Lord, awaken us, and create faith in our hearts. Amen.
Acts 16, 25-34. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm; for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said. Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
Paul and Silas were thrown into prison in the first European city which they visited; but they were happy, and sang joyful praises unto the Lord. The body in the dark, cold prison, but the spirit free; such is the fate of the church in the world. In this way the church does its work, which is to save souls, and gather them into the kingdom. Luke does not tell us what effect the songs of praise by Paul and Silas, and the miracle which accompanied them, had on their fellow-prisoners, but mentions the keeper of the prison. This man had but now made their feet fast in the stocks, and he was, no doubt, one who slept soundly in sin. Now, however, he awakes. First he would have killed himself; for according to the Roman law he was liable to suffer death in the place of the escaped prisoners. Afterwards, when he hears the voice of Paul, learns of the miracle which had been wrought, and looks the apostle in the face, he feels the presence of the living God, and his own life in sin is presented to his view. He knows his unrighteousness, and quakes before the wrath of God. He then brings the apostles out, and asks them: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? How shall I be able to make restitution for all the wrong which I have done? How shall I with deeds of charity toward all whom I have maltreated make sufficient atonement for all my guilt? What sacrifice shall I bring, in order that the wrath of God may be appeased? Ye are the servants of God, and can tell me what to do!” Paul and Silas answer with one voice, saying: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. This is all which thou shalt do.”
Marvellous scheme of salvation, which never could have been conceived in the human brain! Glorious gospel which snatches sinners out of the power of Satan, and creates light and peace and life in the soul! “Believe on the Lord;” but where is he to be found? Notice what the Spirit teaches us on this point in our text. “Believe on the Lord Jesus,” say the apostles; and they spake the word of the Lord to them, and baptized them. Hence the Lord Jesus, on whom we are to believe, is in the word and in baptism. When they believed the word, and were baptized, they believed in God. Being baptized into Christ they believed his gospel; and then there was nothing more to do. — Go thou, and do likewise, dear reader! Believe on him in the word and in baptism; on him who died and rose again; then are you saved, — and your whole house shall follow you. Note this also! Thus it was in the case of the keeper of the prison. Ask as he did, and you shall receive the same answer; and the joy shall spread from the prison to your heart and house, as it did to the heart and house of the prison keeper. “What must I do to be saved?” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Now is the time. Ask: ask, and hear, and believe, and give thanks to God! Is it not a grand thing, even for us, that the apostles crossed over to Macedonia?
Lord Jesus, wake us all, and give us a living desire to be saved and a thorough knowledge of our sin; and give us grace to believe on thee, with all our household. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, in thee alone
My only hope on earth I place;
For other comforter is none,
No help have I but in thy grace.
There is no man nor creature here,
No angel in the heavenly sphere,
Who in my need can succor me;
I cry to thee,
In thee I trust implicitly.