Locked Up but not Locked Down

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I’ve been encouraged in recent days interacting with church members testifying that, during lockdown, they are growing in their faith. It appears that, even though locked up from normal activity, many are finding that their discipleship has not been locked down. Praise God for that. Such are in good company.

The apostle Paul seemingly spent a lot of his time locked up by the authorities. (I’m not making an exact parallel here!). And yet, though he was confined, his ministry continued, as did his communion with the Lord. For example, consider the account of him in the Philippian jail (Acts 16). Paul and his cohort, Silas, were imprisoned for preaching Christ and the riot their detractors caused. Having been maliciously beaten, their joyful prayers and praise rose above their broken bodies. Luke records: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (v. 25). Their bodies being locked up didn’t mean their eternal perspective had to be locked down. I wonder how many of these prisoners came to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that the one in charge of the jail did, for he, along with his household, responded to the gospel, were saved, and submitted to baptism (vv. 26–34).

It is instructive to note that, upon the earthquake and the doors of the prison being opened, Paul and Silas remained behind rather than fleeing. It would appear that evangelism rather than escape was their priority. With the conversion of the jailor and his household, coupled with the earlier conversion of Lydia (vv. 11–15), the nucleus of a local church was planted, which would have a major impact on Paul’s further missionary activity (see Philippians).

What strikes me, as I recently wrote about, is that God was doing a great work through his word, in spite of what appeared to be a setback. This became a pattern for Paul. Several years later, while locked up again, Paul wrote to Timothy: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:8–9). Note: Though locked up, the word of God was not locked down. The disciple was locked up; his ministry was not locked down. This was because it is impossible to hinder the Sovereign and his purposes, which are accomplished through the power of his word.

Brothers and sisters, though, in some ways, we may feel locked up and therefore hindered, remember that “the word of God is not bound.” The word of God in the gospel continues to rescue people from the wrath of God and it continues to sanctify those whom it has justified (Ephesians 1:13–14). Though these days of confinement are challenging, nevertheless, the testimony of Joseph can be ours: “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41:52). Since the word of God is not bound, let’s not allow ourselves to be bound by our circumstances. Joseph didn’t. Paul didn’t. Most significantly, Jesus didn’t.

Jesus Christ too was locked up—and then crucified. But, as we celebrate every Sunday, he was not locked down! He who is the Word (John 1:1–14) rose from the dead. And as Stuart reminded us last night, he ascended to the right hand of the Father where he is interceding for us today. His present work means that “the word of God is not bound.” So, as we begin another day being “locked up,” let’s look to the Lord Jesus Christ who, when it comes to his plans for his church, will make sure she is never locked down.

Looking with you,

Doug