Checkmate, Finally! – Acts 16:35-40

by Roger McCay
9 August 2020
Sermon Passage: Acts 16:35-40
Link to Audio Version

It’s hard to be humble and wise with a self-giving love when you are ignorant. How can you be humble (as the Lord defines humility), wise (the beginning of which only comes from fearing the Lord), and have a self-giving love (which the Lord defines in his Word, and illustrates in Jesus Christ), if you don’t know the Lord’s Word? Likewise, how can you know what justice is, what mercy is, or any such virtues, if you do not know how the Lord defines them? If you don’t know the Lord’s Word, how can you discern the Lord’s will? How can you be obedient? How can you be ethical?

Let’s expand on that. How can you know how to discern the Lord’s will in life, if you are ignorant as to what’s going on around you; if you don’t know the laws of the land; if you don’t know the influences of the populace; if you don’t know the current trends, pressures, the philosophies, the dangers, and the ways of the world? If you don’t know these things, how can you use them or work within them to accomplish the Lord’s will? How can you know when and how to stay out of their way, when they are counter to the Lord’s will? And, how can you even begin to maneuver among, avoid, and counter the traps and schemes of evil one if you are ignorant of what such a trap might be?

How can you checkmate the devil if you don’t understand the rules and strategies of the game?

Psalm 17:4-5 puts it this way:

With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent. My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.

Ignorance is the antithesis of a solid foundation upon which to stand or a clear path upon which to walk. It is darkness. Blessedly, the Logos, the Word, was made flesh—Jesus Christ (John 1:1). In him and his Word, we find true knowledge and true understanding. We find a light that pierces the darkness of ignorance and lights our path so that we might follow Christ humbly, wisely, and with a self-giving love. It’s as the psalmist exclaimed in Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

We are all ignorant in one way or another. Yet, ignorance is not a permanent state. We can learn. We must learn, as knowledge and understanding are essential characteristics of a believer, who follows the Word Made Flesh. Such learning is a lifelong endeavor.

Now, we’ve spent a couple of months looking at the battle between Paul and the evil one, which took place in Philippi, as described here in Acts 16. It really started with the enemy’s attack through the slave girl, who was a demon possessed oracle of Python. After Paul cast out the demon in the name of Jesus, the demon’s scheme didn’t just fizzle. The demon’s minions took it from there, attacking Paul and Silas, the gospel, and the Lord’s name, putting the fledgling church in Philippi in danger. During this series of sermons, I’ve couched the battle in terms of moves in a chess game leading towards checkmate, and we’ve looked at each move from a biblical and ethical point of view.

Here is a quick rehash to get us back up to speed. After Paul cast the demon out of the girl, the enemy used his human minions to great effect. Paul and Silas were unjustly accused before the magistrates and the people of Philippi by the slave girl’s owners. And, while Paul could have spoken out, declaring their Roman citizenship, in an act of self-giving love, he remained silent. In his silence, he and Silas were unjustly punished. The magistrates had their lictors strip Paul and Silas naked before the crowds and beat them bloody with rods. Following that, the magistrates imprisoned them, with the jailer casting Paul and Silas into the inner prison and locking them in stocks. Remarkably, while bruised, broken, tortured, and imprisoned in the dank dark prison, Paul and Silas held a midnight worship service of singing and prayer. At that point, God himself acted, bringing an earthquake that broke open the doors of the prison and freed the prisoners of their bonds. Yet, Paul and Silas (along with the other prisoners) did not take advantage of their new freedom, staying put. The jailer initially thought the prisoners had escaped and sought to kill himself, in an act of honor. However, Paul, in an act of loving his enemy, stopped him, by assuring him they were all there. The jailer was then brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and he and his whole household were baptized. He brought Paul and Silas out of the prison, washed their wounds, fed them, and enjoyed a morning of learning with the missionaries, as Paul and Silas taught them about the Lord Jesus, the gospel, and what it means to follow Jesus as a disciple.