- The Explore the Bible lesson for Jan. 7 focuses on Acts 16:22-34.
The next journey with the Apostle Paul’s new team is well under way as we approach this significant prison story. This lesson is about a “changed family.” It is worth nothing that just before our text, Lydia’s household also was changed. When it comes to leading nonbelievers to a new faith in Christ, there must be openness. This is why it is so significant that for Lydia, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (16:14).
Since this story is about such openness and life change, ask your group: When was the last time you tried to engage a nonbeliever about receiving Christ? As we learn from this story, we must look to our role as believers in sharing the good news with those around us.
Change requires the openness of the person, but it also requires the faith story of one who has already experienced life change in Christ.
The Situation (Acts 16:22-24)
The situation really is set in verses 16-18, where we see a businessman’s profits placed in jeopardy. A young slave girl had irritated Paul and his companions enough that, in the name of Jesus, he rebuked the spirit that plagued her.
Why would the crowd join in on such a matter? Perhaps they perceived Paul and his message as a significant threat to their way of life. Chaos took over in this story, similar to other crowd uproars, including surrounding Jesus’ own trial.
Consider this question: How does chaos take over real-life situations? We see in this story these people were unified against Paul and Silas, resulting in severe beating and prison. Perhaps we should ponder how chaos may affect us, and how we should take note of how Paul and Silas responded.
The Opportunity (Acts 16:25-28)
It is helpful that this story is told in the third person. The acts of singing and praying are told in the same way the inmates would have experienced the scene that night.
How easy—or difficult—is it to sing and pray during difficulty? Some of us may sing or pray to pass time, but not necessarily to pass circumstances. Realize these prison conditions were beyond terrible, and to offer signs of joy in these places was no easy solution.
Consider a significant lyric from “Praise You in the Storm” by Casting Crowns: “You are who you are, no matter where I am.” Even in the most desperate of places, looking to God, speaking to God, and singing to God reminds us he always is the same, in spite of our circumstances.
The Conversion (Acts 16:29-32)
Now we see what all had to take place for new faith to be realized in these lives. For the good news to be spoken and for hearts to receive, Paul and Silas had to be tortured, thrown in jail, led to sing and pray, and then a miraculous earthquake shattered their situation.
With “saved” meaning rescue, we must wonder whether or not the jailer was speaking about a literal rescue from his pending punishment for an empty jail. But these messengers took advantage by sharing about the ultimate salvation: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”
There were many ears listening. These messengers also added that such salvation was available to all who believe, even a household. Ask your group: How are you sharing salvation with your family and friends? We must be mindful to see others beyond ourselves and realize they have the same need we have—rescue.
The Transformation (Acts 16:33-34)
Transformation is apparent and obvious in this changed family, but notice another transformation. The “tables are turned” in this story. Paul and Silas go from prisoners to houseguests, and the jailer goes from suicidal to a person with a reason for living. This truly is the power of transformation!
It is amazing that the jailer’s first act of transformation after believing and receiving Christ was to offer hospitality. Hospitality is one of the traditional marks of followers of Christ, and it is displayed prominently in Acts. Ask your group: What kind of change have you seen in your life since you received Christ?
The family was now “filled with joy” rather than fear, and that speaks back to Paul and Silas’s example. They chose to be joyful in a tough circumstance, and their testimony was a catalyst for change and transformation in the lives of others.
Our task is to be ready to meet others with our story of transformation. Stories like this one are not meant to be merely good stories worth remembering. This should cause us to be focused on meeting others and leading them to real life in Christ.
Ask each member of your group to think of at least one person who they will start being intentional about sharing Christ. The process is simple: Pray for their openness, pray for opportunities to share, and pray for transformation. Imagine how families could change for the better if we do this faithfully.
God really can use each of us to lead others to him. The more we allow ourselves to be used by him, the greater and deeper the family of God grows.
Heath A. Kirkwood is lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Lorena.