January 10, 2021

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm of the Day; Psalm 2

Gospel Lesson; Mark 1:4-11                          

Sermon Text; Acts 16:25-34


The portion of God's Word that we focus on is taken from Acts, chapter sixteen, beginning at verse twenty five.  God's Word says:


About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken.  Instantly all the doors were opened, and everyone's chains came loose.  When the jailer woke up and saw that the prison doors were opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, because he thought that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul shouted with a loud voice, “Don't harm yourself, because we are all here!”  The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling in front of Paul and Silas.  Then he brought them outside and asked, 'Sirs, what much I do to be saved?”  They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.”  They spoke the Word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his home.  At the same hour of the night, he took them and washed their wounds.  Without delay, he and all his family were baptized.  Then he brought Paul and Silas into his house and set food before them,  He rejoiced, because he and his whole household had come to believe in God.


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



It is good to know the whole story about what was taking place, and the events surrounding our text for today.  This happened on Paul's second missionary journey.  I am going to just say round numbers here.  About 50AD.  

To share something interesting.  As Jesus ascended into Heaven, He said God's Word would start to go forth, little by little.  He told the apostles, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judah, in Samaria, and to ends of the earth.”
On Paul's first missionary journey, the Gospel had spread.  Now, on Paul's second missionary journey, the Gospel is getting to a place it had not gotten to before.  It had gotten to Philippi, in Macedonia, in Europe.  So, God's Word is spreading.  The Gospel of Jesus, as the Savior of the world, is spreading. 

Right before our text, Paul meets a lady by the name of Lydia, who was a seller of purple cloth.  (It is interesting to note that apparently in Philippi there was not a synagogue.  You needed ten Jewish men in order to have a synagogue.)  Paul met Lydia down by the river.  It was a place of prayer.  Lydia came to faith to believe in Jesus, as her Savior. 

Paul was going back to that place of prayer, but there was a servant girl who was following him.  The servant girl was demon possessed.  The servant girl was able to predict the future, and her owners were making a lot of money off of her.  Here is what that servant girl was saying, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”

What she said was the truth.  But, she kept saying it over, and over, again.  Paul became very troubled by that.  We might even say he became a little annoyed by that.  “Is this annoying.” 

He cured that little girl, that little, servant girl of demon possession, so that she no longer could make money for the person who owned her.  This upset the owner of that servant girl.  So, they rushed Paul and Silas to the middle of the town, and they started to put them on trial.  They put them on trial, because of the message they were proclaiming.  You see, the Romans were ok with religions that were established, but they were not ok with religions that were brand new.  They were ok with Judaism, that proclaimed that someday the Messiah was coming in the future.  But, what Paul was preaching was a brand new message.  Jesus was the fulfillment of The Old Testament Messiah.  And, they did not like that.  And so, right on the spot, right there, Paul and Silas were stripped of their clothing.  They were beaten.  They were flogged.  They were thrown in to jail.  It was the inner cell of the jail.  And, their feet were put in to stocks.

That is the predicament that Paul and Silas are in, when our text for today begins.  It is a cartoon picture, but here is how I want you to see Paul and Silas looking, when our text begins.


Have you ever heard of The Gloom Index?  It is usually about this time of year that meteorologists talk about The Gloom Index.  They take these three factors into consideration.

-How cloudy it has been.

-How much precipitation we have gotten.

-How many daylight hours there are. (I am going change that to the lack of daylight hours.)

So, how cloudy has it been?  How much precipitation have we had?  And, the lack of daylight hours.  It equals the days we are going through, right now.  Meteorologists, (I don't know if they use this specific phrase, but) you have probably heard them talking about this.  “Wow, is it gloomy.”  “Oh man, it seems like it has been cloudy, forever.”  And, if you talk about a Gloom Index that is super high right now, it is right now in southern Wisconsin.

You talk about two people whose 'Gloom Index' could have been high, because of the circumstance they were in in life, (stripped of their clothing, beaten, flogged, in an inner cell in jail, feet in stocks),   it was Paul and Silas.  And yet, Paul and Silas are not looking at their own circumstance.  Paul and Silas were looking at the circumstances outside of themselves.  Do you know what we find Paul and Silas doing?  We find them praying, and singing.  Because of the Corona Virus, we have not been singing in worship. It will be the case someday that we sing here again, in worship.  I am looking forward to that, and I know you are, too.  But, look at that.  Paul and Silas were praying out loud, and they were singing out loud. 

Our text for today tells us the other prisoners were listening to them.  That is when God does a miracle, here.  God causes an earthquake to come.  And, that earthquake shakes the foundation of the prison.  In doing so, all of the doors of the prison opened up.  All of the chains fell off of the prisoners.  All of the stocks were opened up, and all of the prisoners could have run free.  But, none of them did. 

The same earthquake that shook the foundations of that prison was the same earthquake to cause the jailer to wake up.  Our text for today says he had been sleeping.  Have you ever woken up, startled in the middle of the night?  Sometimes at our house, the phone rings in the middle of the night.  I start beating my alarm clock to go quiet.  My wife will nudge me, and say, “Honey, it is not the alarm clock going off.  It is the phone that is ringing.”
Well, the jailer woke up, suddenly.  He was trying to figure out what had taken place.  He knew the doors were open, so he was about to take his own life.  You see, this is what would happen to any jailer who allowed a prisoner to escape.  The sentence the prisoner deserved would now be on you.  That meant that at least one of these prisoners that was in his jail had committed a capital crime.  Instead of waiting to be put to death by somebody else, he was getting ready to take his own life.  Paul said, “...we are all here!”  “Don't do that!”

The jailer comes rushing in.  He asks for lights, and falls at Paul and Silas' feet.  Usually, you see pictures about the jailer falling at the feet of Paul and Silas, with a caption that says, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 

But, that is not where the jailer asks that question.  Our text for today says the jailer did this.  He brought them outside.  It is almost as if the jailer did not want to ask this question publicly, in front of all of the people.  He wanted a private moment with Paul and Silas.  I can just envision the jailer putting his arm around Paul or Silas, and saying, “This is just too good to be true.  Everybody could have escaped, but they didn't.  They are all here!  Now, I have a private question to ask you.”

You see, the jailer was getting ready to take his own life.  He was about ready to meet his Judge and Maker.  He asked the very private question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

What must I do to be saved?  In one simple sentence, Paul and Silas share with the jailer at Philippi the essence of the Gospel.  They simply said,

“Believe in the Lord Jesus

and you will be saved...”

Immediately, the jailer at Philippi thought of the needs of Paul and Silas.  Remember the circumstance they were in.  Stripped of their clothing, beaten, flogged, in the inner cell of the prison, their feet had been in stocks.  They would have bruises that had started to form on their bodies.  They had dried blood that was covering them.  The jailer thought of the needs of Paul and Silas.  Immediately, he washed their wounds. 

Right after that, he and his whole family were baptized.  Paul shared with them what baptism was all about.  And, he was sharing with them what Peter had said, earlier in his ministry, which was on Pentecost Day.  Peter said this about baptism. 

“Repent and be baptized,

every one of you,

in the name of Jesus Christ

for the forgiveness of sins

and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

The promise is for you and your children

and for all who are afar off,

for all whom the Lord, our God will call.”

What was the jailer's response to that?  I love his response.  He simply rejoiced that he had heard the essence of the Gospel. 

“Believe in the Lord Jesus,

and you will be saved...”

What would you do if you saw someone who could not swim fall in to deep water?  What would you do?  Would you throw them a book that has five chapters in it, five simple ways to learn how to swim?  Would you shout encouragements to them?  Or, would you drop in to the water, and say, “Follow my example.  Follow my lead.”? 

Well, you would not do any of those things.  It is too late to have swimming lessons for them.  

What is it that person who has fallen in to deep water needs?  That person needs somebody to save them.  That person needs somebody to come, and rescue them.

That is the situation we find ourselves in.  We are the ones who have fallen in to an 'ocean of deep water', because of our sin.  Here is what The Bible says about each, and every one of us.  You and I are dead in our trespasses and our sins.  We need somebody to rescue us.  We need somebody to save us. 

So, what is our answer to being rescued?  What is our answer to being saved from this 'ocean of deep water' of sin that we are in? 

The answer is Jesus. 

We need somebody to come, and rescue us.  We need somebody to come, and save us. 

Now, I can't believe this event happened ten years ago, but it did.  You guys remember that event that we all became aware of ten years ago, when thirty-three Chilean miners were trapped in a shaft that had collapsed?  They were trapped for sixty-nine days.  The Chilean government put a rescue plan in to place.  Rescue miners dug a new shaft two thousand feet down.  The first rescuer to go down the shaft was the last one to come up.  His name was Manuel Gonzales.  After being trapped under a pile of rubble for sixty-nine days, every single one of those sixty-nine Chilean miners were saved!

Whether we are 'drowning in an ocean' of sin, or whether we are 'buried under a pile of the rubble' of our sin, we need somebody to rescue us.  We need someone to save us. 

The Bible is so clear on what the answer is.  In the book of Romans we hear this sentence. 

“God demonstrates His own love for us in this. 

While we were still sinners,

Christ died for us.”

In His profound love for you and me, who were 'drowning', because of our sins, and His profound love for us who were 'buried under a pile of rubble', known as sin, God saw our lost condition.   He sent Someone to rescue us.  He sent Someone to save us.  That is the essence of the Gospel that Paul and Silas shared with the jailer at Philippi. 

“Believe in the Lord Jesus

and you will be saved...”

Paul and Silas did not say, “Do this in order to be saved”.  Paul and Silas said, “Believe...”  Simply trust the message, and you will be saved.

As it is usually not the case that God sends an earthquake to awake us from the spiritual condition we are in.  Usually He does not work that way.  But you know what?  Maybe, it has been the case in your life, or somebody else's life, that God used a mild heart attack, or God used a mild stroke, or God used a small tumor, or God used a virus.  Yes a virus.  Or, God used a small accident.  In doing so, what is God doing?  He is shaking the foundations of our heart.  He is asking us to be prepared and ready, ready to ask the question of the jailer, “What must I do to be saved?” 

God's Word does not give us self help.  He doesn't say, “Pray two our Father’s, three hail Mary's, and do twenty hours of community service.”  It simply says, “Believe...”  Trust. 

“Believe in the Lord Jesus

and you will be saved,

you and your household.”

Well, if there was anybody in life whose Gloom Index could have been high, it was Paul and Silas.  They were stripped of their clothing.  They were beaten.  They were whipped.  They were thrown in to the inner cell.  Their feet were in stocks.  And yet, they didn't look at their own circumstance.  They were looking at the circumstances around them.  They were praying.  And, they were singing.  The other prisoners were listening to them. 

Sometimes we may feel The Gloom Index around us is high, including this cloudy weather we are undergoing right now.  Well, let's not look at the circumstance that is right around us.  Let's look at the circumstance that is around us, and outside of us.  People that we know are wanting to know the answer to the jailer's question, “What must I do to be saved?”  Let's share the comfort of The Gospel with them, the message Paul and Silas shared with the jailer at Philippi,

“Believe in the Lord Jesus

and you will be saved,

you and your household.”

As we conclude this message today, our soloist is going to be singing a hymn on baptism.  It is the second verse that is really a beautiful prayer that ties in with our message for today.  I will conclude with this hymn verse, as a prayer.

With one accord, O God we pray:

Grant us your Holy Spirit.

Help us in our infirmity

Through Jesus' blood and merit.

Grant us to grow in grace each day

That by this sacrament we may

Eternal life inherit.



Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.  As it was in the beginning, shall be now, and forever more.