Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas arrive in Philippi. In this chapter, we meet three people who hear the Gospel and are saved. Their situations are all different, but the Holy Spirit worked through the Word to set each of them free. Each account on its own is beautiful. Seen together we have a sublime teaching about the power of the Gospel and the mercy of the Spirit as He draws us to Christ.
One was a rich woman, Lydia, a Gentile, who heard Paul preach. She and all her household were baptized. The text tells us, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” (Acts 16:14b) The Lord brought Paul to Philippi. The Lord opened Lydia’s heart to pay attention. The Spirit drew Lydia to believe, she and all her household. The new birth of water and the Spirit washed them all. Before she had been a slave to sin, but now she was free in Christ!
Paul and Silas stayed with Lydia and preached the Gospel many days. As they went about the city they encountered a slave girl who had a spirit of divination. It was not the Holy Spirit, but rather an evil spirit. Her masters profited by her misery, and so did all who went to her for divination. The slave girl followed Paul and Silas about proclaiming, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” But she did not proclaim this from a heart that trusted in God. She could not believe in Christ for the evil spirit was binding her. This proclamation from her mouth simply showed forth her slavery. Paul would not stand for this mockery of the Gospel, so he turned and commanded the evil spirit to come out of her in the name of Jesus Christ. It did. Finally, the girl was free to hear the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit could lead her to hear and know Christ who had set her free.
This led to trouble for Paul and Silas. They were arrested, beaten and imprisoned. We can hardly imagine their pain from their wounds and the stocks on their feet. But they sang praise to God and prayed. The prisoners listened intently. An earthquake shook the prison and the doors burst open. Yet no prisoner ran for freedom. Paul was singing news of a freedom much better than running into the night.
In came the jailer. He saw the open doors and knew the torture that awaited a jailer who failed in his duty. He was seconds away from falling on the sharp steel of his Roman blade. Paul called out just in time. “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And then hear what happened:
“Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” (Act 16:30-34)
From death to life. From fear to peace. From sin to salvation. All in Christ. Paul spoke the word of the Lord to the jailer, and each word carried the power of the Spirit. The power to create faith and give salvation. That baptismal water was full of the Word of God, and the Spirit washed the jailer and all his household in the blood of Christ. They believed and were saved.
All three of these people, and in two cases their households, were set free by Christ, as the Spirit worked in them through the Gospel. This Lent, our Wednesday evening services are going to focus on the third article of the Apostle’s Creed. We will learn more about the Holy Spirit and what He does. I hope that you will be able to attend and be strengthened in repentance and faith in Christ. It will be a good time to hear the truth about what the Spirit does, so that you can rejoice in Christ, to Whom the Spirit draws you.