Lord's Day Evening Meditations January 26, 2003

Acts 16:12-34

Joy In Our Salvation

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Phil. 2: 12.

The salvation spoken of here is the salvation of our lives, not of our souls. Paul chose the Philippians as the ones to write this to because of the way they were saved. We have the story of how they were saved in the Book of Acts, chapter 16. Philippi was "the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony." v. 12. The fact that the city was a colony means that the people of that city enjoyed the privilege of Roman citizenship.

Lydia was living in Philippi at the time that Paul first visited there. She was not a worshipper of idols; we read in verse 14: "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us." Paul spoke to her and to the other women that gathered "by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made," and we read of her: "Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." v. 14. She was saved and baptized, and then she said to Paul, "If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there." v. 15. Paul and Silas lived at her house during the time that they were in Philippi.

"And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying." v. 16. This "spirit of divination" was, according to the French and also the New Translation, a spirit of Python. This was similar to the "familiar spirit" that Saul consulted in 1 Samuel 28. Read verses 6 - 14. Saul visited this woman that had "a familiar spirit," and asked her, "Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle." We see here what these evil spirits could do. This power that the girl had, in the story in Acts 16, to foretell the future, was of the devil.

Then the servant girl started to follow Paul and Silas, "and cried, saying, These man are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation." v. 17. We get the name, "most high God," in Genesis 14. Read verses 16 - 23. Abram had just delivered Lot and the people of Sodom and brought back the spoils of the enemy. He was met by Melchizedek who was "the priest of the most high God." Melchizedek "blessed him and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand." Abram rejected the offers of the king of Sodom with the words, "I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, etc."

This scene is a picture of a future time when the day of grace will be passed. The title "most high God" presents Him as the "possessor of heaven and earth," not as a Saviour God. The Apostle Paul was a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, a rejected Saviour. The slave girl with the spirit of Python was a servant of the devil.

She "followed Paul and us many days," but when Paul commanded the evil spirit to come out of her, what a change took place! When Paul refused the testimony of the evil spirit, he had to take a place of rejection, like the Lord. He and Silas were brought to the magistrates and accused, "These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans." They were beaten and thrown into prison where the jailor "thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks."

"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them." In the other translation this reads, "and the prisoners listened to them." v. 25. As we read this story we can see the meaning of some portions of the Epistle to the Philippians. Paul and Silas had been unjustly accused, whipped, and put into prison with their feet in the stocks, but they were not complaining. They were singing praises to God! In Phil. 4:4 Paul wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice." That is just what he and Silas did in the prison in Philippi. They felt very near to God in the prison, and even though they had been whipped and their feet were in the stocks, still they prayed and praised God! "The prisoners listened to them," and what a blessing that was for them to hear Paul and Silas praying and praising God!

"And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed." But even though "the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed," yet no one escaped. The custom was that if a jailer lost a prisoner, he had to pay with his life. Here the jailer was prepared to take his own life: "He drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here."

This reminds me of when Paul was in the ship in the storm in Acts 27. "For there stood by me this night the angel of God, Whose I am, and Whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul: thou must be brought before Csar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee." Though the ship was tossed about in the storm, and all thought that they must certainly perish, Paul told them, "There shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you." God had given to Paul the souls of all them that sailed with him. "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice." They saw Paul's joy in the Lord, and it affected them.

That is the way it was in the prison at Philippi. The others saw the joy of Paul and Silas. The jailer saw them in their suffering, yet so happy in the Lord, that he wanted the same thing. He asked, "What must I do to be saved?" The answer was, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." He got the salvation, and he got the joy that went with it, for, that night, "when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house." v. 34.

What joy we see in this story: Paul and Silas rejoicing even though beaten and in prison, and the jailer rejoicing in his new-found salvation. As we read the book of Philippians, we find that it is full of this same joy. If we were as full of joy in our salvation, surely others would want to have it also. E.B.