Paul and Silas freed from prison
Acts 16 (selected verses)
6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. 11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. 16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour. 19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. 20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 “and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” 22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately the and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God, with all his household. 35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.” 38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. 39 Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.
Paul and Silas had every right to believe that they were God’s will as they entered Philippi. After all, in verses 6 and 7, the Holy Spirit had forbidden them from going elsewhere. In verse 9, Paul even had a vision which confirmed God’s plan for them to travel to Macedonia – of which Philippi was capital.
Reading through the passage, we see Paul and Silas doing those things pleasing to God. They were going to prayer (verse 16) and casting out demons in the name of Jesus (verse 18). Ironically it was these same godly activities that eventually led to be beaten and thrown in prison. Surely, God in His love and mercy could have spared them this pain and suffering? Yes, but He didn’t. You see my friend, God will allow turmoil in your life to achieve His purpose. Remember – His ways and thoughts are far above ours (Isaiah 55:8,9). When you get into a dire situation, do not be the first to think “what have I done to deserve this Lord?” As with Paul and Silas, it may be the good you do that leads you into turmoil. The important thing is the choose how you respond when turmoil comes.
Paul and Silas were no doubt in much pain, and may have been tempted to ask God “why?” But what did they do instead? They prayed and sang hymns to God! Amazing! It is true when Nehemiah 8:10 says “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Oh, what joy there is in Jesus! It can hardly be explained, but to say it caused two men, beaten and forsaken in a jail, facing death, to sing out in praise to God!
We must strive for and grow into such joy. When hard times come, we too can sing and praise God, with the assurance that He will come through for us. God certainly did come through! For verse 26 explains the sheer magnitude of their deliverance. Notice that not only were Paul and Silas freed, but all the prisoners. When we respond in the right way to testing circumstances, someone around us an be helped. God had a purpose in all this. Through Paul and Silas’ stay in prison, many people received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Personal Saviour. This event was pivotal in the forming of the Philippian church.
One last thing. When Paul was released (verses 36-40), it was only at this time that he made the magistrates aware that he was a Roman citizen. He had the chance to tell them before he went to prison (verse 20). However under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Paul and Silas gave up their rights as Romans, so that God could use them to His glory. At times, you may be mistreated and hurt, and feel to fight back in some way. Be careful, for God may be saying to you “Leave it to Me, I will sort it out.” At times, I have felt this way myself, tempted to say to someone who has hurt or offended me “I remember what you said” and use it against them. God, in His love holds me back from doing this.
This passage shows us to trust in God, and hold on to that joy He has deposited in us through Jesus Christ. Do not complain, but let God work out His purpose through your situation.