Paul And Silas In Prison

The Apostle Paul and Silas did not fare very well in Philippi because they ended up in prison. At least one might think that. Instead, what happened turned into quite an adventure.

What took place in our text for today occurred in the middle of the story. Let’s read it first, then delve into the entire event.

The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” Acts 16:27-28

Paul had a vision during his second missionary journey. He concluded that God wanted them to preach the Good News in Macedonia.

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After sailing to Neapolis, they traveled to Philippi, a major city in Macedonia and a Roman colony. On the Sabbath Day, they looked for a prayer meeting.

On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. Acts 16:13

A merchant woman named Lydia opened her heart and accepted what Paul said. After he baptized her and her household, she invited them to stay in her home, and they agreed.

Many of the Gentile cities Paul and his companions visited didn’t know much, if anything, about God. They worshiped pagan gods and used whatever sources they could to make money. 

Casting Out a Demon Made Trouble for Paul

One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes. Acts 16:16

She began to follow Paul and those with him, shouting in a high shrieking voice. “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.

Even though her message was spot on, she said it in a way that turned people off. Finally, the apostle heard all he cared to hear and took some action.

This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her. Acts 16:18

The men who owned this woman expected her ability to tell people’s futures to make them wealthy. So they dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities with the following accusations.

“The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials. “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.” Acts 16:20-21

This created such a stir in the marketplace that a mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas. Recently, we’ve seen how easily mobs can destructively support a cause in America.

The city officials probably felt they had no other recourse. So they ordered these two men stripped and beaten with wooden rods.

Paul And Silas In Prison

Paul and Silas, Thrown into the Inner Part of the Prison

They (Paul and Silas) were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. Acts 16:23

They didn’t need to give that order to the jailer. Every jailer in the Roman colonies knew the penalty they faced when prisoners escaped from their jail. Therefore, he took no chances.

So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Acts 16:24

I can’t imagine the suffering these two men endured that day. First, the lies told about them spread and stirred up a mop. Then, without a trial, the authorities pronounced them guilty.

That sentence began their public humiliation when they stripped off their clothes and striped their backs with a rod. With their feet immobilized, they lay in the dampest and darkest part of the jail.

How would most Christians today handle a situation like that? I hate to think this, but I believe many Christians would throw in the towel. They would wonder why God didn’t do something.

Those Christians would end their walk with the Lord feeling that He failed them. Prison for Paul and Silas wasn’t the end of the story. They knew that God hadn’t turned His back on them.

Instead of getting mad at God, they praised Him despite the lies, humiliation, and pain they suffered. They did something unbelievable, which all the other prisoners heard.

Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the others in the prison were listening. Acts 16:25

The Focal Point of this Story wasn’t Paul and Silas in Prison

The focus of this story doesn’t revolve around the prison and what Paul and Silas went through. Jesus told His disciples that they and we would suffer for His name’s sake.

And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 10:22

That hate could range anywhere from name-calling to a beating and imprisonment. Paul and Silas didn’t know how or when God would show up, but they trusted Him all the same.

In the same way, all Christians today must also trust the Lord when enduring any persecution. God showed up at the jail that night in a miraculous way.

Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! Acts 16:26

Paul and Silas could have led all the prisoners out of the prison, which would have caused the jailer’s death. Instead, by staying, they saved the jailer’s life and offered him eternal life.

The jailer called for lights and ran to the prison and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:29-30

Christian, no matter how the world treats you, give thought to how you will respond to it. Will your actions be self-serving or stir someone to ask, “What must I do to be saved?”

Lord, thank you for sharing this story of Paul and Silas and their prison experience. As these two men trusted you, please help us to always keep our trust in you.

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