Pastor's Pen

“But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” – Acts 16:37

After the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 we find Paul embarking on a fresh missionary journey with Silas. Departing from Antioch, he journeyed through Asia Minor fortifying the churches he had established.

While at Lystra, Paul made the decision to include Timothy in the expedition as a disciple. Adhering to his practice of prioritizing the Jewish audience, Paul initially preached in local synagogues. Recognizing Timothy's half-Jewish heritage, Paul foresaw potential challenges in the synagogues if Timothy remained uncircumcised. To alleviate such hurdles, Paul proceeded to circumcise Timothy (Acts 16:1–5).

Following several additional destinations, Paul reached Troas. Acts 16:8 indicates that "they" arrived in Troas, and in 16:10, it mentions that "we" departed from there, providing clear evidence of Luke's inclusion in the journey at that juncture.

The subsequent significant stop was in Philippi, a city established in the era of the Alexandrian empire but now a prominent Roman city. As there was no synagogue in Philippi, indicating a community of fewer than ten Jewish men, the believers, consisting mainly of Jewish and Gentile God-fearing women, gathered outside the city. Paul took the opportunity to preach there, and Lydia, one of the Gentile believers, embraced the message of the new covenant. She not only accepted it but also opened her home to host Paul.

After expelling a demon from a slave girl who practiced fortune-telling, Paul and Silas faced the wrath of her enraged masters. Accusing them of being troublesome Jews, the masters had the duo beaten and thrown into prison, while Luke, not being a Jew, was left untouched. In the night, an earthquake shattered the prison, prompting the jailer to contemplate suicide, believing the prisoners had escaped. Paul intervened, sharing the Gospel, and the jailer embraced faith.

Come morning, the magistrates ordered Paul's release. Instead of departing quietly, Paul chose to instill fear in the rulers to deter further persecution of Christians. He revealed their mistreatment of two Roman citizens, despite being Jews. Concerned about potential charges, the magistrates began treating Paul with respect to avoid any legal repercussions.

Paul refrained from seeking sponsorship for the Gospel from civil magistrates, aligning with Jesus' counsel to avoid unnecessary conflicts with governing authorities. The disciples generally adhered to this approach, only involving the magistrates when it distinctly served the Gospel's purpose. In the case described, Paul used the situation to instill fear in the rulers, ensuring they respected the Church. Applying this principle today requires discernment, recognizing that engagement with authorities may be necessary for the Church's well-being or the preservation of religious freedom. It is crucial to balance such actions with biblical teachings on submission to authority and the understanding that the Gospel's advancement relies on spiritual conviction rather than coercion. Each situation should be approached prayerfully, considering cultural, legal, and ethical factors, with the ultimate goal of fulfilling the Great Commission while demonstrating love and respect.