What Must I Do to be Saved?
How does a girl with an evil spirit, a group of angry business men, an illegal imprisonment, and a divinely sent earthquake lead to the conversion of an entire household? My lesson Sunday is from Acts 16 and we will study the conversion of the Philippian jailor.
Paul and Silas encounter a girl with a “pythonian” spirit (most of the versions simply translate “a spirit of divination” because most readers would not understand what pythonian meant). This was a specific spirit associated with the shrine of Delphi; the girl was considered to be “inspired” to foretell the future by Apollos, the Pythian god of that shrine.
I mention this for two reason. First, the Bible affirms the existence of the supernatural in the form of evil spirits, fortune telling, etc. Second, to underscore the danger of dabbling in things like fortune telling, Ouija boards, horoscopes, etc. These are associated with REAL supernatural forces with which we should not trifle. I’m working on a series of lessons on these evil spiritual beings that I will share soon. My working title is “Spiritual Warfare.”
This girl followed Paul and Silas around announcing who they were and their message. This was more of a distraction that it was a benefit to their mission, so Paul cast out the spirit. This angered the men who were profiting from her prophecies. They caused a stir and had Paul and Silas arrested, beaten and imprisoned — apparently without giving them a chance to defend themselves. It was illegal to treat Roman citizens this way about which Paul will later accuse the city officials.
The central message of the story is found in vv. 25-34. Paul and Silas were fastened in stocks and chains deliberately designed to cause discomfort. However, they were singing and praising God in the middle of their suffering. All the other prisoners (and possibly the jailer) heard this and were amazed. About midnight, God sent an earthquake that broke their bonds and freed them.
Seeing this, the jailer prepared to kill himself, thinking the prisoners had escaped (Romans did not treat gently those who let prisoners escape).
When Paul assured him that all the prisoner’s were present and accounted for, he fell to his knees and asked the question with which this article is entitled, “What must I do to be saved?”
How would you have answered him? Could you tell him what you did to come to know the Lord? Could you open you Bible and show him chapter and verse? Do you know these verses by heart? Have you ever had the opportunity to share the gospel with someone?
I’ll say more in the lesson!