“Paul and Silas: The release”
Acts 16: 22 – 39
Many years ago when I became a born-again Christian I began to pray for the salvation of my parents. It was an endless request to God as I looked for many ways to witness Christ as Son of God. Over time it occurred to me that the best way to evangelize was not so much by words, but by my actions. I made the choice to live out my salvation witness to my parents. However, during those ensuing years there were many times I did not think salvation was possible and I felt as though I had missed opportunities along the way to share Christ. It seemed that the next 26 years were more for me than for them. In this sense, I grew spiritually and began to understand what it meant to be a servant of God and to serve my parents out of Christ’s love rather than to be consumed with the where and the when of evangelistic success. I took the long-term view and discarded the short-term range. I chose to keep it high and focus on their hopeful salvation whether it came at the end of their lives or mine. Thus, I began to see God’s hand more powerfully than ever. I wasn’t responsible for my parent’s response to Christ. The moment I gave up the notion that their salvation rested on my shoulders I became a better servant of God to do His will and His work no matter what it required of me or the outcome. As such, I felt released. The iron bars fell. His strength in me was the transcendence of His Spirit at work in the midst of life’s circumstances.
The imprisonment of Paul and Silas was a backdrop, the scene, of the inspired Word of God. The iron bars and shackles were but merely accessories that adorned the men of God that graced the prison that night. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household” (verse 31). From the scriptures it appeared that the jailer took Paul and Silas away from prison deep into the night and brought them to his household. Not only was the jailer and his household saved but they were also baptized. There was much celebration that night! It is amazing how God transforms people and situations where in this case there was a reconciliation between them. The gospel message not only transforms but reconciles and brings peace. It is a beautiful example of how God’s people extend care for one another.
When daylight came word was sent to the jailer that the chief magistrates wanted Paul and Silas to be released. The jailer reported these words back to Paul. They were free to go. However, it was not going to be that easy for the chief magistrates. At this point Paul decided to inform them that he and Silas were Roman citizens. In verse 37 Paul says, “They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison, and now are they sending us away secretly?” Though they were publicly beaten with rods they were not going to be released privately. Paul confronts their deeds and insists they follow though. In the beginning, Paul made a very strategic decision. He had the gospel in mind. Knowing this, to have cried “I’m a Roman citizen” would have shown a lack of trust in God as well as divided loyalties. That is, does he trust in his citizenship or in God? What impact would this have made to his Christ-witness? More likely, confusion may have erupted and have done the gospel message a disservice. Paul assessed the situation from the beginning. He was a Jewish man with Roman citizenship. However, he was foremost a bond-servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It takes a tremendous amount of wisdom to have done what Paul did. The situation would present itself again and the chief magistrates would be confronted with their actions by the same measure it was brought about. It was important that Paul’s innocence be a matter of public record as he and Silas were never publicly charged. For Paul to have taken the release privately, after a public beating, would mean the situation would have been unresolved in the minds of the eye-witnesses. In a sense, Paul and Silas would have been dubbed “Christian fugitives” of sort. To Paul, everything hinged on the reputation of the gospel. He kept the end in mind. He kept it high.
The chief magistrates were afraid when they heard that Paul and Silas were Romans and they kept begging them to leave the city. Alas, the release. Paul and Silas’s path to prison was not any less than out of it. Nothing can imprison the Spirit of the Lord.
To keep it high means to have God in view. Despite your circumstances and the situation you may be in, you must have the future in front of you all the time. Paul and Silas did. I am convinced that had Paul and Silas lost their view of Christ and chose the short-term range the outcome may have been very different and would have lost the purpose God had for them, and all New Testament believers since then and now.
I am filled with wonder the positive outcome I experience every time I make a decision by keeping it high. You will not go wrong when your current decisions are based on the future view of Christ. They will serve you well.
During the years I prayed for my parent’s salvation I chose to live out my witness instead. I kept it high and learned to be a servant of God. I realized that their decision to choose Christ ultimately had nothing to do with me. Twenty six years later I led my mother to Christ. It was during this time I learned to serve her and show God’s love for her. When she died it meant everything to know that she was in heaven. Shortly thereafter, I learned of my father’s commitment to God. They are both in the presence of our Lord and Savior.
To know that God not only had a plan for my parent’s salvation He had a plan during that time to mold me into His servant. Despite where we are in life’s journey God will use our situations and circumstances to bring about His purpose for us, and those around us as well. The benefits of Christ have far reaching effects that extend beyond His chosen instruments. No matter the time, the place, or the season you are in, have the gospel in mind, His reputation in sight, all so that you keep in Him. And when you do, you keep it high.
Copyright 2013 by The Word in Motion