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Imprisoned at Philippi

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IMPRISONED AT PHILIPPI 

Scripture: Psalm 147:1; Acts 16:11–40

Memory verse: Psalm 147:1
"How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!"

Lead—In

Discuss the importance of praising God during a bad situation instead of wearing a sad face. Explain that in this week’s study they will learn that praise is an attitude of our mind, not of our circumstances. It is something we decide to do no matter how we feel. There is power in praise to lift our spirits and change our attitudes. This can also affect those around us.

Hearing God’s Word

(Open your Bible to Acts 16 as you begin relating the account to the students.) Paul and Silas had come to the city of Philippi (FIL-uh-pie) in the district of Macedonia. Philippi was a Roman colony. Paul and his companions spent several days there.

On the Sabbath Paul and his friends went to the riverside to worship. They thought they would find Jews gathered there for prayer. In those days people often worshiped beside a body of water if their group was not large enough to have a synagogue. When Paul and his friends arrived at the riverbank, a group of women were gathered there. Paul began to speak to the group. One of the women in the group was Lydia. She was a businesswoman who sold fine purple cloth. When she heard Paul preach about Jesus, she accepted Paul’s message about salvation. After she and the people of her house had been baptized, she invited Paul and Silas to stay with her family at her house while they were in the city of Philippi.

Paul and Silas Put in Jail

For many days Paul and Silas ministered in Philippi. As they did, they were followed by a slave girl who had an evil spirit. The evil spirit enabled her to tell fortunes.

Ask: “Have you ever heard of someone today who claims to be able to tell the future?” (Allow responses. Briefly review the main points of Lesson 4.)

God hates any type of sorcery and witchcraft. Psychic hotlines, palm reading, tarot cards, and Ouija boards all have Satan as their source of power. It is dangerous to get involved in these things even if they seem like harmless fun. (Have a student read Revelation 22:14, 15.)

The slave girl in Philippi earned a lot of money for her owners by predicting the future. As the girl followed Paul and Silas, she kept shouting that Paul and Silas were servants of The Most High God, which was a term often used for someone who was possessed by an evil spirit. This soon became a problem to Paul and Silas. Her shouting was drowning out the message Paul and Silas were preaching. Paul was sad when he saw how the spirit controlled the girl, and he ordered the spirit to come out of her in the name of Jesus.

When the girl was free of the evil spirit, she could not tell fortunes anymore. Though this was great for the girl, it made her owners furious. Now they could not make money by telling people’s fortunes. The owners seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the public square, where they angrily complained to the Roman authorities. They said, “These men are Jews who are causing trouble. They are teaching things that are against our law.” Even the crowd joined in the attack.

The officials had Paul and Silas severely beaten. Then the two were thrown into jail. They were put in an inner cell and their feet were fastened in stocks. (Explain that stocks were wooden logs or beams in which a prisoner’s legs were fastened. Having one’s legs locked in an awkward position could cause severe pain as the leg muscles began to cramp.)

Had God forgotten Paul and Silas? Had not Paul suffered enough after being stoned and left for dead at Lystra (LIHS-truh)? Why did Paul also have to be beaten and thrown into jail? Why did he have to sit with his feet clamped between heavy blocks of wood?

Paul and Silas Praise God

If Paul had any thoughts like that, he soon got over them. Paul knew that what he was going through was nothing compared to what Jesus had suffered when He was beaten and crucified for us.

At midnight in their dark, damp jail cell, Paul and Silas decided to pray and sing praises to God. The other prisoners were listening. What a testimony that must have been to the prisoners!

Paul and Silas knew their names were written in heaven. They knew that no matter what they suffered here on earth, they would live eternally in the glory and beauty of heaven with Jesus. They were rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus.

An Earthquake Shakes the Prison

Suddenly an earthquake shook the prison. The doors flew open, and the chains fell off all the prisoners. The jailer had been asleep. When he woke and realized what was happening, he feared the prisoners had escaped. If that happened, according to Roman law, the jailer would be executed for allowing his prisoners to escape. In despair the jailer drew his sword, choosing to kill himself rather than face the public execution. But Paul called out loudly, “Do not hurt yourself. We are all here!”

The Jailer Accepts Jesus

The jailer recognized that Paul and Silas served the true God, who had delivered them from their prison cell; yet they stayed and stopped him from killing himself. The jailer came into Paul and Silas’ cell and fell at their feet. “Sirs,” he asked, “what must I do to be saved?”

Paul and Silas answered the jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Then they explained the gospel to him, and he and the others in his family believed and accepted Jesus as their Saviour and Lord.

Ask: “Do you know someone who needs to know Jesus? Can you tell the person how to be saved?”

The jailer washed Paul and Silas’ wounded backs. Then he and all his family were baptized in water to let it be known that they too were Christians. Afterward the jailer took Paul and Silas into his house and gave them something to eat. He and his family were joyful because they now knew Jesus as their Saviour.

Paul Defends Himself

The next morning the Roman officials sent police officers to the prison with the order, “Let those men go.”

Paul wanted the church in Philippi to see that they were innocent. He said to the officials, “We were not found guilty of any crime; yet we were whipped in public and thrown into jail. We are Roman citizens! After all that disgrace in public, do they want to send us away secretly? NO! They can come here and let us out themselves!”

When the Roman authorities learned Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were afraid. It was illegal to beat Roman citizens without first giving them a trial. The authorities went to the prison and apologized to Paul and Silas. They led them out of the prison and asked them to please leave the city of Philippi.

Paul and Silas went back to Lydia’s house and met with the believers. After they had visited them, Paul, Silas, and Timothy left Philippi to spread the gospel of Jesus to other places.

Ask: “What if Paul and Silas had felt sorry for themselves instead of praising God? What difference might it have made to them and to others?”

The result would have been that the other prisoners, the jailer, and the jailer’s family would not have had a testimony of the power and love of God if Paul and Silas had failed to praise God while in prison. Paul and Silas also felt better praising God than thinking about their own trouble.

Accepting God’s Word

Explain that unless we have developed a relationship with God through prayer, Bible reading, and obeying Him, we will find it impossible to truly praise Him in times of trouble. God longs for us to come to Him so He can give us His love and support when times are tough.

Sin separates us from God, but, by dying for our sins, Jesus paid the price for us to know God. Church attendance is not salvation. If you have never received Jesus as your Saviour, you can know Him today. Give opportunity for the students to accept Jesus. Encourage them to tell someone about their decision to live for Jesus.

Indians Need Jesus

MADAGASCAR     Gujarati, Karana    79,000          Islam

ZAMBIA                 Gujarati               26,000             Islam

UGANDA               Gujarati             391,000             Hinduism
                               Hindi                     4,800             Hinduism

MALAWI                Gujarati               49,000             Hinduism
                              Kachchi                12,000            Islam

S. AFRICA            Bhojpur Bihari       52,000            Hinduism
                             Hindi                    418,000             Hinduism
                        Indian:
                             English-speaking  414,000             Hinduism
                             Urdu                        13,000             Islam

REMEMBER TO PRAY!
Pray for Persecuted Indian Believers

1. New converts rejected by their families,
2. Our class to provide a safe place for them to stay,
3. Our class to be like family to new Indian believers.

Prayer Promise

"With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people" (Jeremiah 27:5).

Remember: IMPRISONED AT PHILIPPI

Memory verse: Psalm 147:1
"How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!"

1. I may be persecuted for my faith again and again.
2. If persecuted, may it draw me closer to Jesus and help me to know Him better.
3. I will praise the Lord in the time of trouble.

Pray for persecuted Indian believers.
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Study 9 | Eternity— Apostle Paul | africaatts.org/go-teach

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