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December 5, 2018, 8:20 AM

Filled With Joy

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“The whole family was filled with joy, because they had come to believe in God” (Acts 16:34).

Listen to the charge against Paul and Silas in today’s section of our verse-by-verse study, Acts 16:16-34, “These men … are throwing our city into an uproar” (v. 20). Uproar is common for cities. You can’t get huge numbers of people into a melting pot without the pot boiling over at times. We have seen this reality over and over again in recent days. Furthermore, the gospel is a catalyst; it makes things happen. Either God or the devil will keep a city disturbed. This story moves from rioting to rejoicing: “The whole family was filled with joy.” Leading to this climatic joy were three strange events.

1. A liar told the truth. The demon-possessed fortune-teller followed the missionaries, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (v. 17). The devil “is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44), and fortune-tellers have nearly the same record. But the devil is also shrewd, and he will tell the same truth when it serves his purpose. What the slave girl said was true. She correctly identified these men and their mission. But Paul was “troubled” by it. When the devil advertises God’s business, gullible people will identify the product with the advertiser. So, Paul “said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’” When you take orders from God, you can give orders to the devil. The incident cautions us. Beware when liars tell the truth. Beware when the devil advertises the Lord’s business.

2. Heaven shook the earth. Paul and Silas were mobbed, beaten, and jailed at the instigation of the angry slave owners who had been injured in their purses. In response, instead of whining, they prayed and sang hymns. “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken … doors flew open … chains came loose” (v. 26). From one perspective any earthquake is a natural disaster. The timing and effect proved this one to have a supernatural origin. God was shaking the jail to reverse the verdict of lying witnesses and corrupt magistrates. Roman law was harsh. If prisoners escaped, the jailer took their place. The unnerved jailer started to kill himself, and only the shouted protest of Paul prevented that tragedy. In those words, “Don’t harm yourself!” (v. 28) are sounded the triumph of love over hatred, of forgiveness over wrong.

3. A jailer escaped his prison. The jailer “fell trembling before Paul and Silas.” The quaking jail produced a quaking jailer. Under deep conviction he cried, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul’s answer is a Christian classic: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (vv. 29-31). To give content to his faith, “They spoke the word of the Lord to him” and his household. In a beautiful ceremony the jailer took water and bathed the missionaries’ wounds and they took water and baptized him and his family (vv. 32-33). The jailer had been a prisoner, chained by his sins in a dungeon of guilt and fear. Now he was free! And, “The whole family was filled with joy, because they had come to believe in God” (v. 34). This Christmas, you, too, can receive this greatest gift and likewise be filled with joy. You can exchange your sin and guilt for God’s pardon and peace in Jesus. This new life is not won by your efforts. It is given freely in response to faith.

Let’s pray: Father, I believe. I repent of all sin. I receive Your gift. Fill me with all joy! Amen.

You are Loved!

Pastor Jason Stevens

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