My Thoughts. . .
Thursday, April 25, 2019
Sometimes in reading scripture we get the idea that things happened a lot quicker than they did. For example, when the earthquake hit the jail and doors opened, the jailer assumed everyone had escaped. He was ready to kill himself. Paul informed him otherwise. Since the cells were in total darkness, the jailer called for a light to investigate. How soon did that happen? When someone supplied it, he entered into Paul and Silas’ cell, noticing that they and the other prisoners were still there. Unless there were only a few, how long did it take to account for each inmate in that section? How long was it before he fell at Paul’s feet and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” If all prisoners remained in their cells, what was the jailer wanting to be saved from? Luke informs us that Paul or Silas, or both told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). Sometimes Luke abbreviates the actual statements that were made, not giving the entire speech. He does this with Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:40. Did he do it in this passage?
Did the jailer already know about Jesus? If not, did Paul and Silas wrap up that belief in the short time the sentence of v.31 was spoken? Did the jailer, who was a pagan, ask questions? Wouldn’t you have a few? Did he wonder if Paul and Silas were gods in human disguise as others did (Acts 28:4-6)? Did the jailer give orders to whoever brought him that light, telling him what to do about the other prisoners? Didn’t their arm and leg bands need to be fastened again and the cell doors closed and locked? Luke doesn’t say whether the jailer left with Paul and Silas without doing that or not. Did he inform other soldiers on duty why he was taking Paul and Silas out of prison? Wouldn’t they ask questions if they saw two jail birds walking out with the jailer? Wouldn’t they have thought Paul and Silas were using the jailer as a hostage and forcing him to take them to freedom? Luke skips all of this and takes us directly to the jailer’s house. Was his house on the second floor, next door, or 5 kilometers away? Whatever the distance, they were in their cell as prisoners and almost immediately are entering the jailer’s house.
Once they arrived, Luke states, “They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house” (v. 32). Were the jailer’s wife, children, and servants at the door to welcome him? How did they know he was coming home early? Was what Paul and Silas delivered to them more or less information than what Luke reveals they said previously to the jailer in verse 31? Was the jailer a good husband by announcing to his wife, “Honey, I’m home. We’ve got guests?” Didn’t he explain why he was coming home so early or introduce Paul and Silas? If you were the wife, wouldn’t you want to know why two jail birds were with your husband? How would she know they were “inmates?” Both men had been severely beaten and needed medical attention which the jailer recognized! Didn’t he announce that his two guests were preachers, so they needed to have a Bible study to learn how to be saved? If you are a pagan, taking on one more god is a small problem. However, having to give up your gods to accept the one God of two captive Jewish men may be hard to swallow? Since they had been beaten and imprisoned, didn’t that prove their one god lost out to the numerous pagan gods? Several times a “Why” may have been asked. Wouldn’t you ask questions if your spouse brought a couple of pagan preachers in that were badly beaten, perhaps leaving a blood trail on the floor, and they wanted to convert the entire family?
Details are not always given, nor an explanation supplied for their absence. Why should it be explained if it is part of one’s culture and a known way of life? This is not the only place in Acts where details are missing. For example, on the day before Pentecost, 120 folks are meeting in that upper room. They are all Jews. They have been doing Jewish things in Jewish ways and observing Jewish Law and its worship as prescribed for God believing Jews to do. The scriptures they read and lived by were Jewish which was describe by Paul himself as profitable for doctrine, correction, and righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Some assume that a complete change happened at the close of Acts 1 and the beginning of Acts 2. Everything that had been done the day before was now taboo to practice the day after. In Acts 2, if they went to a synagogue or to the Temple courtyards, it must be to condemn their former religion and refuse to participate in it in any form or fashion. Yet, that is not what Luke describes. One may assume that is what they did because details or not given, but the good doctor does not paint that kind of picture.
Some twenty years later, the Jewish church continued to be “zealous for the Law” and its practices (Acts 21:17-26). Jewish worship was continued with members paying the Jewish priests for their services. Baby boys were still circumcised by the priests on the eighth day. Sacrifices were still offered. Vows were still made, confirmed, and payment given to the Levitical priests. Holy days continued to be observed and respected. Synagogue pulpits continued to be offered to believers in Christ until persecution from the Sadducees stopped it. Luke tells us about Jewish Christians continuing in the Jewish practices in spite of assumptions to the contrary.
Luke, in Acts 15 describes the major differences between Jewish and Gentile congregations. In the Ephesian letter Paul shows that Gentiles are just as “Christian” as are the Jewish members. In the Galatian letter he doesn’t condemn Jewish practices, just that they are not bound upon Gentile brethren. Paul explains that if Jewish believers attempted to bind Jewish religious practices upon Gentiles, they were preaching “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6-9). In Romans Paul tells both groups to accept the differences of the other (Romans 14). These things may be missed by some Bible readers but there is a lesson in this that is needed by today’s divided church!