by Barry Newton
Have you ever known a person who, regardless of the discussion, somehow manages to get back to his or her favorite subject? In my opinion, Acts 16 reveals just such a situation.
To set the background, recall how Luke recorded in Acts 12:19 that Herod killed the soldiers who had allowed Peter to escape. Under Roman law, a guard whose prisoner escaped would pay for it with the penalty due the prisoner. Peter was waiting his death.
In Acts 16, after the Philippian jailer was wakened by a powerful earthquake, we can only imagine the horror gripping his stomach to discover the prison doors standing open and chains laying loosely upon the ground. How many prisoners had been incarcerated? What range of punishments were they to receive? Who among his prisoners were awaiting death? His life was ruined.
In a stoic move, he resolved to save himself from the disgrace, pain and penalties he must bear. He drew his sword to kill himself.
Then amazing words pierced his ears. “Don’t harm yourself. We are all here.”
As the jailer stumbled into his dark prison, greatly outnumbered by prisoners now turned free, I think his mind was racing over how to save his own skin when he asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Was this man, who moments earlier stood prepared to kill himself, focused on his spiritual life? I doubt it.
Normally, Paul and Silas sought ways to speak about Jesus. But what could be simpler than answering the jailer’s physical question with a spiritual answer? “Believe in Jesus and you’ll be saved.” The jailer wanted to know more. They taught him. His whole household responded by being baptized. Then this newly-saved jailer “was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God.” (Acts 16:34)
How good are we at taking everyday conversations and using them as springboards to talk about our God whom we serve? Paul and Silas did it. We can too. God’s word bears fruit when his people share it.
by Barry Newton