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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Jailer of Philippi

After receiving a vision in the night, of a man of Macedonia pleading with him to come their way, Paul leaves for Philippi taking Silas with him. Shortly after arriving in Philippi, Paul and Silas unmask a girl with the spirit of divination, and after casting out the demon that was inside her promptly end up in prison for their act of kindness having angered the girl’s masters because they used to profit greatly from her.

Here they were in the inner prison, both men having their feet placed in stocks, yet rather than bemoan their fate Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns late into the night. They knew the God they served, and they likewise knew that they were there for a purpose. Although they might not see God’s purpose of their having been thrown in prison in the present, their faith in God was such that they knew He was already making a way for them in the future.

I’ve always found the contrast humbling, that while Paul and Silas sang in their shackles, we murmur in our freedom. Will it take shackles for us to be thankful? Will it take privation and need, hunger and poverty to cause us to realize that we weren’t really all that thankful when we ought to have been? Most people look far and wide to find those doing better than themselves, and then summarily compare their existence to theirs, growing bitter in their hearts that they have not amassed more than the ever illusive ‘they’ have. Why do so few look at those who are hurting and hungry and naked and cold realizing that they are blessed in this present life far above a great majority in this world?

Although Paul and Silas were ignorant as to what the plan of God was, they knew without doubt that God did have a plan. God’s plan all along was to save the jailer of Philippi, and the journey to his salvation begins with an earthquake at midnight.

Acts 16:25-27, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 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 chains were loosed.”

Within these two verses we have God’s entire strategy as it pertains to the saving of a soul that is shackled by sin.

First, God shakes the foundations!

The earthquake devastated the prison, it shook the foundation, and awakened the sleeping jailer, who upon seeing that the walls had come crashing down around him comes to the conclusion that the prisoners had all fled, and seeing no other means of escape draws his sword and prepares to take his own life. It is then that the authoritative voice of Paul the apostle breaks the veneer of the jailer, as he commands him loudly, ‘do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’

No one had fled, all were still present, and amazed the jailer called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. In an instant the jailer realized it was not Paul and Silas who were in prison, it was him. The walls and the chains and the foundations of stone can never contain true faith, because if the Son has made us free, then we are free indeed. No matter where we might find ourselves, no matter the circumstances we may encounter, we are free because Jesus made us free, and He made us free with the price of His blood.

God had decided it was time to intervene, not for Paul and Silas’s sakes, because they seemed quite content praying and singing with their feet in stocks, but rather for the sake of the jailer. God had established an appointed time wherein the jailer’s old foundation had to be removed, so that a new foundation might be erected.

1 Corinthians 3:11, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

There is but one sure foundation, there is but one stable foundation, there is but one steadfast foundation, and that is Jesus Christ. It matters not who the individual trying to lay a new foundation is, it matters not how educated, philosophically challenging, articulate or motivating he might be, if the foundation upon which he is attempting to build is not Jesus, then it will surely fall, and crumble under the weight of its own futility and vanity.

I have no problem with seeing such edifices come crumbling down, I have no problem standing by and watching something not founded in Christ come to its inevitable end, the only problem I have is that most often when the edifice crumbles there are still innocents inside, who often get crushed by the rubble. This is why we must speak the truth with courage, and boldness, and urgency.

All these doctrines and teachings all these repackaged heresies of old that are being revamped in our modern age, they will crumble in and of themselves given enough time. If not for the sheep, if not for the innocents who have surrendered their hearts to these things, I for one would mimic Jonah, grab a tub of popcorn, find a shady spot and watch it all come crashing down. I have no sympathy for those who have built kingdoms on deception and on encouraging the sheep of God’s pasture to disobey and outright rebel against the Shepherd.

Second, God opens the doors!

A man whose foundation has been shaken and demolished is confronted with a real and present spiritual need. Seeing His need, God stirs his heart, and the jailer asks as the rich young ruler once did ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

Acts 16:31, “So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

He is the way, He is the truth, He is the life, He is the door, He is the path, and only by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ will men be saved. There is no other way! I don’t care who gets on television and tells you different, I don’t care what emotional appeals they make, either the Word of God is true, and every man who contradicts it is a liar, or God lied and there’s no point to any of this!

Yes, it is that cut and dry, it is that black and white, it has to be because it is how it is presented in the Bible. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, it is the only way by which men can be saved and reconciled unto God.

Third, God loosens the chains!

The jailer realized a truth that caused him to fall down and tremble at the feet of Paul and Silas. He realized it was not the two men standing before him who were in chains, it was him all along that was bound; it was him all along that was shackled by the sin in his life. God loosens the chains; He breaks the bonds, and sets us free. He is a good and merciful God, but One who has a standard which He will lower for no man.

There are two practical lessons I would like you to take away from these few words today, the first being for believers in Christ, and the second for those who have as yet not believed on Him, who have as yet not surrendered their hearts to Him, and who do not know Him as Lord and King. For those of you who are believers, if ever you find yourself in the inner prison of trial and affliction, it is possible that God allowed you to end up there that He might use you for the salvation and redemption of a lost soul. Do not murmur in your trial, but rather rejoice, because God has a plan, and it goes far beyond what you can currently perceive.

For anyone happening to read this who is not a believer, be forewarned your foundation is unstable, it is shifting and it is soon to crumble. God wants to open the door of your heart, and loosen the chains that hold you captive that you might serve Him with obedience and gladness of heart.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

1 comment:

JR CONRAD said...

Great devotional thoughts. One other detail I have observed is the sincerity of the jailer, and the urgency of turning his life over to Christ was so great that they didn't even wait until morning to get baptized into Christ. They did it immediately, in the middle of the night. Oh, how folks need to be serious about turning their lives totally over the Jesus without delay.