Summary: Have you ever known someone you though was a “tough case” when it came to believing in Christ? The conversion of the tough Roman jailor in Philippi shows that even the tough cases can be saved by a Christian faith that is real.
God Saves a Toughened Heart
May 7, 2017
TEXT: Turn in your Bibles to Acts 16
NOTE: A PowerPoint or ProPresenter 6 slide presentation is available for this sermon upon request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adapted from a sermon by Jerry Shirley on SermonCentral.com.
Is there someone you know who needs Christ, and you would call them “a tough case”? Have you ever been discouraged, thinking, “Oh, they’ll never come to Christ; they’re too hardened”? My sermon is titled “God Saves a Toughened Heart,” but a good subtitle might be: “Jesus CAN save the hard cases.”
The last time we saw Paul and Silas, a slave girl was delivered from demonic possession. She had psychic abilities—supernatural powers that were not from God, but from the demonic realm. Her masters were making a lot of money off her, and when the demons were cast out of her and she became a follower of Christ, they got upset.
So, they trumped up false charges against Paul and Silas…and this resulted in one of the most well-known conversions recorded in the New Testament. Notice three points with me today:
I. FIRST, WE SEE PERSECUTION – Verse 22-24 – “And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. 23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: 24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.”
How many here thought that when you were saved, all your problems would end? If so, you’ve learned that believers are not exempt from the troubles all people face in life.
In fact, you’ve probably noticed that once you were saved you have some new problems. Peter said in 1 Peter 4:12 – “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you [speaking of opposition and persecution], as though some strange thing happened unto you.”
Before you came to faith in Christ, you were never persecuted or ridiculed for your beliefs or excluded because you were a Christian. After coming to Christ, some form of rejection and exclusion, if not actual persecution is to be expected if you’re truly living godly.
Well, Paul and Silas here in chapter 16 are experiencing just such troubles—not because they’re OUT OF God’s will…but because they’re IN God’s will!—not for doing the WRONG thing…but the RIGHT thing!
Now I want you to notice three things they did to Paul and Silas:
1) First, they beat them. – verse 23 begins by saying that they laid stripes on them.
It’s easy for us to just read right over today, but what does it really mean? Each Roman province had a group of civil servants called “lictors.” They were brutal policemen—the strong arm of the Roman government—and they were commanded by the magistrates. Each carried a rod like a policeman’s night stick, and if a magistrate commanded a lictor to beat someone, he’d beat him half to death. That’s what happened to Paul and Silas.
2) Second, they cast them into prison – The second part of verse 23 says that after they had laid many stripes on Paul and Silas, “…they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely.”
Now just eliminate from your mind the images you have of today’s prisons, with recreational rooms, air conditioning, an exercise ground and so on. They were nothing like that at all.…
a) Historians describe prisons as large stone-walled holes in the ground, above a sewer with a trap door to drop the bodies of the numerous people who died in prison from disease, starvation or exposure and a hole in floor for toiletry needs.
b) There were no individual cells; rather a typical prison was a large holding cell for all the prisoners awaiting trial or execution, with an “inner prison” where certain prisoners were put in stocks, which we’ll talk about in a moment.
c) Prisoners in the common room were chained together, sleeping on the cold stone floor, having no blankets or coats to protect from the cold, no ventilation and no privacy.
d) All you had was the clothes on your back, and a big problem was rats and bedbugs and other insidious insects that inflicted you incessantly.
e) The ancient Roman historian Sallust described the Mamertine Prison in Rome this way, “Its appearance is disgusting and vile by reason of the filth, the darkness and the stench.”
You can only imagine how horrific it was to be in a Roman prison.
3) Verse 24 tells us one more thing they did to Paul and Silas: They were put in stocks. – “…who, having received such a charge, cast them into the inner prison, and secured their feet to the stocks.”