Friday, 22 March 2013

Theme Number 40 Release from Prison

The Persecution and Suffering of Christians even up until this present day is characterised by prison terms. Mostly they are unjust and illegal. We have Peter and John in prison in Acts 4:1-21 and the Apostles in prison in  5:17 and the angel letting them out telling them “to stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this life.”

It is true that the Bible warns that through much tribulation we shall enter the Kingdom.

Now we have Paul and Silas in prison at Philippi Acts  16:18-40

Act 16:18  And this she did for many days. But Paul, being greatly annoyed and turning around, said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And he came out in that very hour.
Act 16:19  And when her masters saw that the hope of their profit was gone, they took Paul and Silas, and dragged them to the marketplace to the rulers.
Act 16:20  And bringing them to the magistrates they said, "These men, being Jews, are agitating our city;
Act 16:21  and they are proclaiming customs which are not lawful for us to receive or to do, since we are Romans."
Notes : After the slave girl had been delivered from the spirit of divination and fortune-telling v.18
Acts 16:19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their profit was gone, they took Paul and Silas, and dragged them to the marketplace to the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates

The hope of their gains was gone - It was this that troubled and enraged them. Instead of regarding the act as proof of divine power, they were intent only on their profits. Their indignation furnishes a remarkable illustration of the fixedness with which people will regard wealth; of the fact that the love of it will blind them to all the truths of religion, and all the proofs of the power and presence of God; and of the fact that any interposition of divine power that destroys their hopes of gain, fills them with wrath, and hatred, and complaining. Many a man has been opposed to God and his gospel because, if religion should be extensively prevalent, his hopes of gain would be gone. Many a slave-dealer, and many a trafficker in ardent spirits, and many a man engaged in other unlawful modes of gain, has been unwilling to abandon his employments simply because his hopes of gain would be destroyed. Barnes
And brought them to the magistrates - To the military rulers στρατηγοῖς  stratēgois or praetors. Philippi was a Roman colony, and it is probable that the officers of the army exercised the double function of civil and military rulers.
Do exceedingly trouble our city - In what way they did it they specify in the next verse. The charge which they wished to substantiate was that of being disturbers of the public peace. All at once they became conscientious. They forgot the subject of their gains, and were greatly distressed about the violation of the laws. There is nothing that will make people more hypocritically conscientious than to denounce, and detect, and destroy their unlawful and dishonest practices. Barnes
Acts 16:22 Paul and Silas stripped and beaten unjustly.
And the multitude ... - It is evident that this was done in a popular tumult, and without even the form of law. Of this Paul afterward justly complained, as it was a violation of the privileges of a Roman citizen, and contrary to the laws. See the notes on Act_16:37. It was one instance in which people affect great zeal for the honor of the Law, and yet are among the first to disregard it.
And the magistrates - Act_16:20. They who should have been their protectors until they had had a fair trial according to law.
Tore off their clothes - This was always done when one was to be scourged or whipped. The criminal was usually stripped entirely naked. Livy says (ii. 5), “The lictors, being sent to inflict punishment, beat them with rods, being naked.” Cicero, against Verres, says, “He commanded the man to be seized, and to be stripped naked in the midst of the forum, and to be bound, and rods to be brought.”
And commanded to beat them - ῥαβδίζειν  rabdizein. To beat them with rods. This was done by lictors, whose office it was, and was a common mode of punishment among the Romans. Probably Paul alludes to this as one of the instances which occurred in his life of his being publicly scourged, when he says 2Co_11:25, “Thrice was I beaten with rods.”

Thrown into Prison with their backs bleeding and their feet in the stocks
Act 16:23  And when they laid many strokes on them, they cast them into prison, commanding the prison keeper to keep them securely;
Act 16:24  who, having received such a command, cast them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Notes: And when they had laid many stripes on them - The Jews were by law prohibited from inflicting more than 40 stripes, and usually inflicted but 39, 2Co_11:24. But there was no such law among the Romans. They were unrestricted in regard to the number of lashes, and probably inflicted many more. Perhaps Paul refers to this when he says 2Co_11:23, “In stripes above measure.” that is, beyond the usual measure among the Jews, or beyond moderation.

And made their feet fast in the stocks - Greek: and made their feet secure to wood. The word “stocks,” with us, denotes a machine made of two pieces of timber between which the feet of criminals are placed, and in which they are thus made secure. The account here does not imply necessarily that they were secured precisely in this way, but that they were fastened or secured by the feet, probably by cords, to a piece or beam of wood, so that they could not escape. It is probable that the legs of the prisoners were bound to large pieces of wood which not only encumbered them, but which were so placed as to extend their feet to a considerable distance. In this condition it might be necessary for them to lie on their backs; and if this, as is probable, was on the cold ground, after their severe scourging, their sufferings must have been very great. Yet in the midst of this they sang praises to God.

The  praised God at midnight and God delivered them by an earthquake which demolished the prison.
Though these holy men felt much, and had reason to fear more, yet they are undismayed, and even happy in their sufferings: they were so fully satisfied that they were right, and had done their duty, that there was no room for regret or self-reproach. At the same times they had such consolations from God as could render any circumstances not only tolerable, but delightful. They prayed, first, for grace to support them, and for pardon and salvation for their persecutors; and then, secondly, sang praises to God, .
Results: The Jailor and his family get saved.
Act 16:26  And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and all the bonds were loosed.
Act 16:27  And becoming awake, the prison keeper, seeing the doors of the prison open, drawing a sword, he was about to kill himself, supposing the prisoners to have escaped.
Act 16:28  But Paul called out with a loud voice, saying, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here."
Act 16:29  And asking for a light he rushed in, and he came trembling, and fell before Paul and Silas,
Act 16:30  and he brought them forth outside and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
Act 16:31  And they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, you and your household."
Act 16:32  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all those in his house.
Act 16:33  And taking them along in that same hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he and all his family were baptized.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
James 5:16, NIV

Pastors in Prison in Iran


An Iranian pastor, Saeed Abedeni, has been sentenced to eight years in jail for planting house churches allegedly “intended to undermine national security”. Saeed, who is now a US citizen, was arrested in September 2012 while visiting his homeland, where he was trying to establish an orphanage. The charges against him relate to his work in starting a house-church movement following his conversion from Islam to Christianity in 2000.
Saeed has been held in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, where he has been subjected to beatings, torture and threats. The authorities have repeatedly broken promises to release him. Pray that the Lord will lift up Saeed’s head (Psalm 3:3) as he suffers in His name. Askthat the Lord will also be with Saeed’s wife and two children at this difficult time.
Saeed’s lawyer will now appeal the decision; pray that the pastor will be released. Give thanks that his detention has sparked a major campaign in the US, including a petition that has been signed by more than 235,000 people. Following criticism for their failure to intervene, the US State Department and the White House have also called for his release.Pray that this pressure will lead to justice for the many more of our brothers and sisters who are languishing in prison for taking part in Christian activities in Iran.

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