The text for this lesson is Acts 16:16–40.
- Just as God freed Paul and Silas from prison, granting them life out of death, so Christ by His crucifixion and resurrection frees me from the prison of my sins and grants me life eternal.
- Law: The world hates Christ and His followers and painfully rejects me because of Him.
- Gospel: The Spirit pours the peace of Christ into me, forgiving, strengthening, and sustaining me in Christ.
The calm of their first encounter with the Philippians (which we studied last week; Acts 16:11–15) now gives way to a storm of persecution. Paul is no stranger to facing the wrath of Gospel-haters. Already on Paul’s first missionary trip, the crowds in Lystra stoned him to within an inch of his life (Acts 14:19; see 2 Corinthians 11:23–29 for a digest of the crosses he bore). The officials in Philippi broke the law in beating Paul and Silas, for they were Romans citizens—thus Paul’s complaint and the official’s apologies in Acts 16:37–39. The jailer was about to fall on his own sword when he supposed the incarcerated had flown the coop, since the penalty for him would have been execution anyway.
Discussion Points and Questions
- Revisit Acts 16:16–20. Paul and Silas meet a woman with a spirit of divination, or a “Pythian” spirit. The word resembles our word python. What kind of imagery comes to mind when you think of a python spirit? The girl was specifically called a slave girl. How might her social status reflect her spiritual status? How might Paul and Silas offer her freedom?
- In Baptism, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38–39). In fact, our baptismal liturgy asks each candidate for Baptism to renounce the devil and all his ways (LSB, p. 270). How do the actions of the slave girl reflect our own sinful condition prior to Baptism, and how does her attitude after the exorcism serve as an example for our own lives as baptized children of God?
- The Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to all who believe,” and because of that, it has powerful enemies. These enemies are sometimes described as the world, the devil, and our own sinful flesh. Once Paul casts out a demon from the girl, how does the world react? Does he receive praise from the world for his kind act?
- Read Acts 16:25. What kept the disciples’ spirits up while they were in prison? Reflect upon sacred hymns. How does singing influence your faith?
- The earthquake is certainly a divine sign that God does not want to see His apostles in chains for the time being. The escape would have been so much easier for Paul and Silas if they had remained hidden and allowed the guard to fall on his sword. What motivates their desire to save the prison watchman?
- Paul and Silas save the guard’s life. This good work inspires the guard to ask for an even greater gift: the way to save his life for eternity. Our good works in no way factor into our own salvation. Nothing but faith saves. However, how can our good works encourage others to seek salvation?
- The guard asks, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul responds, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30–31). Each must believe for himself, but how can we use our vocations as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or children to help others in our households to believe?
- Why does Paul risk his freedom again by insisting upon a visit to Lydia before he leaves Philippi (Acts 16:40)?
For next week, read Acts 27:1–44, Paul’s marvelous journey to Rome. How does God use the seemingly “bad” to work his “good”? When you experience the storms of your life, how might God’s faithfulness to Paul inspire you to trust Him to see you through the storm?