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Paul Part 13 – The Jail Experience At Philippi


There was apparently no Jewish synagogue in Philippi (Paul’s First Missionary Tour), but learning of a certain place for prayer outside the city beside a river, Paul and his company resorted thither on the Sabbath, and Paul preached to a group of women gathered there (Acts 16:13).

Acts 16:13  And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.

As a result, a woman merchant named Lydia, a halfway *proselyte to Judaism, was converted and, with her household, was baptized. Her house then became the headquarters of Paul and his fellow workers (v 14).

ACTS 16:14  Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

16:15  And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.

Soon an incident occurred that halted Paul’s endeavors in Philippi. A young female slave, supposedly possessing certain supernatural abilities which were used to the financial advantage of her masters, began to follow the missionaries, crying out that they were the “servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:16, 17).

16:16  Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.

16:17  This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.”

The annoyance reached the point where Paul could tolerate it no longer, so in the name of Jesus he cast out the evil spirit that had been controlling her (v 18).

6:18  And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.

Since her supposed oracular abilities were now destroyed, her masters were deprived of the income she had brought to them.

Incensed at Paul and Silas, they dragged the 2 before the civil authorities and accused them, as Jews, of teaching things inimical to the laws of Rome (vs 19–21).

16:19  But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

16:20  And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city;

16:21  and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.”

This was sufficient to stir up the populace and the authorities against them. They were severely flogged and placed in stocks in an inner dungeon of the prison (vs 22–24).

16:22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.

16:23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.

16:24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

At midnight, while Paul and Silas were engaged in prayer and hymns of praise, a sudden earthquake shook the prison, threw open the doors, and released the fetters of all the prisoners (Acts 16:25, 26), probably by loosening the chains from the walls to which they were fastened.

16:25  But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

16:26  Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.

The prison keeper, awakened by the earthquake and seeing the doors open, concluded that the prisoners, for whom he was apparently responsible with his life, had escaped. He was about to take his own life when the reassuring voice of Paul informed him that not one had escaped (vs 27, 28).

16:27  And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.

16:28  But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

Convinced by now that Paul and Silas were men of God, the jailer secured a light and, falling before them, asked how he might be saved. Paul told him of salvation by faith in Christ.

Thereupon the jailer took the 2 apostles from the prison, treated their wounds, set a meal before them, and gathered his family to listen to their instruction. Before morning the jailer and all his family were baptized (Acts 16:29–33).

16:29  Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.

16:30  And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

16:31  So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

16:32  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.

16:33  And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

16:34  Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

When morning came the civil authorities sent officers to the prison asking that Paul and Silas be released (Acts 16:35, 36).

16:35  And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, “Let those men go.”

16:36  So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.”

But Paul refused to go, stating that he and Silas, as Roman citizens, had been illegally beaten and imprisoned without a fair trial, and that therefore the ones who had unfairly condemned and publicly mistreated them must come and make amends publicly.

Upon hearing this the city magistrates apologetically entreated them to leave the prison and the city. After visiting the house of Lydia and the brethren, the 2 men departed from Philippi (vs 37–40).

16:37  But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.”

16:38  And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans.

16:39  Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city.

16:40  So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

Next time:


Updated on 21st Mar 2022

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