Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Greece Trip (8): Philippi: Jail House Rock - Part 4

After casting out the spirit of Python from the slave girl, the owners dragged Paul and Silas (note that Luke is excluded here) to face the magistrates which led to their flogging and imprisonment, with a jailer guarding them carefully (Acts 16:19-24).

According to tradition, the following photos depict the location of the prison cell where Paul and Silas spent the night. However, this tradition has been disputed, and this exact location is archaeologically unlikely to be Paul's prison.

According to Acts, there was an earthquake in the night, resulting in the opening of the prison doors and the loosing of the chains of the prisoners. Upon seeing this, the jailer attempted suicide, only to be prevented by Paul (Acts 16:25-28).

This subsequently led to Paul proclaiming "the word of the Lord" to the jailer and his entire household, resulting in their conversion.

It is interesting to note the sequence of events in Acts' narrative thus far:

Paul's Macedonian call - the visit to Philippi - Lydia's Conversion - the slave girl's exorcism - accusation by the owners of the slave girl - persecution, suffering and imprisonment - conversion of jailer and his household.

The questions are: Is suffering necessary for Paul in order for the jailer and his household to hear "the word of the Lord" (Acts 16:32)? Without Paul being flogged, humiliated (in which Paul gave up his rights as a Roman citizen where he was thrown in prison without trial, cf. Acts 16:37 - of course, the issue of Paul's Roman citizenship is disputed, but this is a topic for another post), and imprisoned, would the jailer have been persuaded to become believers of the Way? Is suffering therefore a necessity for the propagation of the gospel? Is suffering intrinsic to Paul's call? I have attempted to answer some of these questions in my own work to be published by T & T Clark next year.

Paul is no stranger to suffering and imprisonment (cf. 2 Cor 11:23). In fact, he wrote the letter to the Philippians from prison. Would Paul have remembered his chains and the conversion of the jailer in Philippi when he penned these words?

"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." (Phil 1:12-14)

"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have." (Phil 1:29-30)

Paul's chains in Philippi is a timely reminder for believers of the gospel he proclaimed. Missionary work in proclaiming THE way to salvation in 1st century is risky business, it is not any less risky for those engaging in the same vocation today.


Perng Shyang said...

Enjoy reading your writings on the trips, give a lot of insights, thanks!

Kar Yong said...

Hi Perng Shyang,
More to come...so stay tune; and just be a bit patient with me.....it will take me a few weeks to digest, reflect, and blog about the trip!

Alex Tang said...

I believe that this is an important point in evangelism- suffering.

In a way, Paul earned the right to be heard because of his sufferings. The early Christians earned the right to be heard because of their total commitment to Lord Jesus and their willingness to be martyred.

I guess this has been forgotten in post-Christendom north but rediscovered in Africa, Asia and Latin America where the spilled blood of Christians is building the church.

and here we are so concerned about our comfort zones...

Kar Yong said...

Hi Alex,

Wholly agreed with you. I guess when one has not much material possession, there is nothing to lose - because suffering is part of daily life. But when we have more material things in life, I guess there is more to give up - hence the convenience of brushing aside the notion of suffering.