By Mike Dawson
Interim Pastor, Santa Fe Baptist Church, Santa Fe
Focal Passage: Acts 16:22-34
I remember hearing a college Bible professor tell of a vision that came to him while very ill in the hospital. Alone in his room at night, he saw a glorious image of Jesus. But there were some shocking features of His appearance. The robed figure was short — because it had no feet. The face was shadowy — no eyes, no mouth. And He had no hands; arms without hands. The professor was thrilled to see this vision, but wondered aloud, “Lord, why do You have no hands, no feet, no eyes, no mouth?” “Then,” he said, “the vision simply pointed His arm to my hands, my feet, my eyes, my mouth — and disappeared.”
The Apostle Paul had a vision with the same impact, in Acts 16:6-10. A man appeared in the night asking him to “come over to Macedonia and help us” (v. 9). Paul believed this vision was the Lord’s call, so off to Macedonia he went! Has a call for help been issued, and has Jesus pointed to your hands and feet and your eyes and mouth?
Now in Macedonia, in the city of Philippi, Paul and Silas (his new missions team partner) were confronted with — not one, but three — clear reasons for this call: a business woman who was a seeker, a demonized slave girl who was a fortune-teller, and jailkeeper who was ready to commit suicide.
All three were transformed by the power of the gospel. Our focal passage, Acts 16:22-34, deals with just one: the suicidal jailer. He and his household tell the story of “a changed family”— changed by the “old-time religion!”
We sing, “Give me that old-time religion … It was good for Paul and Silas …” What kind of religion is that?
It’s the suffering kind (vv. 22-24). Paul and Silas were treated mercilessly for their gospel proclamation, and thrown into prison. Millions across our world are persecuted today because of their witness for Christ and the gospel.
It’s the singing kind (v. 25). When many of us would be begging for mercy, Paul and Silas were singing praises to God! Real Christians can sing in the worst of situations!
It’s the ‘shaking’ kind (v. 26). An earthquake sounded the amen to Paul and Silas’ praise, and the jailhouse “rocked!”
The prisoners’ chains were broken. The Word of God is not bound — and neither are those who live by the Word!
It’s the staying kind (vv. 27-28). The jailer was ready to kill himself, fearing that the prisoners had all fled from their broken-open cells; but Paul assured him, “We are all here.”
Would-be suicides need to know that we Christians have not left the faith or the church; we are still here, standing by to help strugglers find hope.
It’s the saving kind (vv. 29-31). Paul and Silas had no doubt been proclaiming the gospel and singing ‘salvation’ songs, because the jailer shouted out, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul pointed him to hope personified: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved!” A sinful, lost world, needing hope, cries out; we must point them to Jesus — crucified, risen, and able to save!
It’s the sharing kind (vv. 32-34). The jailer’s entire family became saved; he had immediately shared his new-found faith! “Once saved, always sharing!”