LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF SILAS

Silas was a first-century follower of Jesus who was a citizen of two kingdoms: he was both a Roman citizen and a citizen in the Lord’s kingdom. He was counted as one of the “leading men among the brethren” in the Lord (Acts 15:22).

Silas was one hundred per cent human, so he had his flaws, but there are lessons we can learn from him. What do we see in this man’s life? Let us focus on what is written about him in the book of Acts.

Silas was a prophet (Acts 15:32). In the first century, prophets were a part of the Lord’s program for the church (Ephesians 4:11,12). The Holy Spirit revealed the mind of God to apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:5), who in turn communicated His will to humans. The Bible says that prophets spoke messages of “edification and exhortation and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3), causing people to learn and be encouraged (1 Corinthians 14:31).

Silas pumped up the brethren. “I thought that was what Barnabas did.” Silas did, too. Along with a prophet by the name of Judas, Silas “exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words” (Acts 15:32). We can never have too many pumper- uppers! It would be fair for each of us to ask ourselves: “Do I build up, or do I tear down? Do I take an active interest in the spiritual development of my brothers and sisters in the Christ, or do I just keep my distance?” To pump up others, it takes effort and a positive disposition. We all need encouragement from time to time. Why not give it a try sometime in the next day or two?

Silas partnered with Paul. After Barnabas and Paul had a sharp disagreement about taking John Mark with them on a proposed journey, Barnabas and John Mark formed a teaching team, while Silas partnered with Paul (Acts 15:40). As the Bible says, in many instances, “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). At times, Jesus sent His disciples out to work by twos. Silas and Paul were a team. There was no boss among them. Both were willing co-workers with one another and with God. The Lord’s Cause is blessed today when faithful brethren “partner up” to labor together like Paul and Silas did.

Silas was persecuted with Paul. While they labored in Philippi, the keeper of the prison “put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:24). That was a real prison, those were real stocks, and it was real persecution. A number of years later, Paul reminded the brethren in that same city of Philippi that it is the way of Christians “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). While some disciples desert the Master when they encounter afflictions because of Him and His word (Mark 4:16,17), others like Silas see suffering for their commitment to Jesus as the way of happiness, knowing they have an eternal reward (Matthew 5:10-12). How can we tell how important a particular cause is to a person? Is it not by observing what he is willing to put into that cause and how much he is willing to sacrifice and suffer for it?

Silas prayed with Paul. They did so at the midnight hour in that prison in Philippi (Acts 16:25). “Duh, of course they prayed. They were in a dangerous situation, an emergency. Anyone would pray in that kind of circumstance.” God calls on us to continue earnestly in prayer (Colossians 4:2), not just approach His throne when we feel desperate. Devoted men like Silas and Paul would approach God in prayer when they faced great trials in their lives, but also when they had no life-threatening scenarios. It is a blessing to be able to call on our heavenly Father at any hour from any location (Philippians 4:6,7), and what a blessing to be able to pray with fellow saints.

Silas praised God with Paul. They praised Him in song in that same prison (Acts 16:25), unashamed of the God Whom they served and His Cause. Silas and Paul were in a tough situation, a potentially- deadly one. Yet, despite their chains, there is no indication that they blamed God for their troubles. They did not feel sorry for themselves and they did not suggest that serving the Lord is not worth it. They stuck with it. Yes, our Lord is worthy of praise at all times, regardless of where we find ourselves and regardless of the storms which we may be facing in our lives.

Silas preached the gospel with Paul. That is a simple statement, yet one that is so powerful at the same time. God called Paul and his traveling companions to go to Macedonia and “help.” They took off the next day with the intention of declaring the gospel there (Acts 16:9,10). The jailer in Philippi asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The answer they gave him was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30,31). They then proceeded to speak the word of the Lord to him and his family (16:32). As a result, the keeper of the prison and his family were baptized (16:33). It is great to find honest, receptive hearts! Silas and Paul were beaten and imprisoned, but no one was able to stop them from proclaiming the good news about Jesus.

When I read what the Bible says about Silas, I am encouraged. What about you?

— Roger D. Campbell

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