THREE: RUN OUT OF OPTIONS (26-28)
The third chapter of the jailer’s story is titled RUNNING OUT OF OPTIONS. Notice Acts 16:26-28, “…”
The Jailer is now brought to a crisis point and finds himself all out of options. What is a crisis point? A crisis point is a point in someone’s life where they have no options left. Their resources have run out. The tunnel is dark with no light at the end. Tragedy is imminent and they are utterly helpless. For the first time someone begins to feel the truth that it is all out of their control, out of their hands, and a deeper fear, a desperation or terror overwhelms.
How is the jailer at this moment? Because of God. The earthquake does two things simultaneously: it breaks open all the doors and breaks loose all the prisoners’ chains. Any other day this is bad news for the jailer because any other day the prisoners make a break for it. He is responsible for the prisoners and if any of them escape the jailer forfeits his own life. He knows it too. In Acts 12 when an angel got Peter the Apostle out of prison the next day all the soldiers were panicked and looking everywhere for him but couldn’t find him. Verse 19 says, “After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.”
The jailer knew he was finished. In that moment, rather than face public humiliation and execution, he started to prepare to end his own life right then and there. In that very moment all of his grit, all of his strength, all of his life experience, all his reputation and accolades as a soldier, all he had built in this life came crashing down and he is brought to his knees. He is brought to a crisis point. He’s Run out of Options.
Application: Often times God must bring people to their knees to open their ears. I have seen people so blinded by their blessings in life that they cannot and will not see the Giver of those blessings. Is your life so good you don’t need God? Are you so blind to the One who made it so good for you?
I find it interesting that the other prisoners didn’t run either. Maybe everything happened too fast, maybe it was too dark to even see to make a break, maybe they were hurt – it was a pretty violent earthquake after all. Maybe they thought they would be caught and punished worse so not even try. Maybe. Maybe, however, Paul and Silas had something to do with it. After all, Paul is the one who shouts “We are all here.” How could Paul know that but the jailer didn’t? It was dark. I think verse 25 offers a clue when it says, “and the other prisoners were listening to them [sing]”. Did the prisoners respect Paul and were they staying in their cells because he had told them to? Who knows, but one thing is for sure: everyone could have run out but no one did.
Application #1: Not every open door is meant to be walked through. Sometimes personal sacrifice means an opportunity for someone else’s good. If Paul ran out of that cell the jailer was a dead-man. Worse yet, the jailer would go to death without Christ, and spend eternity apart from God in hell. Is this not why Paul came – to prevent men from going to death without the Savior? He could not leave that cell. Nor could any other prisoner. It was the only way for the jailer to hear the message for which Christ had sent him.
What difficult situation are you facing that in order to help someone else it is going to come at a personal cost to you? What opportunity to bring the Gospel to others would you be running from if you “got out” of your situation?
Appliation #2: God is Sovereign. Think about how God was demonstrating His Sovereign power in the jailer’s life. In His hands were the jailer’s death, and, the jailer’s life. The earthquake that brought this disastrous situation on the jailer? That was God. The reason no prisoners took the opportunity and made a break for it? That was God too. It was God that led Paul to Philippi. It was God that allowed the slave-girl to annoy Paul, allow the arrest of Paul, and the imprisonment of Paul – all to get His man in front of the jailer. God brought the calamity but protected him in the middle of the calamity. That’s power with precision – calculated to bring him to the edge of the cliff, to the brink of death in order to show him the beginning of life. He had to run out of all other options so he would finally be able to see the only true solution. So, it is there and only there, with his sword about to end his own life that he was finally ready to listen.
FOUR: RELEASED FROM PRISON (29-34)
Lastly, finally, we see the climax of the story and we title this last section: Released from Prison. Read 29-34
That night the jailer is the one who was released from prison. You can almost hear the echo of Jesus’ words over this moment: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”. He went from a sword to his throat to the Savior in his heart. From the brink of death to beginning of eternal life. Notice what happens next:
First, he seeks salvation. And it all started with the right question: What must I do to be saved? Finally he was asking the question for himself. He wasn’t like the philosophers wanting to sit around talking about fancy ideas. He was a man in crisis. A man desperate. A man at the end of his rope. He didn’t want sophisticated theological pretentiousness. He wanted to know what worked. What was the answer to his deepest most important need? And he was about to learn that was the perfect place for him to be.
Application: You have got to ask for it! Have you asked: What must you do to be saved? Have you sincerely sought your own salvation? Then Paul’s words to the jailer are for you too: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. This is the Gospel. John 20:31 says, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and it is with your mouth you confess and are saved.”
Application: Is the way you live your life and talk about Jesus Christ making you the person that unbelievers will go to when a crisis comes into their life? When their marriage crumbles, they lose their job, they get a diagnosis – will they see you as the one to go to? We are supposed to be beacons of light for those ships out on the stormy seas in the dark.
I should mention something rather important here: Paul does not mean that because the jailer accepted Christ that all his household was then saved. Notice carefully Paul’s words: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved – you and your whole household.” That means that if you want to be saved you must believe on Jesus. If those in your household also want to be saved then they also must believe on the Lord Jesus. That’s why it goes on to say that Paul spoke the word of the Lord not only to the jailer but also to “all the others in his house.” They needed to believe the message to be saved but they couldn’t believe it unless they heard it. So Paul spoke it to them too.
Applicaton: The Gospel spreads to those closest to us first. In order for Paul to have been able to tell the jailer’s family the Gospel the jailer had to want his family to hear it. Jesus said the Gospel would go out from Jerusalem, spreading to the nearest regions first (Judea), further to regions beyond (Samaria) and to the ends of the earth. The message starts to those closest to us and spreads out further and further. Dad’s, are we leading our families to Christ? Are we getting them under good teaching of God’s word? Our spouses? Co-workers? Peers at school?
Second, he and everyone else gets baptized. Again, as a testimony of his belief in Jesus as the Savior, and as a testimony of his obedience to Jesus as His Lord, he gets baptized. And so does everyone else. Can we plug the importance of baptism?
Third, he serves his new Christian brothers. He washes them and feeds them. This service is a reflection of his new heart. The jailer has been made a new creation in Christ and so with this new heart he sees Chrsitians in a brand new light. He loves them. He’s one of them now. They are now his peeps. That love pours forth in meeting the very immediate and practical needs of Paul and Silas: they were bleeding and they were hungry. He washes their wounds to help them heal. And he hosts a potluck – Paul and Silas didn’t have to bring anything to this one. (Potlucks are Biblical!)
Fourth, he has JOY. You want joy? You go to Jesus Christ. This guy is happy! He has just been doused with the joy of Jesus Christ! Joy is a marker of new birth. It comes installed with the new you in Christ. Actually, it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and you get the Holy Spirit when you get saved. It’s Jesus’ own personal joy that He is experiencing that He shares with those whom He is now joined to. He prayed in John 17:13, “Father, I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” This joy is very unique and can be experienced only by those who are saved. Jesus only shares it with those who receive Him.
You see joy shared all over the conversion stories in Acts. Wherever the word of God spreads it spreads joy. In spite of persecution, Acts 13:52 tells us “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Earlier, the Ethiopian who came to Christ it says went away rejoicing!
Outside of Acts we see joy too. When the angels appeared to the shepherds at Christ’s birth in Luke 2 they said, “Do not be afraid I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people” – including the people of Ethiopia!
The word of God brings salvation and joy! This is why we can’t turn away from the word of God – it brings unequaled joy to God’s people. Remember that also when you share the Gospel with people – you are offering them a joy they don’t even know exists. How can we be silent and deprive them of a chance to have it?
As we close, ask yourselves these questions. (Bow your head and reflect)
Have you sincerely, from your heart, asked Jesus Christ to save you?
Do you love your brothers and sisters in the faith and want to serve them?
Do you have joy in Christ?