The Apostle Paul: Reasoning with Athenians.

16 “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” (Acts 17:16-21)

The Tyndale Bible Commentary explains that, “The Christian message was first brought to Athens by the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey about ad 50. His only reference to Athens is in 1 Thessalonians 3:1, where he indicated that he and Timothy arrived in the city together but that shortly thereafter he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica while he remained alone in Athens.”

“Luke has provided a more complete account of Paul’s ministry there (Acts 17:16–34). His arrival in a city marked by many statues to the gods, which surpassed anything he had seen in other cities, provoked in him strong feelings against such rampant idolatry. Reared in the strict monotheism of Judaism, Paul apparently viewed Athens as the epitome of sin, and the cultural majesty of the city could not undo this impression.”

In arriving in Athens, the Apostle Paul did what he normally did when entering a city: he found a Jewish synagogue and began reasoning with Jews, and other devout persons who were Gentiles, from the Scriptures.  Additionally, he engaged in conversation with people he met in the marketplace. Paul went to the business center of town and spoke with not only those who selling, but also those who were buying. In effect, Paul went to the mall of his day and interacted with those he met. The market place was also where Athenian philosophers gathered to debate the latest ideas.

Do you take the opportunity to engage in spiritual conversation with people at work, in your neighborhood or when you’re shopping; at either a department, or grocery, store? We must make most of every opportunity the Lord gives us to proclaim His name and share the Gospel.

I Peter 3:15 says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”  

Have a blessed day.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul in Athens.

16 “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” (Acts 17:16-21)

Athens, Greece was the intellectual and cultural epicenter of the first-century world. Paul would have been comfortable in this setting. He grew up in the educational center of Tarsus. The leading Jewish thinkers and scholars in Jerusalem had taught him as a young student. Although Athens was no longer the political and commercial center since Rome conquered it in 146 B.C., it remained in Paul’s day the center of art, literature and Greek philosophy.  

The Tyndale Bible Commentary explains that, “Athens began its rise to glory in the sixth century bc, first under the leadership of Solon (d. 559 bc), who established democratic forms of government, and later under Pericles (d. 429 bc), when the magnificent buildings of the Acropolis took form. In this golden age, Athens became the center of philosophy, art, architecture, and drama.”

“By the time Paul brought the Christian message to Athens (Acts 17:15–34), the city had only a portion of its former glory and prestige. Roman emperors continued to extend patronage by providing for new buildings and the restoration of the Agora (marketplace). Athens continued to be the home of the most prominent university in the Greek world. Both Epicurean and Stoic philosophy had worthy representatives in the city.”

However, Paul’s spirit (mind, emotions and will) was provoked within him as he travelled in the city. He was angered, irritated and distressed. Why? Paul saw that Athens was full of idols. The city was dominated with images to false gods. While Luke does not say exactly how many idols there were in the city, they dominated the city’s landscape.

It seems that our own country and cities today are also full of images to idols. Everywhere you look there are pictures and other depictions of people, places and things that are portrayed as worthy of honor, praise and/or worship. What examples come to your mind?

More to come at Have a blessed day as you serve, honor and worship the one, true God of the Bible. May each of us adhere to the command found in I John 5:21: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Opposition Reappears in Berea.

13 “But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.” (Acts 17:13–15)

Opponents to the Gospel do not allow any distance, or defense thereof, to deter them from their hatred for and their desire to stop the preaching of the Gospel at all costs. While Paul and Silas may have left Thessalonica in order to further their ministry in Berea, the unconverted Jews of Thessalonica would not have it. They were determined to stop Paul at any and all costs.

Having heard that God’s Word was being proclaimed in Berea by the Apostle Paul, certain unbelieving Thessalonian Jews arrived in order to agitate and stir up the crowds. In other words, the Thessalonian Jews wanted to start a riot and cause an uproar.

Like in Thessalonica, the brothers in Christ feared for Paul’s safety. They quickly sent him off to sea. However, Silas and Timothy remained in Berea.

Paul sailed to Athens. It was shortly after he arrived there that he sent for Silas and Timothy to join him. They immediately departed Berea in order to join their missionary leader. A great challenge awaited them.

It is clear from 1 Thessalonians 3:1–6 that Silas and Timothy did rejoin Paul at Athens. Eventually, Silas likewise would be appointed by Paul to leave Athens and then meet him at Corinth (cf. Acts 18:1–5).

Sharing the Gospel in a pagan culture is not easy. Opposition is bound to occur. It may be at work, school, or even within your home. Following the Apostle Paul’s example, let us resolve to be faithful to God’s call.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Berea.

10 “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.” (Acts 17:10–12)

What does it mean to be known as a Berean? I wonder how many churches in America have the title “Berean” in their name.

In the context of today’s passage, the City of Berea, known today as Verria, was located approximately 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Thessalonica and in the foothills of the Olympian Mountains. Rome conquered Berea in 168 bc. Berea was one of the most populated Macedonian cities in the time of Christ.

Following the riotous behavior in Thessalonica against the Gospel in general, and the Apostle Paul in particular, the Thessalonian Christians quickly sent Paul and Silas at night to the City of Berea. When the two of them arrived in Berea, they immediately went in to the Jewish synagogue.

The Berean Jews were much more receptive to the Gospel. Unlike the Thessalonian Jews, the Jews in Berea received the preaching by Paul with much eagerness. They would examine the Scriptures on a daily basis to verify what Paul and Silas were preaching.

The result was that many Jews were converted along with several Greek women and men. The truth of the Gospel was spreading in Macedonia.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “The Bereans gave Paul’s teaching an open hearing and compared it with God’s written Word. Because of their integrity and discernment, many of them came to faith in Jesus the Christ.”  

Like the Bereans, may each of us give every message were hear an open hearing and compare it with God’s Word. May our integrity and discernment be like the Berean’s.

Soli deo Gloria!

The First Sunday of Advent: Born of the Virgin Mary.

Why did Jesus Christ come to earth? Why was He born to a virgin named Mary?

In 2017, Dr. R. C. Sproul went home to be with the LORD. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, founding pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and first president of Reformation Bible College. He was author of more than one hundred books, including The Holiness of God, which for me personally is an annual read.

In the December 2005 issue of Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk Magazine, which addressed the subject of The First Advent, Dr. Sproul wrote an article entitled Born of the Virgin Mary. The following is an excerpt from that article.

“Along with the great theologian and philosopher Anselm of Canterbury we ask the question, Cur deus homo? Why the God-man? When we look at the biblical answer to that question, we see that the purpose behind the incarnation of Christ is to fulfill His work as God’s appointed Mediator. It is said in 1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself ….” Now, the Bible speaks of many mediators with a small or lower case “m.” A mediator is an agent who stands between two parties who are estranged and in need of reconciliation. But when Paul writes to Timothy of a solitary Mediator, a single Mediator, with a capital “M,” he’s referring to that Mediator who is the supreme Intercessor between God and fallen humanity. This Mediator, Jesus Christ, is indeed the God-man.”

“In the early centuries of the church, with the office of mediator and the ministry of reconciliation in view, the church had to deal with heretical movements that would disturb the balance of this mediating character of Christ. Our one Mediator, who stands as an agent to reconcile God and man, is the One who participates both in deity and in humanity. In the gospel of John, we read that it was the eternal Logos, the Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us. It was the second person of the Trinity who took upon Himself a human nature to work out our redemption.”

“He is vere homo (truly human) and vere Deus (truly divine, or truly God). These two natures are united in the mystery of the incarnation, but it is important according to Christian orthodoxy that we understand the divine nature of Christ is fully God and the human nature is fully human. So this one person who had two natures, divine and human, was perfectly suited to be our Mediator between God and men.”

Have a blessed First Sunday of Advent as we worship the eternal God/Man: Jesus Christ. Fully God and fully man.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Apostle Paul: A Half-Truth is a Whole Lie.

6 “And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.” (Acts 17:6–9)

History can, and often does, repeats itself. Predicting the future can be as easy as studying the past in order to comprehend the present.

In the case of Paul, Silas and Timothy, what happened to them, directly and indirectly, in Philippi also occurred in Thessalonica. Opponents to the Gospel were not discreet or demure regarding their opposition. They dragged Jason, presumably Paul’s hospitable host, and some other Christians before the city magistrates. The Jews said, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”

There is a Yiddish Proverb which says, “A half-truth is a whole lie.” The Jews were speaking half-truths. True, the world was being turned upside down because of the Gospel. True, Paul, Silas and Timothy had indeed come to Thessalonica to preach the Gospel. True, Jason had received them. However, what was not true was that the missionaries were all acting against the decrees of Caesar. Jesus was not just another earthly king like Caesar. He is the King of kings because He is the eternal God (John 1:1-2). Human kings are mere mortal men.

The Jews got the results they wanted. Those who speak half-truths often do. The people of Thessalonica, along with the city authorities, were disturbed, riotous and greatly distressed. An interesting thing then occurred. Acts 17:9 says, “And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.”

Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “The crowd and the politarchs were in turmoil (etaraxan, “agitated, disturbed, troubled”; cf. John 11:33; Acts 16:20) probably because they could not find Paul and Silas (17:6), the source of the city’s problem. Probably the bond-posting was to guarantee that Paul and Silas would leave town and not return. If more trouble arose, Jason and the others would lose their money. This may explain why Paul was prohibited from returning (1 Thess. 2:18). In spite of this, the Christians at Thessalonica kept on boldly proclaiming the gospel (1 Thess. 1:7–10; cf. 2:14–16).”

When people discover the whole truth contained in the Gospel, they no longer tolerate the half-truths of its opponents. What is true regarding the Gospel is also true with respect to the entire Word of God. Do not settle for the half-truths of the current contemporary culture, and its influence upon the church. Hold fast to the eternal truth of God’s Word (John 17:17).

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Reactions to the Gospel.

4 “And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd.” (Acts 17:4–5)

The Gospel provokes resections. It solicits a response. The reactions and responses to the Gospel may be negative or positive. We witness both responses to the Gospel in today’s text.

To begin with, there was the positive reaction to the Gospel by not only some of the Jews of Thessalonica, but also by a great many of the devout Greeks and a few of the leading women of the city. Luke recorded that the response to the Gospel by the Gentiles was much greater than by the Jews.

As was the case in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:45), certain non-converted Jews became jealous. They incited wicked and worthless men from the marketplace, who were loafers, loiterers and bums, and formed a mob. They proceeded to set the city in an uproar. In other words, they caused a riot to occur in the city. Sounds like America 2020.  You do not agree with someone, or something, and you start a riot.

The mob targeted the house of Jason. Apparently they did so believing that Paul was staying there while in Thessalonica. The purpose of pursuing Paul and his colleagues was to drag them out and receive the justice of the mob.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Luke evidently included this incident to reemphasize the continued Jewish rejection. Jason probably had provided lodging for Paul and Silas. The Jews were intent on finding Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. Thessalonica was a free city which meant it was sovereign in its local affairs, and not subject to provincial administration in such matters.”

 The uproar of the mob rule in Thessalonica mirrors the uproar we have witnessed in America during the latter part of 2020. People protest, peacefully and otherwise, but it appears that all that is accomplished is to express a rejection of any and all authority. Ultimately, the authority being rejected is God’s.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul, Silas and Timothy in Thessalonica.

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 17:1–3)

Notice that as Luke begins recording the events in the Apostle Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica, the author again uses the third personal pronoun “they.” Apparently, Luke has left the team for unknown and unspecified reasons. However, Paul, Silas and Timothy continue the Second Missionary journey (Acts 17:4, 10, 14-15).

The three missionaries’ travel through the cities of Amphipolis and Apollonia, apparently without stopping. They proceed to Thessalonica, the capital of Macedonia.

Luke records that there was a Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica. Perhaps the preceding two cities did not have synagogues and Paul wanted to continue his practice of preaching first to the Jews.

The text seems to support this perspective in that Paul spent three weeks reasoning with the Jews from the Scriptures. The Scriptures Paul reasoned from would have been the Old Testament. He continued to explain and to prove that Jesus’ substitutionary atonement on the cross on behalf of sinners, and subsequent bodily resurrection, was absolutely necessary for the sinner’s justification. Paul indicated that the Old Testament Messiah was none other than Jesus of Nazareth.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes that, “The Pauline Epistles suggest that Paul stayed in Thessalonica longer than three or four weeks (including the workdays before, between, and following three successive Sabbaths). According to Philippians 4:16, the church at Philippi sent him aid at least twice, and the Thessalonian Epistles indicate that Paul had been able to give extensive doctrinal instruction to the Christians there.”

What will be the result of such faithful labor? We will examine both the positive, and the negative, reactions to Paul’s, Silas’ and Timothy’s ministry when next we meet. It should not surprise us that the Gospel results in both great affirmation and great condemnation.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: What a Morning.

35 “But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 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.” 37 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.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.” (Acts 16:35-40)

What a difference a day makes. Perhaps it was because cooler heads were now prevailing following a night’s sleep, that the magistrates send the Philippian police to the jailer telling him to release Paul and Silas from jail. The jailer informed of this news then bids them both to go in peace.

However, Paul was not having it. He said to the police, ““They (the magistrates) 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 officials reported Paul’s words to the city magistrates. They in turn became afraid when they understood Paul and Silas were Roman citizens.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “Roman citizens were exempted from scourging and torture, and had the right to due process in a trial before any punishment was inflicted. If Roman citizens were tried in a Roman court, they had the right to appeal their case to Caesar” (Acts 25:11; 26:12).

Why was Paul so aggrieved? Was it because he had been personally insulted and humiliated by the magistrate’s treatment of him and Silas? Maybe. Paul was human after all. More likely it was his desire to reaffirm the Gospel’s reputation and refute the slander that been leveled against it (Acts 16:21).

The magistrates came and apologized to Paul and Silas. Notice, the magistrates did not summon the two, but rather came to them. Instead of commanding the two of them to leave Philippi, they asked them to leave. Paul and Silas complied.

They left the prison and visited their friend Lydia. They also said goodbye to all their new friends. This would have included not only Lydia and her household, but also the jailer and his household, the other women at the river bank and anyone else who responded to the preaching of the Gospel by the missionary team. It was then that they departed Philippi and journeyed to Thessalonica.

What a congregation God built in Philippi. A merchant woman, a jailer, a slave girl. This is the wonder, the diversity and the beauty of the church. Elect from every nation, tribe, and language yet one in all the earth.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: What a Night!

32 “And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 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. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” (Acts 16:32–34)

In sharing the Gospel to the Philippian jailer and his family, Paul and Silas had the wonderful privilege to lead them to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. God converted the jailer and his household by sovereign grace alone, through faith alone, and in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. The jailer, his family and his servants were immediately baptized.

The display of true conversion is not only by one’s speech but also by one’s actions. Galatians 5:13-14 says, 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Paul and Silas had previously been the object of the jailer’s scorn and scourging. They became the objects of the jailer’s love for Christ. The jailer embodied the teachings of James 2:14-26 and I John 4:7-11. He demonstrated the reality of his faith in Christ by his good works toward Paul and Silas. What good works did the jailer perform?

First, he washed Paul and Silas’ wounds. Perhaps, these were the very wounds he himself administered.

Second, he brought them into his house. Where once they had been housed at his place of employment, the jailer brings them into his family dwelling.

Third, the jailer places food before the former prisoners. Means of punishment, like the stocks in the inner prison, gave way to a nutritious meal in the jailer’s home.

Finally, the jailer and his family rejoiced and praised God. Prayer and praise behind prison walls by two prisoners, has been replaced by public rejoicing by a jailer, his family, and by their two new friends. What a night.

Has your life taken upon itself such a change because of your conversion to Christ? May it be so.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: A Jailer is Truly Freed.

27 “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. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they 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 and to all who were in his house.” (Acts 16:27–32)

Assuming there were other men on duty, the jailer might be excused for sleeping on the job. If not, then he was fearfully startled from slumber when the earthquake occurred and he saw the prison doors opened. His natural recourse was to commit suicide assuming that all the prisoners had escaped. He would have been executed anyway for allowing such a thing to happen on his watch.

Seeing what the jailer was about to do, Paul yelled at him and said, ““Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” Upon hearing Paul’s voice, the jailer demanded that torch lights to be brought in order to see. Rushing into the jail with great fear and trembling, the jailer fell prostrate before Paul and Silas. This ironically was a display of humble submission by the prison official towards two of his prisoners.

When he brought Paul and Silas out from the inner prison he asked, ““Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The Holy Spirit had awakened the jailer’s soul to the truth of what Paul and Silas had previously prayed and sang: the truth of the Gospel. The physically imprisoned missionaries became the vessels God used in order to free the spiritually imprisoned jailer.  

Paul’s response was succinct and straightforward. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” As with each sinner convicted by their sin, the only deliverance from the penalty, power and the eventual presence of sin is trust in, commitment to, dependence upon and worship of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Not only was this the good news for the jailer, but this Gospel would also be available to the jailer’s family.

Dr. Simon Kistemaker explains that, “Paul and Silas are not promising salvation for the entire household if the jailer alone believes; in fact, they preach Christ to his family and servants in verse 32. They are simply saying that the offer of salvation is open to all of them.”

The offer of salvation in Jesus Christ alone is still offered to sinners today. It is the only God ordained way of deliverance from sin. Remember, God did not cause the earthquake to free Paul and Silas from their physical chains, but rather to free the jailer from his spiritual chains. Has God freed you?

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: An Earthquake from God.

25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 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.” (Acts 16:25–26)

When we last met, Paul and Silas were praying and singing to God at the midnight hour following a vicious beating sanctioned by the Philippian magistrates. They were in prison and their feet were fastened to stocks. They were extremely uncomfortable but also extremely content. Their physical pain gave way to spiritual prayers and praises to God.

It was at this moment that God miraculously intervened. A great earthquake occurred. This resulted in the prison foundations shaking, the prison doors opening and every prisoner’s bonds and shackles unfastening. That must have been some earthquake.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Earlier in Acts, we twice see apostles freed from jail by angels (Acts 5:17-32; 12:6-11). Now, however, God intervenes in another way – He sends a violent earthquake that causes the doors to swing open and the chains to come loose from the walls. Although the prisoners all miraculously escape injury, none makes a break for freedom; perhaps they understand that the events are somehow connected to Paul and Silas, and they stay near for protection.”

Warren Wiersbe writes, “Prayer and praise are powerful weapons (2 Chron. 20:1–22; Acts 4:23–37). God responded by shaking the foundations of the prison, opening all the doors, and loosening the prisoners’ bonds. They could have fled to freedom, but instead they remained right where they were. For one thing, Paul immediately took command; and, no doubt, the fear of God was on these pagan men. The prisoners must have realized that there was something very special about those two Jewish preachers.”

How did the jailer respond? We will find out when next we meet.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Praises in Prison.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

Badly beaten and held secure in stocks in an inner prison cell, Paul and Silas greatly suffered for their faith in Jesus Christ. What was their response to such ill treatment by the Philippian government officials? Did they complain? Did they doubt God? Did they become angry at their suffering and circumstances?

Today’s text tells us that Paul and Silas, at around the midnight hour, were praying and singing hymns to God. What a wonderful testimony of their living faith in Christ. What a convicting testimony of a living faith in Christ that I do not often display when I encounter suffering circumstances. Especially, in light of the fact that my circumstances do not even remotely compare to the circumstances Paul and Silas encountered in Philippi.

Dr. R .C. Sproul writes, “With their bodies aching and their feet uncomfortably held in the stocks, Paul and Silas cannot sleep in their prison cell. But they neither surrender to despair nor lament their sufferings. Instead, they go to God with their petitions and praises, bolstering their faith by reminding themselves of their great and loving God.”

I often encourage people to do three things when encountering difficulties in life. First read God’s Word. Second, pray the Word which you have read. Third, sing the Word which you have read and prayed. Paul and Silas display two of the three spiritual disciplines, and the other prisoners were listening.

Pastor Warren Wiersbe writes, “Instead of complaining or calling on God to judge their enemies, the two men prayed and praised God. When you are in pain, the midnight hour is not the easiest time for a sacred concert, but God gives “songs in the night” (Job 35:10; also see Ps. 42:8). Prayer and praise are powerful weapons (2 Chron. 20:1–22; Acts 4:23–37).”

 “Any fool can sing in the day,” said Charles Haddon Spurgeon. “It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but the skillful singer is he who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by … Songs in the night come only from God; they are not in the power of men.”

 Let each of us remember this lesson from a prison setting. No matter the circumstances, let us pray and sing to our Lord, who is sovereign over all our circumstances.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Two Missionaries are imprisoned.

19 “But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.” (Acts 16:19–24)

The act by the Apostle Paul in casting out the demon from the slave girl fulfilled the well-known expression,” No good deed goes unpunished.” The phrase is a sardonic commentary on the frequency with which acts of kindness backfire on those who offer them. In other words, those who help others are doomed to suffer as a result of their being helpful. The comment has been attributed to several luminaries, including filmmaker Billy Wilder, writer Clare Booth Luce, American financier John P. Grier, banker Andrew W. Mellon, and Oscar Wilde, although its actual origin has never been established. 

When the slave girl’s owners realized their source of income was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers of the city. The marketplace was where the city magistrates judged court cases. The probable reason why Luke and Timothy were not arrested was because they, unlike Paul and Silas, were Gentiles and not Jewish. It appears that anti-Semitism against Paul and Silas contributed to their arrest.

As is often the case, the owners of the slave girl did not express their real reasons for bringing Paul and Silas before the magistrates to stand trial. They never mentioned their loss of income due to the exorcism performed by God through Paul. Rather, they fabricated the charge that because the two missionaries were Jewish they were disturbing their Gentile city. They indicated that the duo were advocating customs that were not lawful for Romans to accept or practice. It is interesting to note that the accusers never said what those unlawful customs were.

The predominantly Gentile mob joined in the attack against Paul and Silas. The magistrates, without even hearing testimony from the two missionaries, gave orders for both of them to be beaten with rods. The rods were called fasces. They were bundles of rods carried by Roman law officers.

Following a severe beating, the magistrates had Paul and Silas thrown into prison. The jailer was to keep watch over them and hold them securely. Upon hearing this directive, the jailer placed Paul and Silas into the inner prison and fastened their feet in stocks.

The suffering experienced by Christians takes many forms. I Peter 2:21 says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

What was Paul Silas’ response to this unfair and unlawful treatment? We will examine the answer to this question when next we meet.

Until then, Soli deo Gloria!

The Apostle Paul: Paul’s Mind is Made Up.

21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.” (Acts 19:21–22)

Have you ever made up your mind? What does this idiom or phrase mean? To make up one’s mind means to decide to do something, or not, and/or to make a decision.

The Apostle Paul personally resolved to once again journey through the region of Macedonia and Achaia and then eventually to Jerusalem. He resolved to do this Luke says, “In the Spirit.” The text does not say “my spirit” or “his spirit” but rather “the Spirit.” This is a clear reference to the prompting by the Holy Spirit God.

This sovereign resolution from the LORD is supported by Paul’s own words when he said, ““After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” The word “must” is a present active imperative verb. It means that the goal or plan is absolutely necessary, inevitable, and in the sovereign plan of God (Acts 19:36; John 12:34; Luke 24:26). There can be no deviation or turning back from God’s direction.

Paul’s intention is to revisit the churches which the LORD established during the apostle’s second missionary journey. Following this, he intended to circle back to Jerusalem and then visit the existing church in the city of Rome. To prepare for this journey, Paul sent Timothy and Erastus ahead to Macedonia while he remained in Asia.

Dr. John Walvoord writes that, “This verse (Acts 9:21) sets the tone for the remainder of the book (Acts). Paul’s sights were now set on Rome (via Jerusalem) with the ultimate goal of reaching Spain (Rom. 1:15; 15:22–24). Luke made no reference to Spain because one of his purposes in writing Acts was to trace the spread of the gospel up to Paul’s being in Rome, center of the Roman world. Several have observed how Luke’s Gospel focuses in on Jerusalem, whereas Acts emphasizes the message going out from Jerusalem to Rome. These two cities seem to be the focal points of Luke-Acts.”

Today’s text illustrates how the LORD’s leading within our soul leads to outward changes of behavior and practice. What is the LORD prompting you to do, or to refrain from doing? Is your mind made up?

Soli deo Gloria!