Daily Devotional

October 10, 2019

Daybreak: Acts 15:36 through 16:40

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (Acts 16:25)

During the American Civil War, as darkness descended the night before the Battle of Stones River, a Union Army band began to play softly the song, “Home Sweet Home.” After a time, a Confederate band began to play along. Soon another regimental band joined in, and then another, till all the bands from both sides of the conflict were playing together. The soldiers were quiet, likely pondering whether they would ever see home again. As the strains of “Home Sweet Home” began to fade away into the darkness, the hearts of the soldiers were touched and they were reminded of the cause they were fighting for — home!

Music has wonderful power. It can soothe a tiny baby to sleep. It can encourage the downcast to give a shout for the battle. It can comfort at the bedside of a dying child of God. Music can calm the heart after a trying day at the office, or add a mellow backdrop to a candlelit meal. It can humble us as we remember the tremendous price paid for freedom, and stir us to worship as we consider the tremendous price paid for our spiritual deliverance.

While the benefits music can bring are undeniable, it is not always easy to sing. In times of trial, pain, or crisis, it might seem impossible to lift our voices in praise. In today’s text, Paul and Silas had been beaten and thrown into prison. No doubt they were suffering terrible pain from the bleeding wounds on their backs, and the fact that their feet were secured in stocks. Singing would not be the natural response in such circumstances! Yet even though the two men did not know what the morrow would bring, they sang. What made that possible? Perhaps our focus verse gives the answer: before they “sang praises unto God,” Paul and Silas “prayed”! The Holy Spirit must have stirred their hearts as they communed with God, helping them to focus on Him and sing in the midst of the pain.

Sometimes we too must make a decision to sing or offer praise to God in spite of circumstances. It may cost us something to do so, but it will be a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. We will find that to sing and praise in the midst of a trial will help lift the load, though it may be a heavy one. And what a testimony our sacrifice of praise will be to those around us! Like Paul and Silas, we will not only please the Lord, but we will impact those who listen to our song in a time of trial.

Background

This portion of text describes the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey, and the spread of Christianity northward and westward from his base in Antioch of Syria.

In the first verse of our text, Acts 15:36, Paul suggested that he and Barnabas visit places where they had planted churches on their earlier missionary trip. One meaning of the word translated visit is “to inspect, examine.” This indicates Paul’s desire to check up on the welfare of these new believers and nurture their faith.

Acts 15:36-41 records that a contention arose between Paul and Barnabas. John Mark had left them during their earlier missionary journey, and at this point, the two men differed on whether it was advisable to have him accompany them on this second trip. The Bible makes no effort to disguise the controversy; rather, it shows Christians acting in a very human manner. “The contention was so sharp between them” that they parted ways, with Barnabas and Mark going back to Cyprus. Paul later reconciled with John Mark, as recorded in Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24; and 2 Timothy 4:11, and the younger man eventually wrote the second of the four Gospels.

Paul chose Silas to accompany him in Barnabas’ place. Silas was a member of the Jerusalem church, and like Paul, was also a Roman citizen (see Acts 16:37).

It was on this second journey, in the city of Lystra, that Paul met Timothy (Timotheus). Lystra was where the crowd had tried to crown Paul and Barnabas as gods on their first missionary journey. Since their departure roughly five years before, the young man Timothy had grown spiritually, and was well respected among the Christians there. Timothy’s father was a Greek, so Paul had Timothy circumcised, not because it was a Christian requirement, but so that he could enter and preach in Jewish synagogues.

The shift from “they” in verse 8 to “we” in verse 10 probably means that Luke joined the missionaries in Troas. Luke was a Gentile native of Antioch. He was well-educated in Greek literature and science, and was a physician by profession. He became a close friend and traveling companion of Paul, perhaps becoming Paul’s personal physician.

Verses 9-12 record the famous Macedonian call — the plea, “Come over . . . and help us.” Philippi was a Roman colony and the largest city in the region of Macedonia. There, the missionary band initially met with a group of Jewish women by the riverside. This could indicate that the Jewish community in Philippi was few in number, as they were not worshipping in a synagogue. (There had to be at least ten Jewish men in a town before a synagogue could be built in a city.)

Lydia (verse 14) was one of the early converts, and her “household” followed her example (this likely referred to servants and attendants, rather than children). She probably was an influential and wealthy woman, as the purple cloth she dealt in was an expensive, luxurious product. The dyes used for making purple were rare and highly valued.

The first opposition in Philippi came through a slave girl who was demon-possessed. Paul commanded the evil spirit to come out, and when the young woman’s masters realized their source of financial gain was no more, they “drew” (or dragged) Paul and Silas before the magistrates (Roman praetors). In the Roman Empire, there were two very different sets of laws: one for citizens of the Roman Empire, and one for those who were not citizens. Roman citizens had specific civil rights that were fervently protected. Non-citizens had no civil rights, and were subject to the whims of both the assembly and the magistrates. The people of Philippi assumed Paul and Barnabas were not Roman citizens and were offended that these obviously Jewish men would harass Roman citizens with their strange religion of a crucified Lord. The magistrates also felt free to abuse Paul and Silas for the same reason.

Verses 16-34 record Paul and Silas’ incarceration and the miraculous conversion of the Philippian jailor. The dungeon in which the two men were confined was likely a dark, underground hole below the jailor’s house, since he brought them into his own house after the earthquake (see verse 34). When the earthquake aroused him from sleep, he came into the prison area and found the doors open. He would have been silhouetted in the entrance, and thus, Paul and Silas were able to see him draw his sword and prepare to kill himself rather than face the fate of one who allowed prisoners to escape.

In verse 37, Paul asserted his rights as a Roman citizen. Why Paul waited to divulge his citizenship is not clear, but he must have been led of the Spirit, as it was through Paul and Silas’ suffering in jail that the jailor and his family were saved.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

IV.    The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
    C.    The second missionary journey of Paul
        1.    The preparation for the ministry (15:36 — 16:5)
            a.    The conflict between Barnabas and Paul (15:36-40)
            b.    The confirmation of the churches (15:41 — 16:5)
        2.    The ministry in Macedonia
            a.    The call from Macedonia (16:6-10)
            b.    Arrival at Samothrace and Neapolis (16:11)
            c.    Ministry at Philippi (16:12-40)
                (1)    The conversion of Lydia (16:12-15)
                (2)    The demon possessed slave girl (16:16-18)
                (3)    The imprisonment of Paul and Silas (16:19-25)
                (4)    The release of Paul and Silas (16:26-27)
                (5)    The conversion of the jailor (16:28-34)
                (6)    The departure from the city (16:35-40)

A Closer Look

  1. According to Acts 16:2, what report did the brethren in Lystra make about Timothy?

  2. The words of the demon possessed slave girl were true. Why do you think what she said disturbed Paul so much?

  3. Paul received direction from the Holy Spirit in the form of a vision of a man from Macedonia. What are some other ways the Spirit gives direction?

Conclusion

We cannot always choose our circumstances, but like Paul and Silas, we can choose to pray and sing in our dark hours.

 

Reference Materials