Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we thank You for showing us that eternal deliverance of our souls is a gift from You. Thank You for dying in our place, making us right with God, and also giving us the faith necessary to grasp Your gift of salvation. Thank You for instilling faith in us at our baptism. Thank You for leaving nothing to chance when it comes to our eternal existence. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF SALVATION!
TEXT: Acts 16: 25-34
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
The first 45 years of my life were what you’d expect from a Roman official. I was a soldier in the Roman army as a young man. I rose to the rank of captain. I commanded troops. I saw men die. I also got married, began to have children, amassed some money and decided to settle down.—My wife was a huge influence upon me in that regard. So, I finagled an appointment as the head jailer, the warden, in Philippi, a Roman town in northern Macedonia. I liked the Greek climate. I liked the stability my job provided. Then, during my 45th year, an event occurred which changed my life in more ways than I can even describe. I want to tell you about it today. I’ve entitled it:
MY DELIVERANCE: THE STORY OF QUINTUS VARIS
Paul of Tarsus, along with a man named Silas and another fellow named Luke came to our town one day. They were Jews. They also preached about someone named: Jesus Christ, another Jew, Who they announced to all as: the Savior of the world! Some Roman citizens who possessed a slave girl who had the ability to tell fortunes got very angry with these men. It seems the slave girl was very popular and made a lot of money for them in telling other people’s fortunes. They ran across her and she latched onto them—following them throughout the city, crying after them: “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for days and finally Paul turned around and commanded the demon who possessed her to come out! It did. But now she no longer made money for her masters, she could not tell the future, and so they dragged the fellows before the Roman judges. Their charge was: “These men are Jews and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” Considering it was the year 51 A.D. and the emperor Claudius had recently banned Jewish Christians in Rome from trying to gain converts, the judges took these words to heart. They had the men flogged, beaten viciously, and thrown into my prison. There we kept them under lock and key, chained to their prison benches for the night.
I, Quintus Varis, had never paid much attention to religion before this. It seemed like a lot of hocus-pocus to me. Today you’d call it a: psychological crutch. But one thing struck me as strange about them. All day long they prayed to their God out loud and sang hymns of praise to Him. This was extremely odd. They were not fearful or concerned about their fate, at all. They were not afraid. Also, did you know that no major world religion except Christianity has a hymnbook and a tradition of singing praises to God?—Not Islam, not Hinduism, not Buddhism. Hymns of praise and joy are a powerful witness to what lies in a person’s heart.
Well, my job demanded that I be present at all times. In fact, if I lost a prisoner I would be tortured and killed slowly for such a loss. That’s the way we Romans handled such things. So, I lived next door to the prison. It was late that night and I was asleep. Suddenly an earthquake erupted. I jumped out of bed and ran into the prison. All the doors were opened. I thought: “The prisoners are all gone and I’ll be killed for it!” So, instead of a slow death, I opted for a quick one, an honorable one. I was about to jump on my sword when the man named: Paul, called out: “We’re all here, don’t harm yourself.” Miraculously they were all there—even the local thieves and murderers! Every prisoner was accounted for, even though the earthquake had broken their chains! Without thinking, I called for a torch to be brought and rushed into their cell. I, Quintus Varis, fell at their feet and blurted out: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Up til now, I hadn’t thought much about life after death. I really didn’t think much about God, either. But now I knew with certainty that these men had answers to my troubled conscience that I had ignored. I was expecting a long list of a lot of acts of penance for my past mistakes in life. But, I didn’t get it! Instead, St. Paul said to me: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household,” or as some manuscripts have it: “you and your children.” Just believe. Just trust in this fellow named Jesus! That’s all it took to be saved! That’s all it took to be right with God Almighty and have my soul cleansed!—And believe I did with all my heart.
Well, I had them brought over to my house and I cleaned their wounds. They spoke more truth to me that night than I had ever heard. They spoke of how God sent His Son, Jesus, to pay for our sins because we could not. They spoke of how His blood had purchased my soul and how He arose from the dead to prove it. I was enthralled. Eternal life, inner peace, was a gift from God, not something I had to prove or earn in this life and could never be certain if it was enough. They also spoke of baptism. They told me how simple water, coupled with God’s Word, would wash my soul clean. So, I, my wife, my children, and even my servants were baptized that night. How could we not be? Then we had a meal, a joyful one, and all of us became Christians! Christians whom you’ll someday meet in heaven!
The story of my deliverance doesn’t end there, however. The next day I sent an order to the judges: “Release those men.” I told Paul and Silas, along with Luke, “Now you can go in peace.” After all, they had given me eternal peace! But then Paul mentioned that he was a Roman citizen! Ah, the plot got a lot more complicated with that. You see it was illegal to beat a Roman citizen. The judges could be stripped of their office, their titles, and their property for engaging in such behavior. When I sent them word of this they were petrified and angry at the same time. Paul demanded a formal apology from them and also demanded they personally escort them out of the jail. Well, those haughty judges did just that and even asked them to leave the city. But even here, Paula and company now held the whip hand. Instead they went to Lydia’s house and stayed there a while before finally leaving. They made their point publicly.—That is, God is in charge of all things, not mere Roman officials!
I hope that in sharing the story of my deliverance with you, you’ll take it to heart. I hope and pray that you’ll believe in Christ, too, and glory in your baptism, as my family did. I hope you’ll see how simple and yet how profound the road to heaven really is—faith and trust in God’s Son Who paved the way for us and did so freely out of love for lost souls like mine. Yes, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!” Amen