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Purposes: Language Is for Praise and Witnessing


A recent historical survey of Protestant hymnals ended up with a list of 27 hymns that have endured through time. These included “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” “Holy, Holy, Holy!” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” The author of the survey observed, “[These hymns] focus on such foundational themes as the enduring triumph of the Cross, assurance in the ultimate rule of Jesus, and prayer for the continuing experience of God’s love.”

In short, these classic hymns remind us that language is for praising the Lord! And as we see in today’s narrative, praising the Lord brings Him glory in ways that bear witness to unbelievers. In the name of Jesus, Paul had cast an evil spirit out of a fortunetelling slave girl, earning the enmity of her owners. Because their profits were diminished, they dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities of Philippi and made vague, xenophobic accusations (v. 21). Mob justice led to the two men being beaten and imprisoned.

Acts does not record that Paul and Silas complained or argued. There is not even a record whether they prayed for rescue or release. What is recorded is that in jail they prayed and sang hymns. These are the actions of men who have hold of hope and life! With God, they had all they needed. That’s why the other prisoners were listening, perhaps incredulously (v. 25). When God miraculously sent an earthquake and opened the prison doors, Paul and Silas sensed that He had a greater purpose than simply their release. So instead of escaping, they stayed and took the opportunity to lead their jailer and his household to faith in Jesus (vv. 29–34). They used the gift of language to bring glory to God and others to faith in Christ.

Apply the Word

Praising God is not a matter of feelings. It’s about ascribing glory to His name and honoring Him before the world. The emotions may or may not be there. Sometimes, in fact, we’re called to praise the Lord in the midst of irritating and unjust situations, ones in which we might feel angry or depressed. May we follow the example of Paul and Silas!

BY Brad Baurain

Dr. Brad Baurain has worked as a writer and editor for Today in the Word since 1993. Currently, he serves as associate professor and TESOL program head at Moody Bible Institute. Brad has the unique privilege of holding a degree from four different universities (including Moody). He has also taught in China, Vietnam, the United States, and Canada. Brad and his wife, Julia, have four children and reside in Munster, Indiana.

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