Standing Firmly in God’s Grace

BLCF: commit your way to the Lord

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:      

‘Standing Firmly in God’s Grace’

© June 7, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 14, 2015

BLCF: Biblical_warning

Announcements & Call to Worship:                         

Responsive Reading #602: Divine Deliverance (Psalm 33); Prayer

Opening Hymn #235: “What Must I Do?”; Choruses                                                

Prayers and Tithing; Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings            

Scripture Verses: Acts 16:16-40, 1 Peter 5:6-11, Deuteronomy 31:8   

BLCF: Cast all your cares                 

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. Our lesson last Sunday examined how the Holy Spirit brings God’s presence and power to our prayers, and how the Spirit acts a mediator between God and us, when we pray.

The lesson today entitled, Standing Firmly in God’s Grace, we will look at how the Lord will never leave or forsake us in trying times. We shall see that a test or trial should not cause us to diminish our faith, but the more we persevere, the more we glorify Him, and the greater the reward of God’s grace is given to us.

Let us examine the first of today’s three Scripture Verses, as listed in the Bulletin, which is found in Acts 16:16-40, and describes how the Apostles Paul and Silas become imprisoned in Philippi, a city in what was in Macedonia, and later are freed by the grace of God.

Acts 16:16-40 (ESV) Paul and Silas in Prison

BLCF: paul-and-silas-in-jail

16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants[a] of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

The Philippian Jailer Converted

 BLCF: Paul and Silas in Prison

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer[b] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 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. 34 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.

35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

Footnotes: a. Acts 16:17 Greek bondservants b. Acts 16:29 Greek he

This passage, from Acts 16, can be broken down into two narratives; the first, (verses 1-24), describes how Paul and Silas became imprisoned and the second, (verses 25-40), describes the jailer’s faith conversion.  

The first narrative, Acts 16:16-24 , found on the bottom of the Bulletin, just below the Order of Service, begins with Paul and Silas being followed for many days by a slave girl who was described as having the “power of divination” and kept proclaiming the Apostles to be servants of the Most High God; a God who announced the way of salvation. This greatly annoyed Paul, who cast out the spirit that possessed the slave girl in the name of Jesus Christ:

Paul and Silas in Prison

paul-casts_spirit_from_slave-girl

16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants[a] of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.              

Footnotes: a. Acts 16:17 Greek bondservants

 BLCF: Paul casts out spirit from slave girl

 

While the pronouncement of the possessed girl that Paul and Silas were Apostles of Christ was correct, the fact that they came from a fortune teller, did little to glorify the Lord, but only confuse potential converts. We see that the spirit, spelt with a lower case “s”, would be from the devil and not the Holy Spirit,(upper case “S”), of God.

The Second of our Scripture Verses, 1 Peter 5:6-11, found on the bottom right of the inside of your Bulletin, reminds to be sober minded and watchful for the devil, who roars around like a lion, seeking to devour those who lose faith as a result of anxious worry. The possessed soothsayer slave girl, while correctly naming the Apostles of Christ, her message sought not to glorify God, but to enrich the purses of her owners. Today, we find that there are many false prophets, who try to use prophecy and the Bible to glorify themselves and grow their own wealth, while not giving them to God. Because God is not placed first and there is a lack of sincere faith, anything they say is tainted, and these false prophets should be rejected because the Spirit is absent in their teachings.

1 Peter 5:6-11 (ESV)

BLCF: 1Peter_5_8

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Back to the first part of Acts 16:16-24, we see that after Paul had cast out a spirit of the devil from the slave girl, her owners, having lost their source of income, sought to have the local magistrates imprison Paul and Silas, accusing them as Jews and for disturbing the peace. The magistrates had Paul and Silas arrested, beaten with rods by the crowd, and imprisoned, where the jailer placed them in stocks. This brings us to the second part of the account, from Acts 16:25-40:

The Philippian Jailer Converted

BLCF: Paul_Silas-1

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer[b] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 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. 34 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.

35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

Footnotes: b. Acts 16:29 Greek he

Paul and Silas, having been arrested, beaten and placed in prison, did not show fear or trepidation, instead praying and singing to God, as witnessed by the other prisoners. They demonstrated their confidence in their Lord and their faith was rewarded when God brought a mighty earthquake to shake to prison so greatly, that the Apostles’ bonds were unfastened and the prison doors opened.

Assuming the prisoners had escaped, the jailer decided to kill himself in disgrace. Before the jailer could use the sword on himself, Paul called out to announce that no one had fled from their imprisonment. This led to the jailer and his household being convicted by the Spirit, converted by faith and baptized in the Spirit. The jailer, who a short while before had so great a despair that he sought to kill himself, now rejoiced with his household that they believed in God.

After all that had transpired, the magistrates sought to secretly release Paul and Silas, and have the apostles leave Philippi. Paul did not agree to a secret arrangement, but wanted the magistrates to announce their decision publically, informing them that as citizens of Rome should never have been beaten and imprisoned, without a proper hearing. The magistrates agreed to Paul’s demands that they release the apostles, personally. The magistrates came and apologized to Paul and Silas and then released them from custody.

Both Paul and Silas experienced how the Lord never leaves or forsakes the firm believers as indicated in the third of our Scripture verses, Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV):

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

BLCF: if-God-brings-you-christian-poetry-by-deborah-ann

 

We do not have the details of what Paul and Silas sang while imprisoned, but it is likely one of the Psalms, which were like our hymns and choruses today. I would not be surprised if they sang from the Psalms it might be Psalm 44:1-8 (ESV):

                       Come to Our Help

To the choirmaster. A Maskil[a] of the Sons of Korah.

BLCF: faith bigger than fear

44 O God, we have heard with our ears,     

our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days,     

in the days of old:

you with your own hand drove out the nations,     

but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples,     

but them you set free;

for not by their own sword did they win the land,     

nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm,     

and the light of your face,     

for you delighted in them.

You are my King, O God;     

ordain salvation for Jacob!

Through you we push down our foes;     

through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.

For not in my bow do I trust,     

nor can my sword save me.

But you have saved us from our foes     

and have put to shame those who hate us.

In God we have boasted continually,     

and we will give thanks to your name forever.

Selah

Footnotes: a. Psalm 44:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term

Another possible candidate for the song of Paul and Silas might be found in Psalm 69:29-33(ESV):

29 But I am afflicted and in pain;     

let your salvation,

O God, set me on high!

30 I will praise the name of God with a song;     

I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

31 This will please the Lord more than an ox     

or a bull with horns and hoofs.

32 When the humble see it they will be glad;     

you who seek God, let your hearts revive.

33 For the Lord hears the needy     

and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

BLCF: His_Outsterached_Arm

We have in this account of Paul and Silas imprisoned in Philippi, were able to demonstrate marvelous powers and workings of the Lord: to cast out a spirit from a slave girl, a demonstration of faith to others in the prison, the destruction of the prison, and the conversion of both the jailer and jailer’s household. The two apostles are a perfect example of unwavering faith in the face of adversity and how the Lord rewards such firm faith with and abundance of joy and grace.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #258: Come, Every Soul by Sin Oppressed

Benediction – (Ephesians 3:20-21):

 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: God Listens

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