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The Lord Changes Things

Acts 16:33-36
At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptised. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole household. When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: 'Release those men.' The jailer told Paul, 'The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.' (NIVUK)

So much had changed within hours. At dusk, Paul and Silas were shackled by their ankles in an inner cell of the prison in Philippi (Acts 16:22-24). At midnight they were praying and singing praises to the Lord, and then an earthquake released all the prisoners; the jailer feared for his job and almost took his own life; Paul took charge of the jail (Acts 16:25-28); the jailer asked how he could be saved and Paul told him, and his household, the gospel; they were saved through trusting in Jesus (Acts 16:29-32). In a few hours everything had changed because the Lord commanded it.

The once hostile jailer was now clearly repentant of beating the men, and so he tenderly washed and dressed their wounds. A hardened man with, we presume, a pagan religious background – surrendered to Jesus and led his family into being baptised, and they were filled with joy by the Holy Spirit.

By the morning, the magistrates who had feared a riot by the crowd were now in greater fear of the God who could shake the prison. Clearly, Paul and Silas were too dangerous to have in prison: it was best for them to leave the city, quietly and without further disturbance.

When the gospel is proclaimed clearly, the Lord's enemies may react strongly; but when the Lord decides to intervene, nothing can stop Him. The gospel is not about controlling people but loving them, by explaining how they can be saved and be set free from everything which binds them. Christ's purpose in dying for sinners was to provide a way in which sinners could be released from their guilt and sin, into the freedom of belonging to God's kingdom (Romans 8:21). To God, human opposition is not a disaster, but another way of drawing more people into His love. In this narrative, Paul and Silas are freed from prison, the jailer and his household are released from their sins, and the magistrates change their minds about persecuting the Christians. So never despair that nothing can ever change: when the Lord commands, changes happen.

God of power and salvation. Thank You for the gospel, and for protecting it through much opposition – even converting the people who have most opposed Your Word. Forgive me for assuming that powerful people cannot be changed, or that my circumstances are beyond Your reach. Help me to trust You, giving thanks for Your powerful Word which can command the changes which You want to bring about, for Your glory and the blessing of Your people. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams