Friday, October 14, 2011

The Power of God, verse 10

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16

In our final verse of this great hymn, we find the early church growing and the news of the gospel spreading throughout the Gentile people. Paul has been on several missionary journeys and he and his helpers are preaching the good news and seeing people's lives changed because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

In Acts 16, just prior to the story that's highlighted in this hymn, we find Lydia, a seller of purple fabrics, become the first person in Europe to respond to the Holy Spirit's urging. She and her husband are baptized and invite Paul to come and stay with them.

But as they were walking, they are met by a slave girl who is bringing her masters much money by fortune telling. She harasses Paul, and continues to for several days, until finally Paul commands the evil spirit to leave her. And it does at that very moment.

Well, you can imagine how her masters feel about this - they now have lost all hope of profit because their fortune teller has lost her spirit of divination!

So, they seize Paul and his companions and bring them before the authorities.

But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.” Acts 16:19-21

Wow. These guys had a way to distract from the real issue didn't they? Well, their approach worked.

The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. Acts 16:22-24

Not only are they thrown in prison, but first they are stripped and beaten with rods! And they weren't thrown in just the regular prison, but the inner prison where their feet are put in the stocks!

If you've read Paul's epistles a few times, you won't be surprised at his reaction. This is the man who exhorts us to "in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (I Thessalonians 5:18). And that's just what he does.

But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God and the prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25

As our hymnwriter says, Paul and Silas knew the way to pray. God heard, and His power was mightily on display.

And suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. Acts 6:26

Can you imagine? What if you had been a fellow prisoner there that night? All the doors open and your chains fall off! What would you do? What if you were in charge of all those prisoners and you found the prison doors open and you saw prisoners free from their chains?

When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. Acts 16:27

This jailer knew he was in trouble. He was ready to kill himself, since he thought all the prisoners had escaped on his watch. (Well, technically, he wasn't watching very well since he had been asleep! But he knew he was responsible for these prisoners and he thought he had lost them all once the doors opened.) But Paul saves him from committing suicide.

But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” Acts 16:28

Now remember, it's just after midnight, so it's dark out. The jailer couldn't see that all the prisoners were STILL IN THE JAIL!!!

The fact that they were all there made an incredible impression on this man, and he immediately sought out Paul and Silas and inquired on how to be saved.

And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:29-30

Paul shared the gospel with the jailer, and his whole household, who were immediately baptized!

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 together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household. Acts 16:31-34

Wow, the power of God is just all over this story! First, His power commands the evil spirit out of the fortune teller. Then he protects Paul and Silas in jail, even giving them hope, as they sing praises to Him in the midst of their situation. He causes an earthquake to open the door of the jail and to unleash the chains. And I would venture to say that it is His power that keeps all the prisoners in the jail; not one of them escaped! (I can understand that Paul and Silas would not escape, but the others - not so much!) The power of His gospel is shared with the jailer and he and his entire family become believers and are baptized.

That power is at work in our world today, friends! Call on the name of Jesus and see how He works through your life and your situations. If you are bound by chains in a prison - whether it's a situation you find hopeless, a sin you can't get free from - pray and sing praises, just like Paul did. Ask for His power to open the doors and unlock the chains. Keep your eyes on Jesus and the power of His gospel. And see how many people will be changed because of your faithfulness. Just like Paul and the jailer, your faith may influence others who will want to be saved by seeing the powerful work of your God.

The Power of God
Words by Frederick A. Graves

When Abraham and Sarah had been promised a son,
They were surprised and knew not what to say;
But they knew what God had promised He was able to perform:
And the power of God is just the same today.

The pow’r of God is just the same today,
It doesn’t matter what the people say;
Whatever God has promised
He’s able to perform:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When Moses wanted water to quench the people’s thirst,
He knew that God would then provide a way;
Although his rod was useful he had the power first:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When Moses made a serpent and placed it on a pole,
The bitten ones were told to look that way,
And then while they were looking Jehovah-rophi made them whole:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When Joshua was commander, he spoke—the sun stood still,
The moon its onward course was made to stay;
Thus he won a mighty battle, for he did his Father’s will:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When Naaman, the leper, before Elisha stood,
He thought he knew just what the seer would say,
But he had to wash in Jordan, though he thought it wasn’t good:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When David met Goliath he meant to have a fight,
The leaders put the battle in array;
Of course he killed the giant, for he was in the right:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When Jonah went to Tarshish to flee away from God,
A mighty fish was waiting for its prey;
It quickly swallowed Jonah, then threw him on the sod:
And the power of God is just the same today.

When Malachi, the prophet, was preaching all abroad,
And cutting like sickle and the scythe;
The people were accursed, for they were robbing God,
They failed to bring the offering and the tithe.

Then came the blessed Savior, with power to cleanse and heal,
To bear my sin and sickness all away;
My burdens, too, He carries, and doth my sorrows feel:
And the power of God is just the same today.

Through Paul and Silas singing and praying in the jail,
For Paul and Silas knew the way to pray;
The prison doors were opened, for locks could not avail,
And the power of God is just the same today.

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