Paul and Silas were not Politically Dependent. Once Paul and Silas were thrown into jail, the Scripture records that the jailer escorted them into the inner cell where he fastened their feet in the stocks. At midnight, Paul and Silas finally had an opportunity to process the events of the day and take stock of their surroundings. Remarkably, the Bible records that they began to sing hymns and hold a prayer meeting. Lesser men would have cursed and sworn, but not these two. Why? Because Paul and Silas were never dependent on anything or anyone other than God, and they were completely confident that God knew what He was doing in allowing them to be beaten and locked up. It is imperative that Christians be reminded that in the worst of times, God is still sovereignly in control and our confidence must always be in Him, not ourselves, a political party, or any human being. Paul and Silas had started the day in route to a place of prayer. Now finally they had time and a place to pray, and did they ever pray. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, they decided to take their plight before the Savior. When they did, a song was born in their hearts.
It is often said, we can do nothing of any value until we pray. When we pray with a pure heart and clean hands, God will act. In the Philippian jail, God began moving powerfully. An earthquake erupted that shook the foundations of the prison. By the time God had finished, every door of the jail was opened, and every inmate was free, including Paul and Silas. But by scripture, no one left. Not one prisoner fled. Could it have been that they were captivated by the praying of Paul and Silas and desirous to know more about their God and their faith? People everywhere are looking for real Christians who will put their faith into practice…even in prison.
Paul and Silas were not politically driven…they went to Philippi to share their faith; Paul and Silas were not politically correct…they viewed people as souls to be rescued and not as commodities to be used; Paul and Silas were not politically connected…they were dragged before the magistrates where they were brutally beaten and jailed without a trial; Paul and Silas were not politically dependent …at midnight they prayed to God and sang praises. In extraordinary times God uses extraordinary men, and this was such a time.
Paul and Silas were not Politically Ignorant. During the night, the magistrates who had beaten Paul and Silas the evening before, had a sudden change of heart and sent word at daybreak to the jailer to release the two prisoners. The Scripture gives no indication as to why but, perhaps the violent earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison caused the jailer to have a change of heart and fall before Paul and Silas trembling, had a similar effect on the magistrates. They sent their officers to the jail with a new order to “release those men.’ With joy the jailer told Paul, “You can leave, go in peace.” But Paul, to the shock of everyone, perhaps even Silas, said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” (Acts 16:37)
While the offer to walk out of jail and return to their work was a gracious and tempting offer, Paul understood what was really happening. These corrupt politicians had participated in an illegal act. (That is still going on.) Driven by greed, the owners of the slave girl with demonic fortune-telling skills had slandered Paul and Silas religiously and racially and had falsely accused them of perpetrating unlawful customs. Rather than using their power and authority to execute fair and honest justice, the magistrates sat back while the crowd was manipulated by these evil businessmen…even today evil businessmen are trying to manipulate the government… finally aiding and abetting them by ordering that the two preachers of the Gospel be beaten. As if that was not enough, they threw them into prison. Now they were perpetrating a cover-up by trying to dismiss the whole affair summarily and sweep it all under the rug by ordering Paul and Silas to leave town. This is not an unusual act, as we see similar event going on even in today’s world of politics.
Many Christians in a similar position would view their sudden release as God’s divine intervention and would hasten to pack their belongings and move on. Today the story might be about how God changed the hearts of their captors and set them free to preach again, but not Paul. At great personal risk to not only himself, but his friend Silas and his entire party of missionaries and perhaps even new converts in Philippi that constituted the new church, he refused to leave. What could have possibly caused him to take such risks with not only his life, but the lives and welfare of his congregation? Only one thing…Paul was not politically ignorant, and he fully understood the political ramifications of this issue. Paul had been the victim of a huge miscarriage of justice, for Paul was not only a citizen of Heaven as a Christian, but he was a citizen of Rome as a member of the human race. Its citizens were empowered with certain constitutional rights which were insured by the rule of law. But, like our generation, that society was in danger of being lost because of human nature and the propensity of men toward evil.
While Paul’s allegiance was to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and he valued his Heavenly citizenship above all else, he also recognized that God had sovereignly ordained that he be a Roman citizen with certain rights that many members of that generation did not possess. Paul fully understood that with every privilege comes corresponding responsibility apart from which those privileges are forfeited. Paul knew what many Americans seem to have forgotten; he understood that others would come after him and he owed it to them to confront this evil or else they too would be vulnerable to similar treatment. Paul understood that there was more at stake here than his personal comfort and convenience. Tragically today, most Americans and many Christians have bowed to the god of personal convenience and ease. People refuse to stand up for what is right because they do not want to be bothered. Many justify this stand with the excuse that politics does not belong in the church. Apathy and complacency seem to be the order of our day with continuing moral decay and the erosion of our freedoms and civility being the price we are willing to pay. When will Christians and the church finally say, “enough is enough?” Paul and Silas were Christians and lovers of God, but they also knew when to take a political stand.
No one lives in a vacuum. I was born in 1945, just days before the end of World War II. Many of my high school and academy classmates, friends, and relatives served in Viet Nam, ‘Desert Storm’, and the several middle east involvements. Some of them died in these altercations. I have had the privilege of living in an America where citizens did not worry about locking their homes at night and even left their keys in the ignition of unlocked cars, without fear of them being stolen. Parents did not fear strangers, and divorce was rare. I have also lived in an America where crime is rampant, children are victimized daily by virtually everyone, and the family is literally disintegrating. I now live in a nation where every illicit and evil act imaginable is not only out of the closet but has its own advocates marching in the streets and lobbying Congress, while the church of the living God is being forced into the closet and its proponents are being ridiculed and arrested. Some churches, in order to be accepted, are preaching the word of God that is not the word of God. We have come to know much of this activity as ‘woke’.
More on how our ‘Free Nation’ has changed next week. If we continue trying to eliminate politics from the practice of faith in God and Christianity, the results could be very devastating, as such activity has proven to be throughout history. The blessings of God do not come to such a nation and our Founders knew that.
All humans…including our enemies…are made in the image of God. And we are to love people, including our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Anger must not control us (Ephesians 4:26). However, “Don’t throw your pearls to pigs. They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you” (Matthew 7:6).