Praising in Prison

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Still hurting from the beating, and locked in wooden stocks, you would not think the prisoners would be too joyful. However, at midnight the jailer and the other prisoners were startled to hear Paul and Silas singing and praising God. God responded by shaking the prison with an earthquake that opened the doors and freed the prisoners (vv. 25-26). As the jailer was about to commit suicide Paul led him to Christ, and he ended up taking the missionaries home with him (vv. 27-34). 

Scripture does not explain why, but the next morning the city officials sent word to the jailer to let Paul and Silas go (v. 35). Paul, however, was unwilling to “sneak out of town” because that would have left the new church under a cloud of suspicion. Instead, he told them he was a Roman citizen and demanded a public apology for their unlawful acts the preceding day. We cannot be sure why Paul waited so long to mention his Roman citizenship. Perhaps he did not have opportunity when he was arrested because of the haste of the magistrates. According to Roman law, Roman citizens, as both Paul and Silas were, could not be beaten and put in prison without a fair trial. While the record does not say that the magistrates officially and publicly apologized, it does say that they respectfully came to Paul and Silas, escorted them out of prison, and politely asked them to leave town.  Probably they were afraid that word of this illegal act might reach their superiors. Paul’s desire had not been to get revenge, but only to give protection and respect to the church.

It’s significant that Paul made no attempt to change society; his work was to change people. He did not use his Roman citizenship, his influence with people, the power of his pen, or his ability to get people to give nobly to a cause to accomplish social change. He did not run for political office or try to be buddies with those in social power. He did not organize demonstrations, publish a paper, or seek alliances with unbelievers of liberal persuasion. Paul simply preached Christ crucified and loved the individual God brought him into contact with. That’s our calling too.


Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I need to use all the liberties I have to get the gospel out.  It is not my job to bring social change but to be passing out tracts and witnessing wherever I can.

Acts 16:25-40 (English Standard Version)

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