This is one of my favourite passages of scripture (Acts 16), so let’s take a look at what we can learn here.
We start with a rather awkward part. Paul decides to take Timothy along with him, but they are going to a place filled with Jews, so Timothy needs to get circumcised. Now Paul speaks about the fact that we no longer have to get circumcised, so why did he circumcise Timothy? I believe that he did this to overcome any barriers with the Jews as they were going to minister to them. I’m not going to spend too much time on this, but if Timothy scarred his body to overcome a hurdle of engaging the people that he was ministering to, what do you do? Do you try and adapt to fit in with the people that you have been sent to minister to, or do you expect them to bridge the gap? What were the chances that someone would see that he was not circumcised? Yet he still did it. I hope this makes you think about what hurdles you need to overcome to minister to the people that you have been sent to. Just remember, this is NOT an excuse to sin, we are called to be in the world, not of it.
As we read on, we see Paul, Silas and Timothy get lead to Macedonia, with some saved on the way. It doesn’t take long for the demons to get upset, and one decides to interfere. A woman that is demonised starts following Paul saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” I have heard people say that demons can’t tell the truth, that they have to lie. I have even heard people say that if you do the opposite of what they tell you, you’re on the right track. Please let this verse show you that these statements are complete rubbish. They will tell you whatever they need to to cause you to stumble. Don’t listen to them at all, listen to the Holy Spirit instead, you can’t go wrong doing that! Paul gets upset and tells the demon to leave, which it does as it has to listen to us when we command it in the Name of Jesus. This doesn’t go down well with the ladies masters. They made money from her fortune-telling, now without the demon, she can’t do it anymore. I hope that this is also clear as to where fortune-tellers get their power from (see Difference Between Prophets and Fortune Tellers). As per normal, the guys get falsely accused, beaten and thrown into prison. Again.
Now this is the part that really encourages me. Paul and Silas are praising God. If you were beaten and thrown into a high security prison after doing the right thing, would you be praising God? I’m not sure if I would. Next thing, there is an earthquake and the doors swing open and the chains fall off. Freedom! No, the guys stay put. That is what astounds me, they could have run, would you not see the chains coming off and the doors opening as a chance to run? I would. Paul and Silas decided to stay where they were. Look what happened. The guard decides to kill himself as he will be killed if the prisoners escape, and he thinks that they are gone. Paul calls him and tells him not to do it. Next thing, we see that the guard and his family are saved and baptised! The guard then helps Paul and Silas by cleaning their wounds and feeding them. If Paul and Silas had run, they would have been fugitives and the guard would be dead. Now they are on their way to being freed and the guard and his family are saved. This is what happens when you listen to God and not do what you think you have to. This also shows us that when we have (figurative) chains holding us down, we can break them (in Jesus Name and by worshipping God), and they will be broken. This doesn’t necessarily mean that our circumstances will change, it just means that instead of our circumstances dictating to us, we (with the power of the Spirit) dictate to our circumstances. The chains will go but our situations may not change, but once the chains are gone, our situations will work for our good. I hope that this passage encourages you as much as it encouraged me when I read it. This is the God that we serve!
One last thing, even after this, Paul still refuses to leave the prison. He (and the others) were put there after doing nothing wrong. Paul knew this, and he wanted to magistrates to sweat a little. Only after they came down and apologised to Paul, did he leave. That is the advantage of taking the high road.
God’s power, our actions.