1. RAVISHED BY LOVE
a. When Christ is in our hearts, what happens if we are thrust into prison for the truth’s sake? Micah 7:8.
“Our enemies may thrust us into prison, but prison walls cannot cut off the communication between Christ and our souls. One who sees our every weakness, who is acquainted with every trial, is above all earthly powers; and angels can come to us in lonely cells, bringing light and peace from heaven. The prison will be as a palace, for the rich in faith dwell there; and the gloomy walls will be lighted up with heavenly light.”—Gospel Workers, p. 424. [1892 edition.]
“The glory of God has penetrated the prison walls, flooding with glorious beams of heavenly light the darkest dungeon. His saints may suffer, but their sufferings will, like the apostles of old, spread their faith and win souls to Christ and glorify His holy name.”—The Upward Look, p. 315.
“The Lord knows all about His faithful servants who for His sake are lying in prison or who are banished to lonely islands. He comforts them with His own presence. When for the truth’s sake the believer stands at the bar of unrighteous tribunals, Christ stands by his side. All the reproaches that fall upon him, fall upon Christ. Christ is condemned over again in the person of His disciple. When one is incarcerated in prison walls, Christ ravishes the heart with His love.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 669.
2. A LESSON FOR US
a. As we consider the attitude of Paul and Silas in the Philippian dungeon, what should we ever keep in mind? Philippians 2:14, 15.
“In the utter darkness and desolation of the dungeon, [Paul and Silas] encouraged each other by words of prayer and sang praises to God because they were found worthy to suffer shame for His sake. Their hearts were cheered by a deep and earnest love for the cause of their Redeemer. Paul thought of the persecution he had been instrumental in bringing upon the disciples of Christ, and he rejoiced that his eyes had been opened to see, and his heart to feel, the power of the glorious truths which once he despised.
“With astonishment the other prisoners heard the sound of prayer and singing issuing from the inner prison. They had been accustomed to hear shrieks and moans, cursing and swearing, breaking the silence of the night; but never before had they heard words of prayer and praise ascending from that gloomy cell. Guards and prisoners marveled and asked themselves who these men could be, who, cold, hungry, and tortured, could yet rejoice.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 213, 214.
“Paul and Silas suffered the loss of all things. They suffered scourging, and were in no gentle manner thrown upon the cold floor of a dungeon in a most painful position, their feet elevated and fastened in the stocks. Did repinings and complaints then reach the ear of the jailer? Oh, no! From the inner prison, voices broke the silence of midnight with songs of joy and praise to God. These disciples were cheered by a deep and earnest love for the cause of their Redeemer, for which they suffered.
“As the truth of God fills our hearts, absorbs our affections, and controls our lives, we also will count it joy to suffer for the truth’s sake. No prison walls, no martyr’s stake, can then daunt or hinder us in the great work. Come, O my soul, to Calvary. Mark the humble life of the Son of God. He was ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.’ Behold His ignominy, His agony in Gethsemane, and learn what self-denial is. Are we suffering want? so was Christ, the Majesty of heaven. But His poverty was for our sakes. Are we ranked among the rich? so was He. But He consented for our sakes to become poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. In Christ we have self-denial exemplified. . . . We are not doing a twentieth part of what we might do if we were awake.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 406, 407.
3. THE ALMIGHTY INTERVENES
a. As the Omnipotent One heard the prayers and praises soaring from the dungeon at midnight, what did He do—and how can this uplift faithful souls in earth’s final days? Acts 16:26; Psalm 103:13, 17–22.
“Paul and Silas prayed and sang praise to God; and angels were sent from heaven to deliver them. The earth shook under the tread of these heavenly messengers, and the prison doors flew open, setting the prisoners free.”—My Life Today, p. 20.
“As the decree issued by the various rulers of Christendom against commandment keepers shall withdraw the protection of government and abandon them to those who desire their destruction, the people of God will flee from the cities and villages. . . . But many of all nations and of all classes, high and low, rich and poor, black and white, will be cast into the most unjust and cruel bondage. The beloved of God pass weary days, bound in chains, shut in by prison bars, sentenced to be slain, some apparently left to die of starvation in dark and loathsome dungeons. No human ear is open to hear their moans; no human hand is ready to lend them help.
“Will the Lord forget His people in this trying hour? Did He forget faithful Noah when judgments were visited upon the antediluvian world? Did He forget Lot when the fire came down from heaven to consume the cities of the plain? Did He forget Joseph surrounded by idolaters in Egypt? Did He forget Elijah when the oath of Jezebel threatened him with the fate of the prophets of Baal? Did He forget Jeremiah in the dark and dismal pit of his prison house? Did He forget the three worthies in the fiery furnace? or Daniel in the den of lions? . . .
“The Lord of hosts has said: ‘He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye.’ Zechariah 2:8.
“Though enemies may thrust them into prison, yet dungeon walls cannot cut off the communication between their souls and Christ. One who sees their every weakness, who is acquainted with every trial, is above all earthly powers; and angels will come to them in lonely cells, bringing light and peace from heaven. The prison will be as a palace; for the rich in faith dwell there, and the gloomy walls will be lighted up with heavenly light as when Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises at midnight in the Philippian dungeon.
“God’s judgments will be visited upon those who are seeking to oppress and destroy His people.”—The Great Controversy, pp. 626, 627.
4. TOUCHED BY GOD’S MIRACLE
a. How did the jailer react when he saw the earthquake had made it possible for the prisoners to escape—and what powerful witness for Christ did Paul demonstrate? Acts 16:27–30.
“[The jailer] felt sure that death would be the penalty of his apparent unfaithfulness. He cried out in the bitterness of his spirit that it was better for him to die by his own hand than to submit to a disgraceful execution. He was about to kill himself, when Paul cried out with a loud voice, ‘Do thyself no harm; for we are all here.’
“The severity with which the jailer had treated the apostles had not roused their resentment, or they would have allowed him to commit suicide. But their hearts were filled with the love of Christ, and they held no malice against their persecutors. The jailer dropped his sword, and called for a light. He hastened into the inner dungeon, and fell down before Paul and Silas, begging their forgiveness. He then brought them into the open court, and inquired of them, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’
“He had trembled because of the wrath of God expressed in the earthquake; he had been ready to die by his own hand for fear of the penalty of the Roman law, when he thought the prisoners had escaped; but now all these things were of little consequence to him compared with the new and strange dread that agitated his mind, and his desire to possess that tranquility and cheerfulness manifested by the apostles under their extreme suffering and abuse. . . .
“He saw his own deplorable condition in contrast with that of the disciples, and with deep humility and reverence asked them to show him the way of life.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 77, 78.
b. Describe how the Holy Spirit moved in this crisis. Acts 16:31–36.
“A sanctifying influence diffused itself among the inmates of the prison, and the minds of all were opened to listen to the truths spoken by the apostles. They were convinced that the God whom these men served had miraculously released them from bondage.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 217.
5. WORTHWHILE SUFFERING
a. When the magistrates learned that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, what did they do, and how did the apostles comply? Acts 16:37–39.
“The magistrates feared the apostles’ influence over the people, and they also feared the Power that had interposed in behalf of these innocent men. Acting upon the instruction given by Christ, the apostles would not urge their presence where it was not desired.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 218.
b. After the cruel ordeal Paul and Silas had faced—interestingly enough—before departing, who comforted whom? Acts 16:40. What did the apostles conclude about their time in Philippi? Philippians 1:29.
“The apostles did not regard as in vain their labors in Philippi. They had met much opposition and persecution; but the intervention of Providence in their behalf, and the conversion of the jailer and his household, more than atoned for the disgrace and suffering they had endured. The news of their unjust imprisonment and miraculous deliverance became known through all that region, and this brought the work of the apostles to the notice of a large number who otherwise would not have been reached.
“Paul’s labors at Philippi resulted in the establishment of a church whose membership steadily increased. His zeal and devotion, and, above all, his willingness to suffer for Christ’s sake, exerted a deep and lasting influence upon the converts. They prized the precious truths for which the apostles had sacrificed so much, and gave themselves with wholehearted devotion to the cause of their Redeemer.”—Ibid.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. If I am imprisoned for the truth’s sake, what should be my priority?
2. How should the suffering of Christ and His apostles motivate me?
3. What does the earthquake in Philippi teach me about the God I serve?
4. Describe how the brutal jailer was transformed.
5. What fruits resulted from God’s call for Paul to go to Macedonia?