Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were incomparable partners on the silver screen’s dance floor. Together, the Lone Ranger and Tonto outrode and outgunned every desperado. Without the musical partnership of the Captain and Tennille, the world would never have known about “Muskrat Love!” And, of course, the Bible records the eternally important work of missionary partners, Paul and Silas.
Silas wasn’t Paul’s first partner. Paul and Barnabas had enjoyed a productive partnership in Syrian Antioch and later during the first missionary journey. After a falling out concerning Mark, that partnership was dissolved. Barnabas, paired with Mark, sailed for Cyprus while Paul became partners with Silas (Acts 15:36-40).
The partner’s first expedition took Paul and Silas twelve-hundred miles west into Europe, but first to Galatia, territory that was evangelized on Paul’s first journey. While in the cities of Derbe and Lystra, Paul invited young Timothy to join the team. After Galatia’s fledgling “churches were strengthened in the faith” (Acts 16:5), the three-man team commenced their westward trek. As they walked, they prayed that God would open doors to their Gospel ministry. Alas, God answered their request by closing doors. They tried to go north into Bithynia, but God said, “No.” They attempted to move south into Asia, but again, God said, “No.”
Finally, on the western border of Modern-day Turkey, in the city of Troas on the shores of the Aegean Sea, God sent a messenge… a messenger. As Paul lay on his cot, “Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, ‘Cross over to Macedonia and help us!’ ” (Acts 16:9). God’s direction was unmistakable, so the team headed for Macedonia (modern-day Greece) and to their first European converts and church-plants.
“Philippi, a Roman colony and a leading city of the district of Macedonia” (Acts 16:12) was home to few Jews. Consequently, there wasn’t a synagogue. So, seekers of Jehovah and adherents to the Old Testament Law met in a quiet spot beside the rippling Gangites River.
Later, when a demon was miraculously exorcised from a fortune-telling slave-girl, Paul and Silas were arrested, “beaten with rods” (Acts 16:22), “severely flogged” (Acts 16:23), and thrown into the deepest, darkest, dungeon. The jailer was commanded to “guard them carefully,” (Acts 16:23) so he “secured their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:24).
Paul and Silas were partners. They were both beaten to within an inch of death. Both were swollen and bruised. Both were bloody, and badly in need of first-aid. Today’s best trauma centers would have sent them directly to the intensive care units.
There were other prisoners incarcerated in the dark, dank dungeon. Some probably cursed their captors. Some whined and fussed about the unfair treatment. Some cried for home and family. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).
On the cold stone floor, with chains pinching, shackles chaffing, and scabs forming, they prayed, and in a delightful duet, sang “to God be the glory, great things He has done! So loved He the world that He gave us His Son! … Great things He has taught us, great things He has done and great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son!”