October 30, 2011

Devotion and Emotion

Last week, through Pricilla’s eyes, we saw what happened during Paul’s 3rd missionary journey. Then he ‘set his eyes on Jerusalem’, wanting to be there by Pentecost. Remember Pentecost was a Jewish feast 50 days after Passover. As Christians, we remember Pentecost as the coming of the Holy Spirit. To the Jews it was a time for ingathering first fruits-the first crops of the year. With great devotion they remembered that God provided for them.

Paul had faced persecution and other trials in his travels around Asia Minor and Greece, but he remained a Jew at heart and desired to see the Holy City and the Temple and to worship there again. Paul wanted to express his love for God at the one place sacred to Jews throughout the Roman Empire. Have you ever been far from home for a long time? It is so good to be back in familiar places. Just thinking about going home can make us emotional.

On his way to Jerusalem, Paul visits believers in Tyre and Ptolemai and then Caesarea where they “went into the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven, and stayed with him.” (Acts 21:1-9) All along the way, various people tell Paul he should not go to Jerusalem. At Caesarea, “a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. He…took Paul’s belt, bound his own feet and hands with it, and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, “This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ Since he would not be persuaded, we remained silent except to say, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’" (Acts 21:10-14)

Paul refused to be dissuaded from his journey to Jerusalem. He was convinced that he was following the Lord’s will. His devotion to Jesus led him to follow his heart and not be dissuaded by the predictions of disaster. At first, all is well. “The brothers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard it, they praised God.” (Acts 21:17-20)

The leaders of the church in Jerusalem tell Paul of the rumors about him, “They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs.” A solution is proposed, “We have four men who are under a vow. Join these men, go through the rite of purification with them, and pay for the shaving of their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law.” (Acts 21:21-24)

All went well until some “Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd. They seized him, shouting, ‘Fellow-Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’” (Acts 21:27-28) Paul's devotion to the God of Israel is questioned.

A riot follows-something Paul is quite familiar with! “All the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Immediately he took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them [and] arrested him…he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. When Paul came to the steps, the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by the soldiers…Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, ‘May I say something to you?’ The tribune replied, ‘Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?’ Paul replied, ‘I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city.” (Acts 21:30-39) Notice that Paul's first claim is to be a Jew, then to mention his citizenship of Tarsus, a Roman town.

Paul is falsely accused; by arresting him the Roman tribune saves his life. At first, he thinks that Paul is an Egyptian assassin and is surprised when Paul speaks Greek and claims to be from Tarsus. This raises his status in the tribune’s eyes, so that he is receptive to Paul’s request to address the crowd.

Following God demands that we give our fullest. A friend recently quoted a line from a sermon she heard.  "Devotion without emotion is just commotion.” Some might look at Paul’s ministry and say that he caused a great deal of commotion. Wherever he went conflict and riots erupted. However, Paul was driven by the conviction that he was following the One Lord and God to whom he was devoted. No one could doubt his emotion while preaching and teaching. Serving God was his entire life focus.

Throughout his ministry, Paul never faltered when doing what he believed God was calling him to do. Before his conversion, Saul the Pharisee was convinced that he must persecute the believers. After his experience on the road to Damascus, Paul was equally enthusiastic about preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.
What happens when we try to express devotion-to God or to our spouse or child-without emotion? It falls flat doesn’t it? Only when we are fully engaged and aware of the emotion of love for God or spouse or child, can we really say ‘I love you’ and mean it. Otherwise it is just words. As Paul himself said in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I…have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (Which is really another way of saying devotion without emotion is commotion.) What would happen in your relationship-with God, with family and friends, if you really meant it when you said “I love you”?

Because Paul believed in his ministry, he was not afraid to go to Jerusalem despite all those who told him he would be imprisoned there. Because he really loved God and wanted all to understand the Good News of Jesus Christ, he was not afraid to address the crowd that had just tried to kill him.

Paul tells the tribune, “I beg you, let me speak to the people.’ When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language…” (Acts 21:40) Next week we will hear Paul’s defense and the result of it.

October 23, 2011

Priscilla and the church in Ephesus

Over the past several months we have been exploring the Books of Acts and how the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of Peter and James as well as the other disciples. We looked at the faith and martyrdom of Stephen (7/24) and the imprisonment and miraculous release of Peter. (8/28). The preaching of Philip to the eunuch (7/31) and Paul’s conversion (8/7) experience were both dramatic episodes where the Holy Spirit was clearly active. Over the past month, we’ve seen how the Spirit acted in Paul’s life on his first and second missionary journeys to Asia (Turkey), and Macedonia and Greece. Today we see what happened on his third journey as found in Acts 19-20. Most of the time on this journey was spent in Ephesus.

Ephesus was a major city in the Roman Empire. The second largest city in the Roman Empire, with nearly half a million people, it was located on the western coast of what is now Turkey. Ephesus was a center for magic and the site of the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World). This distinction will come into play later in Paul’s visit to Ephesus. The city was established as capital of western Asia Minor by Augustus Caesar in 27BC. It was destroyed in 401AD, leaving only ruins of greatness. Paul remains in this metropolitan hub, preaching and working for two years. He had stopped briefly at Ephesus where he left Pricilla and Aquila saying, “I will return to you if God wills.” (Acts 18:21) Pricilla tells us what happened when he returned:

Paul, you ask me what I know of the man Paul. He is driven. I’ve never seen a man more intense and yet oddly humble. He does not tolerate foolishness, yet he is filled with a joy that you want to emulate. When Aquila and I first met him, he amazed us with his teaching of this Jesus of Nazareth, raised from the dead.

My husband, Aquila met him first. He was in the hide merchant’s booth in Corinth. Aquila was looking for hides and an assistant to make a large tent for a trader from Macedonia. Paul, too, knows the tentmaker trade and so my husband brought him to our home. We didn’t know very many people in Corinth since we had just arrived from Rome, so Aquila felt fortunate to meet another tentmaker who could assist with the job.

Whenever there were men in the synagogue, Paul was there, too, expounding on what he called the “Good News,” but most of them refused to listen. Aquila and I found him interesting and I even neglected my duties to sit in the doorway while Paul talked to my husband about Jesus. When he left Corinth, we went with him. I think Aquila was hoping we could eventually make our way back to Pontus where we were born. We stayed in Ephesus when Paul left for Caesarea and Syrian Antioch.

Paul promised to return to Ephesus when he left. I saw him looking at the immense and impressive Temple of Artemis with a mixture of sorrow and disgust. “They do not understand what to worship,” he sighed. It was not long before we received a message from the man saying he was leaving Antioch to journey overland to Ephesus, visiting cities he previously preached in.

“It doesn’t matter how often his message is rejected,” I mused to Aquila, “Paul continues to share his love of the Lord.”

“He knows God is with him,” my husband nodded. “I fear he will not find many converts here in Ephesus, though. The worship of the goddess is too strong.”

“There are some who know of Jesus,” I argued. “Remember Apollos taught some people.”

Aquila nodded. “There are some.”

When Paul arrived, he was enthusiastic. “The believers in Asia have not forgotten the Truth I left with them. I am glad I visited Lystra and Derbe on the way here. Tell me of your work.”

“We have not accomplished much,” Aquila confessed. “There was a Jew named Apollos of Alexandria, who came preaching Jesus and the baptism of John. He recently left for Achaia and Corinth after we explained to him the full Gospel that you taught us. He is very eloquent. There are some who listened to him, but they refuse to listen to me because I am just a tentmaker.”

Paul frowned. “Those who are called by God should never denigrate their gifts. You, too, can preach the Good News in your work.”

I sprang to my husband’s defense. “Aquila has been busy establishing a business here so that he can support us. I think that is important!”

“Pricilla, it is true a man must provide for his family. That is a noble calling, too. Some of us who have no family, can be fully focused on the work of God. I am not scolding Aquila for not preaching, but for not seeing his work as important. A man can preach God’s love in the way he does his business as well as with words.”

I was struck silent as I pondered the man’s explanation. I nodded. “Yes, I see that if a man is honest and serves God then his manner will be different than someone who does not care for God at all.”

Paul smiled. “Each of us has different gifts for the building up of the Body of Christ.”

“You must tell us more about that idea,” Aquila said. “Today I will introduce you to the leaders of the synagogue.”

“The Body of Christ,” I repeated the words over and over while watching the men walk up the street to the nearby synagogue. It was not far because we found lodging in the Jewish quarter of Ephesus.

For three months Paul preached to the Jews. There were a dozen who had learned of John’s baptism from Apollos who came to Paul. He gave them further instruction and when he laid his hands on them, I was amazed to hear them prophesy and speak in tongues. It was something I had never experienced before and it gave me chills.

“Sometimes the Spirit of God is expressed in such ways,” Paul explained later when I asked him. “It is not a gift for everyone and it is not any more special than the gift of teaching or giving or leadership.”

After three months, Paul became tired of the stubbornness of the Jews. Some Greek friends found him a place to teach. It was in one of the Greek schools. Paul used the space in the afternoon when the students of Tyrannus were gone. Many lingered to hear Paul, though, and were converted.

The people in Ephesus were amazed by some of the things Paul did. Even Aquila and I were. He had never shown such power in Corinth. Sick people were healed by the touch of his hand and more surprisingly by the touch of cloths he prayed over.

I had to laugh when I heard what happened to the sons of Sceva who tried to cast out an evil spirit by using Paul’s name. “Jesus I know and Pual I know, but who are you?” the spirit was reported to have said. Of course it wasn’t funny that the possessed man beat the priest's sons.

Paul shook his head when he heard the story. “I am amazed that people think they can harness the power of God. Healing does not come from me, but from God working through me. Good has come of this incident, though. Many people are interested in hearing about Jesus and will become believers.”

Not long afterward, Paul told us, “I want to return to Macedonia and Achaia to visit the churches there. I also want to go to Jerusalem. It has been a long time since I have seen the city of David.”

“You have taught us so much. Please stay for a little longer,” I begged.

He agreed and sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia instead. Soon, though, it became apparent that Paul would have to leave for his own safety. The silversmiths of Ephesus were incited by Demetrius to make false accusations against Paul and the rest of the Believers.

(Ephesus was center of the worship of Artemis (Roman Diana, goddess of the the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women;). This picture is an artist’s rendition of what the temple and surrounding area might have looked like.)

We Believers had never said anything against the Temple and worship of Artemis, but Demetrius told everyone that would listen that Paul was ruining the silversmith’s business. “There is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the Temple of the great goddess Artemis may count for nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship!”

His words started a riot and if it hadn’t been for the clerk of Ephesus, the whole town would have erupted into disarray.”

Paul decided that he had to leave before Demetrius and others in the city caused more trouble. We watched him sail for Macedonia with heavy hearts. Just before Passover, we heard that he was on his way back to Asia. Then we heard he arrived at Troas after the Feast. When he landed in Miletus, he sent word for Aquila and the other leaders in Ephesus to meet him. I was relieved to see that Paul looked well and was delighted to learn that a physician had joined his followers. Sometimes he was troubled by terrible headaches and I had worried that there would be no one to give him herbs for the pain.

What he said at Miletus broke my heart. It was a lovely farewell speech, even though he warned us of troubles to come and told us that imprisonment was coming for him.

When we turned homeward from the dock at Miletus after praying with Paul, I knew I would never see him again. I repeated some of his final words. “I comment you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

In the Western world today we are not accustomed to dramatic actions by the Holy Spirit such as Paul performed. Healings, prophecy, or speaking in tongues are all listed as gifts of the Spirit, but, too often, we gloss over them as something that ‘used to happen.’ We tend to be suspicious of those who claim such powers, whether in the name of God or by themselves. God can and does still act when we allow God to work. Paul knew he was called by God to preach the Gospel. The manifestations of the Spirit he used as ways to show that God and Jesus were real and active in people’s lives.

He was also a great encourager of the churches he planted and visited them again and again when he could. His letters (the Epistles) are windows into the love and care he poured into the communities of worshippers across Asia and Greece.

We may not have all the gifts of the Spirit, but each of us has been gifted by the Spirit for the “building up of the Body.” We may not all be great church planters and missionaries, but we can be the hands, feet, face of Christ to those we meet. Ask God what you can do to further the Kingdom. He has given you the gifts you need.

Next week we will see what happens when Paul returns to Jerusalem. By the way, most Biblical scholars believe that the letters to the Corinthians were written while Paul was at Ephesus. If you read I Corinthians 16:10-20, Paul does mention Apollos, Timothy, Aquila and Pricilla!

October 16, 2011

They turned the world upside down

You may remember in the Oct. 2 blog we saw how Paul and Silas were imprisoned and then asked to leave Philippi, which was located in Macedonia, the northern part of Greece on the Aegean Sea. They travelled about 50 miles west to Thessalonica at the end of the Thermaikos Gulf. In Thessalonica, as elsewhere in the Roman Empire, there was a Jewish synagogue. “Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.’” (Acts 17:2-3)

The preaching proved popular and many were converted including “great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.” (Note that women are important enough to be mentioned as converts!) However, as elsewhere in Paul’s travels those who did not convert became angry and started a riot. “They attacked Jason’s house. When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.’ (Acts 17:5-7)

Whether from misunderstanding or the desire to misrepresent Paul, the opponents claim that Paul is proclaiming another king. Isn't it often that way, we twist other people's words to seem negative when we disagree with them. Sadly we see this too often in our leadership, even in churches.

Wisely, the “believers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea.” This town is further inland than Thessalonica and about 20 miles further west. Slowly but surely the opposition and persecution by the Jewish and Greek non-believers is pushing the word of the Gospel further and further into the Empire. God's word is not stopped because of resistance. If anything, it grows stronger.

In reading the Book of Acts, it is apparent that Paul’s teaching especially disturbed the Jewish leaders. In fact, once again, “when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Beroea as well, they came there too, to stir up and incite the crowds. Then the believers immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy remained behind. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and after receiving instructions to have Silas and Timothy join him as soon as possible, they left him.” (Acts 17:15)

Paul has now arrived at one of the major cities in Greece, and in the Roman Empire. Athens is located at the southern tip of Greece where the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas come together. He is “deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols,” and starts to debate with the philosophers and Jews in the city. “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.” (Acts 17:21)

The Athenians are interested in this new religion/philosophy Paul is presenting and invite him to speak at the Areopagus. Paul starts to preach to them by identifying something they recognize: “I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:23)

Paul knew that when you can find common ground with the person you are talking to, it is easier to reach their heart. I wonder if we could 'turn our world upside down' by doing more listening and less complaining...just wondering.

The Areopagus was an open outcropping north-west of the Acropolis where, in the pre-Roman era, court cases were heard. In Paul’s time, it served as a venue for hearing famous speakers or interesting presentations. The Athenians are intrigued by Paul’s presentation, “When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’ At that point Paul left them. But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite (a councilor or perhaps judge) and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” (Acts 17:32-34)

After Paul leaves Athens, he travelled just a little further west to Corinth. The narrow land bridge between Athens and Corinth is called the Isthmus of Corinth. Paul meets Aquila, who had just relocated from Rome when the Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews. He was originally from Pontus (in the northern part of Turkey, bordering the Black Sea). Aquila was a tentmaker, and we learn that is Paul’s trade as well. Paul stays with Aquila and his wife Pricilla. Silas and Timothy finally arrive from Macedonia they find “Paul [occupied] with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’ Then he left the synagogue and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshipper of God; his house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the official of the synagogue, became a believer in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul became believers and were baptized.” (Acts 18:5-8)

Because the Corinthians were so receptive to the Gospel, “He stayed there for a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” (Acts 18:11) Eventually Paul leaves and “sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila…When they reached Ephesus, he left them there…on taking leave of them, he said, ‘I will return to you, if God wills.’ Then he set sail from Ephesus…[he] landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples." (Acts 18:18-23)

Once again Paul discovers that the Gentiles, those considered ‘unbelievers’ by faithful Jews, are more receptive to the Good News of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I wonder how often we pre-judge the people who cross our paths. They are thirsty for the Word of God, and we may assume that they are too…poor or evil or rich or unrepentant or something… Who are we to judge? Perhaps we should seek common ground and share the Good News with them instead, welcoming all of God’s people into communion with us. Maybe we have more in common than we think...

Next week we'll start, with Paul, on this third journey.

October 9, 2011

Greening Time

Having just returned from a week in WI, I am stepping aside from Acts to ponder for just a moment the meditations of Hildegard of Bingen who speaks a lot about the ‘greening’ of God’s people. Being in the lush green-ness of WI, so different from the Southwest, I was again and again reminded of Hildegard’s meditations.

Hildegard was a nun in the 12th century. She was honored by Popes at a time in history when women’s work was normally ignored. Her homeland of Bavaria was lush and green like the hills and dells of Wisconsin. I can now more deeply understand her metaphors of greening and verdancy than before. I want to share just a few of her sayings with you this week, instead of Paul's work as found in Acts.

Sometimes it is necessary and important to get out of your normal routine and even out of your familiar home territory. God meets us when we take the time to get away. One of my favorite of Hildegard's sayings is this:

Good People, most royal greening verdancy, rooted in the sun, you shine with radiant light. In this circle of earthly existence you shine so finely, it surpasses understanding. God hugs you. You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God.

Nearly all Hildegard’s writings talk of God and our life in God as growing, greening, blossoming in rich variety and abundance. In the previous saying, she reminds us that we are God’s beloved and the ‘most royal greening verdancy’.

God is seen, by Hildegard as ALL and always working, yet always full and complete: I am life complete unto itself, whole, sound, not needing stones to be sculpted, not needing branches to blossom, not rooted in human potency. Rather, all life has its root in me. Understanding is the root. The resounding WORD blossoms forth from it. How then, is it possible for God not to be at work? God is Understanding.

“The WORD blossoms forth from [the root of all life, all understanding].” Seeing the richness of the woods of Wisconsin, where even the trails are covered with ferns and the fallen trunks are covered with moss, I was impressed with this verse at the life and greening springing forth seemingly effortlessly from even what seems dead and useless.

Hildegard also notes that all creation celebrates God. The beautiful variety of fall colors in Wisconsin seemed to testify to the truth of her saying: “The blowing wind, the mild, moist air, the exquisite greening of trees and grasses-in their beginning, in their ending, they give God their praise.”

Most of all during the week of retreat and vacation I was reminded that “In serving God, humankind is much loved by him. God is delighted by humankind. Indeed, God himself has created humankind and given it all worth. God allows himself to be disturbed by it!”

"God is delighted by humankind!" Too often we forget that, until we get away and have time to just 'be' in the midst of God's creation.

The retreat I assisted with was about being willing to have faith and dive into the water of God’s love. Being surrounded by the water and green-ness of Wisconsin I was acutely aware of the richness of God’s love and greening power. Wherever you are on the continuum of desert time or vivid growing time in the Lord, I pray you are blessed by these meditations of Hildegard. If you can, take some time, even an hour to drive into the country and enjoy the beauty of nature. Every part of the world has a part of God's beauty and so too, each of us is a part of God's delight.

Next week, we will return to Acts and see how Paul fared in Greece.

October 2, 2011

You Can't Imprison God

Paul and Silas set out from Antioch on another missionary journey. Along the way the power of God is seen and experienced by a seller of purple cloth, a slave girl, and a prison warden. About this time, as hypothesized by the change of pronoun, Luke joins them, too.

The first thing Paul does is go back to Lystra and picks Timothy to go with the group. Despite his previous support of the ‘non-circumcision’ ruling, Paul “had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” (Sometimes it is easier to go along with traditions in order to not offend other people.) He then continues to visit the churches he planted earlier, delivering “delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.” (Acts 16:3-5)

After Paul has a vision of a man of Macedonia, “we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.” (Notice the change of pronoun by Luke?) They set sail from Troas on the northwest coast of Turkey and crossed the Aegean Sea to Neaopolis and Philippi.

In Philippi “a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony” they meet “A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.” (Acts 16:12-15) Isn't it interesting that Paul, the former 'good Pharisee' now is willing to preach to and stay with a woman. When God converts hearts, it is a complete change!

Despite her patronage, when Paul heals a slave girl with ‘a spirit of divination’, he is thrown into prison because “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” (Acts 16:20-21) The crowd “joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.” (Acts 22-24)

You can't imprison the Word and power of God, though! In this painting by William Hatherell you see Paul and Silas jailed, but still
praying and singing hymns to God [when] there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’” The miracle of the prisoners being free and remaining in jail converts the jailor who asks “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” He is baptized with his family and “bought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.” (Acts 16:25-34)

In the morning, the magistrates send word saying Paul can be released. In response, he plays the citizenship card he will use at other times throughout Acts. “Paul replied, ‘They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not! Let them come and take us out themselves.’ The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens; so they came and apologized to them.” (Acts 16:37-39) In Roman society, citizens had certain rights, esp. when it came to punishment and imprisonment and false imprisonment could be fatal for the magistrates. It is no wonder they hurried to apologize.

The magistrates ask Paul, politely, to leave Philippi. “After leaving the prison they went to Lydia’s home; and when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters there, they departed.” (Acts 16:40)

We are citizens of a greater kingdom than the Roman empire. Our rights as citizens are greater than those of the citizens of Rome. Our debts have been paid in full because “he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows.” We like the jailer can rejoice when we know and believe that "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."
In the next few weeks we’ll look at further at Paul’s travels in Greece.