Summary: An evangelistic sermon used at a Baptismal Service.

A gaoler gets baptised Acts 16:22-35

Gosh- whoever said being a Christian was boring!

- locked up. Praying and praising!. Listening in. Powerful earthquake. Chains loosed. Suicide attempt… Gaoler moves from death to life… let’s God into his life… gets dunked

And all before breakfast!

Locked up

Well- Paul and Silas are the ones locked up. And it’s not one of our cosy little cells/scenarios, either

- whipped, stripped, “severely flogged”

- “guard them carefully!” (ie ‘it’s their life or yours’!)

o v24 ‘upon receiving SUCH orders -> inner cells and stocks

o oh dangerous folks, these followers of Jesus!

 they might be kind to someone, or sing hymns!

For me: = time for ‘power winging’

- (heard of power dressing, lunching healing-> now WINGING)

Here’s the stonking thing- they don’t

- and you find v often, when Christians are under pressure (like this) -> they don’t! Some do, but many don’t

- “Christians are like tea bags- you don’t find out what they’re made of till they’re in hot water”

- as I’ve said before: how Christians react to trials is the GREATEST testimony to the reality and power of God and faith in Him

o seldom exempt from anything. But can be brought through ANYTHING


Richard Wurmbrand, imprisoned & often tortured for his faith “Alone in my cell, cold, hungry and in rags, I danced for joy every night... sometimes I was so filled with joy that I felt I would burst if I did not give it expression”

James Mawdsley told of same experience

So- why do some crumble in the prison of life, and others power through?


It has to do with faith. Life deals its blows, imprisonments and chains to ALL

- but these guys know God… Jesus is with them.

o NO- REALLY! They actually believe God is bigger than the prison and can work His plans out… get them out if need be… and even if the worst comes, death, they WIN.

- it’s not psychosis. There’s no denying the cell, pain- REALITY

o but no denying: seen Jesus do 100s of things before

The person who doesn’t actually believe in Jesus doesn’t have that.

- “hang on, you say! I believe about God… Jesus. I don’t get that assurance!”

o fair enough. Let’s acknowledge the REALITY of that

 AND that there are times when our faith is pushed to its limit

 AND that it is sometimes harder to watch someone else go through it. We don’t get sustained in the way they do

 “happy is the person who does not fall away on behalf of me”

• Illustr: me and Perry, Rob Lacey

- but let me ask you: do you believe ABOUT God/Jesus (like so many do) or believe IN Him?

o big difference. Illustrate

Faith is believing IN Jesus. Faith is what pleases God

Heb 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

How come Christians are so tough? Assured? Confident? (Humble I hope, too)

- Faith!

- “I wish I had your faith”!

- Actually, you can! It’s not a matter of having faith in itself- but faith in a BIG and FAITHFUL God. And it comes over time… and God develops it in you… and He doesn’t allow you too big a hurdle before your faith is up to it

So- their faith powers them through prison and broke the chains. Something else did, as well

The power of praise and prayer

one aspect of this is their attitude, perspective and attention

- it was on God!

- true: one reason even Christians crumble under their chains is that their ‘eyes’ turn inwards…. and off God

o chains and self become the focus

o = understandable, many times. Prison, chains, stocks etc ARE horrible

o but truth is we’re NOT forgotten/deserted by God. He gives momentary shafts of light in the dungeon… freedom from the chains

 WE then make the choice of whether to step up/out- or go back to the cell.

So- I’m talking about a psychological phenomena of where your ‘minds eye’/focus is.

- but it doesn’t END there. That’s not ALL there is to it

Psychology/positive confession… positive thought (of which I am open but CAUTIOUS, as much is just in realm of SOUL/Mind)… may help you to feel good about your chains

- but it doesn’t bring earthquakes, and shake them off you!

- can get you so far, but no further

- can’t make you a NEW PERSON. Get you right with God

Nah- something ELSE… “other”… happens here. Praise and prayer brings the POWER of GOD

- does affect US. (it’s what we were made for)

- but has an effect of GOD, too. Praise and faith causes Him to respond

“The earthquake was just coincidence!”

- well- coincidences happen when we pray. It’s not a formula- but things happen

- not to begrudge psychology or small helps… everything helps

o BUT REAL DEEP DOWN, NEW CREATION CHANGE comes only by an act of God

= what is symbolised, here, in Nathan’s baptism.

Listening in (OHP)

Another fascinating thing here is- the ‘innocents’ and ‘rogues’ who shared the cells with Paul and Silas may not have shared their faith (yet!)

- but they sure enjoyed listening in! Couldn’t stop themselves! Was fascinating

- Potty Joke: Children’s missionary in middle east. Jeep runs out of petrol. No Jerry-can. Only potty. Walked a mile to nearest petrol station, & carried the potty back carefully, filled. As she poured the contents of the potty into the jeep a large Cadillac drew up occupied by a wealthy shaikh. They stared at her. One opened the window and said "Excuse me! My friend and I, although we do not share your religion- we greatly admire your faith!"

o not least when the sensuround sound effects come

 earthquake and all!

In fact- I reckon they do more than just listen in. I reckon they hang around, too. “We are all here! Don’t harm yourself!

So- may have been more than just the gaoler who find faith… and let God into their lives

So, basically- if you’re listening in… observing… this morning… doubts, cautions, scepticism and all

- that’s just fine!

People want to know: “what makes these Christians tick… different” “why is Nathan going through this funny ritual?- he seems so normal!”

- it’s good to ask Qn’s… Seek and you will find

o Alpha. Nicky Gumbel. “Ask and it will be given to you”

Letting in

But there’s a time to stop asking question- and make a decision. (The process is kind of precipitated for the gaoler by a dramatic demonstration of God’s power!)

- not like that for 99.99% of us.

- But the awareness of the need to DECIDE is VERY common.

“what must I do to be saved”?

- it dawns on him that God exists… is big… and he’s not right with Him. HE’S the one in darkness! HIS soul will be in prison without Jesus

Here’s the answer. In a nutshell: “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (summary of it. There IS more to being a Xian!)

- there’s that believing IN, again

- it’s PERSONAL (YOU need to do it)- but available to ALL

o to his whole family (and ALL listening in!)

o I think that’s what’s being said, here

 family gets baptised –but they ALL believe v34

 just let me explain why folks do this baptism thing in different ways. This is NOT to criticise! Baptism is what unites us!

• 1) Sacramental approach (magic?)

• 2) Covenant theology approach (here?)

• 3) Believers baptism approach

Anyway- the gaoler becomes a believer…. and the baptism follows

Living it

But, of course, believing isn’t the end to it all! It’s just the start.

- there’s learning: he learns more. v32 ‘then they spoke the word of the Lord to him”

o maybe: how Jesus died to bridge the gap between God and man. How He was/is God come to earth. How He rose from the dead

He DOES go further. He’s eager to LIVE it, show it

- and it’s genuine.

o Belief-> repentance- washes their wounds

o baptised. Probably in the water that he washed them in

 his act of repentance, symbolically, cleanses him

 the wounds of the message of Christ wash his sins away

And that’s one thing baptism symbolises

- forgiven! All the things between God and them

o what has already happened!

- serious: living for it…. Jesus. Public display

- new life, new creation

- Holy Spirit (water)

o He comes when we praise

o He comes into our lives and fills us