THE MIDNIGHT CRY
(Trussville, AL USA)
"Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening." (Acts 16:25)
It was in the city of Philippi, in the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony, where the apostle Paul and company had taken the gospel. (Acts 16:12) However they happened to run into opposition there. They were cited for throwing the city into confusion (Acts 16:20), and proclaiming customs which was unlawful to accept or observe, being Romans (Acts 16:21).
You see, Judaism was not a prohibited religion, the cult of the emperor being the official religion, but propagating it was regarded as a menace. Paul and Silas were regarded as Jews, since at that time, the Romans considered Christianity to be a Jewish sect.
So, when the crowd became uncontrollable, the chief magistrates tore their robes off them, and ordered them to be beaten (Acts 16:22), and then thrown into prison and fastened into stocks (Acts 16:24).
But something happened around midnight (Acts 16:25), as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, while all the others prisoners listened (Acts 16:25).
Suddenly there came a great earthquake, shaking the prison and forcing the doors open, loosening everyone's chains (Acts 16:26). This scared the jailer, forcing him to contemplate suicide for he had allowed the prisoners to escape (Acts 16:27).
However Paul came to the jailer’s rescue (Acts 16:28). As a result of this God-directed miracle, the jailer and his household were saved (Acts 16:30-32).
What would you have done? Would you have sung hymns and prayed in prison? Or would you have just resorted to the proverbial "pity party"?
Can we draw a parallel with today's America? Much like the Roman Empire, America has its established mainline socialistic, religious denominations and ungodly governments. Both have long since left the true dictates of Scripture. We now have a church, and a government which both have conformed to the dictates of this world's socially communistic-orientated agenda, and both of which have resulted in the passing and enforcing of unjust laws, contrary to the principles of God.
So, what's the answer? How may we return to our civil and religious roots? I take you to these great excerpts, penned by our God-fearing founding fathers.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (Declaration of Independence)
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." (The Constitution of the United States, Amendment I)
To these great historical document excerpts, I can only add a big "Amen.” And now that we have officially settled the question of our civil and religious rights, let us continue by addressing how we may promulgate the spread of the Gospel, in this 21st century. The last commands of our Lord, just before returning to heaven, also reinforce this instruction. (Matthew 28:18-20) (Acts 1:8)
These commands are referred to as " The Great Commission,” and are based upon and backed by the authority of the risen and exalted Lord, who promised to be ever-present with His people. Yes, He is with us today.
For starters, in our witness we must be reminded that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). In other words, this same gospel that Paul proclaimed in Philippi is just as relevant in today's world. I call this gospel "The Old Time religion." So let's return to the very start of the Christian church, as found in Acts 2:41-47. This church was established by the arrival of God's Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), and the follow-up preaching by the apostle Peter, as given in the second chapter of Acts.
Here we see an outline of the first church doctrine that could serve as the basis of any church’s "By-Laws.”
Those who received the word were baptized. (Acts 2:42)
They continued devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, in fellowship, and the breaking of bread. (Acts 2:42)
Everyone had a sense of awe, as many wonders and signs took place through the apostles. (Acts 2:43)
All who believed were together and had all things in common. (Acts 2:44)
They begin selling their property and possessions and sharing them with those who had need. (Acts 2:45)
And day by day they continued to worship in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, eating with gladness of heart. (Acts 2:46)
Praising God and having favor with all people. (Acts 2:47)
And what was the benefit of this early church? The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:47).
To this synopsis of the early church I can just shout a big "Hallelujah!” Why the success and growth of the early church? Simply put, it was the "old time religion" Spirit-inspired preaching (Acts 2:37-40). If only our churches of today would follow suit!
Yes, the same results achieved by the apostle Paul in Philippi may also be realized in America today, for Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
The events of Philippi occurred during Paul's second missionary journey. Shortly before he arrived in Philippi, two interesting historical events took place, showing the effects of God's sovereignty. Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement, causing Barnabas not to go to Philippi with Paul (Acts 15:39), and Paul met Timothy (Acts 16:1-3).
This disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was an example of separation because of personality or practicality, not doctrine, which seemed to be the only solution to the problem, brought about by divine will.
And Paul's introduction to this young man named Timothy, in the city of Lystra, was also by divine will. Timothy was well thought of so Paul took him on the trip to Philippi. Timothy was then associated with Paul from the time of the second missionary journey on. (2 Timothy 1:5)
Yes, God brought good out of it all. Two missionary teams were developed, Barnabas and John Mark, and Paul and Silas, and the lasting friendship between Paul and Timothy was formed. You see, God's sovereignty was at work here.
And like the results in Philippi, God is also in control of America. We may like or dislike God's course for our country, depending on the direction its people take (Isaiah 45:7). Will we as a country turn back to God (2 Chronicles 7:14), or will we reap His judgment? (Jeremiah 12:17)(Isaiah 45:7) Only time will tell.