Calvary Road Baptist Church


Acts 16.16-36

 How many of you have friends who have really done you wrong? Isnít it painful and heartbreaking to befriend someone and then find that your display of friendship is not returned? Sure it is. When you or I do something for someone, we expect him to reciprocate. Not that we necessarily have that in mind when we do our friend a good turn, but it is something we expect on a subconscious level. It is just a part of being a normal human being to expect some kind of benefit in return for being nice to someone. So, what kind of reaction do we oftentimes see when someone does something for the cause of Christ and what they receive is trouble and tribulation in return? What happens to the couple who finally decides to tithe and give to missions? Do they not oftentimes subconsciously expect God to make life easier for them? And are they not bitterly disappointed when they experience financial hardship following their decision to give to the cause of Christ? If they are not careful, they can be. Or how about the man who faithfully teaches a Sunday School class in his church? Does he not assume that God will bless him in the rearing of his children because of serving God in this way? What happens, then, when his own children turn against his authority, rebel at the thought of serving God, and commit spiritual suicide by engaging in fornication, drug and alcohol abuse? Is that man not likely to have some issues with God he has to deal with? Sure he is.

How would you like to have your whole world come down on you? And how would you like that to happen when you are right in the middle of serving God as you have never served Him before? Think it cannot or will not happen to you? Think that things have to go well for you just because you are doing right? Then think again. Check the situation out with Job, or with Elijah, or with David, or with Daniel, or with Joseph, or with martyred missionary Jim Elliot in Auca Indian territory in South America. When we assume that things will necessarily go better for the child of God because he serves God, when we think that whenever we serve God He then becomes obligated to make life easier for us than for the unsaved, then we think wrong and we assume wrong. My Bible teaches me ďall they that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.Ē Not only does God not owe me an easier life when I serve Him, He directly indicates things will be contrary. Besides, nothing I can ever do will result in God owing me anything. If we are talking about who owes whom, then we need to reckon that we always owe God.

This morning, we will examine an incident in the Bible in which the roof fell in on two servants of God when we might least expect it. As we examine their lives I want you to, in effect, sit in their seat and walk in their shoes. I want you to imagine what your personal reaction would be when, after rendering marvelous and blessed service to God, what happened to them happened to you . . . and how you would react. The subjects of our study are normal men. They are ordinary men. But to this point in time, they have been extraordinarily used of God. Let us see what they do in dire straits to make sure that their usefulness to God continues, what they do to make sure they stay usable to God they do while they are in prison.

Five main points in our study of Paul, Silas and the Philippian jailer:


 Did they end up in prison for stumbling and falling? Did they slip up and commit sin that resulted in imprisonment? Acts 16.16-24 tells us precisely why Paul and Silas are in a Philippian dungeon. The man who tells us, Luke, was on the scene as events unfolded:

16     And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

17     The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.

18     And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

19     And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

20     And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

21     And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

22     And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.

23     And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

24     Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

Let us briefly notice four things in this passage:

First, there is prayer. Paul, Silas and Luke, as well as others who were probably accompanying Paul, were actually on their way to prayer. The text suggests that this was their habit, probably on a daily basis. They might have had a rendezvous with new Christians to meet for prayer once a day to seek after Godís blessings on their lives and ministries.

Second, there is provocation. You might wonder why I describe the ranting of the demon possessed little girl as a provocation. After all, what she said about Paul and his cohorts was absolutely true. They were the servants of the most high God, and they did show people the way of salvation. An ecumenical sort of Christian would have a real problem with what Paul did. However, Paul recognized this demon-inspired girl for exactly what she was, a tool in the hands of Paulís enemy. She was buttering Paul and his men up. She was telling the truth about them, to be sure. However, the enemy tells the truth only so he can stand close enough to those who represent the truth that followers might become confused and follow the wrong leader. Paul understood that this precious girl was being used in an attempt to do great harm to his ministry and to the cause of Christ in Philippi. A consensus-building liberal would have welcomed this demon-possessed girl and her wonderful testimony about Paul and his friends, but Paul, a Spirit-filled man of God, was grieved.

Which brings me, thirdly, to power. Paul wielded supernatural power in the name of Jesus Christ and cast the demon out of that precious little girl.

And, fourth, persecution. Seeing that their means of an easy income was now gone, the owners of this little slave girl became angry and stirred up a riot against Paul and the others. Probably tapping a latent hostility and prejudice against Jewish people in general, these heartless men provoked a violent reaction against Paul and his men by telling blatant lies about them. Of course, the mob believed the lies. So violent was the reaction that they literally tore the clothes off Paul and Silas. They then beat them, and they were thrown in jail and locked into stocks. Think of it, folks. The only thing Paul is interested in doing is serving God. The real reason he and Silas now find themselves in jail was for setting a girl free from slavery to demon possession. They did right and the roof fell in on them. That is the reason they ended up in prison.


So, here are Paul and Silas in prison. They have been stripped naked. They have been beaten with whips, lashed with stripes, verse 23 tells us. Since they were not lashed by authority of Jewish Law, you can bet that they received more than the 39 lashes of the cat oí nine tails called for by Jewish custom. These two are now no doubt suffering classic symptoms of shock. They are weak and in terrible agony. So, what do they do? Verse 25 tells the story: ďAnd at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.Ē

Three things to notice here:

First, their prayers. It was praying that got them into this situation in the first place. Most people would have held off praying for a while, but not Paul and Silas. They did not have a problem seeking Godís face. They held nothing against God because an unexpected tragedy came into their life. They knew God to be faithful and the turn of events did not discourage their desire to ask for Godís help and blessing during their hard times. If you are skeptical enough to wonder why these men waited until midnight to pray, I say it is probably because they did not regain consciousness until midnight.

Second, we have their praise. Think about this, folks. These two men are in horrible agony. They have been thrashed. Who knows what terrible physical condition they are now in? Why, their backs probably resemble ground chuck. However, they still break out in a paean of praise to God. It becomes immediately obvious that these men are not praising God for what He has done recently, as much as Who and What He is. They realized that our God is worthy of praise even if He chooses to do nothing for our benefit.

Third, we have their prisoners. ď. . . and the prisoners heard them.Ē Being in a prison, the prisoners were, for the most part, murderers, thieves, lawbreakers of one kind of another. And they had, no doubt, heard men come and go in prison. Further, I have little doubt that they had already heard about the riot that resulted in Paul and Silas being thrown in jail. But I am absolutely convinced that beginning at midnight they discovered that these two Christians were unlike any prisoners that had ever been behind bars in that city before. Some of you do not need to, but most of us here today need to try to imagine the goings on of a prison or jail. With all of its vile and wretched sin. With its boundless blasphemy and profanity. With its lewdness and shameless vulgarity. And with its filth. The other prisoners had heard men pray before, no doubt. But previous prayers had been the prayers of frightened and condemned men facing death or banishment for the wicked things they had done. These prayers, however, I am convinced, were of such a nature, as these inmates had never heard before. These were prayers for strength. These were prayers of intercession on behalf of others. These were prayers for the souls of those listeners in prison. These were not the cheap and degrading pleadings of a coward who only wants to save his own skin. These were the prayers of men who sought Godís will instead of their own, and who wanted blessings for Godís cause instead of their own. The prisoners heard those prayers. Then they heard the songs of praise and adoration. Imagine what that did to them. Paul and Silas, singing at midnight, could not possibly have intended to impress anyone. There was no one around to impress except the prisoners, who could do them no good. What must the inmates have thought? To pray to such a God and to praise such a God as they prayed to and praised, no doubt, convinced the prisoners that the God of Paul and Silas must have been some wonderful God . . . to merit such worship and adoration. When you think about it, Paul and Silas had those prisoners right where they wanted them. Thank God they were not so selfish that they did not notice what a great opportunity to glorify God and witness to an audience that could not make them be quiet, and could not go away either.


26     And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every oneís bands were loosed.

27     And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.

28     But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

29     Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,

30     And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

31     And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

By application, what can happen when you respond properly to tragedy or hardship in your life? Understanding that Lukeís account in Acts makes no attempt to record the things that occurred in minute detail, I think we know enough about the way people are to be able to agree on some things that are likely explanations of what Luke describes as happening in the passage I have just read.

First, I think it is likely that the prisoners stayed in prison when they had opportunity to escape because they had trusted Christ. That they are all still in their cells even after they could have escaped is attested to by Paul in verse 28. Why would every single prisoner remain in his cell? I submit to you that none of those who were in prison remained a lost man, dead in trespasses and sins. I think they were all saved men by the time that earthquake occurred. You do not have to agree with me, and it is not specifically stated by Luke that they were all believers, but how else do you explain their behavior? Salvation, you see, involves repenting of sin. And when there is genuine and Holy Spirit-inspired sorrow for sin there is an accompanying desire to make restitution for sin. Since these men were locked up because they were accused of committing crimes, they were now willing to suffer the consequences of their sinful deeds, knowing that Christ had saved them from the ultimate consequence of sin, Godís wrath! Perhaps you honestly disagree with my estimation of the situation. That is fine. However, what we need to agree on is a new believerís willingness to make restitution for sin whenever possible because God has given to him a new heart that seeks to do right.

Second, I think it is likely that the jailer also heard Paul and Silasí prayers and praise before he drifted off to sleep. I can think of no other time when this man might have heard gospel truth. I think that is why he asked our two Christians what he must do to be saved. His intentions to commit suicide were based on the Roman lawís stipulation that the jailer must serve the sentence of any prisoner he has allowed to escape, including execution. Therefore, when he discovered that every inmate, even the ones sentenced to die, had miraculously remained . . . he had to have what these two men had to offer. So now, after having heard the prayers and the praise, just as the prisoners did, and probably the preaching too, the jailer has seen a demonstration of Godís power that convinced him of his need of Christ. What power convinced the jailer? Was it the earthquake? Oh, no. It was the radically changed lives of the prisoners that accompanied the radically different lives of the two Christians. What they had the prisoners received, and what the prisoners had received he wanted.


32     And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.

33     And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.

34     And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

Understanding that the jailer really could do anything he wanted to do with prisoners so long as they did not escape, we must realize that he did nothing illegal or unethical by taking Paul and Silas to his home. However, notice what happened in his home upon their arrival.

First, there was soul winning. We cannot be certain the jailer came to a saving knowledge of Christ at the prison, before Paul and Silas were then taken to the jailerís home. He may have come to Christ in his home. It is not at all unusual for a sinner to want others to hear the gospel, even before he has come to Christ himself. Perhaps that happened on this occasion. What happened in the jailerís home? I am of the opinion that the jailer wanted Paul and Silas to rehearse to his family all of the events of the evening, leading up to the time he walked through the front door in the middle of the night with two prisoners who looked a frightful mess. Then, after the jailer did his best to give his personal testimony of where and when he was converted to Christ, Paul and Silas put all of the events into a Biblical context and led the whole family, or the rest of the family, to Christ.

Then, and only then, other things were tended to. Remembering, from the episode with Lydia the seller of purple, that Philippi is on a river, Paul, Silas, and the new converts probably went to the river to accomplish the needful things. Within the hour of coming to know Christ as personal Savior the Philippian jailer and his entire family submitted to believer baptism. Did Paul and Silas instruct the new converts about the importance of baptism? I am quite sure they did. Did they suggest the new converts pray about being baptized? I am quite sure they did not. New Christians are invariably humble and teachable, and such was the case here. Since believer baptism is something Christ wants for every believer, and since His will in the matter is so clearly revealed in the Word of God, there is absolutely no need to pray about the matter. Do not pray. Obey. Paul led them to Christ and then he led them to follow Christ. And they were baptized.


35     And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.

36     And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.

Does the Bible declare that Paul and Silas went back to prison? Nope. Then how do we know they were back in prison? Simple. The messenger sent by the magistrates to have them released gave his message, not to the jailer who stood guard in the night, but to the keeper of the prison who oversaw its operation in the daytime. The keeper of the prison told Paul. Therefore, Paul was back in prison.

What significance is there to Paul and Silasí return to prison? This. Back in prison, they are no longer under the authority of the newly converted jailer. It is daytime now and they are under the authority of the keeper of the prison, a different man entirely. Were they less safe under the authority of the unsaved keeper of the prison than they had been under the protection of the newly converted jailer? No way. Since their Protector was God, they were as safe as can be no matter where they were and no matter who appeared to have the watch over them.

Look back on the circumstances that occurred in the lives of Paul and Silas in a twenty-four hour period of time. They served God and were devoted to Him. They were then beaten and thrown into prison. Rather than pity their lot in life, they worshiped and prayed and praised God. That resulted in a whole host of sinners becoming saints. On top of that, they gained their freedom. They then voluntarily relinquished their freedom. We know that they were given their ultimate freedom just a few hours after they returned to prison, but did they know that would happen when they went back to the prison after being in the jailorís home? Did they know they would be freed immediately? Could they depend on Roman citizenship to get out? Remember, it was Roman citizen Paul who was beaten and thrown in. So, the answer is no. They did not know what the immediate future held for them.

We have to take a step back and see this episode for what it really is. How many of the apparent tragedies in your life and in my life were actually great spiritual victories that were waiting only for faith to be applied? Have you ever reflected on such things? What would happen in your life if, in times of tragedy, or heartbreak, or panic, you looked at Romans 8.28 and trusted God enough to believe what that verse has to say? ďAnd we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.Ē You see, Christian, these things are going to happen. What will your reaction be when these types of events occur in your life or to you personally? Will you allow such a thing as this, which was not caused by sin, to instead cause sin by improperly reacting to it? You must now decide what you are going to do then, or what you will do then will be what you do now when such things happen. Spiritual behavior is almost always what has been planned to be spiritual. Therefore, Christian, you need to make up your mind now to treat tragedy for what it really is when it arrives (and such things will occur, I promise you) . . . a great opportunity in disguise.

Lost friend, what happens to you when tragedy strikes? When you face certain death, you can only do what Paul did when you know who Paul knew. You can only face death bravely and courageously, unless you are a deceived fool, if you have a Savior Who has conquered death. Do you have such a Savior as this? After the service is dismissed and we all go next door for a light snack before heading off to our midday meal, think about coming back into the auditorium so we can discuss some things. Let me talk to you and answer any questions you might have about Jesus Christ. Come to know Christ the Bible way and He will wash your sins away in His precious blood, the way He washed Paulís sins away, the way He washed Silasí sins away, and the way He washed the jailerís and the prisonerís sins away.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

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