by Luke Kincaid
Up until a few moments ago, I realized that I was prone to take for granted that Paul, who wrote a majority of the New Testament, was a real, flesh and blood, Holy Spirit led, human being. He was just like you and me and he was able to make such an incredible impact on the world around Him because of the incredible value he placed on knowing and obeying Jesus.
I was reminded of this while reading through the first chapter of Matt Chandler’s book “To Live Is Christ To Die Is Gain” which is a road map for authentic Christian maturity from the book of Philippians. In chapter one of his book, Matt Chandler recounts the start of the Christian church in Philippi as told in Acts 16 and this is the portion of the story that really stood out to me:
20 Bringing them before the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews 21 and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23 After they had severely flogged them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to guard them carefully. 24 Receiving such an order, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks. – Acts 16:20-24
Paul and Silas were imprisoned because of Paul casting out a demon from a young slave girl who was making money for her owners through demonic means. The following is a rather lengthy excerpt of Matt Chandler’s words but I think they paint such an amazing portrait of who Paul was:
As Westerners, when we think of ‘the stocks,’ we picture New England in the 1700s, the embarrassment and shame of having your head and hands stuck in a public contraption. But that is not what first-century Roman Empire stocks were like. These devious contraptions would contort the prisoner’s body into all sorts of excruciating postures, locking limbs and joints into place to the point of making the entire body cramp. The prisoner’s body would seize up with searing pain, and then the Romans would just leave the person there for days. Notice that the jailer is not commanded to treat his prisoners this way. The magistrates simply ask him to keep the missionaries safe, and instead he tortures them. So we aren’t dealing with a very nice man at this moment. This jailer is very good at his job, and he probably likes it more than he should. But when it comes to taking pride in one’s work, this guy could not out-enjoy Paul. ‘About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them’ (Acts 16:25). If you hated the gospel, wouldn’t the apostle Paul be the most frustrating human being alive? It did not matter what you did to this man, he loved God and continued to show it in every possible way… Paul is, as Richard Sibbes says of everyone united with Christ, a man who ‘can never be conquered.’
Paul is such an example to us in that it is possible to live a life that is sold out to following Jesus regardless of whatever circumstances we find ourselves in right now! I am so grateful for this reminder today that Paul, our fellow brother in Christ, was proof that an authentic life in Christ is possible, no matter the cost.