Summary: God sent the earthquake not to free the prisoners from bondage (physically) but to set the jailer and his family free from their bondage (spiritually).
Good morning. We saw last week how the Lord led Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke from Asia to Europe and to this leading city of Macedonia, Philippi.
• Through them, the Gospel reached Lydia, the businesswoman, and her household.
• It was made possible by the providence of God. God’s work in Philippi continues.
• Luke has more to say in Acts 16:16-40. Let us pray before we begin.
Heavenly Father, once again we bow before You. We are here to listen to you because our hope and strength are found in your Word.
We acknowledge that we need to learn and be taught, our eyes to be opened, our hearts to be enlightened, and our affections to be drawn after You. Thank You for your written Word.
Thank you for teaching us through the book of Acts. Help us see Christ and the power of the Gospel afresh. For this, we ask in Jesus’ Name.
We are going to read this passage progressively.
• It records the amazing account of the deliverance of a demon-possessed girl and a violent earthquake, and how God orchestrated these to save a family, ultimately.
• The earthquake was miraculous, but what happened after that was equally amazing.
• God was in it again, acting to save His elect. How did it happen?
Let’s get into the text. Acts 16:16-18.
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her.
The missionaries met a slave girl who was possessed by a spirit that allowed her to predict fortunes. Her owners were making use of her to earn money.
• She followed Paul and his team and shouted, “These men are servants of the Most High God who are telling you the way to be saved.” (16:17)
• Not once, not for a day, but many days. It was unwarranted and damaging to Paul’s work of sharing the Gospel.
• The confession, coming from a questionable source, would only confuse the pagan crowd.
• It became so distracting and troubling that Paul turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" (16:18)
• At that moment, the spirit left her. She was completed healed.
19 When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, "These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice."
Luke did not say, “when the owners realised that she was healed” but “when they realised that their hope of making money was gone.”
• That was their concern, not that the girl was well but that they’ve lost their source of income. She was just a tool in their eyes.
• When Paul cast out the demon, he cast out their income.
This was not good news to the masters of the slave girl. They were people driven by self-gain. They use people and love things, not using things to love people.
• People are to be loved and not used. We love people and use things; not love things and use people.
The unhappy masters dragged Paul and Silas to the marketplace to face the two magistrates overseeing the city Philippi, a Roman colony.
• They accused them falsely. "These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice." (20b-21)
• There were so few Jews in this city as evidenced by the lack of a synagogue, and yet they were accused of turning the city into an uproar advocating Jewish customs.
• And to start off saying, “These men are Jews” revealed their racial prejudice, which was likely the result of the anti-Jewish sentiments that were prevalent at the time because the Roman Emperor Claudius had just expelled the Jews from Rome in AD49 (less than a year ago).
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.