Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 20 2020 - Acts 16:16-40 – The kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy

In Philippi, Paul healed a girl who had been possessed by a spirit that had enabled her to tell fortunes and to earn fortunes for her masters. Angered by their loss, the owners of this poor girl dragged Paul and Silas off to the public square where they accused them of troubling the city by teaching customs which it was unlawful for the Roman citizens of this proud colony to observe.

The good news about Jesus Christ is more than a promise of personal salvation; it is a declaration that in Christ, God is at work to establish his kingdom in this world. The gospel challenges the culture or cultures of this present world with their focus on money and power – the power which seeks to control and manipulate others to one’s own ends. It promises a radical freedom that threatens to strip the lords of this world of their power. It cannot but provoke conflict even as it offers a better vision for human flourishing.

It certainly provoked conflict in Philippi. The police soon stepped in and, to prevent a public riot. They had Paul and Silas beaten with rods and thrown into the darkest, most secure and most unpleasant part of the city prison. There, among the other prisoners, Paul and Silas were found praying and singing hymns to God in the middle of the night.

When Paul later encourages the Christians at Philippi to “rejoice in the Lord always” this is no shallow and naïve remark; Paul speaks out of the depths of his own experience. Even when covered in the swollen and bloody marks of a beating and sitting in the chains, dirt and darkness of a prison, Paul can praise God for his goodness.

Are we not much more fickle in our praise? I speak for myself: I find it easier to praise God when the sun is shining and all is going well. I forget that God may lead me into situations where I face difficulty and pain and that even there he is still with me and his hand is upon me. My changeable circumstances do not alter the unfailing goodness of God towards me in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no circumstance in which I do not have cause to praise him. And who knows what blessing may come to others through my testimony of praise in times of trial?

The witness of Paul and Silas had remarkable effects. That night a violent earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. Prison doors were sprung open and chains loosened from the walls, yet not one prisoner fled; all were content to remain with Paul and Silas. This remarkable testimony led to the conversion of the jailer and his family. They placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ whom Paul preached to them, and were baptised.

On the following morning, when the city magistrates sent a message that Paul and Silas might be released, Paul sent a message back to them, “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out” (Acts 16:37). And so they did!

The gospel challenges the powers of this world, but it does so without using the weapons of this world.  It demonstrates that it is not a threat to good order or to good government but only to disorder, injustice and proud, self-seeking government. 

Lord, help me to praise you today, no matter what the day may bring. Help us also to bear witness to the gracious power of the kingdom which says “No!” to the perverted values of this world, promotes human flourishing and displays the glory of the Servant King.

Peter Misselbrook