A sermon based on Acts 16:16-34 - Preached by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett on February 21, 2010 at Faith Community Church, Barre, VT
- Paul was on his second missionary journey.
- Though he had planned to revisit all the towns that he had started churches in on his first journey, God sent him a supernatural vision that told him to go to Macedonia instead.
- Paul obeyed the vision, changed his plans, and ended up in Philippi, which was a key city in Macedonia.
- There he met a business woman named Lydia, who became a Christian because of Paul's ministry.
- Paul stayed in Lydia's home and shared Christ with anyone in town who would listen.
Verse 16 - Once, as we were on our way to prayer, a slave girl met us who had a spirit of prediction and made a large profit for her owners by fortune-telling.
- They were on their way to pray when they encountered a demon possessed slave girl.
- This slave girl could tell the future through the demon that possessed her.
- The owners of this slave girl made a lot of money off of her fortune telling.
- Most fortune tellers in our modern times are fake, but a few have real power.
- When people display unusual powers, they either get them from God or from Satan. There is no other source for spiritual power.
- Demon possession does give a person power but it will make the person a slave to the demon because a demon does not care about the person.
- The spiritual power of darkness is not something to be played with.
Verse 17 - As she followed us she cried out, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation."
- It is fascinating that demons know the truth!
- James 2:19 - You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder.
- Even though demons know the truth intellectually, they have refused to accept the impact of the truth in their inner spirits.
Verse 18 - And she did this for many days. But Paul was greatly aggravated, and turning to the spirit, said, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" And it came out right away.
- The demon possessed slave girl followed Paul and his group around for days telling everyone who Paul was.
- The Bible says that Paul became aggravated about this and cast the demon out of the girl.
- Why would Paul be aggravated by the girl telling everyone that he was from God and his message was the way of salvation?
- The Greek word for "aggravated" is diaponetheis. Though it is translated in this verse as aggravated, in many other places the word is translated "burdened."
- Paul was not as much aggravated at the girl herself as he was burdened about her situation. She was after all demon possessed!
- When we minister to people whose lives are messed up by sin, we must be careful not to get aggravated at the person.
- Instead, let us be burdened for how the sins they are bound by are slowly destroying their lives.
- Paul decided to do something to help this young lady.
- Using the power of Christ, he commanded that the demon leave the girl.
- Notice he did not use his own power, but the power of Christ.
- The demon had to obey because Jesus Christ is on the throne and Satan is just a pretender.
- Satan only has power if we let him have it.
- But when we walk with Jesus, then Jesus' power triumphs over Satan.
Verse 19 - When her owners saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.
- The slave owners did not care if the girl was freed from the spiritual chains that bound her.
- All they cared about was money. When they realized they would not be able to exploit the girl any longer, they got very upset.
- What people get upset about reveals a lot!
Verses 20-21 - They said, "These men are seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews, and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice."
- The slave owners exaggerated the situation by saying Paul was disturbing "our city" when really he had only helped a girl.
- Beware of the mysterious "we" that some people use to inflate their influence.
- Notice they used a racial slur, "They are Jews." Racism has been used to justify many sins throughout the ages.
- Notice they appealed to their customs and their laws.
- But their customs and laws allowed little girls to be enslaved for the profit of others. It was time for the customs and laws to be changed!
Verse 23 - After they had inflicted many blows on them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to keep them securely guarded.
- Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten up and thrown in jail.
- The jailer was specifically told to guard them "securely," which meant to put them in the maximum security section of jail.
- The world's reaction to the things of God sometimes seem severe. But remember, Satan was fueling this response because he had lost a major battle in the spiritual war.
- Ephesians 6:12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness and the spiritual forces of evil.
Verse 25 - About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
- Paul and Silas had been beaten by a mob and then chained to the floor in the maximum security section of the jail.
- Their response to their situation was to start praying and singing to God!
- Notice that the prisoners were listening!
- How do we respond when we are treated unjustly?
- Other people are watching how Christians respond to unjust difficulties.
- We must learn to use the power of prayer and the power of praising God.
Verse 26 - 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.
- Though we might be tempted to think that the earthquake was caused by the terrible singing of Paul and Silas, it was actually caused by the POWER of their prayers and praise! Never underestimate the power of prayer and praise!!!!
- When God's people start praying and praising, the foundations of Satan's deepest cells are shaken.
- When God's people start praying and praising, the doors of every kind of barrier that holds us back are opened!
- When God's people start praying and praising, the chains of every sin that binds us come loose!
- Why in the world aren't we praying and praising God more!!!!!
Verse 27 - When the jailer woke up and saw the doors of the prison open, he drew his sword and was going to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped.
- In those days, if a prisoner escaped, the jailer would be executed publically.
- When the jailer saw the doors of the prison opened, he assumed all the prisoners had escaped and he decided to kill himself and get it over with.
Verse 28 - But Paul called out in a loud voice, "Don't harm yourself, because all of us are here!"
- Paul saw that the jailer was about to kill himself and called out to stop him.
- Paul had been beaten by a mob, arrested unjustly, chained to the floor of cold stone cell and yet he still cared about the jailer, whom most would have considered his enemy.
- How we treat our enemies says a lot about the kind of people we are.
Verse 30 - Then he escorted them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
- Notice the change in the jailer's behavior.
- He had chained them to the floor but now he was "escorting" them out of the jail.
- When God gets a hold of our lives, we often begin to change our behaviors without anyone having to tell us to do it.
- But an outward change of behavior is not the "final" answer.
- The final answer is an inward change of spiritual condition.
- The jailer asked the most important question that anyone can ask, "What must I do to be saved?"
- We are all sinners and because of our sin we all deserve to spend eternity in hell apart from God, family, friends and all that we hold dear.
- Many people ask why a loving God sends people to hell.
- The answer is that God does NOT send people to hell.
- People send themselves to hell as a result of their own wrong choices.
- No one forces us to sin, we do that quite well all on our own.
Verse 31 - So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household."
- Paul answers the jailer's question by telling him to believe on the Lord Jesus.
- If we want to be saved from a dark eternity separated from God and all that we hold dear, then we must believe in Jesus.
- Believing in Jesus means beleiving that Jesus is who He said He was and trusting Him to guide us in our lives.
- Notice that Paul calls Jesus, "LORD Jesus."
- A "lord" is a ruler that tells others what to do.
- But Jesus is not a cruel ruler who tells others to sacrifice while He sits in a castle living well.
- Jesus is the kind of ruler that gave Himself for those who follow Him.
- Jesus is the kind of ruler we WANT to follow.
- Believing in Jesus is more than just an intellectual acceptance of the historical Jesus.
- Believing in Jesus is allowing Jesus to become the Lord, or ruler, of our lives.
- If we want to be saved from a dark eternity in hell, we must believe Jesus is who He said He was AND we must allow Jesus to become the ruler of our lives.
Prayer for Salvation:
- Dear Lord, I know I am a sinner and I deserve to be separated for all of eternity from You and from all that I hold dear. But right now I turn from my sin and place all of my hope in You. I want You to be the Lord of my life and help me know how to live. With Your help, I will do my best to follow You and serve You for the rest of my life. Thank you Lord, Amen.
Verse 33 - He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized.
- As soon as the jailer made this personal commitment to Christ, his life was changed.
- The jailer took Paul and Silas home and washed their wounds. What kind of jailer does this for his prisoners?
- The jailer and his entire family were baptized as an outward of expression of their new faith. Baptism is IMPORTANT!!!!!
1. We are in a spiritual war against evil.
2. There is power in prayer and power in praise that will overcome both evil in the world and difficulties in our personal lives.
3. Outward behavioral change will only last if it comes from an inner spiritual transformation resulting from believing and following Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Have we committed our lives to Jesus?
Are we using the power of prayer and praise?