16One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” 18She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. 19But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. 20When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” 22The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
35When morning came, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36And the jailer reported the message to Paul, saying, “The magistrates sent word to let you go; therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37But Paul replied, “They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not! Let them come and take us out themselves.” 38The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens; 39so they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40After leaving the prison they went to Lydia’s home; and when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters there, they departed.
This is a “longish” story, but let’s take the entire story. First of all, Paul and Barnabas get in trouble – this time, not from the religious leaders but because they interfere in someone’s economic interests. They have the audacity to heal a woman whose “demon” is making money for her owners. The nerve of them, thinking a woman’s soul and life more important than the economic interests of those in power! Those in power don’t like it – they are losing money! And so, they have Paul and Silas arrested.
The apostles are arrested, flogged, and thrown into the deepest cell where they are put into stocks. But notice their reaction – They are praying and singing hymns long into the night, while the others in the jail listen. This is not the way people who are unjustly thrown into prison act! But Paul and Silas are trusting God – they know that God is with them in the deepest, darkest cell or circumstance. Do we trust God so well – or even half so well?
But suddenly an earthquake shakes the jail, breaking the locks on the doors and freeing them from the chains. The jailer, who had been charged with keeping these prisoners, panics – in the darkness all he can see are the open doors. He prepares to kill himself, for in that day it would be better to do so than to face the wrath of the authorities for failing to fulfill one’s duty. But Paul calls out, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer calls for lights and sure enough, all the prisoners are still there. He fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them into his own house, where their wounds were washed and dressed and they were fed, and the jailer and his entire family heard the word of Jesus Christ and were baptized and became believers. (Remember, I said yesterday that there would be another entire family baptized in the next story.)
The next morning the magistrates of the city sent word to let Paul and Silas go, but Paul demanded an apology, saying they had illegally beaten Roman citizens. Magistrates could beat, imprison, or even kill the people within their jurisdiction with or without a fair trial. But Roman citizens had rights; they could not be beaten or imprisoned, and certainly not killed without a trial. Now the magistrates are worried – they had not realized these men were Roman citizens! They indeed come and apologize! And politely ask Paul and Silas to leave Philippi. But Paul and Silas, on leaving the prison, went to Lidia’s house to encourage the believers, and no doubt to tell their story, before departing.