Tuesday, May 27, 2014

TRUE FREEDOM (Acts Chapter 16)

Acts 16:30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved?”
It was his job.  The authorities would bring to him the criminals, he would lock them up.  He had, no doubt, dealt with many prisoners over the course of his career, but never any quite like Paul and Silas.  Their crime?  They had upset the local economy when they exorcised a demon from a fortune teller.  Her masters had profited much from her fortune telling.  When they saw that their hope of profit-making from her fortune-telling was gone, they dragged Paul and Silas into the market place and to the chief magistrates.  Their indictment against them?  “They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as romans to accept or practice” (Acts 16:21).  The magistrates ordered them to be beaten and thrown into jail.
The jailer threw them into the “inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:24).  It was undoubtedly a cold, dark, and inhospitable place.  They had, in that setting, no earthly reason to rejoice, but that is exactly what they did.  “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25).  Their feet might have been tethered, but their hearts had long ago been set free to worship.  I’m confident that the jailer had never witnessed anything like that before.  Paul and Silas were men of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, and utterly devoted to the task of sharing the gospel.  “The prisoners were listening to them” as they sang (Acts 16:25).  Paul and Silas had an attentive audience.  People are attentive to our response to difficult circumstances.  We are sometimes prone to grumble, but the Fount of Blessing is able to tune our hearts to sing His grace.  Praise amidst problems bears an alluring melody. 
God wanted Paul and Silas freed, so He caused a great earthquake.  The earthquake shook the foundations of the jail house, the prison doors were opened, and their chains were unfastened.  They were set free.  The jailer was roused out of his sleep.  Supposing his prisoners to be gone, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself.  The penalty for losing one’s prisoners was quite severe (Cf. Acts 12:19).  Paul realized what was happening and intervened.  He cried out with a loud voice “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here” (Acts 16:28).  The jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas (Acts 16:29).  “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” he asked (Acts 16:30).  It is important at this point to remember what has just transpired.  The jailer had locked them up.  He had fastened their feet with stocks.  He was trembling with fear—what would the authorities do to him?  What might these men do to him?  He had treated them harshly-- as prisoners.  He feared retribution.  Had they been common prisoners, he might have had reason to fear.  But they were no ordinary prisoners—they cared more for their message than they did for themselves.   They said to the Jailer, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household’” (Acts 16:31).  And he believed, along with his whole household (Acts 16:33).
Paul and Silas were free though imprisoned.  Born again, they had been long ago set free to worship, serve, and share the gospel—to expend their lives in that which matters.  The jailer was not imprisoned in a cell but he was not free.  He was a slave to sin and fearful of pending judgment.  Circumstances brought him to a point of desperation.  Paul intervened and shared the gospel with him.  He believed.  At the moment of saving faith he was delivered from spiritual bondage and experienced the true freedom that Christ alone can provide.  John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  Jesus specializes in freeing captives.  We are given no indication from Scripture of what happened henceforth for the Philippian jailer, but one might suppose that he went on—as a captive set free—to share the gospel with others still bound in spiritual chains.  True freedom is bound up in Christ.

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