AN EXPOSITION OF ACTS 16:14-31
“And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. 15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
¶ 16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: 17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. 18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
¶ 19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, 20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, 21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. 22 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.
¶ 25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. 29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
The city of Thyatira is located in a province in western Asia Minor (modern Turkey). In Biblical days, Thyatira was known for making a beautiful purple dyed cloth that was in much demand. In the providence of God, a prosperous businesswoman name Lydia heard the gospel from the apostle Paul and became a Christian. She became the first convert to Christianity in Macedonia, and in all of Europe.
While continuing to minister in Thyatira, Paul and Silas came across a demon possessed girl who followed them and mocked. Finally, Paul, “being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour” (Acts 16:18).
The exorcism produced a terrible anger in the men who took advantage of the girl with a spirit of divinization when they saw that the hope of their gains was gone. Paul and Silas were apprehended, and dragged into the marketplace to face the Romans rulers.
The Law of Moses forbid consulting with demonic spirits, let alone making a profit from them. “Regard not [turn away from] them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards , to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:31).
However, the Roman citizens had no such law. Therefore, Paul and Silas were accused of bringing trouble to the city by teaching Jewish customs not lawful for the Romans to receive, or observe (Acts 16:21).
The common people in Thyatira who were present that day agreed with those who practiced divination, and became incensed. “And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them” (Acts 16:22).
The beatings would be done by those wielding a long leather strap with pellets or stone embedded. Or they might have been beaten with rods. They were soon black, and blue, and bleeding. Then, they were thrown into a stockade, a prison.
The jailor was instructed to make sure the prisoners did not escape. Taking his orders seriously, the jailor threw them into an inner prison that was smelly and foul with human excrement and other bodily discharges. An iron band might have been put around their necks, while their feet were chained in stocks.
The strong doors of the inner prison clanged shut. The outer doors were secured. Darkness and dampness settled in. Paul and Silas were left alone.
At first, they spoke quietly to one another. But as the hours passed and the Holy Spirit came to comfort and strengthen them, the hearts of Paul and Silas became bold. Their voices became strong and “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25). Perhaps they sang one of the Psalms.
“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
In the city of our God,
In the mountain of His holiness.
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north,
The city of the great King.
Is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north,
The city of the great King.”
Paul and Silas sang and testified. They began to tell what Christ meant to them. “And the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25). The other prisoners heard Paula and Silas because they were singing in a lusty and loud way, so great was their courage and spiritual strength.
Is that your testimony? Can you sing this song?
“ll tell the world, that I’m a Christian,
I’m not ashamed, His name to bear;
I’ll tell the world, that I’m a Christian,
I’ll take Him with me anywhere.
I’ll tell the world, how Jesus saved me,
and how He gave me a life brand new;
And I know that if you trust Him,
that all He gave me, He’ll give to you.
I’ll tell the world, that He’s my Saviour,
No other one, could love me so;
My life, my all is His forever,
and where He leads me I will go.”
Not only did the prisoners hear Paul and Silas sing, so did the Lord. And suddenly, “there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed” (Acts 16:26).
Notice that “every one’s bands were loosed.” Here is the principle of blessing by association. When the angel came to unfasten the chains that held Paul and Silas, he let the other prisoners go free too.
It was a terrifying moment for some. Certainly, the jailer was alarmed, because he thought all the prisoners were going to escape and he would be blamed. It did not matter how the prisoners escaped; the jailer would be held responsible with his life.
In a moment of panic, the jailer pulled out his sword to plunge the blade into his heart. “But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (Acts 16:28).
The jailer could not believe what he heard. His hand paused. He called for a torch. On trembling legs, he fell down before Paul and Silas in the filth of the jail and asked a question which has reverberated down through the centuries. “Sir, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:29, 30).
In context, the jailer must have been asking, “What must I do to be saved from the Roman penalty of death for allowing prisoners to escape?” However, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul saw a double meaning in the question, and turned the situation into a spiritual opportunity to share the gospel.
And so Paul answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).
With that introduction, Paul and Silas went to speak to the jailer the Word of the Lord, and then, when the jailer took the men home, they spoke to his household as well (Acts 16:32).
Perhaps you have asked that same question. “Sir, what must I do to be saved? How can I have the peace, joy, and happiness that Paul and Silas had after being beaten, thrown unjustly into prison, and placed in chains?”
The answer to such an inquiry is very simple. Paul did not go into any deep theological discussion. Paul did not discuss philosophy, psychology, or world events, but simply turned the heart of the jailer to Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God who was crucified for sinners, and rose again from the dead on the third day. Said Paul, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
From these words, we learn what a person must do to be saved. By that, we mean to be saved from the power and pollution of sin.
Some people wonder how to be saved from war. Each generation fears that Armageddon is just ahead.
Some people wonder how to be saved from their home falling apart. Divorce is rampant. One out of every two marriages in America end in divorce. Men and women fight, and argue, and hate each other in the home, and the children are caught up in the turmoil.
Some people want to know how to save the planet. Irresponsible politicians and pseudo scientists with an agenda, have convinced young people that humanity has less than a decade to save the planet from irreparable harm.
Some people want to be saved from life itself. Country legend Jim Reeves used to sing a song with the words,
“Make the world go away.
Get it off my shoulders.”
Job said, “My days are spent without hope” (Job 7:6).
Cain had tremendous guilt in his life, and said, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” He became a vagabond, a wanderer.
The Psalmist said, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest” (Psalm 55:6).
Have you ever said, “I would like to fly away from my problems, and have rest”?
If a person comes to Christ, and believes in Him with all their heart, it will have an impact on nations, on the home, on the planet, and on self. But first a person must believe personally in the Lord Jesus Christ.
When a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior, the Lord Jesus comes to help bear the burdens of life. The Christian can fly to Him, and find grace to help in time of need. The believer can be saved from the problems of life.
The command to believe is a simple solution, and yet it is also difficult.
What does it mean to believe?
First, to believe means to be persuaded of God’s revealed truth. Those who believe in Jesus are persuaded He is not a liar, or a lunatic, but the Son of the Living God, and the Savior of the world. Those who believe in Christ are convinced that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Second, to believe means to adhere to, rely on God’s promises. God has promised to give eternal life to as many as receive His way of salvation. “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25).
Third, to believe is to trust solely the Person and work of the Savior Jesus Christ. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).
There are people who are not fully persuaded. They are like the Biblical Felix, the Roman procurator, or administrator, who trembled after hearing Paul preach of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come. Felix said to Paul, “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25).
There are people who do not rely on God’s promises. They do not solely trust in Christ.
But there are other who come just as they are.
Mary Magdalen came to Jesus just as she was.
Saul of Tarsus came to Jesus just as he was.
The woman at the well did not change before she met Christ. Christ met her where she was in life, and told her all things that she did. The woman changed for she found true love in Divine forgiveness.
There are some people who come with great negative emotion to Jesus. The jailer was trembling when he fell before Paul and Silas. The gospel can cause some people to tremble when they hear there is a hell prepared for the devil and his angels, and sinners join them there.
There are some who come with great joy to Jesus, because the burden of sin rolled off their back when they believed. They were overwhelmed with the joy of salvation.
It does not matter. Whoever you are, where-ever you are, come. Come now. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.
Come and commit your mind, your will, your emotions, and your body to Jesus for His glory, and for your good. Amen.