The Gospel Enters Europe
Paul and Silas departed from Antioch in Syria, and God directed His servants west across Asia Minor to the port of Troas. There God gave them further direction. They crossed the Aegean Sea by boat to Samothracia, then Neapolis, then Philippi.
In the intervening years, history has revealed the significance of this event. Miles to the north of Philippi is Germany. Its peoples developed the printing press and published thousands of copies of the Bible. In the years to follow, the energetic people of the British Isles were reached and helped carry the gospel worldwide.
The magistrates had arrested Paul and Silas (Acts 16:19-34). After severely beating them, they placed them in the custody of a jailor, who confined them to the inner dungeon. God’s salvation puts a song in a person’s heart. Both prayer and praise to God filled that prison. Operation Europe was far from being aborted and the prisoners heard the evangelists singing.
Suddenly there was a great earthquake. Earthquakes usually cause complete chaos, such as in Oakland, CA, in 1989. A World Series baseball game between San Francisco and Oakland had to be postponed. In Mexico City in 1985 a huge earthquake disrupted business in one of the world’s largest cities. During important political talks between Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev, a great earthquake struck Armenia; it interrupted talks between the world’s superpowers.
The earthquake that struck Philippi at midnight was heaven’s precision air strike. God opened the doors and removed the chains of the prisoners. The jailor who had been sleeping was disturbed from his slumber and lack of concern. He arose quickly. Seeing the prison doors opened, he assumed the prisoners had escaped. To lose his prisoners could mean the loss of his position and life. Just as the jailor was about to take his own life, Paul cried out, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” No thoughts of revenge lurked in the hearts of these ill-treated men. They had a deep concern for the safety of the jailor.
The jailor, suddenly anxious to hear more, spoke respectfully to the prisoners, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Conviction and concern about his spiritual need prompted the question. God’s messengers were ready with the answer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house.” The Lord Jesus alone was the object for faith. He came into the world as the Savior announced by angels (Luke 2:11). On the cross He suffered sin’s penalty. The messengers mentioned nothing else; neither creed or ritual, praying or penance, church membership, baptism, or partaking of the Lord’s Supper contribute to salvation.
Paul and Silas continued to speak to him and to all his household “the word of the Lord.” The events following give great evidence of the jailor’s conversion. He showed kindness now to Paul and Silas as he sought to soothe their wounds. Then with other members of his household, he was publicly linked with the Lord Jesus in the waters of baptism.
What change is evident in a true convert of the Lord Jesus! The jailor opened his home to the messengers of the gospel and brought them food. The evening ended in a scene of joy. “He set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” It was the mighty power of God that controlled the earthquake but it was the love of His heart that touched the jailor and loosed him from his sins.
The first local church in Europe began in Philippi. The entire region underwent a change in spiritual direction. Without exaggeration, what took place in Acts 16 has spread worldwide. God honored His covenant with Abraham, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen 12:3). The Lord Jesus confirmed this in His great commission (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). Presently, the gospel remains “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). It is God’s great beacon of light for man’s journey on the ocean of life to the shores of eternity.