And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas…
I. THE PREPARATION FOR GOD'S SPIRITUAL WORK. The rebuke of the evil spirit in the girl, the anger of the crowd, the imprisonment, seemed to form a series of events complete in itself and existing for itself, if we may say so. But these things were but the preparation for something more important.
1. The preparation for God's work was by affliction. The disciples found themselves cast down, but the sequel showed it was in order that they might be exalted, by being used as a means of glorying God. A man's best work comes sometimes after he has ceased to be able to work at all. God works through our afflictions even when we do not know it. Well may we then count it joy when we are honoured by falling upon them.
2. The affliction of the apostles was certain, sooner or later, because of the ever persisting antagonism between the gospel and the world. And is it not forever so to the end of time? Must not the gospel always find opposition from the world? Surely this vile world is not a friend to grace to help us on to God.
3. Paul's understanding of this made him careless of being unpopular. He had counted the cost of his service and was willing to pay it.
4. The affliction of the apostles was relieved by faith. They trusted God to give them strength to endure it, to lead them out of it into safety, and beyond these, to use the affliction itself as an instrument of his own purposes.
5. God is with His children in times of trial.
6. Such faith makes one thoughtful for others. Paul was not so absorbed in his own rapture as to forget the jailer. "Do thyself no harm; for we are all here." Forgetfulness of others is no part of the soul's deepest joy.
7. In Paul's joy in God there was involved forgiveness to those who injured him.
II. THE WORK OF GOD. God by His permission of the apostles' affliction had made ready for the first soul-ingathering among the heathen of Europe.
1. The first element that appears in the experience of the Philippian jailer is fear. He was trembling when he sprang into the cell (ver. 29). John Bunyan had an awful experience of his own sinfulness before he was converted. If all have sinned, all are entitled to a guilty fearful conscience.
2. This dread of conscience was immediately accompanied by a consciousness of the supernatural.
3. With fear went desire. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" What it was to be saved he knew in a most undefined way. Wants do not have to be defined in order to be genuine. A child knows that it feels bad but cannot always tell where or why, yet its suffering is most real. And to want the gospel comes with complete satisfaction. But it does not come except to the want.
4. The jailer was willing to do anything necessary for salvation. "Sirs, what must I do?"
5. The answer has well been called classic. It sums up once for all the ages everything that is required of man in order to be saved.
(1) Do nothing. Salvation is not of works.
(3) Make Christ the object of faith.
6. This faith has its social bearing. It is recognised as an influential element in the family, which is here shown to be the God-constituted unit of human life.
7. True faith will not be ignorant. It recognises its imperfection and is ever seeking to learn more of the truth of God, that it may appropriate it by faith (ver. 32).
8. As soon as faith had entered the jailer's heart, it emerged again in a deed of kindness; he washed the apostles' wounds. So by a beautiful spiritual chemistry faith is ever transmuting the love of God as it comes into our upward-opened hearts into love for our fellow men (1 John 4:12).
9. Immediately there came an open recognition of Christian faith in the form of baptism. Wherever there is faith there should be frank, manly avowal of it.
10. No wonder the jailer when he had brought them into his house rejoiced (ver. 34). It was the happiest time he had ever known in his life. No wonder the jailer rejoiced. Blessed beyond words are all those who come to know Christ and His salvation.
III. LESSONS ABOUT CONVERSION.
1. Providence often prepares for it, sometimes by suffering and sorrow.
2. There are many ways of being led to Christ, and all are valid. Lydia came one way, the jailer another. No one need try to force himself into another's experience.
3. Faith is the same for all. All are sinners. All need the atoning blood. All must trust without any merit of their own.
4. Salvation is free to all. What Paul said to the jailer he said to the whole world. Whosoever will may come.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,