His name was Nelson Mandela. He is enshrined in history as a testament to the greater impulses of man. After being imprisoned 27 years of his life, much of it in brutal conditions, Mandela emerged with a message of forgiveness and tolerance. His witness was so compelling that his name has become synonymous with greatness, dignity, and honor.
His story of unjust imprisonment has been sadly only one of countless others who have suffered indignity, pain and torture without just cause. For those that are fortunate enough to find freedom, many do so with a bitterness that strangles joy and hope from their remaining years.
Then there are those who inexplicably see their unjust imprisonment as a disguised blessing. The Bible records our most famous example in the imprisonment and eventual release of Joseph. What others meant for evil, God turned into good.
But for today, as we study this week’s topic of How to be Saved, we turn to a similar incident recorded in the Book of Acts. Paul and Silas had taken the gospel to a new region and encounter and release a women who was under demonic possession. Consequently a riot ensues and the apostles are taken into custody, brutally beaten and thrust into prison. Their response to this injustice would set in motion events that would prove life-changing.
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. Acts 16:25
Unbeknownst to the apostles someone was listening to this highly unusual behavior. He was the keeper of the prison. The process of being saved was underway and he didn’t even know it. He drifts off to sleep with this striking contrast displayed by these men who were heralded as servants of the most high God. Suddenly he was awakened by an earthquake that revealed a crisis of unimagined proportions. All of the jail doors were open. He was hopeless and decides that he must end his life right there and then.
We must pause for a moment to consider the life of this jailer. For this moment in time there is nothing, including family, which overrides his sense of despair and hopelessness. He had no hope of the future and no peace in the present. But he was not forgotten by God.
But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Acts 16:28-30
What a night for this jailer! He had heard the sweet songs of peace and contentment that were foreign to him. He had experienced the power of God in the violence of the earthquake. He then looks into the eyes of men who should have been bitter but instead he found compassion and care. He saw the sharp contrast between his life and life of Paul and Silas. He realized his need and with a humility born of conviction he asked the question of a lifetime, what must I do to be saved?
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Acts 16:31
Period. No penance to perform, no hoops to jump through. His need had been exposed to the Solution and by accepting the gift offered another soul was saved. What a church service that must have been!
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does repentance mean to you?
- Can a person be saved without repenting?
- How can one tell if they have truly repented?
- Is it true that we need to repent first before we come to Christ? Explain your answer.
- What, if anything, can a person do in order to truly repent?
- Explain the process of repentance.
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: If you commit the same sin you formerly believe you repented of, you did not actually repent. Explain your answer.
We close this week with words from Paul. He was speaking from experience, not only his own but for those he ministered to along the way:
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? Romans 2:4
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!