Timothy to know God.  Timothy’s father, however, was an unbelieving Gentile.  Since all the believers in Lystra & in the nearby city of Iconium spoke well of Timothy, Paul wanted to take Timothy along on the rest of their trip.

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And since all the Jews in that region knew that Timothy’s father was not a Jew, Paul circumcised Timothy so there would be no question about his Jewish heritage.  (Paul always wanted Jesus to be exalted among Jews as well as Gentiles.)

As Paul, Silas & Timothy visited the new Turkish churches, they preached the good news about Jesus & the kingdom of God.  They also delivered to the believers the simple rules decided upon by the witnesses & elders in Jerusalem. And those early Turkish churches grew stronger in the faith & in numbers every day.

LORD, please help us to love serving You with new friends.

(294) Matthew’s testimony about Jesus is incorporated into previous posts on this site; please see the About page.

(295) Acts 15:36-16:5

The Holy Spirit Strengthens The Church

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The church at Jerusalem chose two men who were highly respected by the believers — Judas (also called Barsabbas) & Silas — and they sent them back to Syrian Antioch with Paul & Barnabas (293).  The four witnesses took the following letter:

We, the witnesses & the elders in Jerusalem, send greetings to all our Gentile brothers in Antioch, Syria, & Cilicia. We have heard that some men who claimed to represent us have troubled you by what they said. However, they were not acting with our authority.

 Now we have met together & have agreed to send these two messengers to you. They come with our dear friends Barnabas & Paul, who have risked their lives in the service of our master Jesus Christ. Judas & Silas will tell you in person the same things we are writing.

The Holy Spirit has shown us that we must put no other burden on you, except for these few: do not eat leftover food that has been offered to false gods, do not eat any animal blood , and do not indulge in any sexual immorality. You will do well if you simply obey these rules.

When the messengers arrived in Syrian Antioch, they gathered the whole group of believers & read them the letter. And when the believers heard it, they were filled with joy by this message of encouragement.

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Judas & Silas, who were themselves prophets, spoke a long time with church members in Syrian Antioch, giving them courage & strength.

Eventually, Judas & some companions were sent off in peace by the believers & they returned to Jerusalem.  However, Silas remained in Syrian Antioch with Paul & Barnabas.  Together, with many others, they continued teaching & preaching the word of the God throughout that region.

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LORD, please help us to love being Your witnesses wherever You may lead us.

(293) Acts 15:22-35

The Holy Spirit Resolves The Dispute

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When Paul & Barnabas had finished speaking, James — the close relative of Jesus who had also become a leader of the church in Jerusalem – was prompted by the Holy Spirit to support Peter (292).

“Listen, Peter has just explained how God first showed his care for the Gentiles by calling from among them certain people to belong to him.

James

“The words of the prophets agree completely with this. As the inspired scriptures say, ‘After this I will return, says God, and restore the kingdom of David; I will rebuild its ruins and make it strong again. And then all the rest of mankind will come to me — all the Gentiles whom I have called to be my own. So says God, who made this known long ago.’

“So it’s my opinion,” James continued, “that we shouldn’t trouble the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write a letter telling them only these few basic rules:

  • Not to eat leftover food that has been offered to false gods,
  • Not to indulge in any sexual immorality, and
  • Not to eat any animal blood.

Everyone knows that these commands of Moses have long been part of our worship of God — being read in the synagogues of the Jews on every Sabbath.”

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Then the witnesses & the elders & the whole church at Jerusalem all agreed with Peter & James.  They decided to encourage the church in Syrian Antioch, and not to burden them with the Jewish custom of circumcision.

LORD, please help us to love submitting to spiritual authorities ordained by You.

(292) Acts 15:13-22

A Dispute Among Church Members

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Some men came from Jerusalem to Syrian Antioch, and they started teaching the Gentile believers differently than Paul & Barnabas (291).  “You cannot be saved unless you are circumcised, as the law of Moses requires,” they said.   Paul & Barnabas argued fiercely against this idea.

Eventually, it was decided that Paul & Barnabas (along with some of the others from Syrian Antioch) should go to Jerusalem — to consult with the witnesses & elders there about this matter.

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As they travelled through the coastal area of Phoenicia & through Samaria, they reported how the Gentiles had turned to God; this news brought great joy to all the believers they met along their way.

When Paul & Barnabas & the others finally arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, the witnesses & the elders.  Then they began to report everything that God had done through them.

But some of the Pharisees, who wanted to all Christians to obey the law of Moses, took an opposing view.  “The Gentiles must be circumcised and told to obey the law of Moses,” they insisted.

The witnesses & the elders met together to consider this question. After a long debate Peter stood up and said, “My brothers, you know that a long time ago God chose me to be the first to preach the good news to the Gentiles, so that they could hear & believe. You also know that God showed his approval of the Gentiles by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he had to us. He made no difference between us & them; he blessed them with faith & forgave their sins, just as He did for us.

Peter

“So why should we now challenge God, by imposing on Gentile believers a set of laws which even we Jews have never been able to obey? We simply cannot be saved by obeying the law.  Jews believe & are saved only by the grace of the Lord Jesus, and it’s the same for Gentiles.”

Then the whole group listened carefully as Barnabas & Paul reported all the miracles & wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.

LORD, please help us love not being able to save ourselves.

(291) Acts 15:1-12