Script for the July 10th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.

Introduction

Welcome to the July 10th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis, and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.

Today’s reading is Job 41-42 and Acts 16, but we will focus only on the New Testament in this podcast.

If you have questions about anything in the Old Testament or New Testament reading assignment, please email me at mattellis1997@gmail.com. I may answer it on the next podcast.

Acts 16

This chapter begins soon after there was a “sharp disagreement” between two friends. Barnabas wanted to give John Mark another chance and take him on this second missionary journey. But Paul essentially said, “Over my dead body.” So Barnabas took John Mark on a mission trip while Paul took Silas.

Paul and Silas went to Derbe and Lystra, cities Paul had previously visited. In fact, it was in Lystra where they stoned Paul and thought he was dead. I can only imagine how impressed some of the city folks were to see Paul courageously showing back up to the place where people had tried to kill him.

This time, Paul picked up another traveling companion in the city of Lystra. His name was Timothy, and the believers in the area spoke very highly of him. But there is a matter that we need to discuss, and it has to do with why Paul had Timothy circumcised. The leaders at the Jerusalem church were so clear that circumcision should not be forced upon the Gentile believers as a part of salvation. Yet, Paul had Timothy circumcised.

Acts 16:3 (CSB): “Paul wanted Timothy to go with him; so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek.”

Paul’s reasons for having Timothy circumcised had nothing to do with Timothy’s salvation. Instead, it had everything to do with the salvation of the Jews in those places. Paul knew that the Jews would not take Timothy seriously unless they knew he had undergone the Old Testament ritual for males. So since Paul was all about “becoming all things to all men so that he might save some,” he had Timothy circumcised so that the matter wouldn’t be a stumbling block for the Jewish people.

Then, we come upon a passage where Paul was “forbidden by the Holy Spirit.” Let’s read the verses and then briefly discuss what they mean.

Acts 16:6-8 (CSB): “They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia; they had been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. Passing by Mysia they went down to Troas.”

We are told that the Holy Spirit kept them from speaking the Gospel in certain cities. We’re just not told how He did it. It could have been that the Holy Spirit spoke to Paul in a vision. Maybe the members of their missionary team affirmed to each other that God wasn’t giving them peace in their hearts about ministering in the cities under consideration. Maybe the people of the cities just weren’t open to the Gospel, or they might even have been militant against it.

We don’t know for sure how the Holy Spirit spoke to them. But we know that He did. And rather than going off into a big discussion about how the Lord speaks to us, and He still does in the 21st century, I want to recommend a wonderful book to you. It’s written by Henry and Richard Blackaby and called “Hearing God’s Voice.” While we don’t know how the Spirit spoke to Paul, we know that the Spirit spoke to him and the Spirit still desires to speak to us today.

Getting back to the story, we just read of how the Spirit prohibited Paul and his group from sharing the Gospel with a couple of cities. But then we read that the Spirit gave an invitation to Paul and his group.

Acts 16:9-10 (CSB): “During the night Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, ‘Cross over to Macedonia and help us!’ After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

The Lord was leading Paul all along the way. Mature Christianity does not determine what we will do for the Lord and then pray that He would bless our ambitious efforts. Instead, mature Christianity follows Jesus’ example of being led by the Spirit in determining what we are to do. This applies to individuals, mission teams, churches, and any other kind of group that claims to be “Christian.”

It is in these verses that we observe something that is worth noting. The writer of the book of Acts, Luke, moves from talking about Paul in the 3rd person singular (“he”) to the 1st person plural (“we”).

Acts 16:7-10 (CSB): “When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. Passing by Mysia they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

So it seems that Luke, the author, joined Paul’s journey when they were in Troas. It could be easily seen how having a doctor along could be helpful to Paul, who had already experienced a stoning and other physical abuse.

As Paul and his mission team set sail, they would eventually arrive at the city of Philippi, “a Roman colony and a leading city of the district of Macedonia.” There, they went down to the local river on the Sabbath. They spoke to the women, and Lydia, a fairly wealthy woman from another city, was listening. She soon gave her heart to the Lord, as did her family, and they went public with their faith by being baptized. Upon her gracious pleading, the missionary team stayed at her home.

While in Philippi, Paul’s missionary team was being undermined by a slave girl. The girl was demon-possessed, and it was speaking through the girl to cast doubt on the Gospel.

Acts 16:17 (CSB): “As she followed Paul and us she cried out, ‘These men, who are proclaiming to you a way of salvation, are the servants of the Most High God.’ She did this for many days.”

Paul was patient but only to an extent. After a few days, he looked at the slave girl and commanded, in Jesus’ Name, that the demon come out of her. It did. And that’s when the real trouble came.

One would think that freeing a girl from a demon would have been celebrated. She was no longer controlled by an evil force that almost certainly caused her to engage in some self-destructive habits.

But some of the people were not happy. Not at all. Least of which was her master. He didn’t see this female as a person of incredible value created in God’s image. That’s a distinctly Christian viewpoint. Instead, he was furious simply because she was of no future monetary benefit to him. They didn’t see her as a person of value. They saw her as a commodity that was now useless to them.

Her master brought Paul and Silas before the city officials. They levied serious allegations against them of trying to encourage the citizens to engage in a practice that was not lawful for Romans. Honestly, they were at least partly right. Proclaiming Jesus is Lord was simultaneously pronouncing that Caesar was not.  

We are reminded once again that following the Lord and speaking truth is sometimes the most unsafe thing we can do. We are in a world that has turned its back on the God who created it. So, when we are about our Heavenly Master’s business, we shouldn’t be surprised when the sinful world system comes against us. But if we truly love the Lord and love people enough to speak truth to them, we won’t let persecution stop us from doing what our Lord has told us to do: “Go into all the world and make disciples…”

Acts 16:22-24 (CSB): “The crowd joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had severely flogged them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to guard them carefully. Receiving such an order, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks.”

The fact that they were beaten is a very, very important fact. So file that away, and we’ll come back to it momentarily. But for now, realize that they have been beaten and are in prison for preaching the Gospel and freeing the slave girl.

We might suspect that Paul and Silas were sleeping at midnight if we had never read this story before. Or maybe we would suspect that they were expressing their frustration at the injustice of it all and wondering why God had allowed it. But that’s not what they did. They were expressing their heartfelt praise to God.

Acts 16:25-27 (CSB): “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose. When the jailer woke up and saw the doors of the prison standing open, he drew his sword and was going to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped.”

The Philippian jailor was about to commit suicide. The reason is that his superiors would have required his life if any of his prisoners had escaped. Yet Paul saw what was about to happen and pleaded with the jailor not to harm himself. He assured the jailor that not a single prisoner had escaped.

At this, the Philippian jailor brought Paul and Silas out of prison and asked: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

We might be tempted to ask where that question came from. All we need to do is realize that Paul and Silas had been singing and praying out loud. With walls that were probably made of rock, their singing and praying could have easily been heard by all in the prison as it echoed down the corridors. I suspect that the jailor had been listening for hours. And he may have been wondering how they could be happy when they had been treated so unjustly. So when the jailor asked what he needed to do to be saved, he may have simply wanted the relationship with God that Paul and Silas had.

They told him to place his trust in Jesus, and he would be saved. They also told him that the free gift of eternal life wasn’t only offered to him – it was also offered to his family. The jailor took Paul and Silas to his house, where they shared the Gospel with his family and then baptized them. Further, they enjoyed a meal and were cleaned up from the mob’s mistreatment they had experienced the day before.

Acts 16:35 (CSB): “When daylight came, the chief magistrates sent the police to say, ‘Release those men.’”

This sounds great, doesn’t it? Paul and Silas got to walk out of jail as free men. But Paul had an ace in the hole, and he was about to play it.

Acts 16:36-37 (CSB): “The jailer reported these words to Paul: ‘The magistrates have sent orders for you to be released. So come out now and go in peace.’ But Paul said to them, ‘They beat us in public without a trial, although we are Roman citizens, and threw us in jail. And now are they going to send us away secretly? Certainly not! On the contrary, let them come themselves and escort us out.’”

I bet that Paul’s words came as a shock to the jailor. And then a smile crept across his face. Maybe the jailor winked at Paul to acknowledge that Paul had put the city officials into a checkmate. The jailor would have loved taking Paul’s message to the city officials and watching them squirm.

It was absolutely illegal for a Roman citizen to have been beaten like Paul had been beaten without a fair trial. Paul didn’t speak up the day before to stop the beating. He was going to use it against them when the time was right. And the time was right now. Paul’s comments would have scared the dickens out of the magistrates for doing something that could have gotten them into serious trouble.

Why was Paul doing this? Was this simply a power play on his part? I don’t think so. Paul knew that following Jesus was a dangerous calling. So he was doing the believers in Philippi a favor. The city officials had carelessly mistreated a Jesus-follower and failed to realize that Roman citizens were becoming Christians. So Paul was putting a little fear of God in them and causing them to realize that they had better think twice about forming a mob and harming believers the next time.

Listen to how this chapter ends as we see that the checkmate that Paul had put them into would not be soon forgotten.

Acts 16:38-40 (CSB): “The police reported these words to the magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. So they came to appease them, and escorting them from prison, they urged them to leave town. After leaving the jail, they came to Lydia’s house, where they saw and encouraged the brothers and sisters, and departed.”

Paul was not afraid that the public officials might see him visiting Lydia’s house. In fact, I suspect that Paul hoped they would watch his visit with her. Paul’s actions may have been an unspoken threat that if harm came to Lydia, Paul would go to the higher-ups about the injustice he had experienced in Philippi. Heads would almost surely role.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, following You isn’t safe. But we also observe in how Paul responded in this story that we aren’t to roll over and play dead. We see that while we desire to be good citizens worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, we don’t have to be weak. There might be ways we can get the upper hand to achieve a greater good for other believers. This is perfectly OK for us to do.

But even as we desire to be good citizens, help us not to allow a godless world system to influence how we live out our faith. We might be persecuted for our faith. But we see nowhere in the New Testament where it was ever allowable for Christians to become a threat to their governments. We are observing some signs of radicalism in our society but let that never, ever be a legitimate claim against us.

Jesus, You told us in Matthew 10:16 to “be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.” That is our desire. So help us to live this out.

We pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Closing

I hope today’s episode has helped you to understand and enjoy God’s Word so that you can apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit.

If looking over the script for this podcast would be beneficial to you, hop on over to my website at mattsmusings.net. I will provide a link in this episode’s show notes.

The “Enjoying the Bible” podcast is a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida. Check us out at fbcpolkcity.com. See you next time!