In Chapter 15 Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement and they end up parting ways. Paul ends up taking Silas and departing on Paul’s second missionary journey and goes back to Derbe and Lystra, where Paul had been stoned on his first missionary journey (read Monday’s devotion for the details on that). In Chapter 16 Paul and Silas revisit some of the cities of Turkey that Paul had previously visited and Paul is forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach in the rest of Asia (which includes the western part of Turkey). Paul is then visited in a vision by the Macedonian man. The man from Macedonia asks Paul to come over to Macedonia. Paul and Silas then immediately seek to go to Macedonia believing God called them to preach there.
In the city of Phillipi there was a slave girl, who had a spirit of divination. This spirit had caused the owners of the girl to profit by fortune telling. This spirit had caused her to follow Paul and Silas and cry out in a loud voice. Paul heals this girl. Her owners become angry because they can no longer profit off her fortune telling. They have Paul and Silas imprisoned.
Paul’s behavior in this chapter is definitely weird. Paul, a missionary to Gentiles, goes through all these Turkish towns, Gentile towns, and doesn’t preach the gospel to them. This is a man who won’t let a stoning stop him from preaching the Gospel but walks through all these cities without speaking a word. Paul was truly led, guided, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel. It says that in verse 7 that the spirit of Jesus didn’t let them preach in those regions.
The next extremely weird behavior in this chapter happens in this prison scene(v.25-40). Some of you may remember in Acts 5 when Peter is imprisoned and an angel opens the doors of the prison and sets him free. What happens to Paul and Silas is similar except for a couple of details. There is an earthquake that sets all the prisoners free but instead of leaving the prison Paul and Silas stay (v.26). Actually they do something even more radical than just staying in prison; they keep all the other prisoners from leaving the prison (v.28).
Pretend, you are imprisoned for preaching the gospel. Imprisoned with no privacy, no family and no wifi. Also you are imprisoned with people who have actually committed crimes. Probably not a low security facility either. I am talking about the type of crimes that make Law and Order. So, you survive the first day and there is an earthquake and you and all the prisoners can escape. You decide not to leave and also decide to keep all the actual criminals inside the prison as well. Does this sound like something you would do? No, me neither.
When the jailer awakes and sees all the doors open for the cells he pulls out his sword and is about to kill himself when Paul yells out that the prisoners were still there (v.27). Remember the jailer is the guy that is supposed to keep you in prison. The jailer killing himself means that you could leave. The jailer killing himself would be very advantageous to you, as someone in prison. The jailer was going to kill himself because that was the only honorable move for a Roman soldier after presumably losing all his prisoners.
Paul must have been completely and totally reliant on God’s spirit through this for leading, guidance, and power. Immediately after this Paul is given the opportunity to preach to the jailer and he and his family were baptized that night.
At many points during this Paul could have just escaped; he could have escaped right after the earthquake or let the jailer kill himself. Paul decided to stay in his prison cell. Even when it would have been easy for him to get out of that situation; Paul decided to stay where God had put him. He did this throughout his missionary journeys. Paul continually decides to stay where God wants him. Even when it is to his own physical harm or it could lead to his death he continually decides to stay.
If we decide to go with God we could end up in similar positions. Positions where harm to us is possible to us whether physical, or mental. We, like Paul, have to decide whether to stay where God puts us or is leading us or go our own way. Our own way is so much easier and is almost guaranteed to involve less pain (at least for the moment).
Paul stayed though. He stayed where God wanted him.
His reward … bringing a whole family to know God and His Son Jesus.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- Have you ever felt God wanted you to stay in a difficult situation? If you did stay, what were some positive blessings that came as a result – for you and/or others?
- Why is the easy path not always the best?
- After reading Acts 16, what are some adjectives you would use to describe Paul? Which of those adjectives could also be used to describe you? Which is not a strength for you, but something you would like to develop more? How so?