Saturday, December 03, 2022

2022.12.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 16:16–34

Read Acts 16:16–34

Questions from the Scripture text: Where were they going in Acts 16:16? Who met them? What did she do for her masters? Now what did she do in Acts 16:17? What was she crying out? For how long (Acts 16:18)? How did Paul feel about this? To whom did he speak? How did he command it? What happened? When? Who saw what in Acts 16:19? What did they do to whom? To whom did they bring Paul and Silas (verse 19b, Acts 16:20a)? What did they call Paul and Silas? Of what did they accuse them generally? Of what did they accuse them, specifically (Acts 16:21)? Who are apparently there and respond in what way in Acts 16:22? After the multitudes response, who else respond in what way? How much do the magistrates do this in Acts 16:23? What did they then do to them? Whom did they command to do what? How did he respond to this charge (Acts 16:24)? When does Acts 16:25 take place? What were Paul and Silas doing? What were the prisoners doing? What suddenly happens (Acts 16:26)? What were shaken? What happened to which doors? What happened to whose chains? What does the jailer do in Acts 16:27? What does he see? What does he assume? What is he about to do? Who calls in Acts 16:28? In what kind of voice? Commanding what? Why not—who was still there? What does he call for (Acts 16:29)? Where does he go at what speed? What does he do before Paul and Silas? What does he do to Paul and Silas in Acts 16:30? What does he ask them? What do they command him to do (Acts 16:31)? What result do they promise? To whom else do they give this command and this promise? To whom do they speak what in Acts 16:32? And to whom else? How does he respond in Acts 16:33? But who are baptized? Where does he bring them in Acts 16:34? What does he set before them? What does he do? Who rejoice with him over his having believed (n.b. the prepositional phrase belongs to the indicative verb “rejoiced” not the participle “believed,” cp. YLT, ESV, NASB margin)? 

How does the gospel advance in the face of demonic and worldly opposition? Acts 16:16–34 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these nineteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that neither demonic nor worldly opposition can stop the advance of the gospel, because in almighty power, inscrutable wisdom, and determined love, God Himself is saving whomever He wills. 

Though this world with devils filled. The truth is always true, but it is not always effective. As we just saw in Acts 16:14, even when the truth is on the lips of an apostle, it still requires the miraculous, gracious work of the Lord to open the heart of the hearer. So if we are paying attention, we’re not actually surprised at the apostle’s response in Acts 16:18 to her statement in Acts 16:17. What she said was true; they were servants of the Most High God, who proclaimed the way of salvation! 

But she followed them for many days saying this. Day after day, they went to prayer (Acts 16:16), evidently to the river where they had found some women praying on the Sabbath. But there is still only the report of Lydia’s conversion. Apparently—and consistently with how her “divining” was a for-profit operation for her masters (verse 16, cf. Acts 16:19a)—Paul concludes that the Lord is not using this announcement to bring anyone to hear the gospel in a saving way.

That Word against all earthly powers. The word translated by the phrase “greatly annoyed” (Acts 16:18) is built upon the root for “evil”; it isn’t apostolic petulance that we see but a proper response to evil. He sees that she is in a worse bondage than her earthly one, and he commands the spirit to come out.

So, we see the apostle in combat here with a demon. And then we see the apostle seized and dragged by the wealthy masters who want their profit back (or at least revenge for its loss, Acts 16:19). And then we see the apostle before the magistrates (Acts 16:20)—a spineless lot who are easily manipulated by the next group. For, once Paul and Silas are before the magistrates, the magistrates are manipulated by the multitude, who are also easily manipulated. All the slave-masters have to do is accuse them of being troublemaking Jews, and the gullible (and bigoted) multitude lose their minds (Acts 16:20-21; no wonder there was no synagogue in the city)! At this point, there’s not even an attempt at justice, just politicians placating the noisy, violent crowd.

He must win the battle. Going back to the forbidding in Acts 16:6 and the not-permitting in Acts 16:7, this missionary journey has suffered one setback (humanly speaking) after another. Now, in Acts 16:22b, Paul and Silas are stripped. Now, in verse 22c, they are beaten with rods. Now, in Acts 16:23a, they have received many stipes. Now, in verse 23b, they are thrown into prison. Now, in verse 23c, they are regarded as max-security prisoners. Now, in Acts 16:24a, they are put in the inner prison. Now, in verse 24b, their feet are fastened in the stocks. 

Every new turn of events seems to bring them a little lower, but the Lord has them just where He wants them! They know this from the very Scriptures they are singing in Acts 16:25. What better place than the Psalms to read about God’s purpose, power, wisdom, and goodness in our troubles? That, of course, is what is meant by “hymns” in verse 25. 

It’s a Greek word found in the superscripts of Psalm 5, 53, 54, 60, 66, and 75. Matthew 26:30 uses the word to refer (probably) to Psalms 115–118, which were commonly sung at the conclusion of the Passover meal. Even a quick survey of those Psalms reveals what a help they are for saints in the midst of affliction. But they are not just reading or remembering. They are praying these Scriptures. They are singing these Scriptures.

This, we expect from believers. Paul and Silas singing the Psalms in their chains isn’t a surprise. The surprise, especially after the way things have gone thus far in Philippi, is at the end of Acts 16:25, “and the prisoners were listening to them.”  That’s why the Spirit had them thrown in to the prison—because it was there that He “had many people” in the prison (cf. Acts 18:10). The Spirit knows what He is going to do (cf. Acts 15:18, Acts 2:23, Acts 4:28) and whose hearts He is going to open (cf. Acts 16:14) in order to save them. And He had gathered a prison full of those whom He had prepared to listen to Paul and Silas.

Though we do not here read of anyone but the jailer believing, we do see great effect from their hearing in Acts 16:28. In Acts 16:26, all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. But in Acts 16:28 none of the prisoners had left; all of them were still there. Given the opportunity of continued imprisonment but getting to continue to hear the words of eternal life, or newfound freedom but possibly not hearing those words, every single prisoner had stayed!

As for the jailer, he does believe. Perhaps he, too, has heard Paul and Silas. Perhaps he has been greatly affected by the effect that Paul and Silas have had upon the other prisoners. He brings them out of the prison and into his house. He asks about his own salvation (Acts 16:30), but Paul and Silas assume that not only will he believe (Acts 16:31a), but that his household also will (verse 31b). 

Even though only the jailer’s repentance (Acts 16:33a) and the jailer’s faith are described (Acts 16:34, n.b. the prepositional phrase “with all his household” belongs to the indicative verb “rejoiced” not the participle “believed,” cp. YLT, ESV, NASB margin), they are all baptized as belonging to him, and they all rejoice with him. Why? Because it is God Who has put them in this man’s house, and God Who has brought their husband/father/master to faith. And it must be God Who opens the rest of their hearts and gives them faith. His providence and His sign are not meaningless. He must win the battle.

Why shouldn’t believers be afraid of demons? What is happening when the wealthy, the authorities, and the haters of God’s people seem to have the upper hand? Who will be saved? How?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for ruling and overruling all things for the salvation of all of those Whom You have determined to redeem. Grant unto us to be confident and content, no matter what providence You bring us through. Make us be on the lookout for those whom You are saving. And grant that we would have good hope for the covenant children whom You have placed in believing households and whom You have made members of Your church. Bring them to faith and repentance, we ask, in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH244 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” 

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