Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2018
Texts: Acts 16; Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16; Acts 17; 1 Corinthians 1:23; Acts 18:1–10
It’s a tough calling to be a prison guard these days. While the news is rife with prison guards who have “dropped their guard” and been charged with molesting inmates, unnecessarily shoving restrained prisoners, and bringing in contraband, there are many loyal men and women who stand faithfully in the line of duty.
In New Bedford, Connecticut last week at the Sousa Baranowski Correctional Center, a fight broke out in which six correctional officers were injured and five of them had to be treated at a local hospital. One officer was attacked and hit with a wooden chair several times until other officers intervened.1
In this week’s Sabbath school lesson, as we look at Paul’s second missionary journey, we’re reminded that prisons, prisoners, and prison guards have existed for a long time. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were imprisoned in a Philippian jail after casting a demon out of a slave girl who was bringing a profit to her master. He was so mad that he had the two missionaries dragged before the local authorities and accused them of bringing trouble to their city.
After Paul and Silas had been beaten with rods, they were thrown into prison. The jailer was commanded to keep them secure. “Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:24). Instead of moaning over their lot, the two conducted a prayer meeting at midnight in which they prayed and sang hymns to God.
When a great earthquake shook the prison and all the doors flung open and the chains were loosened from every prisoner, the jailer was sure everyone must have escaped. So he drew his sword and was about to take his own life when “Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here’” (verse 28). The faithful prison guard who was committed to his work was so shaken by this experience that he became a believer, and Paul baptized his entire family.
Imagine a prayer meeting service in your church that was filled with such powerful singing and praying that the Holy Spirit would come and shake free the chains of sin from people’s lives. Mind you, this took place in the context of two church leaders who were suffering for Christ. It was through pain and persecution that Paul and Silas’ lives stood out as bold testimonies for Jesus.
~ For Reflection
Connecting: Give everyone in the group a piece of construction paper. Using pictures from magazines, each person will create a life-story board of an important change that wasn’t expected but turned out well. Have those who feel comfortable share their life-story artwork.
Sharing: In Acts 17:1-15, we read about Paul in Thessalonica and Berea. What life lessons about missionary work do we learn in these verses?
1. Good Bible teaching can’t reach everyone.
2. Seek out those who will embrace and study the Bible diligently, like the Bereans.
3. Some religious “believers” will be jealous of the work you do.
4. Religious “believers” stir up trouble to stop any work they don’t like.
5. We must be ready to move on to new territory when doors close.
Applying: Have the group take a close look at your community, accounting for its beliefs, actions, and goals (use the Internet, Google, etc.). Using the information gathered, create an action plan (like Paul in Athens) on how to reach your community with the gospel message.
Valuing: What attitude change may need to take place in your life when you face “prison” experiences like Paul’s? What can you do today to start the change?