Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Acts, Chapter 16

On the surface chapter 16 of Acts appears to be very dry. It looks like yet another chapter where the author says, "They went here and did this. They went there and that." I admit that at times it is hard to separate myself from thinking it is merely a story and is instead an account of the works of God. In my studies of the last few chapters, however, I have discovered something vitally important. This is very subtle, but if you look back to the four gospels preceding Acts it becomes clearer.

If you look at the accounts of the apostles throughout Acts, especially Paul, and you look at the accounts of Jesus from the gospels you will see many parallels to the miracles they each performed. In today's chapter alone, Paul sees a vision in a dream, miraculously breaks out of prison miraculously (our third prison break in Acts), oversees the conversion of a Roman guard, casts out a demon, and receives a flogging. The difference comes in their reactions to such miracles. When Jesus performed a miracle, He always did so with a purpose in mind. There was a lesson inside the miracle other than the miracle itself, and obviously He could have performed more if he so chose. Paul and the other apostles are always quick to deflect the glory to Christ and the Holy Spirit for their works because they knew their power was not a result of their own works.

16Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." 18She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her. – Acts 16:16-18

Notice how Paul invoked the power of Jesus rather than taking credit for himself here. He was very cognizant of not giving the impression that he was a divine figure. Let's be honest, if you saw this guy going around performing miracles like this you would think he was god-like in his power. Instead of taking personal credit though, Paul deflected the glory to God where it belonged. This is an attitude that we must effect in our daily lives. It is a posture of humility that we must take, realizing that our strength lies not in ourselves, but in Christ.

29The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. – Acts 16:29-33

It's amazing how simple the entire message can be put. Here we see Paul sum up the entire point of human existence in one single question and answer exchange. What must we do to be saved? Well, there is only one thing we can do to be saved. We must believe in the Lord Jesus. That's it! There is nothing else that we can do on our own, just like there was nothing else Paul could do in his own power to perform these miracles. As always, Paul deflects to Jesus, in whom he found the source of his strength. What was the source of his miracles? Jesus. What was the only thing Paul could do to be saved? Believe in Jesus. What is the whole point of human existence? Jesus. We see throughout Acts that Paul just continuously pounds this message wherever he went. As a result, many people were saved and the church grew.


  1. Why was Paul given the power to perform miracles?
  2. How did Paul gain the strength to endure the beatings and persecution he faced?
  3. What was the importance of the jailer's family being baptized?

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