Scripture

Acts 16:16-40

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”

37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”

38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

Reflection

Wow! What a remarkable chain of events that unfolds all because Paul got annoyed! He had had enough. The evil spirit was causing the woman to speak the truth but Paul was hearing the sound of what was said. Paul could hear the tone and inflection. Paul knew the source was evil. Much like the soldiers and crowds mocked Jesus, the way this evil spirit spoke through the woman probably sounded similar and Paul’s patience ran out. He casts out the spirit which then provokes the owners of the woman and the crowds to accuse, beat, and imprison Paul and Silas. 

When the church is faithfully being obedient to the Holy Spirit and living out her mission, the hatred, hostility, and resentment of the world is provoked. We should expect resistance and not grow weary. Paul and Silas continue to pray and sing hymns to God when the Lord sets them free. As the earthquake comes and the foundations tremble and their chains fall off, Paul and Silas aren’t quick to escape and save themselves. They learned very well that they can’t save themselves. This was a divine appointment for the jailer and his household. They too, like Lydia’s family, believe the gospel and receive salvation. Two entire households have been baptized in response to the gospel! 

Again, more and more are being formed in the faith and becoming part of the family of God. The success rate is high but it isn’t without great sacrifice. I’m annoyed every time I read Acts and think about the state of the church and evangelism in the U.S. I’m annoyed at how I’m complicit in the problem. I pray God keeps me discontent and allows me to grow deeper as a disciple who reaches people far from God and leads them into a deep relationship with the Lord. I’ve heard it said and repeated that our own denomination in America is declining by 10% every year while our brothers and sisters in Africa are growing by 20%. Praise God for the vitality of faith in Africa! We have a lot to learn and I’m eager. Like Paul, I’m annoyed and ready to exorcise the demons of decline. What annoys you? 

Prayer

Holy God, we know how true it is that you do not show favoritism but accept from every nation the one who fears you and does what is right. We have received the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. To the ends of the earth, the message of the gospel is proclaimed---how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. Precious Jesus, empower us with your Spirit to do the same (taken from Acts 10:34-38).