Paul and Silas were thrown into prison and beaten wrongfully for their testimony and casting out the demon that had bound the life of a slave girl. This was a vindictive, spiteful and hateful act against these two men who had done good. And why was it done? Because the owners of the slave girl knew now that they had lost their source of income from using the bondage of this girl for profit from divination.
Money. Filthy gain from evil work and workers of evil. That is why these two men of God were beaten and thrown into prison.
But Paul and Silas were Christians. And in Christ they had been set free from the bondages to sin and the law that falls upon all of mankind until they turn to Christ. And because they were free, no prison could bind them. No prison could hold them. No prison could break them, all of which becomes evident in this section of scripture.
Paul and Silas having been put through the wringer leading up to their imprisonment would not have been at fault if they had grumbled about their lot. Or complained of wrongful sentence. Or demanded real justice to be done.
But they didn't. What we see instead is these two men, chained in the stocks under lock and key in prison doing what? Praying and singing hymns while the other prisoners listened to them. They were behaving like men free to do as they wished. They were expressing their joy and their faith to The Lord in their actions.
They had the attitude of free men knowing that no prison could hold their spirit for they stood in the spirit before God through faith in Jesus Christ. You could lock up their bodies, beat them, condemn them and more, but you could not lock up their minds and spirit and in that they rejoiced.
We need to take this example of faith when we are wrongly accused of anything and when the devil or his minions attack us, and likewise stand strong in the faith knowing we are freed men and women in Jesus Christ. Don't ever forget it. Hold fats your faith to the end for that is how we shall be saved unto eternal life.
Knowing they were free men in Jesus Christ we then see that The Lord physically frees them. He does a miracle where there is an earthquake in the region and the doors of the prison fly open and all of the prisoners chains and bindings are sprung open. Not just Paul and Silas, but ALL of the prisoners in the cells with them are set free.
What would you do if you were in their shoes? Clearly The Lord is setting them free from bondage and from the prison and most prisoners in the same situation would make a break for it and head for the hills.
But not Paul and Silas and it is also evident that those other prisoners with them were so stunned and amazed at what The Lord had done, that they too followed Paul and Silas example. They stayed in the prison and did not leave.
The jailer ran to the prison after the earthquake expecting all the prisoners to have taken off. In the darkness of the prison he could not see any odd the prisoners, and knowing he would suffer and be blamed for the escape, he was about to comit suicide.
But Paul called out to him before he took his life and stayed the jailers hand. It was then that the jailer realised this was an act of God and he fell on his knees before Paul and Silas saying, “What must I do to be saved.”
Preaching the Word
So this became an opportunity for Paul and Silas to preach the word of The Lord to the jailer and his family. And what was the message the jailer received that night?
31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.
When the jailer asked the question what he needed to do to be saved Paul responded saying to believe in Jesus and he and his family were baptised.
This is the primary message we give those who come to Jesus seeking Him and asking that same question, “What must I do to be saved?”
Salvation is release from bondage to sin. Like the release that Paul and Silas received from the jail which was done by God, so too the release we receive from the bondage to sin is done by God by grace and through faith in the name of Jesus Christ. It is God who delivers us from sin and our world is shaken as the fetters of sin and law fall away from us when we come to Jesus, just sat he fetters of chains fell from the disciples that night in the prison at Philippi.
Finally we see those who wrongfully convicted Paul and Silas attempt to have them released quietly so that there would be no scene. They were hoping and expecting they would sneak out of the jail and just go away, knowing they had wrongly imprisoned and beaten them as they were not tried and found guilty of anything.
But Paul and Silas were having none of that. They knew too that these men were trying to toss them out in secret but refused to go. They said in verse 37,
But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.”
Paul was making a point that they had been wrongly accused and locked up and those who had done this deed needed to face up to it. Moreover Paul had been born a Roman citizen, and from his words here Silas too was a roman citizen. This was a big thing in those days for Rome ruled that part of the world and they took a very dim view of anyone harming a roman citizen wrongfully. In fact the citizen had the right to bring the full force of Rome down on those who had done them wrong.
Paul uses this citizenship to his advantage for he knew that the leaders in Philippi would also know they were in deep trouble once they heard that Paul and Silas were citizens of Rome. And the magistrates were fearful as we see in verses 38-39.
38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city.
They apologised for the wrong they had done. Quite a turnaround from their position just the day before.
But as we see in this event, The Lord is able to use any situation for his purpose. The jailer and his family received the word of the gospel. The prisoners in the cells with Paul and Silas listened to them and witnessed the miracle of their release. And who knows how many other people came to The Lord on the testimonies of all of these people.
One thing we must remember in this. God is in control of our lives. Though our walk may at times bring us into bad situations and places, there is a reason for it for He is guiding our path and taking us where He wants us to go.
The one thing we should ALWAYS keep in mind is that just as no prison could hold Paul and Silas, so too no prison can hold our heart, mind and spirit while we centre our faith on Jesus Christ, the saviour of our lives.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Simeon Eichmann)
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