I have to say the magistrates acted with extreme measures. Paul and Silas are abused, publicly beaten, thrown into prison and locked in stocks! With this background it is even more amazing what happens next.
Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns. The prisoners are listening. (I don’t think the prisoners would have been listening much to a couple of guys berating their jailers and complaining about their mistreatment. I’ve heard it said everyone in prison is “innocent” according to them so they would not have stood out. But having a Hymn Sing Prayer Meeting from their position? That would garner some attention.)
Speaking of attention, now that everyone is engaged, let’s have an earthquake that opens all the doors and unlocks everyone’s shackles (oh yeah, that’s just normal, right?). Of course the jailer freaks and is ready to fall on his sword – the Roman’s don’t overlook a tiny mistake like losing a few prisoners.
Paul shouts to him – “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” So the jailer gets the lights and finds out he’s telling the truth. He’s afraid, falls down in front of them and brings P & S outside. Now this is the curious thing. The jailer’s question is “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Why not, “Why are you still here?”. P & S’s response to all that had happened made quite an impact on this guy so he cut right to the chase.
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” That’s what happens – they tell them everything, he believes, his whole family believes; they all get baptized. The jailer tends to them and feeds them and they are all rejoicing together before he returns them to prison for the rest of the night. (This “you and all your household” is what happened with Lydia and her household too. I believe everyone must make his own choice to accept salvation but it is interesting the influence held by the head of household. I’m sure the culture, Jewish or Roman played a big part but also a respect for the leader of the family. In 21st century USA – this response would be a rarity!)
Next day the magistrates are ready to let Paul and Silas go. The jailer is glad and offers for them to go in peace. But everyone is in for a shocker – now Paul decides to get in their face. “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.”
Okay, now we have some magistrates shaking in their boots. The rulers come and try to smooth things over and say they’re are really sorry and politely ask them to leave the city.
I guess Paul accepts their apology and they all walk out of the jail happy campers but leaving those rulers to be a little less quick to judge in the future! P & S visit with Lydia and all the local brothers to encourage them before they actually leave town. (I’m sure Lydia had been praying and worried and wondering what she could do. I would have been!)
So, if I believe this all true what here translates into my life?
Expectations – sharing the Gospel is very likely going meet with misunderstanding, or straight out rejection. Jesus said this would be true. This is warfare. But know who the real enemy is. It is not the jailer or even the magistrates or the owner of the slave girl – Jesus died for each of them just like he did for me. This will help me with the second thought.
Responses – it’s not hard to see P & S’s responses to being unfairly treated made a huge difference as to who was willing to listen to their message. They were rejoicing in spite of their circumstances, trusting God had a plan even if it was unknown to them. They might have been fine with just rotting in jail in order to share Christ with the prisoners. I’m kind of land locked myself. I’d love to spread my wings and follow my own ministry dreams. But, truth is, I’m limited by circumstances God has allowed, if not deliberately placed, in my life. How am I responding?
Wisdom – Jesus said to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Paul played the “Roman Citizen” cards and it was recorded here for a reason. Maybe it created some fear in the magistrates that would carry over as a form of protection from harassment for the new believers in Philippi. Maybe it had to do with Paul’s ultimate plan to take the message of Christ all the way to Rome. Maybe it had to do with not allowing bullies to be bullies. Whatever the reason, the point is if God has given you tools that work in your favor, it is not wrong to use them.
He takes care of His own.
React or Rejoice?
About the World?
It’s a prison out there but Jesus is an earthquake maker.