For the last several weeks we have been looking at Paul’s second missionary journey. So far on this journey, Paul (along with Silas & Timothy) had revisited all of the churches that Paul had planted during his first missionary journey. Then after that, being joined by Dr. Luke in Troas, they went on to Macedonia to preach the Gospel to those who had never heard the Good News about Jesus!
Their first stop was in Philippi – and the first person who accepted their message was a woman named Lydia. After hearing the Gospel, she and her whole household believe in Christ and were baptized. From that point on, she invited Paul & his team to stay at her home – and it appears that her home become the central meeting place for the newly planted church in that city.
However, not all was smooth sailing for this missionary team. Before long a slave girl – who was a fortune teller empowered by a demon – began following them around the city, shouting after them. This went on for some time until finally, in the name of Jesus, Paul commanded the demon to leave the slave girl – and the demon immediately obeyed. This was wonderful news for this girl – who was now freed from the grip of this demon – but it was terrible news for the slave girl’s owners who had made a lot of money from her fortune telling!
Well, these slave owners stirred up the whole city against Paul & Silas – and the city officials had them beaten and thrown into prison.
And we didn’t talk about this last week, but you might have noticed that we’re only told that Paul & Silas were beaten and thrown into prison – there was no mention of Timothy or Luke being taken as well. This is probably because Paul & Silas were Jews, but Timothy and Luke were Greek. As we noted last week, the city of Philippi was a Roman colony and as such, their Roman’ loyalties were very strong. Of course, this also meant that they reflected Rome’s unfavourable view of Jews at this time. The emperor Claudius had just expelled all the jews from the city of Rome because he saw them as rebellious, trouble-makers. And so it’s easy to see how the city of Philippi (as a Roman Colony) could quickly be convinced that Paul & Silas were some of those rebellious trouble-makers as well!
But of course, being beaten up and thrown into prison was no hinderance to the ministry of Paul & Silas. It didn’t matter their circumstances, they were able to joyfully praise the Lord and share the Gospel message to anyone who listened – even the belly of a dark prison!
What’s more, God had carefully arranged all of this to happen so that the jailer and his entire household could come to faith in Christ! As we read last week, as Paul and Silas were praying and singing in the middle of the night, a tremendous earthquake struck the prison, and all the prison doors flew open and the prisoner’s chains fell off! Well, of course, the jailer woke up and saw all the doors open and assumed the prisoners had all escaped!
Now of course, the penalty for allowing a prisoner to escape was death! And so the jailer concluded that if the prisoners were all gone, he might as well kill himself as quickly and as painlessness as he could – since the Roman authorities would not likely be as kind!
But Paul quickly called out to the man “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here.”
And this is when the jailer realized that something was very different about these men. They had something that he wanted. And so as he brought them out, he fell before them and asked “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Well, Paul & Silas were able to tell the jailer exactly what He must to do to be saved – He had to believe in the Lord Jesus! And He did! Even in the middle of the night, the jailer brought them to his house, washed their wounds, gave them a meal, and He and his entire household were all baptized because they had all put their faith in Jesus Christ.
And so that brings us to our passage today! At this point, Paul & Silas are still in jail – or at least, under the guard of the jailer! Since they’ve been hanging out at the jailers house, I’d guess they probably didn’t return to get locked up in the actual prison cell after that – they had clearly proven to the jailer that they weren’t going to escape!
But regardless, their situation with the city officials was not yet resolved. So we’ll see what happens as we read on today.