Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

When darkness discovers light
Acts 16:17-40

warm up

Which of the following best fits how you might respond if you were out trying to share the good news about Christ and someone told lies about you and called the police and had you arrested?
[  ] I would sing praises to God [  ] I would be greatly depressed and embarrassed 
[  ] I would be angry and bitter [  ] Other (discuss)
wise up

    This text has an interesting "twist" to it. Our study begins with a damsel filled with "darkness" sharing the "light" that Paul and Silas were the servants of the most high God. . .

I. Darkness Vs. 16-24
1. Darkness w
ithin a Damsel. (vs. 16-18). "Soothsaying" (fortune telling) was an activity associated with darkness and evil. Evidently this was not a gift from God but an evil spirit within her that Paul cast out. Even though what this woman said, in regards to Paul and Silas was true, one need only to consider the source to understand why Paul became perturbed. It would be somewhat like having the town gossip or liar follow you around telling everyone that they need to listen to you. Read Mark 1:23-25. Did Jesus allow an evil spirit to speak in his favor? Discuss the way you feel when you hear someone, whose life is far from pleasing to God, proclaiming how wonderful God is. (For example: Rock Stars and Actors at award presentations.)
    2. Darkness within the Halls of Justice. (19-22) When the demon came out of the girl, her deceptive "gift" left also. Her masters had exploited her for their own gain and were upset that their means of financial gain had ceased. Are girls/ women sometimes exploited for money today by those who have only their own interest at heart? What accusations were brought against Paul and Silas? In Acts 18:2, we learn that at this time in history the Romans hated the Jews and had expelled them from Rome. What was said in verse 20 by the girl's masters to provoke or stir up prejudice? In the darkness of prejudice can there be justice? Were any questions asked or facts obtained before they were sentenced? Whose clothes were "rent" or torn? Why?
    3. Darkness within the prison. (23-24) Publicly ridiculed and beaten with rods until their backs were raw and bleeding, Paul and Silas were thrown into the dark and damp inner prison. Their legs were cramping because their feet were placed in painful stocks, their backs were bleeding and throbbing, their bellies hungry and nauseous, they must have been emotionally disturbed by the injustice that had just occurred, and spiritually most of us would have wondered why God could let this happen.

 II. Light Vs. 25-40
Light within the prison. (25-33) 
How did Paul and Silas let their Christian light shine at midnight? Discuss some ways we can let our light shine today when we are in dark situations

How could they sing praises to God at a time like that? Perhaps an insight into Paul's way of thinking can be seen in his letter he wrote back to the Philippians: Phil 1:12-17, Paul viewed prison as an opportunity to teach. Phil 1:29, He accepted suffering as part of God's program. Phil 4:6-7,  He was at peace with God. Cf., Rom 8:28. 

What miraculous natural event occurred as they sang? Why did the Jailor consider taking his life? What stopped him from doing so? How did Paul in the darkness of the inner prison know what the Jailor was doing? Do you suppose that in itself gave the jailor reason to wonder about Paul? The unusual Christ-like demeanor and pleasantness of these men must have been noticeable to the jailor. Their religious songs and audible prayers, their knowledge that he was about to take his life and their concern for him had opened his eyes and heart. The physical light he brought into the prison (vs. 29) could not compare with the gospel light that Paul began to share with him (vs. 30--32). What question did the Jailor ask?

What must I do to be saved? Is the greatest question in all the world. Paul's answer is both brief and long. The short answer was: "Believe on the Lord Jesus." But this man knew nothing about Jesus so how could he take this giant step toward salvation? And so Paul "spake to him the word of the Lord." (vs. 32). That word evidently contained information and facts about Jesus, as well as instructions, commands and promises of Jesus. Having heard the "word of the Lord" sufficiently, the jailor's faith is seen by his immediate action. (His faith was an obedient faith just as the Ethiopian's in Acts 8:35-36.) He washed the stripes of Paul and Silas that he had helped to inflict (an indication of his remorse and repentance) and he was baptized that very hour of the night.

If baptism is not an important part of what one must do to be saved, we might wonder why they did not wait until daylight? Why the urgency of baptism even before they had eaten? 
Light within the jailor. (34)
What did the Jailor do after he had been baptized? According to the text, why was he so happy?
Light within the halls of justice. (35-40)
Truth eventually comes out although the scales of justice are sometimes tilted. What did Paul say that the Magistrates needed to do when word was sent for them to be released? What effect did the fact that they were Roman citizens have on those city leaders? (vs. 38). Could Paul and Silas have brought criminal charges against these men? Why do you think that they didn't? How would Paul's graciousness or lack of it have helped or hindered his brethren who lived there? What kind of effect did it have on the magistrates? Vengeance is not the way to win souls.

wrap up

   1.  When darkness discovers light there is always conflict but the light is always more powerful.


  Please read Acts 17:1-15 for next week    copyright 2001-2002