27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” 29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
To teach listeners how the Lord uses our experiences to reach and lead those who are lost to believe in Jesus for salvation.
Just about the time you think things are going great, the bottom drops out of something. Paul was blazing the trail as a pioneer missionary and doing a wonderful job spreading the gospel of Jesus to the lost in Philippi after hearing the Macedonian call.
Tell the story of the reason for Paul and Silas going to Philippi and being arrested from . There are some valuable lessons we can learn from God’s midnight missionaries.
THE MIDNIGHT MISSIONARIES WERE FOCUSED ON JESUS
25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;
Paul and Silas could have complained by focusing on their incarceration and injuries, and who would have blamed them? Carnally speaking, the night vision of the Macedonian call had turned into a nightmare for God’s missionaries. Spiritually speaking, they were in exactly the right place at precisely the right time. I know it is difficult for us to understand why the Lord would allow such a horrible thing to happen to the mission team He led into Philippi. Even so, there were lost people in desperate need of salvation who may have been missed had Paul and Silas not been incarcerated. It is doubtful either man would have put an evangelistic prison crusade for Christ on their missionary bucket list of people to see and places to visit.
Paul and Silas took their eyes off themselves and placed them on Jesus. They chose to use the prison cell as a prayer closet and worship center. None of us can be completely certain about the content of their prayers, but we may be fairly confident they were not centered on themselves. Most likely, they were praying for the salvation of every person inside the walls of the prison. Knowing most of our prayers in this generation very rarely, we could say, almost never, includes those who are lost is very unfortunate. It has taken about two generations for us to lose our burden for the lost and the desire to see them saved. We would probably be amazed if we shared the same burden for the lost as we do for the sick. More often than not, our prayer requests reveal we are more concerned about praying the saved out of heaven than we are the lost out of hell. Paul and Silas were praying about the souls of the lost.
Paul and Silas focused on Jesus with their singing. They could not see the prisoners, but the prisoners could hear the hymns of praise to the Lord. Apparently, the hymns were not sad, but vibrant and uplifting.
THE MIDNIGHT MISSIONARIES WITNESSED THE FAITHFULNESS OF JESUS
26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.
This is the second time in the book of Acts the Lord opened to prison cells. The first time was for Simeon Peter.
5 So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. 6 On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
God is faithful and, if necessary, will not hesitate to use His sovereign power to deliver His people. He will use a strong wind to divide the sea and dry the land or an earthquake to shake the foundation of a prison. This scene is filled with the miracle working power of the Lord. The prison doors were opened, everyone’s chains were unfastened and no one was harmed or lost their life.
27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.
The jailer understood the penalty of allowing prisoners to escape on their watch. He could have been imprisoned or executed had any prisoners escaped. He decided to end his own life rather than suffer the consequences for losing the prisoners for which he was responsible.
28 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!”
Paul knew what was happening and told the jailer not to kill himself because everyone was present and could be accounted for. This would be another miracle from the Lord. Under a different set of circumstances, how many prisoners do you think would have stayed if they had an opportunity to escape, especially if they were sentenced to be executed or serving life with no parole?
THE MIDNIGHT MISSIONARIES WERE BEARING FRUIT FOR JESUS
29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas,
The jailer was filled with fear and trembling. Who can blame him? He requested lights and a fell down before Paul and Silas. Why would he do this unless he sensed the hand of God was upon them?
30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
His only question was, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” This is a valid question and it should be asked by all who are lost and in need of salvation.
31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
A valid question deserves a valid answer. Paul gave the jailer a very simple answer for his spiritual need, so simple, in fact, many people miss it. Many think God will accept them for being good, doing good works, loving others or being baptized. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with any any of these characteristics and acts, but none of them will save a lost soul. The only way for a lost soul to be saved is to “Believe in the Lord Jesus.”
32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.
We should take note of how they used “the word of the Lord” when they witnessed to the jailer and everyone who was in the house. Many try to use their own opinions or the opinions of others to reach the lost. The gospel is the only message the Holy Spirit uses to lead the lost to be saved.
33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.
This compassionate act offers proof of repentance of sin and faith in Jesus for salvation. The jailer never considered taking care of their wounds before he was saved. The jailer offered no apparent compassion for Paul and Silas prior to his salvation. Scripture teaches us the jailer inflicted more pain on Paul and Silas when he put them in stocks.
The jailer and everyone in his house were baptized after they had received Jesus as their Savior. This would be called geographical and biological evangelism. Geographical growth happens when we reach people in our community with the gospel; biological growth happens when we reach our families with the gospel.
34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.
The jailer invited Paul and Silas to enjoy a meal with him. There was a strong desire to fellowship with other believers. The house was filled with rejoicing over those who were saved.
Do you focus on yourself or the Lord Jesus when you are going through difficult times? Have you taken time to thank the Lord for His faithfulness in delivering you from bad situations? Are you allowing the Lord to use your experiences to bear fruit for Jesus?
Prepared for First Baptist Church Oakdale - August 13, 2017