By Tyson Thorne

September 10, 2014

Imprisoned large

When it comes to litigation we’ve got nothing on the ancient world, which is clearly evident once Paul exorcised a demon of divination from a slave girl. The girl’s owners were outraged when they learned her ability to make them money had vanished along with the evil spirit, and dragged Paul and Silas into court (Acts 16.19). Paul and Silas stood accused of teaching a religion that was not approved by Roman law, of which they were technically guilty.

Rome was an empire of many gods, including the Greek/Roman gods, Emporers were worshiped along with other rulers of lesser merit, and a host of others that were accepted into the pantheon from all the nations they conquered. Even Judaism was a legally accepted religion. As the Jewish leadership distanced itself from the Jesus-followers, Christianity became a distinct religion of its own. Even though it was born out of an accepted religion, it practices and teachings were distinct enough to classify it separately, and as such it was not an approved religion. This wasn’t just a slight slip up, this amounted to rebellion against the empire.

Which is why Paul and Silas were treated so harshly. The crowded marketplace went into an uproar, the magistrates stripped the apostles naked and allowed them to be beaten severely. Afterward, the two were imprisoned and secured in a stockade!

Their spirits were not to be daunted, however, and about midnight (it would be hard to get comfortable enough to sleep with your feet locked into a single position) they began to pray and sing. They voices must have been decent as the other prisoners listened to them instead of shouting them down. Or perhaps it was the presence of the Holy Spirit that inspired the apostles and kept the prisoners in check. So weighty was the Spirits presence that an earthquake shook the prison causing doors to open and walls to be shaken. Even the stockades and chains securing the prisoners were loosed and those that had been sleeping awoke in terror.

The guard awoke in something greater than terror, for escaped prisoners was a death sentence for a jailer. Rather than suffer the indignities of a Roman execution he prepared to take his own life. Just in time one of the prisoners called out to him and erased his fears, “We are all still here!” Greatly relieved he fell at Paul and Silas’ now stock-free feet and asked the most important question of his life: “What must I do to be saved?”

Such opportunities to relate the gospel to someone are rare, but they do happen when one is well-known as a Jesus-follower. If you don’t hide your Christianity under a bushel but rather allow it to shine brightly many opportunities will present themselves. Only be sure to be as prepared as Paul with an answer to the question.

Paul clearly and simply states the gospel in five words, “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” From the very beginning the salvation message has been so simple anyone can do it, yet also so simple not everyone can believe it. You probably won’t end up in prison, but every believer should be ready to do so if following God’s path requires it. Only remember that when God is with you – and he indwells you so He is always with you – there is nothing that cannot be turned to His favor.

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