Checkmate (Part IV) – Acts 16:29-34

Tim Keller zeros in on three of these marks: “First, real gospel faith makes you compassionate…. Secondly, gospel faith makes you committed to both ministry and community.”[2] And “thirdly, real gospel faith gives you joy.”[3]

The jailor went from a sadistically brutal man, to a man who washes the wounds of prisoners. He showed compassion, where before, he was calloused and cruel. He also didn’t keep the gospel to himself. He gathered together his whole family and his household to hear the Word of God. He was baptized, he and his whole household; baptism is “the way of identifying publicly with the Christian faith and with the Christian community” at large.[4] This brought him into the fold of the church, as he was a true believer and a brother in Christ. He then quickly went about ministering to the Paul and Silas, ensuring they were clothed (which, while not mentioned, is logically assumed). He laid food before them, and they shared a meal together. They then rejoiced in the Lord well into the morning, as one family of faith, children of the Living and True God.

Right there, as a result of the Lord’s work and the self-giving love of Paul and Silas, a miracle occurred, and the angels rejoiced in heaven (Luke 15:10). Christian community was now in a place where there was no humanly conceivable way it ever could have been. Fellowship, sharing meals together in the Lord, the ministry of the Word, prayer, and rejoicing, maybe even Paul and Silas showing them how to rejoice in the Lord in song (Acts 2:42).

In a way, everything that Paul and Silas had done  (following the Lord in self-giving, lovingly, ethically, enduring, wise, and innocent obedience); then the Lord’s action of Move Prime, everything led to this. It is the culmination of the whole episode in Philippi—the jailer’s conversion. The victory was the Lord’s, and the enemy was getting crushed in this battle.

But, as we see, the enemy had one more move to make – not giving up yet – which we’ll look at (Lord willing), next week.

At the end of our evening services, as we study through various OT books, I like to ask the questions: Where are we in this? and Where is Jesus in this? Those of ya’ll who are regulars, you know what I mean. So, in this case, where or who are we? Paul and/or Silas, or the jailer?

I suppose it really depends. In a way, we are the jailer, needing forgiveness brought about by the self-giving love, self-sacrifice, and love from our enemy—the Lord Jesus and his people. We were all enemies with Christ, at one time, yet he died for us. He forgives us although we don’t deserve it. In another way, we are also the jailer, saved by grace through faith in Christ, and part of the community of Christ, needing discipling. Further, in a way, we are Paul and Silas, following Christ, working as Christ’s ambassadors, as the body of Christ in the world. In obedience to Christ, people come to know Christ through us, as they see Christ in us through concrete actions of self-giving love. At least that’s what we’re called to be—“You are the light of the world,” remember?

Let our lives be defined by that self-giving love. Let us love and forgive our enemies. Let us pray for revival. Let us share the gospel with that simple message of “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Let us make and equip disciples through faithful proclamation and sound teaching. And let us rejoice, as the Lord triumphs over the evil one until the end. Because victory is in Jesus, Christians must persevere in enduring faithfulness to his will.


[1] Chariti (χάριτί) is a dative of cause translated as “by grace.” Cf. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: an Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 167-168. Wallace explains: “Occasionally it is best to translate the dative of cause with “by “ or “on the basis of.” In Eph 2:8, for example (τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως), τῇ χάριτί is the cause of our salvation (and διὰ πίστεως expresses the means). However, it would be better to translate it as “by grace” or “on the basis of grace” instead of “because of grace,” since this last phrase might be construed as indicating only God’s motive, but not the basis of our salvation.”

[2] Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, 2012-2013 (New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013), sermon preached 28 April 2013 on Acts 16:20-40 titled, “How the Gospel Changes Lives—Part 2.”