Summary: I would like to thank Pastor Jerry Shirley for sharing this series on Acts. It has been a blessing as well as a great help. I have used these for our church, as I spend my days caring for my dying father.
“What must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:22-40
If you remember, last time we saw the slave girl, who had supernatural powers that were not from God. Paul and Silas delivered her from demonic possession and because her masters were making a lot of money off of her, they got mad and brought up some false charges against Paul and Silas. Paul and Silas were imprisoned for preaching the gospel but their arrest resulted in one of the greatest conversions recorded in the Bible. I want to examine three things this morning.
1. The Persecution
How many here were hoping that when you got saved, it would be an end to all your problems…?!
Have you learned, since then, that Jesus didn’t come to save us from circumstances but to save us from our sins? He lives to go through the troubles of this life with us!
Paul tells young Timothy in [2Ti 3:12 NKJV] “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
What we find, here in chapter 16, is that Paul and Silas’ are in trouble, not because they’re out of God’s will…but because they’re IN God’s will!
They’re not in trouble for doing the wrong thing, but the RIGHT thing!
3 things that happened to Paul and Silas, for being IN God’s will:
1. They were severely beaten. Look at verse 23.
Now when we read this in the KJV or NKJV it’s easy for us to read over verse 23 without giving much thought to what we read.
But what does this really mean?
This is much worse than any whipping my parents EVER gave me.
Each Roman province had a group of men called the “lictors.” SHOW SLIDE.
They were brutal men, the strong arm of the Roman gov’t, and each carried a bundle of rods, strapped together and usually with their axe in the bunch.
These men loved their jobs and if a magistrate commanded a lictor to beat someone, he’d beat them half to death. And this is what happened to Paul and Silas. After the severe beating of Paul and Silas were…
2. Thrown into prison. Verses 23-24
I want you to wipe every image you have of today’s prisons from your mind because this prison was nothing like the Motels we call prison today.
The prisons of Paul’s day were more like dungeons than individual cells. Paul and Silas were thrown into the “inner” prison, which simply means they were put in the deepest, darkest part of that hole in the ground. It was damp and cold, and history says this kind of prison would be rat infested.
Imagine trying to lie down or relax with rats crawling all over or chewing on you. This is a far cry from the cable TV, college degree rehab farms we call prison today. This place, because of the rat infestation would have had lice, and fleas.
**Oh by the way, there were no facilities in these prisons, so if you had to go you just go and there would be little if any ventilation. So you can just image the smells. It would have been crowded, and the sounds of moaning as well as the smell of death would fill the air.
This is where Paul and Silas were put for preaching the Word of God.
Would you have given up by this point?
C. Put them in stocks verse 24.
I used the word shackles last week but these were not simple handcuffs and leg shackles. These stocks were intended for the sole purpose of inflicting as much pain as possible. They would spread the prisoner’s legs until the hips were almost out of joint locking their legs in that position. Eventually this would cause severe leg cramps. Have you been lying in bed and had one of those leg cramps that make you yell in pain? I’ve had them so bad that Suzanne had to get up and put hot washcloths on my thigh before I could get up and walk it off.
Prisoners in Roman stocks couldn’t jump up and walk off the cramps! They had no one to wrap their legs with hot towels. They could only suffer through the pain.
So, this is where we find Paul and Silas. Their backs are raw, bloodied, bruised and they’re undergoing painful punishment in this Roman prison.
All this for preaching the Word of God!
Let me ask you something. When was the last time that you/I actually suffered for our faith? What have you/I endured for the cause of Christ?
This story ought to challenge each of us to quit “playing church” and get our eyes on the goal!
Someone said the level of your character is measured by what it takes to get you to quit. And it’s amazing how little it takes for some American Christians to get upset and quit on the cause of Christ.