Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament scriptural account of the spiritual body of Jesus Christ which is the church as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke in the book of Acts. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses sixteen through forty of the sixteenth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the contention between the apostle Paul and Barnabas having subsided, and the two men each going their own way. The final verses of the fifteenth chapter finds the apostle Paul speaking unto Barnabas and suggesting that they return and visit the various churches they had served in and ministered unto during their journey into the surrounding regions. Having returned from Jerusalem with an encouraging epistle from the apostles and elders of the church there in the city concerning the rite of circumcision being imposed on Gentiles in order that they might be saved had reached the ears, hearts and minds of the saints which were present at the church in Antioch. Much to the surprise and excitement of the saints which were at Antioch the letter originating from the apostles and elders which were at the church in Jerusalem places no burden, nor did it place any trouble upon their hearts and souls to be circumcised in order that they might be saved. This particular letter and epistle was delivered by the hand of the apostle Paul and Barnabas, as they returned to Antioch with Judas surnamed Barsabas, as well as Titus. When you come to the final verses of the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts you will find Judas and Barsabas—both who were prophets—speaking unto and encouraging the saints which were at Antioch with many encouraging and uplifting words that they might be strengthened. Having been released in peace by the saints and elders there in Antioch Judas and Silas could have each returned unto Jerusalem having fulfilled a very specific work alongside the apostle Paul and Barnabas. Luke writes and records how upon this release of peace Judas called Barsabas returned unto Jerusalem and unto the church, saints, elders and apostles which were there, while Silas chose to remain at Antioch in order that he might align himself with the work which was being done there within the city. It is quite interesting and unique to think about and consider the fact that two men accompanied the apostle Paul and Barnabas unto the city of Antioch and the church which was there—one returned in peace unto Jerusalem, while the other chose to remain behind in Antioch and to remain alongside and within the work which was being done there in Antioch. Silas could have returned to Jerusalem alongside Judas called Barsabas, and he could have done so in peace from those who were in Antioch, however, he chose to remain in Antioch alongside the apostle Paul in order that he might come alongside the work that was being done there in the city.
DEFINING MOMENTS! If you were to look back upon your life—regardless of what age you are or what you have done within your life—can you point to specific times in your life when a decision you made had extraordinary consequences for where you went and what you did? Have you ever experienced a time within your life when you found yourself at the middle of a crossroads n were forced to confront “two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and you chose the one less traveled?” If I am being honest concerning that which is found within the book of Acts, I can’t help but get the strong sense that what we read and what we find within this book is a number of turning points and divine moments within the lives of men and women as the Holy Spirit divinely orchestrates that which was taking place within their lives in order that they might encounter and experience that which the living God and Jesus the Christ had for them. The more I read and the more I consider the words which are written and recorded within the book of the Acts of the apostles and church the more I come face to face—not only with turning points which took place within the church, but also turning points and divine moments which took place within the lives of many of the saints which were alive and present during those days. What’s more, is that as you read the book you will find that this reality mattered not whether they were Jews or Gentiles for if there is one thing the Holy Spirit was highlighting during these days was that there was no distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Perhaps one of the most extraordinary realities which is found in the book of Acts is that there was in fact no distinction between Jews and Gentiles and that the Holy Spirit was making no distinction between these two groups of people. This is despite the fact that previously Jews and Gentiles had no dealings with each other, and the promise was given unto and believed to be only for the Jews. How absolutely wonderful and precious it is to think about and consider the awesome reality that during these days there was absolutely no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, and that not only was the word of God being preached unto the Gentiles, but so also was the Holy Spirit being released unto and within the hearts and lives of Gentiles as well as unto the Jews. No more was the promise solely and completely for the Jews, but it was now being made available for the Gentiles as well who themselves were being crafted into the vine which was Jesus the Christ. As the Lord had grafted and joined together Israel and Judah together who had previously been separated under the old covenant, so also was the Lord now grafting together the Jews and Gentiles.
If and as you read the words which are written and found within the final verses of the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts you will find that it was indeed and was in fact a turning point for the apostle Paul and Barnabas, for what had taken place at this moment would not only separate these two brothers in Christ, but it would also cause them to go their separate ways and depart from each other. What we must recognize and realize when reading the words found within this passage is that what took place here between the apostle Paul and Barnabas was one of those turning points and divine moments found within the book of Acts, but one that was on a personal level and one that hit closer to home for each of them. In all reality, it would be that which we find and that which we read in the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts that would bring us face to face with the tremendous reality that the lives of the apostle Paul and Barnabas would be dramatically and radically altered, for what took place between them would both separate and cause them to go there own ways. If you take the time to read the words which are found within the final verses of the fifteenth chapter you will find the apostle Paul speaking unto and suggesting to Barnabas that they return unto the churches they had visited and ministered to in order that they might strengthen and establish them. The idea seemed good to Barnabas, however; there would be something he would suggest that would not sit well with the apostle Paul. As you read the words which are found within this passage of scripture you will find Barnabas seeking to allow John mark to accompany them on this journey—something the apostle Paul has absolutely no interest or desire in doing. For the apostle Paul he could not and would not allow, nor would he permit John Mark to join and accompany them because he had previously departed from them and returned unto Jerusalem. Turning your attention back to the fourteenth chapter—the second chapter describing the first apostolic and missionary journey which the apostle Paul and Barnabas had taken—you will find John Mark departing from them in order that he might return unto Jerusalem. Neither Scripture, nor the beloved physician Luke wrote and described why John Mark departed from Paul and Barnabas while they traveled and journeyed along their way during this apostolic and missionary journey. What we do know for sure is that it was this departure from the work of the ministry that stuck with the apostle Paul and remained within his heart and mind—and so much so that he would and could not allow him to accompany them on this journey to visit the churches they had previously visited and established. We must recognize and pay close attention to this reality, for it had the ability to help us understand why the dispute and contention between the apostle Paul and Barnabas was so sharp and so severe. It would be this departure from the apostle Paul and Barnabas that would be for the apostle Paul a departure—not only from the two men, but also from the work of the ministry.
The further we go and the further we travel into the book of Acts the further we will find ourselves traveling with the apostle Paul as he engaged himself in different missionary journeyed. If you study the book of Acts you will find that there were three distinct missionary journeys which the apostle Paul took—the first which was present and manifested in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of this book. It would be the first missionary y journey which would be set in motion by the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking unto the apostle Paul and Barnabas while they were praying and fasting among the teachers and prophets which were present at the church which was in Antioch. The thirteenth and fourteenth chapters describe this first apostolic and first missionary journey which the apostle Paul took while being accompanied by Barnabas. While the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters found within the book of Acts would describe the first missionary journey which the apostle Paul would take, the fifteenth chapter would describe the council in Jerusalem which centered upon whether or not Gentiles needed to be circumcised in order that they they might be saved and experience the promise of the Father. What’s interesting about the fifteenth chapter found within the book of Acts is that while it describes the council and ultimate resolution concerning whether or not Gentiles needed to be circumcised in order to be saved, it would end on a completely different note—one that was neither expected nor anticipated by the apostle Paul nor Barnabas. After reading the words which are found within the book of Acts up to this point and how closely connected and intertwined the lives of the apostle Paul and Barnabas actually were you wouldn’t think that they would separate from each other, and you wouldn’t think that they would ultimately go in different directions, however, that is exactly what took place at the conclusion of the fifteenth chapter. By the time you come to the end of the fifteenth chapter you will in fact find the Gentiles being encouraged with and by the fact that there was no need to be circumcised in order that they might be saved, and yet immediately following what was a great moment of hope and encouragement for the Gentiles would be a moment of strife and contention for the apostle Paul and Barnabas as they could neither agree nor come to a resolution concerning John Mark and whether or not he should accompany them on this missionary journey to the churches which they had visited and encouraged on their previous trip. It would be this thought of John Mark not accompanying them that would cause these two men to actually separate from each other and go in different directions. By the time we come to the end of the fifteenth chapter as a whole we find these two men whose lives had been so intertwined with each other going in different directions as they departed from each other. What’s more, is that there is no indication within the book of Acts after this moment that they would ever see each other, nor that they would ever engage in ministry with each other.
It’s actually quite interesting to read the conclusion and end of the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts, for when you come to the end of the fifteenth chapter you will find Barnabas taking John Mark with him and sailing to Cyprus where he was originally from, while you will find the apostle Paul taking and choosing Silas to accompany him on his journey to the churches which he had previously visited, established and encouraged on the missionary journey he returned from not too long ago. It would be this decision to bring Silas with him that would set the stage for what we find and what we read in the sixteenth chapter, for when we come to the end of the fifteenth chapter we find the apostle Paul journeying with Silas through out Syria and Cilicia having been recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. These two men would travel and journey with each other confirming the churches and helping to encourage and strengthen them in the faith, as well as the grace of God. What’s quite interesting is that as the apostle Paul returned to an area he had previously been he would find fruit that had grown and sprang up from his previous trip and previous journey with Barnabas. As you begin reading the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts you will encounter and come face to face with something that we oftentimes neglect and overlook when it comes to ministry. More often than not there are times within our lives when we don’t initially see the fruit of our labors, nor do we see the fruit of our works. There are times when we labour and toil in the work of the kingdom of God, and there might not appear to be any type of fruit that was produced as a result of our labors and as a result of our struggles. There are times within our lives when we might labor and toil in the work of the kingdom of God, and while we might in fact see some fruit, and while we might in fact see some growth, we don’t fully see that which the Holy Spirit is doing. Approaching the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts I can’t help but be drawn into the tremendous reality that there are times within our lives when although we might see a certain degree and measure of fruit within our lives—even within the ministry which the living God has invited us to partake of and partner together with—we do not see the full scope, nor do we see the full reality of the fruit of our labours. In all reality, I would dare say that there are times within our lives when we might labour and when we might toil in the work of the kingdom of God, and yet we aren’t immediately given the full revelation, nor are we given the full picture of the result and fruit of our labour and our toil. Consider if you will the words which are found in the opening verses of the fourteenth chapter of the book of Acts, for that which we find within these verses set the stage—not only for the contention we find in the final verses of the fifteenth chapter, but also that which we find in the opening verses of the sixteenth chapter:
“And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of His grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them, They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Debe, cities of Laconia, and unto the region that lieth round about: and there they preached the gospel. And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked: the same heard Paul speak: who steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voices, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked. And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycoonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, and saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them. And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing that he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, an came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed” (Acts 14:1-23).
As you read the words which are found within the opening verses of the fourteenth chapter you will find the apostle Paul and Barnabas ministering in Lystra and Derbe, and in Lystra a man who had been lame and had never walked being healed by the power of the Holy Spirit which was manifested within the life of the apostle Paul. What you will find in the fourteenth chapter is not only this lame man being healed in the name of Jesus the Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, but you will also find the apostle Paul and Barnabas confirming the souls which were in the church, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that they must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. What’s more, is the beloved physician Luke also writes and records how that the apostle Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in every church, and after they had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed. What’s actually quite unique and astounding is when you consider the fact that within the fourteenth chapter you will in fact find this man who was lame and had never walked being healed, but you will also find the apostle Paul being stoned and supposed to be dead and brought outside the city. What an incredible turn of events it was from this man who was lame and had never walked being miraculously healed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and then the apostle Paul being stoned because of the Jews stirring up contention among the people which were present in the city. By the time we come to the end of the fourteenth chapter we find the apostle Paul exhorting the church and declaring unto them that they must through many tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. What’s more, is that we find the apostle Paul encouraging the church and ordaining elders among the churches which were at Lystra, Derbe, and Iconium. IT’s necessary that we recognize and understand this reality, for when you come to the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts you will find one of the greatest fruits of the labor and ministry which was found within the ministry at Lystra and Derbe, for in the opening verses of the sixteenth chapter you will find that when Paul and Silas came to Lystra and Derbe he found a certain disciple who was there, named Timothy, who was the son of a certain woman who was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek. What’s more, is that we find that this man named Timothy was well reported of the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium, and Paul sought to have this man go forth with them along their journey to the various churches. This is actually quite unique and remarkable—not only because Timothy is essentially fruit of the labour which was done by the apostle Paul and Barnabas in their previous journey, but you will also find Timothy being an integral part of the church in Ephesus as he was ordained one of the bishops of that church. What’s more, is that there are two distinct epistles found within the New Testament which were written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy encouraging him in the ministry which he engaged in there in Ephesus. The beginning and opening verses of the sixteenth chapter bring us face to face with an incredible manifestation of fruit from the labour of the apostle Paul and Barnabas, for we find that Timothy was a disciple present in Lystra and Derbe, and was the son of a certain Jewess who believed, and who was well spoken of by the brethren.
When I read the words which are found within the opening verses of the sixteenth chapter I can’t help but be directly impacted by and confronted with the reality that when we read of Timothy we are in all reality reading of the fruit of the labor which had been done when the apostle Paul and Barnabas had previously ministered among the people which were present there within the cities. What’s more, is that it’s quite interesting to think that Timothy was born to a Jewish mother and a Greek father—especially considering both the Jews and the Gentiles turned against the apostle Paul and Barnabas there in Lystra, Derbe and Iconium, and the apostle Paul would ultimately be stoned and supposed to be dead, although he would rise and return into the city. What we see and what we find in Timothy—as well as his mother, and even his grandmother—is a wonderful and powerful picture of the fruit of the labour of ministry. What’s more, is that we also come face to face with the reality that although we might not see all the fruit of our labour within our lives in the immediacy of the moment, and in the immediacy of our labour, there are times when we will be permitted to witness, glimpse and behold the fruit of that labour at some point down the road in the future. Scripture is unclear as to how Timothy came to the faith, and even how his mother also came to the faith and believed, but what we can be absolutely certain of is that both Timothy and his mother believed. What’s more, is that we can be absolutely certain that Timothy believed, was a disciple of the Lord Jesus the Christ, and was well spoken of by the brethren which were in Lystra, Derbe and Iconium. Oh we must recognize and understand this, for not only is it possible that Timothy was the product of ministry and labor which was previously done in these cities, but Timothy would also be brought under the wing and mantle of the apostle Paul, and would be brought with him as he traveled and journeyed from Lystra, Derbe and Iconium. What’s more, is that Timothy which was in all reality fruit of the labour of the ministry which was done in Lystra, Derbe and Iconium would ultimately become a bishop in Ephesus, and would have two distinct epistles written unto him by the apostle Paul when he came to the end of his life. At the end of the apostle Paul’s life he wrote two distinct epistles and letters—both of which were written unto Timothy who was his spiritual son in the faith in order that he might be strengthened and encouraged in the work of the ministry there in Ephesus. How absolutely wonderful and remarkable it is to think about and consider the fact that when the apostle Paul returned to Lystra, Derbe and Iconium he would find this man named Timothy who believed, who was a disciple, and who was well spoken of by the brethren, and sought to take him with him as he engaged himself in the work of the ministry of the kingdom of God and of Jesus the Christ. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU WILL RETURN TO! YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU WILL FIND WHEN YOU GO BACK! If there is one distinct truth, and if there is one reality we must understand and come face to face with when we read the words which are found within this passage, it’s that there are times within our lives when we aren’t at all aware of what we might return to, and what is ultimately the fruit of our labour when we engage ourselves in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. There seems to be every indication that Timothy was not a disciple while the apostle Paul and Barnabas were first at Lystra, Derbe and Iconium, however, when the apostle Paul would return, he would return to a wonderful and powerful testimony of fruit that was found to be present within these cities, as Timothy was a disciple who was well spoken of by the brethren.
As you continue reading the words which are found within the sixteenth chapter you will find that the apostle Paul were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia. The apostle Paul and Silas had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and after visiting these regions and preaching and speaking the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. What’s ‘more, is that if you continue reading you will find that after they had come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit suffered them not. Here within this passage we find two distinct times within the ministry of the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy and even Luke, when the Holy Spirit said no to ministry in certain and specific areas. What makes what is found within this portion of Scripture so incredibly unique and powerful is that not only did the Holy Spirit forbid the apostle Paul and Silas from preaching the word in Asia, but the Holy Spirit also forbid them from coming going into Bithynia. Please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this unique and distinct reality, for it is possible that as we attempt to walk in that which Jesus the Christ has called us to there will be times when the Holy Spirit will restrict us from going to certain places, and from doing certain things. The apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy, and perhaps even Luke were forbidden by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in Asia—and what’s more is that not only were they forbidden from preaching the word in Asia, but they were also given a second no and a second restriction by the Holy Spirit as they attempted to go into a specific region. We must not forget and lose sight of this reality and concept, for there are times within our hearts and lives when the Holy Spirit does in fact say no, and when the Holy Spirit does in fact restrict us from going to certain places. Even though we might be desirous of visiting certain places, and even though we might desire to engage ourselves in certain aspects of ministry, the Holy Spirit can at any given moment restrict us from doing that which is not the divine will of the Father. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find and what we read in this passage of Scripture is the Holy Spirit speaking unto the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy and even Luke restricting them from going into Asia, for there was something completely different which was ordained and appointed for them. If you continue reading the words found within this passage you will find that immediately after the apostle Paul was restricted by the Holy Spirit twice from going to certain and specific places he received a vision at night of a man from Macedonia who was begging and imploring them to come and help. This is quite interesting and unique when you think about it, for while the Holy Spirit restricted the movement of the apostle Paul and those who journeyed with him, he would receive a vision by night of a man from Macedonia who would ask and beg for help of the apostle Paul and that the apostle Paul would come down unto them and help.
What I find to be so absolutely amazing about this passage is that while the Holy Spirit did in fact restrict the movement of the apostle Paul from going into Asia and from Bithynia, the apostle Paul was still instructed by the Lord as to where he should go next, for there appeared unto him a vision of a man from Macedonia asking and begging him for help. Oh that we would recognize and understand what is found within the his passage of Scripture, for what we find within this passage of Scripture is a clear and concise picture of the reality that there are times within our lives when we will be forbidden by the Holy Spirit from going certain places, and even from doing certain things, but that doesn’t mean that there is not a work for us, and that doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is not still speaking unto us. Although there might be times when the Holy Sprit restricts us from going to certain places, and restricts us from doing certain things, the hand of the Lord is still upon and still at work within our hearts and lives. It’s quite unique and remarkable to think about and consider the fact that although the Holy Spirit did in fact restrict and prohibit the apostle Paul and those who traveled with him from preaching the word in Asia, the Holy Spirit would still lead and guide the apostle Paul, as a vision would be given unto the apostle Paul by night of a man from Macedonia who was asking for them to come unto them and help. LISTENING TO THE “NO’S” AND DISCERNING THE “YES’” If there is one thing this passage reveals and points out to us, it is that there are times within our lives when we can and will hear a divine “no” from the Holy Spirit, but how despite the fact that we hear a divine “No” from the Holy Spirit, we must not lose heart in spite of and in the fact of those “No’s” and the restrictions that come as a result. It would be been very easy for the apostle Paul to either disobey the prompting, the speaking and the direction of the Holy Spirit, or even to grow disheartened and discouraged because the Holy Spirit had said “no,” however I am convinced that to do so would have potentially impacted and affected his ability to enter into Macedonia and be used by the Holy Spirit in that region. Oh, it was in fact true that the Holy Spirit had forbidden the apostle Paul and those who traveled with him from going into Asia, however, there was a vision that was received by the apostle Paul by night—one of a man from Macedonia who was crying out and asking for help. Oh please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for it would be very easy to hear and to receive a divine “No” from the Holy Spirit and to allow our hearts to become discouraged—and even to become bitter towards the living God because he tells us “No.” Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we can in fact and can indeed handle it when the Holy Spirit says “No” to us and restricts and prohibits us from doing certain things, and from going certain places. How do we respond and how do we react when the Holy Spirit does in fact tell us “No,” and we are unable to do that which perhaps was on our heart to do? King David was no stranger to this reality, for although it was in his heart to build a house and Temple for the Lord, he was informed by the Lord through the prophet Nathan that he was not to build the house, but rather his son was going to be the one to build the house.
Moving on even further in this passage of Scripture you will find a manifestation of two distinct realities which were found earlier on in the book of Acts—twice within the lives of the apostle Peter, and once among the saints which worshipped together. If you read the earlier chapters of the book of Acts you will find the apostles being seized and cast into prison, and yet an angel of the Lord entered into the prison by night—and not only opened the prison door that held them, but also instructed them to go forth and return to the Temple to preach the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ. Later on in the book of Acts you will find that after Herod had put James the brother of John to death with the sword, he seized and imprisoned the apostle Peter and instructed him to be held fast and made secure. What we find and what we read in the twelfth chapter, however, is an angel of the Lord entering into the prison where Peter was being held the night before he would be brought forth before the people. Upon entering into the prison, the angel of the Lord would wake the apostle Peter up, would cause his chains and shackles to be loosed from him, would open the prison door and lead him forth, and would even lead him beyond the gate after the gate opened of its own accord. Even more than this, you will read the fourth chapter and will find that after the apostles and saints gathered together and prayed unto the Lord, the place where they were was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Within the first twelve chapters of the book of Acts—not only do we find two incredibly powerful prison breaks, but we also find the place where the apostles and saints of God were praying being shaken as a direct result of their prayer. When we come to the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts we find Paul and Silas being seized in Philippi, and there in Philippi they were bound and put in prison after being beaten and having many stripes laid upon them. What’s s truly remarkable about what we find and read within this passage of Scripture is that although Paul and Silas had been beaten and had many stripes laid upon them, and although they were imprisoned there in Philippi, they both prayed and sang praises unto God there in the cell. Even more than this, we go on to find and read that while they prayed and while they sang praises to the living God at midnight, all the prisoners there in the prison heard them. It is unclear what the prisoners thought when they heard and listened to Paul and Silas praying and singing praises to the living God at midnight, but what we can in fact be certain of is that they all experienced the great earthquake, they all experienced the foundations of the prison being shaken, and they all experienced the prison doors being opened, and every one of their bands being loosed. How absolutely wonderful and powerful it is to think about and consider the fact that at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto the living God—this despite the fact that many stripes had been laid upon them, and this despite the fact that they had been cast into prison having done no wrong or evil there in Philippi.
As I sit here this morning and consider that which is found within the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts I can’t help but be drawn into and captivated by the reality that within the book of Acts we find three distinct prison encounters with the power of the living God. In the sixth chapter we find the apostles themselves being cast into prison, and yet an angel of the Lord entering into the prison where they were being held and bringing them all out of the prison. IN the twelfth chapter we find the apostle Peter being cast into prison, and the night before he would be brought forth before the people an angel of the Lord would enter into the prison, cause his chains to be loosed, would open his prison door, and would lead him out of the prison and through a gate which would open of its own accord. Now within the sixteenth chapter we find another prison experience—this time as a direct result of Paul and Silas singing praises unto God and praying in the midnight hour. How absolutely remarkable and astonishing it is to think about and consider the wonderful and incredible reality that within the book of Acts we find prison doors being opened, as well as chains and shackles being loosed from the saints of God, and we even find men being led forth out of prison. There was a time when it was solely the apostles who experienced the prison break, there was a time when it was only the apostle Peter who experienced a prison break, and now we find this additional time when not only would Paul and Silas experience a prison break, but we find all the prisoners which were in the prison with Paul and Silas experiencing their prison doors being opened and their chains being loosed from their hands and feet. Pause for a moment and consider what it must have been like as you were a fellow prisoner in the prison with Paul and Silas, and as you sat and listened to them singing praises unto the living God and praying, and then all of a sudden out of nowhere there was a great earthquake, the foundations of the prison were shaken, and not only was your prison door opened, but so also were your chains and shackles loosed from your feet and hands. What a truly astonishing and remarkable reality this is, and one that brings us face to face with the reality of whether or not we in the midst of our assemblies and if we in the mist of our gatherings experience the awesome and incredible reality of prison doors being opened, of chains falling off, of shackles being loosed, and of men and women being set free. I do not believe for one moment that what we find and read in the book of Acts was meant to be exclusive to the days of the apostles, and that we must come face to face with the reality that as surely and as certainly as there were prison breaks within the book of Acts, so also can and so also must there be prison breaks in this generation as prison doors are opened, as chains are loosed, as shackles fall off of men and women, and as the captives are truly and indeed set free. Oh that we would come face to face with the manifestation and expression of the corporate reality of our worship and ask ourselves whether or not we are truly experiencing the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit and of Jesus Christ within our midst.