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STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
—INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSONS—
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES WHERE THESE LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL. PUBLISHED IN ADVANCE, AT THE REQUEST OF FOREIGN READERS.
PAUL AT PHILIPPI
III. QUAR., LESSON II., JULY 9, ACTS 16:19-34
Golden Text—”Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”—Acts 16:31
The house of Lydia became the center of Christian work in the city of Philippi; and here, under the instruction of the Apostle Paul, a company of believers gathered, of whom he subsequently speaks in terms of strong commendation for their faithfulness and zeal. Paul and his companions had not been long in Philippi before the Lord gave a very marked manifestation of his power, working through them in casting out an evil spirit from one whose affliction was a source of gain to her owners.
But the testimony thus borne brought upon the devoted heads of the Lord’s messengers a storm of persecution. They were hurried to the market place, falsely accused before the magistrates and, apparently without even an opportunity to assert their innocence or to appeal for their rights as Roman citizens, they were quickly sentenced and immediately punished with stripes and imprisonment; and their ultimate fate was yet to be learned.—Verses 19-24.
VERSE 25. In a prison dungeon, with lacerated flesh, and feet made fast in the stocks, these brethren found cause for rejoicing. They rejoiced in that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ, and so spent the night in praise and prayer to God. And do not forget that it is in view of such trials that the Apostle’s exhortation should be read—”Rejoice in the Lord always, and in every thing give thanks.”
VERSE 26. It is not always that God interferes to liberate his persecuted saints: there is a glorious end in view in permitting them to endure hardness as good soldiers. Our Lord was not spared the agonies of the cross; Stephen was not spared the stoning that crushed out his life; other martyrs were not spared the fire and fagot, the guillotine and the rack; and the apostles were not spared the torture of the rod, the stocks and dungeon miseries. But, says the great Apostle, who bore a large share of these sufferings, „They are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” When that glory shall appear the present privilege of enduring hardness as good soldiers will be manifest, though the opportunity for so doing will then be past. By faith only can the privilege now be duly appreciated.
But God had yet a further use for Paul and Silas, and therefore, though from a human standpoint their release seemed hopeless, it was quickly and wonderfully accomplished when God saw fit to manifest his power. Just so it will be when God’s time has fully come for breaking down all the barriers which men have set up against the establishment of his kingdom. What are thrones and empires and armies to withstand his might? Surely they are as nothing.
VERSES 27,28. There was no vindictiveness in these abused servants: they were ready immediately to bless their persecutors.
VERSE 29. This manifestation of the spirit of forgiving love was the best sermon they could have preached to the jailer; and it quickly brought forth its fruit in his repentance and conversion.
VERSES 30-34. His conduct indicated genuine repentance. He sought to reward them for their generosity in saving his life; and then inquired what he must do to be saved. Saved from what? from any penalty of the Roman law? No: his prisoners had not escaped: they were all there. He meant, What should he do to be saved with the great salvation which Paul and Silas preached. Then Paul preached the great salvation through faith in Christ, both to the jailor and to all that were in the house, showing that it is free to all who accept
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it, not only to the jailor but to all the rest of them on the terms of simple, obedient faith. It is not at all strange that the preaching under such circumstances brought forth fruit in the conversion of all that heard.
— July 1 & 15, 1893 —