Let us pray: Dear Savior, although we don’t think about it enough, nonetheless, we thank You for making us Your dear children in baptism. We thank You for washing us clean of sin, putting faith into our hearts by the power of the Spirit, and keeping our conscience updated by daily and weekly infusions of forgiveness and truth which combat that deadly virus of sin. May we appreciate and revel in such Godly gifts—all the way to heaven. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE CLEANSER OF SOULS
TEXT: Acts 16: 25-34
Fellow Redeemed Sinners Cleansed By Water and the Word:
For over thirty-five years my father taught mathematics. I was always amazed at how he could do those complex equations and how he would use his math skills around the house when it came to constructing things. Needless to say, I scrapped through math class—not inheriting his ability in that subject. So, I think my father would smile at the approach I’m using for today’s text. If put in mathematical terms, it makes little sense. But, since my dad is in heaven, he now knows that this theme makes total sense. What am I talking about?
ONE + WORD + WATER = MANY
Let me give you some background. St. Paul had recently begun his second missionary journey. He was accompanied by Silas as they crossed modern day Turkey and then entered northern Greece. These two missionaries stopped at the busy city of Philippi in Macedonia. There they encountered a young teenage slave girl who has been corrupted and taken over by demonic forces allied to her greedy owners. These evil men used her to tell fortunes thereby making much money. Now the general populace did not know anything about Paul and Silas. But, the demon possessing her did. And like all demons, it hated God’s representatives while at the same time being subject to the will of the Almighty. In essence, demons have knowledge about God, but they have no faith. And so, this demon was forced to confess the truth about these men, while doing it in a mocking way. We’re told that day after day she followed them around the city and shouted: “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”
Well, Paul grew tired to this constant clamor, and finally, he had had enough. He turned around and said: “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” We’re told that at that very moment the demon left her with a shriek. The girl was no doubt relieved to be rid of this evil spirit. But her greedy owners were not. They had lost their money-making machine. So, they hauled Paul and Silas to the local judges, belittled them for being hated Jews (the emperor at recently banned all Jews from Rome), accused them of fomenting disorder, and as a result Paul and Silas were whipped and thrown into the local jail. We’re also told that the jailer, upon receiving orders to guard them carefully “put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.” He did not want them to escape since under Roman law he would be tortured and put to death if any of his prisoners got away.
If you were unjustly treated in a similar manner, what would you do? Well, I can tell you what Paul and Silas did. They spent the rest of the day singing hymns, praying out loud, and talking about the Savior. They used this as an opportunity to preach to everyone within earshot. And from what transpires, obviously this use of God’s Word of truth made an impact.
My friends, it is always so. God’s Word is not simply human speech, it is the power of God unto salvation. Anytime you talk about the Savior, what He did on the cross to save us, how He loves sinners and wants to save their souls, and how He fills our lives with eternal blessing—anytime you proclaim the gospel good things will happen! That’s because the gospel is the vehicle which the Spirit uses to reach human hearts. It is the power He uses to convert sinners into saints. And it works! You’re living proof of that!
Well, our lesson teaches us the same thing. Around midnight God caused a violent earthquake to occur. The prison was shaken and all the doors of the cells were yanked off their hinges. Paul and Silas’ chains fell off their wrists and their feet were freed from the stocks. The jailer was asleep on the job, but immediately woke up. When he saw the doors wide open the first thing that came to mind was: “They’re all gone!” The second thing that came to mind was: “I had better kill myself quickly, rather than suffer a long, slow torture.” “So, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
This is truly amazing. No one ran away. No one tried to escape. Why? After all, the men in the other cells certainly were not the pride of the community. They were hardened criminals. Why didn’t they flee? Because they had heard God’s Word of truth and love. Their consciences had been pierced. The unforgiven had heard about forgiveness from God and grasped it as their own.
The jailer is amazed. He grabs a torch and runs to Paul and Silas. He knows this is a divine occurrence because he, too, had heard their words of comfort and peace. But, he’s scared. Trembling with fear he falls at their feet and utters those vitally important words, words that all convicted sinners must say at some point in their lives. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And of course, Paul answers the same way you or I would: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” And then Paul adds something that we might well forget, but should not: “you and your household.” “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.”
Did you catch the connection here with water? The jailer used water to cleanse their wounds. And they used water coupled with God’s promise in baptism to cleanse the whole family’s souls. And so we see the Godly math revealed. One man (Paul) + Word + water = Many souls saved!
One of the clichés in life is that “one person can make a difference.” Occasionally we see or hear of such things, but in our own lives we don’t expect it or live it. Most of the time we view ourselves as mere cogs in a giant system just trying to get by. Certainly the jailer must have felt that way, too. But then he meets Paul and the cliché becomes reality—eternal reality. God used this “chance” encounter to lead a whole family to heaven. He used this “chance” encounter to enrich their lives so that no longer would they have to live in fear of the here and now, but instead could and would live with cleansed consciences at peace with God won by the blood of Christ. As we begin a new year, go and do likewise by remembering that one + Word + water = many! Yes, welcome to the wonderful world of church math! Amen