Down To The River To Pray


Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / August 13, 2017

Please open your Bibles to Acts chapter 16

This morning’s sermon will be a study of the conversion of the Philippian jailor.

Some among us have not yet been baptized.  This sermon is a proclamation of the glorious gospel of Christ.

As we will see, Acts 16 contains more than just the story of the Philippian jailor.  It is a great chapter of the Bible.

Acts 15 comes to a close with the start of Paul’s second missionary journey.  Acts 15:22 notes - -

Paul & Barnabas & Barsabbas & Silas were sent by the Jerusalem church to the church in Antioch of Syria to deliver an important decision that was made by the apostles and elders concerning the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles.

Antioch of Syria was a hub of Christian evangelism among the Gentiles (Acts 11:26/disciples first called Christians).

Some days later, Barnabas proposes that they re-visit every city where they preached on the first journey (Acts 15:36).

Following a dispute regarding personnel, Barnabas and John journey southward to Cyprus.

Paul & Silas travel west-ward to Cilicia and beyond.

Acts 16 opens with their arrival in Derbe and Lystra, where Timothy becomes a third person in the missionary trek.

Among all of the previous church plantings, they share the results of the Jerusalem conference (Acts 16:4).

As they neared the Galatian region the Holy Spirit forbade them to speak in that portion of Asia Minor.

They adjusted their itinerary a bit and decided to head NW to Bithynia, and once again we forbidden (by Jesus).

So they headed westward to Troas, on the eastern side of the Aegean Sea.

At Troas, Paul experiences a night-vision of a man pleading, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:9).

Immediately they journeyed to the opposite side of the Aegean to Philippi, a Roman colony and key city of Macedonia.

This region represented “uncharted waters” for the preaching of the gospel.

After a few days, on the Sabbath, they sought out Jews and God-fearing Gentiles assembled by the river.

In Acts 16:14f we are introduced to Lydia from Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics.

The Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

She was baptized - - she and her household.

At Lydia’s urging, Paul, Silas, Timothy and Dr. Luke (see “we” sections beginning in Acts 16:10f) took up residence.

Lydia’s hospitality provided as a base of operation for the preaching of the gospel in Philippi.

Next the evangelists encounter a fortune-teller, slave-girl.

Her message was truthful:  these men are bondservants of the Most High God, proclaiming to you the way of salvation.

She broadcast this message for many days and it annoyed & agitated Paul, who subsequently exorcised her spirit (vs.18).

This turn of events was not greeted favorably by the slave-girl’s masters - - no “spirit”; no source of income.

The result was that they seized Paul & Silas (perhaps the most Jewish looking among the four / P, S, T & L);

they dragged them into the market place and demanded an inquiry on the part of the local magistrates.

Their charge:  these Jews are throwing our city into confusion, proclaiming customs which were anti-Roman (vss.19-21).

The angry mob demanded that Paul & Silas be beaten with rods.

After they had been inflicted with many blows, they were thrown into the city dungeon.

They were placed in the most secure “inner prison”, and their feet were fastened in stocks (vss.22-24).

The jailer was likely a retired Roman soldier.  Although having many fine qualities, human kindness was not one.

Vs.25 is the most astonishing verse in this quite amazing chapter.

About midnight Paul & Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God; And the prisoners were listening to them.

They were not weeping.  They were not complaining.  They were not second-guessing God.

They had been beaten severely.  They were bruised and bleeding.  They were suffering.  Yet, they were singing praises.

Vss.26f tells of an earthquake.

The foundation of the prison was compromised; the prison doors were flung open; and the everyone’s chains loosed.

The jailor was awaken; he jumped to the conclusion that all had escaped and he drew his sword intending to kill himself.

Paul cried out with a loud voice, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!”

The jailer called for lights and rushed in, trembling with fear, and fell down before Paul & Silas.

The jailer brought them out, and he asked a very important question:  “What must I do to be saved?”

The jailor is told to “BELIEVE in the LORD JESUS, and you shall be saved, you and your household” (vs.31f).

They spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.

And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized,

 he and all his household…and (they) rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

Here we see all five aspects of coming to faith:  hearing…believing…repenting…confess…and being baptized.

This story concludes by noting (vs.35f) - -

The next day, the local “police” (send by the magistrates) arrived telling the jailer to release Paul & Silas.

They urged them to “go in peace”.  Paul spoke up saying:

They have beaten us in public without trial, (we) men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison;

And now are they sending us away secretly?  No indeed!  But let them come themselves and bring us out.

The police report to the magistrates; the magistrates become afraid;

The magistrates come in person and appeal to Paul and Silas to leave - - begging them to leave the city.

What we have here is Paul establishing a “bulkhead” that became a security blanket of sorts for the church in Philippi.

It is very likely that from this day forward the Philippian church would receive preferential treatment.

The last thing the magistrates would want to do would be to rile up Paul and have him file a grievance with Rome.

Acts 16 is a thrilling chapter.  A nucleus for the church in Philippi has been born.

A rich woman and generous woman with her household…

A slave-girl fortune-teller whose “demon” has been cast out (surely she came to faith)…

A jailer and his household…And one can only imagine many other prisoners came to the Lord as well.

I want to close by making a few brief important observations - - five insights that go beyond just stories of conversion.

(1) We ought to do all that we can to facilitate the spread of the gospel.

This is why Paul had Timothy circumcised, even though the Jerusalem council decided it was not necessary.

cf. 1Cor.9:19f - - though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.

And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews…to those without the law, I became as one without law.

To the weak I became weak…I have become all things to all men, that I may be all means save some.

(2) God’s ways are higher than man’s ways, often impossible to fully discern.

Paul wanted to go into the Galatian region, but God said, “No!” … Likewise for Bithynia.

Both regions needed the gospel and would subsequently hear and receive the gospel, but God had other plans.

We must learn to trust God even when we can’t grasp the details of his plan.

Whatever troubles us (cancer, family heartaches, a loss of job) - - hang on and trust God.

(3) Even when God provides guidance, we must continue to pray.

The reason Paul and his companions ended up in Philippi was due to a God-given vision (Come over to Macedonian).

Yet Paul headed for the river to prayer and to find others in prayers.

While imprisoned, Paul prayed.

(4) God’s ways do not guarantee a life of ease.

“Come over to Macedonian…”.  This directive brought great pain and suffering to Paul & Silas.

Nevertheless it would out for the good of the gospel.

Blessings often come to others because of our personal sufferings.

(5) Baptism is vital in God’s plan of salvation.

Lydia and her household were baptized.  In this case it was convenient (they were riverside), but it was also essential.

In the case of the jailer, we see the urgency of baptism - - “that very hour night”.

In this case, it was inconvenient, but it was still a priority.

One would think the jailer would want to “lay low” for a spell, but he was immersed that very night.

Imagine the pain of Paul & Silas doing the baptizing.

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