Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament narrative of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus the Christ which was His church as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters sixteen through twelve of this New Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find what would be the second missionary journey of the apostle Paul. If and as you study the New Testament book of Acts you will find that there were essentially three missionary journeys which the apostle Paul would take before he would ultimately find himself in Rome after he had appealed unto Caesar. It would be in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the book of Acts we find the first and initial journey of the apostle Paul taking place as while Saul, Barnabas and other prophets and teachers were ministering unto the Lord with fasting in the church at Antioch the Holy Ghost would speak among them in their midst and would instruct them to separate unto Him Saul and Barnabas for the work whereunto they had been called. There is something truly unique and powerful when you think about the awesome truth surrounding these missionary journeys which the apostle Paul took to spread, further and enhance the gospel of the kingdom of heaven within and throughout Europe and Asia. If you take the time to read both the thirteenth and sixteenth chapters of the book of Acts you will discover the personal and powerful presence of the Holy Ghost as the person of the Holy Ghost would be directly and intimately involved in the journeys of the apostle Paul. As was already mentioned, it would be while Saul and Barnabas were ministering unto the Lord with fasting at the church in Antioch the Holy Ghost would call for them to be separated unto Himself for the work whereunto they had been called. Upon coming to the sixteenth chapter, however, you will find something incredibly and altogether different concerning the Holy Spirit. If in the thirteenth chapter you find the person of the Holy Ghost calling for the separation of Saul and Barnabas unto the work for which they had been called—it would be in the sixteenth chapter where you don’t necessarily find the Holy Spirit calling for the separation of Saul and Barnabas, but rather you will find the Holy Ghost leading, guiding and directing the journeys they would take.
In order to truly understand the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter it’s important to note the final verses of the fifteenth chapter—events that would lead to the separation and parting of ways between Saul and Barnabas. It would be within and during the first and initial missionary journey Saul and Barnabas would make their initial journey to spread the gospel concerning the kingdom of God—first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles. What we find in the final verses of the fifteenth chapter is Saul and Barnabas returning unto the church from which they had been separated and sent forth by the Holy Ghost. It’s actually something quite interesting to think about the fact that after engaging themselves within this first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas would return unto the place of separation—and not only return unto the place of separation, but would also return unto the place of sending. It would be here at the Church in Antioch both Paul and Barnabas would be instructed and commanded of the Holy Ghost to be separated unto Himself that they might be sent forth into and unto the work which they had been called to. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and powerful truth, for there is something about returning to the place of sending and separation that is quite astounding and unique. What makes this even more powerful is when you think about the fact that even the disciples who would later become apostles would be brought back to the place of sending—and not only to the place of sending, but also the place of appointment. The disciples would be brought by Jesus unto the place where they were first and previously appointed that they might receive a second command, a second commission, a second sending if you will. Oh there is something about returning to the place of sending and separation that is actually quite remarkable when you take the time to think about it. With this in mind I invite you to consider the final words of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew beginning with the sixteenth verse:
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, INTO A MOUNTAIN WHERE JESUS HAD APPOINTED THEM. And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:16-20).
Did you catch the words which were found and presented within those final verses of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew? In those final verses of this gospel narrative we find the apostle Matthew writing and recording how the eleven disciples would go unto Galilee, and would go into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of what is being presented before and unto you in this passage of Scripture, for while the Scripture speaks about the disciples going away into Galilee and into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them there was actually something deeper and something much greater that would take place therein. It would be this journey unto this mountain—this journey unto this specific place—that would be incredibly significant, for the disciples would return unto the place of sending and separation. The disciples would return to Galilee, and they would return unto that place where the Lord Jesus had first appointed them and sent them out. It’s actually quite interesting to note the incredible transition and difference that would take place in the twenty-eighth chapter of this New Testament book, for it would be in this particular chapter we find the disciples not only returning to the place of sending and separation, but also in that place of returning receiving a second instruction and a second commission if you will. There would indeed be an initial appointment, an initial command, and an initial instruction that would take place earlier on within the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, however, there would be this second journey unto the mountain of appointment and this second journey unto the mountain of sending that would accomplish something much greater and much deeper within the hearts and lives of the disciples. Oh we ought not miss and lose sight of that which is written and recorded within this chapter—and not only this chapter, but also the final chapters of the gospel narratives written by Luke and John Mark—for these three gospel narratives present us with a powerful picture of the disciples returning unto the place of sending and separation, and returning unto the place of appointment and ordaining. Not only this, but the disciples would essentially receive a second commission—one that would be entirely and altogether different from that first and initial command which was given unto them when Jesus sent them out two by two. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the final verses of the gospel narratives written by John Mark and the physician Luke:
”Afterward He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen. And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark 16:14-20.
“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the Temple, praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:44-53).
It would be in the final chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find the disciples returning unto the initial place of sending and separation—returning unto that initial place where the Lord had appointed them and sent them out two by two into the harvest preaching the gospel concerning the kingdom, healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, casting out unclean spirits, and manifesting the kingdom of heaven in the earth. What’s more, is that it would be in that same place where they had previously been appointed and sent forth the disciples would return and would receive a second commission—a second command and set of instructions if you will. Oh there was an initial appointment and there was an initial sending that would take place while the Word which was made flesh would dwell among them, however, there would come this second appointment, this second command, and this second commission if you will that would take place in that very same place. Not only this, but it would be as the disciples returned unto this place of initial sending and appointment they would receive a second impartation and a second commission and appointment if you will—one that would directly impact their calling in the absence of the Word which was made flesh and dwelt among them. It would be their return unto this place of initial appointment that would bring the disciples and apostles into the place where they would receive this second command and this second appointment—one that would thrust them into the harvest in an even greater measure. Oh there would be that initial appointment and sending that would send the disciples into the harvest within the towns of the lost house of Israel, but it would be this second appointment and sending that would take them beyond their borders and beyond their initial boundaries. Despite the fact that the initial appointment would keep them out of Samaria, and would keep them within the borders and boundaries of Judaea, Jerusalem and Galilee, this second appointment would bring them beyond those initial borders. In all reality, it would be this second appointment that would give them the freedom and the permission to move beyond Jerusalem, to move beyond Judaea, and to enter into Samaria, and even go unto the Gentiles. This is in all reality what makes the eighth, tenth and eleventh chapters of the New Testament book of Acts so incredibly powerful when you think about it, for it would be in these chapters we find the gospel beginning to spread beyond the borders and boundaries of Jerusalem and Judaea.
The eighth chapter of the book of Acts would begin with a great persecution breaking out against the Church in the city of Jerusalem, and how it would thrust the early Church and followers of Jesus the Christ into the far reaches and far corners of Judaea and Samaria. It would be as you continue reading in the eighth chapter that you find Philip performing great signs, wonders and miracles in Samaria, and how the gospel concerning the kingdom would be preached there in the midst of the city. It’s important for us to realize and recognize this, for what we find in the eighth chapter of the book of Acts is a direct fulfillment—not only of the words which are found in the final verses of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, and not only the words which are found in the final chapter of the gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke, but also in the words which are found in the opening chapter of the book of Acts itself. It was Jesus who emphatically declared unto His disciples and followers that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem first, then in Judaea, then in Samaria, and ultimately unto the uttermost parts of the earth. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize this, for in the initial appointment and sending of the twelve disciples Jesus told them to avoid and not go in to the region of Samaria, and to instead remain within Judaea, Galilee, and even Jerusalem. When it came to the disciples returning unto that initial and original place of appointment they would receive a second command and a second instruction—one that would give them the freedom, the liberty and license to move beyond Jerusalem, and beyond Judaea, and into Samaria. What we find in the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is the Church, the gospel, the Holy Ghost, and signs, wonders and miracles being brought unto and performed within Samaria—a place where Jesus previously had commanded and instructed His disciples not to enter. What gives even more credence and power to this is when you think about the fact that not only did Philip and other believers venture into Samaria, but you will also find the apostles and brethren which remained in the city of Jerusalem sending into Samaria and unto those present there the apostles John and Peter. It would be when the apostles Peter and John came unto Samaria they would lay their hands on those who had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and they would receive the person of the Holy Spirit.
I have to admit that I am absolutely and completely convinced there is something about returning unto this place of initial appointment and returning unto this place of initial sending and commanding, for it would be in that place where the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ would receive a second commission and a second impartation if you will. Not only this, but there is not a doubt in my mind that it would be in this place of returning unto where you were previously appointed and commanded by the Lord Jesus you will receive new marching orders. I firmly and completely believe when you read these chapters you will find that it would be this return unto the place of appointment Samaria and the land of the Gentiles would be unlocked. When they would and could not previously enter into Samaria, and when they would and could not preach the gospel narrative unto the Gentiles—this second appointment, it would be this second impartation, and it would be this second commission that would unlock Samaria and would unlock ministry unto the Gentiles. The more you read the book of Acts the more you will find that it was this second commission and this second appointment that would give the disciples the freedom to move beyond the borders and boundaries of Judaea and Galilee, and enter into the land of Samaria—and not only in Samaria, but also into the uttermost parts of the earth. It would be in this place of appointment and ascension the Lord Jesus the Christ would give them the freedom and the permission to be His witnesses in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth, thus indicating that an effectual door would be opened unto the Gentiles after His departure. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that this appointment and commission of the Lord Jesus, the ascension of Jesus unto the right hand of the Father, the sending of the promise of the Holy Spirit, the persecution which would break out in Jerusalem against the church, and even the vision which the apostle Peter had in Joppa that would truly unlock the ministry unto the Gentiles as well. It would be persecution that would open the door into Samaria and unto the Samaritans which were present therein.
I sit here today thinking about and considering how truly incredible and awesome this returning unto the place of appointment and sending would truly be—not only for the disciples, but also for the Church itself—for it would be in returning unto this place of sending and appointment the disciples and the church would receive permission if you will to move beyond the borders and boundaries initially granted unto them. The initial appointment and command of Jesus the Christ would instruct the disciples to abstain from journeying into Samaria, and to instead go into the towns of the lost sheep of Israel, however, it would be this second appointment and this second commission that would allow and permit the disciples to move beyond the borders and boundaries of Jerusalem, Judaea, and Galilee. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome truth, for in the final chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, and in the first and opening chapter of the New Testament book of Acts, for it would be in this final appointment given unto the disciples by Jesus the Christ that would grant the disciples the ability to move beyond the borders and boundaries initially granted unto them. This is what I am convinced is so incredibly significant about what we find and read in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts, for after their initial missionary journey had been completed we find Paul, Barnabas and John Mark returning unto Antioch where they had originally been sent out. Oh they would indeed engage themselves in that missionary journey to certain places surrounding Antioch, however, it would be in their return where a door would begin to open up unto them that would allow them to move even further into the land and nations of the Gentiles. It’s absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to this, for there is something absolutely and incredibly powerful about returning unto this place of sending and appointment, for it is in that place where we essentially receive new marching orders, and essentially where we receive a second command and commission of the Lord to move beyond those initial borders and boundaries.
The more I think about and consider this the more I can’t help but think about the fact that one of the greatest desires of the Lord Jesus the Christ is to move us beyond those initial borders and boundaries which we had originally operated in. There is not a doubt in my mind that the initial appointment of the twelve disciples gave them a certain and specific set of borders and boundaries that would be found within the confines of Judaea and Galilee, however, it would be the second command and the second commission that would expand those borders and boundaries, thus making them no longer valid and no longer needed. The disciples would indeed be witnesses in Jerusalem and Judaea, however, there would come a point when they would move beyond Jerusalem and Judaea and would move into the region of Samaria and into the region of the Gentiles. I read the words which are found in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth chapters, and I am brought face to face with the truly remarkable and astonishing truth that an effectual door was beginning to be opened unto the apostle Paul to journey beyond the initial scope he had ventured in. I have to admit that I absolutely love what we find in these chapters, for they are in direct alignment with Jesus bringing the disciples unto that place of initial sending and appointment, as it would be in that place Jesus would give them a new command and commission—one that would send them deeper and even further into the earth that they might take the gospel concerning the kingdom of heaven unto the Gentiles. It would be the apostle Paul whom the Lord would raise up to be the apostle and missionary unto the Gentiles, and it would be the apostle Paul whom the Lord would reveal and speak unto Ananias and declare that He would send him unto the Gentiles, and show him what great things he must needs suffer for the sake of His name and for the sake of the gospel. We dare not and ought not miss and lose sight of this truth, for this brings us face to face with the powerful truth concerning the apostle Paul returning unto the place where he and Barnabas had originally been appointed, separated and sent out by the Holy Spirit into the earth.
If you read the final verses of the fourteenth chapter you will that after Paul and Barnabas had preached the gospel and taught many they would return again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch. It would be in those places they would confirm the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that they through much tribulation must enter into the kingdom of God. With this in mind consider if you will the words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning to read with and from the twenty-first verse of the fourteenth chapter: “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 they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia: AND THENCE SAILED TO ANTIOCH, FROM WHENCE THEY HAD BEEN RECOMMENDED TO THE GRACE OF GOD FOR THE WORK WHICH THEY FULFILLED. AND WHEN THEY WERE COME, AND HAD GATHERED THE CHURCH TOGETHER, THEY REHEARSED ALL THAT GOD HAD DONE WITH THEM, AND HOW HE HAD OPENED THE DOOR OF FAITH UNTO THE GENTILES. AND THERE THEY ABODE LONG TIME WITH THE DISCIPLES” (Acts 14:21-28). FROM WHENCE THEY HAD BEEN RECOMMENDED TO THE GRACE OF GOD FOR THE WORK WHICH THEY FULFILLED! THEY REHEARSED ALL THAT GOD HAD DONE WITH THEM! HOW HE HAD OPENED THE DOOR OF FAITH UNTO THE GENTILES! Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of what is presented before us within this passage, for within it we find Paul and Barnabas returning unto the place of separation and sending, and returning unto the place where they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. Upon their return to Antioch—that place of initial sending and separation—they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. Oh we must needs pay close and careful attention to that which is found in this passage of Scripture, for it brings us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth concerning returning unto the place of sending, separation and appointment—and not only returning there, but also rehearsing all that God had done in, with and through you.
I have to admit that I absolutely love what we find in those final verses, for they reveal how Paul and Barnabas had rehearsed all the Lord had done through and with them, thus speaking of the great grace and work had been performed in the midst of the earth. The question I can’t help but ask myself is how many of us can indeed rehearse that which the Lord has not only done in us, but also what the Lord has done through us. How many of us can truly rehearse before and unto others that which the Lord has done within and through our lives after we had indeed been separated and sent out? There is something truly powerful about what we find here, for within this text we find Paul and Barnabas returning unto that place of their initial appointment, separation and sending, and abiding with the disciples after recounting and rehearsing all the Lord had done through them. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it allows us to clearly see something astounding concerning this return unto the place where we had been sent, separated and appointed by the Holy Ghost. Paul and Barnabas would indeed return unto the place of separation and sending, and it would be in that place where their next journey and their next assignment would begin to take shape and take form. Perhaps one of the most profound truths surrounding Paul in this passage of Scripture is when you consider the fact that it would be there in Antioch where he would not only rehearse all the Lord had done through he and Barnabas, but it would also be in that place they would set forth on the next missionary journey. In fact, in the final verses of the fifteenth chapter you will find Paul seeking to go again and visit their brethren in those cities where they preached the word of the Lord to see how they were doing. Ultimately there would be a separation which would take place between Paul and Barnabas, as Barnabas thought to bring John Mark with them, but Paul did not want to because he had departed from them and went not with them to the work. Consider if you will the final words found in the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts, for it sets the stage, the tone and the context for that which we find in chapters sixteen through eighteen:
“And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches” (Acts 15:36-40).
BEING RECOMMENDED BY THE BRETHREN UNTO THE GRACE OF GOD! Please don’t miss this, for this would be the second time these words would be used as it pertains to the journey which the apostle Paul would set out and set forth to fulfill and accomplish. It would be in the final verses of the fourteenth chapter we read of Paul and Barnabas fulfilling the work and the grace which they had been recommended to, and how they rehearsed before and unto all the brethren how the Lord had wrought and worked through them, and how He had given and opened unto them an effectual door of ministry unto and among the Gentiles. When you come to the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts you will find Paul setting out and beginning this second apostolic and missionary journey—this time with Silas accompanying him. What we must realize and understand within these chapters is not only the presence and person of the Holy Ghost which would be seen within the opening verses of the sixteenth chapter, but also those laborers and partners the Holy Ghost would bring unto Paul and Silas to carry out, continue and assist in the work of the kingdom and of the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ. What I find so powerful within these chapters is that although the apostle Paul would initially set forth with Silas as his companion, fellow traveler and partner in ministry, the Holy Ghost would bring alongside him Timotheus whom we know as Timothy, as well as Aquila and Priscilla, and even Apollos. In order for us to truly understand the words which are found within these chapters we musts needs pay close and careful attention to these twin truths—the truth of the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, as well as the Holy Spirit bringing alongside you those who would be co-laborers in the work which was before you in the earth. Paul would indeed set forth with Silas from Antioch, and would set forth unto the work for which they had been appointed and sent forth, however, it wouldn’t be just Paul and Silas who would engage and labor in the work, for there would be other laborers whom the Lord would raise up among and alongside them. Perhaps one of the most interesting and astounding truths and realities surrounding this chapter of Scripture is how the first missionary journey which Paul and Barnabas would set out to step into would be at the appointment of the Holy Spirit, while this second journey would simply be due to the apostle Paul’s desire to return once more unto the cities where they had preached the word of the Lord, and unto the churches and brethren that were there to see how they were doing.
Perhaps one of the most striking realities that is found in the opening verses of the sixteenth chapter is that although it wasn’t the Holy Ghost who explicitly sent out Paul and Silas on this second missionary and apostolic journey, the Holy Ghost would still be actively involved in this journey. Although it wouldn’t be the Holy Ghost that would call for the separation of Paul and Barnabas as was mentioned in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Acts we still find the Holy Ghost being actively involved in this missionary and apostolic journey. It would be in the opening verses of this chapter we find the introduction to Timothy who would not only be a fellow laborer and traveling companion of the apostle Paul, but one who would eventually and ultimately be an overseer in the church at Ephesus. It would in the first five verses of the sixteenth chapter were are introduced to Timothy and how he was a disciples at Derbe and Lystra—one who was the son of a certain Jewess, and believed, but whose father was a Greek. The beloved physician Luke writes and records concerning Timothy that he was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium, and how Paul would have him go forth with him. In the fourth verse of this chapter we find how the apostle Paul would indeed take Timothy with him, and how they would go through the cities, and how they would deliver them the decrees which they were to keep, and which were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. What’s more, is that Luke also goes on to write how the churches were established in the faith, and increased in number daily. It is when we come to the sixth verse of this chapter we begin to see the Holy Ghost being manifested within this journey—and not as the Holy Ghost had previously been involved in Antioch, but rather in preventing Paul, Timothy and Silas from journeying into certain places where they were not permitted by the Holy Spirit. What’s more, is that not only do we find the activity of the Holy Spirit in this passage of Scripture, but you also find the apostle Paul receiving a vision from the Lord which would ultimately lead him into a place he had not even intended on journeying. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the sixteenth chapter beginning with the sixth verse:
“Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to p reach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; and from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days” (Acts 16:6-12).
It’s actually quite unique to read the words which are found in this particular passage of Scripture, for what we find in this passage of Scripture is not only the Holy Ghost being directly involved in the journey and travel of the apostle Paul and those who were with him, but we also find the Lord showing and revealing unto him a vision whereby leading and guiding him to that specific place he must needs journey and travel to. The Holy Ghost would forbid the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy, and even Luke from entering into Asia, and instead of journeying into Asia the apostle Paul and those with him would journey toward Macedonia. What makes this even more astounding when you think about it is some of the cities which are mentioned in these chapters, for within these three chapters we find some of the major cities unto which the apostle Paul would write some of his most profound and powerful letters to. It is as you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul journeying throughout Galatia, throughout Philippi, and even unto Thessalonica and Ephesus. Within these three chapters we find the apostle Paul journeying into some of the very cities unto which churches would be established—and not only in which churches would be established, but also unto which epistles and letters would be written. It would be in the sixteenth chapter we find the apostle Paul entering into Philippi, which was a colony within Macedonia, and it would be there where we would ultimately find Paul and Silas being imprisoned after Paul had commanded an unclean spirit to come out of a young girl who would continually provoke them in the work and ministry of the Lord. It is within this text where we find Paul and Silas being imprisoned and secured in the innermost prison with their feet in the stocks. It would be at midnight Paul and Silad would be praying and worshipping before the Lord that there would be a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. Not only would the foundation of the prison be shaken, but all the doors would be opened, and every one’s bands would be loosed.
It is quite astounding and remarkable to read and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for what we find and read within these verses is a powerful picture of Paul and Silas being delivered from the prison into which they were placed. If there is one thing I so absolutely love and appreciate when reading these words is that this would essentially be the third time the Lord would deliver His apostles and His servants from prison. We know earlier on in the book of Acts the Lord would deliver the apostles from prison and would instruct them to return unto the Temple where they would preach the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ. We know in the twelfth chapter that the apostle Peter would be imprisoned by Herod after he had put James the brother of John to death with the sword. The text indicates how an angel of the Lord would not only loose Peter from his bands and from his prison cell, but would also lead him out of the prison and lead him beyond the gate of the city before departing from him. Now here we are in the sixteenth chapter of the same book and we again find the Lord delivering his servants from the prison in which they had been bound. Now, I feel it is absolutely necessary to emphatically state that I am not seeking to write about the Lord performing prison breaks, for we know that there have been countless disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus the Christ who not only have not been released from the prison in which they were placed, but have also even come out of it and faced death as a direct result of their worshipping, following, and even preaching the gospel concerning the Lord Jesus the Christ. We know that even during these days and within the generation in which we are living there are those who are found within prison cells within and throughout the world for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of the name of Jesus the Christ. We know that there are countless disciples and followers who have been and are still imprisoned, and there is absolutely no hope for freedom for them. There are prisoners of the Lord Jesus Christ right now who have absolutely no idea when they are going to be released from prison and/or if they will ultimately die in prison, or will be delivered and brought forth from prison, but only to meet their death.
THE GOD WHO SHAKES HOUSES AND WHO SHAKES PRISONS! In the fourth chapter of the book of Acts we find that when the apostles and the brethren gathered together and prayed after the apostles had just been counted worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus the Christ, the whole house where they were was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. In the sixteenth chapter of the same book we do not find a physical house being shaken, but we find an entire prison being shaken. It is in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts we find the Lord so shaking the earth that the foundation of the prison where Paul and Silas were imprisoned being shaken. Not only this, but it would be this shaking that would cause prison doors to be opened, and would cause chains and fetters to be loosed. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is not only tremendous power when we pray, but there is also tremendous power when we praise. It was while the apostles and the brethren prayed before the Lord that the house where they were in was shaken, and when they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. It would be while Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises before and unto the Lord that there would be a great earthquake, and so much so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. Not only this, but it would be while Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises before and unto the Lord that all the doors of the prison were opened, and every man’s bands were loosed. FOUNDATIONS SHAKEN, PRISON DOORS OPENED, BANDS LOOSED! IF there is perhaps one underlying theme and common denominator that is found within this passage it’s that the apostles and brethren were praying when the house they were present within was shaken, and it was while Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to the Lord that the foundation of the prison was shaken. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly awesome and powerful truth, for it brings us face to face with the awesome reality of what truly happens when we pray and when we sing praises before and unto the Lord.
We know when reading the words which are found in this passage that it was while Paul and Silas prayed—and while they prayed at midnight—that there was a great earthquake, and so much so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. What’s more, is we know that immediately all the prison doors were opened, and that every man’s bands were loosed. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly powerful truth, for it brings us face to face with the tremendous question of what truly happens when we pray and when we sing praises before and unto the Lord. Please note that I am not speaking of, nor am I suggesting that when we pray before and unto the Lord, nor am I suggesting that when we sing praises before and unto the Lord that actual houses shake and the foundations of prisons begin to shake. What I am speaking about is essentially the secondary measure that accompanied the shaking, for there was a secondary work that would be directly linked and connected to both of these encounters. It would be in the fourth chapter of the book of Acts that we not only find the house in which they were praying being shaken, but we find them all being filled with the Holy Spirit. What’s more, is that in the sixteenth chapter of this same book we find the secondary work of prison doors being opened, every man’s bands being loosed, and salvation coming unto the keeper of the prison and all his house together with him. INFILLING OF THE HOLY GHOST! PRISON DOORS BEING OPENED! EACH MAN’S BANDS BEING LOOSED! SALVATION COMING INTO HOUSEHOLDS! Oh it is truly something worth thinking about and considering when you read these chapters that it wasn’t so much the shaking of the house, nor was it so much so the shaking of the foundations of the prison that was the main work which was wrought in the midst of the earth, but it was something much deeper that needed to take place. It would be the filling of all those in the house when the house was shaken that would be the true and ultimate effect and result of their praying before and unto the Lord. It would be prison doors being opened, each man’s bands being loosed, and salvation coming unto an entire household that would be the true and ultimate effect of the prayers and praises of Paul and Silas.
Oh the question I can’t help but ask myself when reading these words is what truly happens and what is truly accomplished when we gather together and pray before and unto the Lord. What truly happens when we sing praises unto the Lord and pray before and unto Him. Are men and women filled with the Holy Spirit when we pray before the Lord with other disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus the Christ? Are prison doors opened when we pray and sing praises unto the Lord? Are each man’s bands loosed from them when we pray and sing praises unto the living God? Does salvation come unto entire households as a direct result of our prayers and praises before and unto the living God? Oh I can’t help but ask myself and wonder if there isn’t something that is missing from our prayers and from our praises within the houses in which we worship. I can’t help but ask the question of what truly and what ultimately is accomplished when we gather together before the Lord in prayer and praise in our houses of worship? Oh we might have emotional experiences and emotional highs when we gather together to pray and when we gather together to sing praises before and unto the Lord, but what is truly accomplished when we sing praises before and unto the Lord? Are prison doors being opened in our midst? Are the bands which are upon men being loosed? Are men being filled with the Holy Spirit when we pray? Is salvation coming unto entire households as a direct result of our praying and singing praises unto the living God? We know when reading the sixteenth chapter that Paul and Silas were secured in the innermost prison and that there feet were fastened in stocks, and yet we also find that although they were imprisoned their voices could not be silenced. Although they might have been bound in the physical and natural realm they were free in the Spirit and free in the spiritual realm. Pause for a moment and think about that, for although they were bound in the innermost prison, and although their feet were fastened in stocks they were still free enough within their hearts and spirits to sing praises before and unto the living and eternal God. Although they might have been bound in the physical and natural realm they were entirely and altogether free in the spiritual realm and within their hearts and minds.
It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this freedom which Paul and Silas experienced within their hearts and spirits, for in the sixteenth chapter we find them being imprisoned in Philippi, while in chapters seventeen and eighteen we find them suffering tremendous opposition, persecution and affliction in Thessalonica, as well as in Berea. It would be in chapters seventeen and eighteen we find Paul not only in Thessalonica, and not only in Berea, but also in Ephesus and Athens. What is so absolutely and incredibly unique about the words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is that it opens with Paul, Silas and Timothy coming unto Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. The apostle Paul—as his manner and custom was—would go into the Jews and for three sabbaths would reason with them out of the scriptures. What’s more, is the apostle Paul would allege that Jesus, whom he preached unto them was indeed the Christ. Scripture reveals how there were some among them who believed and consorted with Paul and Silas, and there were other of the Jews who believed not. It would be those Jews who being moved with envy took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar against the apostle Paul, Silas, and perhaps even Timothy and Luke. Not only this, but within this passage of Scripture we find the Jews and that company which they had gathered together unto them assaulting the house of Jason that Paul and Silas might be brought out among them. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear what the Jews and the company which they had gathered together with them sought to do unto Paul and Silas, but what we do know is that they weren’t able to lay hold of them there in the midst of the city. Not only this, but in the tenth verse we find the brethren sending Paul and Silas by night unto Berea that they might not be overtaken in Thessalonica. It would be there in Thessalonica Paul and Silas would enter into their synagogues and would preach the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ. Luke writes how those in Berea were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Luke also goes on to write how many of them in Berea believed. What we must also recognize and understand when reading the seventeenth chapter is that although the brethren in Thessalonica had delivered Paul and Silas out of the city that they might not be overtaken, and although they would come unto Berea and would preach the gospel there in Berea—that opposition, that suffering, that persecution, that affliction would follow them into Berea.
I sit here this morning thinking about and considering that which is written in the seventeenth chapter and I can’t help but come face to face with the truly incredible reality of the apostle Paul and Silas being delivered out of Thessalonica and out of the hands of the Jews and those who would seek to overtake them within the city, and yet the very persecution, the very affliction, the very opposition they would experience in Thessalonica would follow them unto Berea. I have previously written about this before and how you respond when the opposition and affliction you experienced in one place seems to follow you to another place. What do you do when the trouble and trials you experienced in one place seem to follow you to the next place? We know from the words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts that when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge of and heard that the word of God was being preached of Paul at Berea, they came there also, and stirred p the people. Scripture records and reveals how the brethren which were there in Berea sent Paul away to go as it were to the sea. Eventually and ultimately Paul would come unto Athens—this city of the Greeks which was known for its pantheon of gods, as well as its desire for earthly wisdom and philosophy. What I can’t help but think about and consider when reading this chapter is that there are times within our lives when we are forced to move from one place to another—not because the Spirit expressly and explicitly speaks unto us, but simply because of the trouble, the trial, the opposition, and the affliction we face within our lives in a certain an specific place. It’s interesting to note that it wasn’t the Spirit which instructed and commanded the apostles, the brethren and the early Church to depart from the city of Jerusalem and to journey unto the cities, towns and villages of Judaea and Samaria. It was because of the great persecution which broke out against the Church there in Jerusalem that ultimately caused the Church and the followers of Jesus the Christ to be thrust out from the city of Jerusalem and into the regions of Judaea and Samaria. Oh we must needs pay close and careful attention when reading these words, for what we find in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is the apostle Paul moving from city to city simply and solely because of the opposition that had risen up against him for the sake of the gospel he preached unto and among the Jews.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary and imperative to call and draw your attention to what is found in the seventeenth chapter, for it brings us face to face with, and shines a great light on to that which we face and experience within our hearts and lives as it pertains to opposition and affliction. Paul, Silas and Timothy would experience great opposition within Thessalonica. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is not only how we handle and how we face opposition and affliction, but also how we respond and react when trouble and trials seems to follow us from place to place. It is truly something interesting and worth considering the opposition which Paul, Silas and Timothy faced and experienced when you read the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts—and not only the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts, but also the words which are found in the second chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonians. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the second chapter of the first New Testament epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Thessalonica:
“For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto the gospel of God with much contention. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and trail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: as ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every on of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. But we, brethren, being taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming For ye are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:1-19).
As I bring this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we call and draw our attention—not merely to the opposition and affliction that was experienced in Thessalonica, but also the boldness and humility which Paul, Silas, Timothy and those who were there together with them exercised. Oh perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is how we hold up under pressure, and how we hold up under trial, and how we hold up in the midst of affliction, in the midst of trouble, and in the midst of suffering. The apostle Paul would not only write of boldness when writing unto the Thessalonians, but he would also write of gentleness, humility, compassion, affection, kindness, and so much more. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and incredible truth, for it calls and brings our attention to how we handle, and how we truly live our lives in the midst of opposition, affliction, trial and trouble. What’s more, is are we truly those individuals who would continue to be holy and blameless—even in the midst of suffering, and even in the midst of affliction, and even in the midst of trial and trouble. Oh how strong and how confident is your faith, and can your faith truly and indeed withstand the trials and troubles which we face and experience within this life. There is not a doubt in my mind that we are on the verge and the cusp of opposition and affliction like we’ve never faced and experienced before, and the question is whether or not we will be able to stand in the midst of it, and whether or not we will be able to endure in the midst of it. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not our house and our foundation is truly build upon the rock and can withstand and weather the wind, the rain and the waves, or whether our house is built on shifting and sinking sand and will crumble under the tremendous weight and pressure of that which we face. Oh there is a great need during the days in which we are living—not only for endurance, but also for patience, for confidence, for boldness, for holiness, for purity, and for faith during these times and hours in which we are living. It is with this in mind I leave you with the words which the apostle Peter wrote concerning suffering and affliction and present it to you as a call to action and as a call to arms during these days and times in which we are living:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murder, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19)