One day as Paul and his company went to prayer, they were met by a young slave woman who was demon possessed. She followed them many days declaring, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.”
The demon had given the woman the power to tell fortunes and her masters had been realizing great profits from her ability. After Paul had removed this demon, the source of their profit was gone. Paul could have allowed the demon to remain in the woman, but this would have given the impression that the preaching of the gospel was in cooperation with demons. This could not happen.
The woman’s masters grabbed Paul and Silas and brought them before the Roman authorities. Instead of stating the real reason for their anger, the men said that Paul and Silas were teaching customs that were not lawful for the Romans to receive or observe.
After a severe beating, Paul and Silas were thrown into prison to be kept securely. Secure they were—in the inner prison with their feet fastened in stocks. Or were they secure?
Paul and Silas were happy that they were worthy to suffer for Christ. They were praying and praising God in song, even at midnight, loud enough that the other prisoners heard them. God also heard them!
A great earthquake shook the foundations of the building, opened the doors of the jail and released the chains from all of the prisoners. The jailer woke up from his sleep and when he saw the doors open, he supposed that all of the prisoners had escaped.
To allow a prison break of that magnitude meant sure death to the person in charge of security. With that in mind, the jailer drew his sword to kill himself in order to avoid the disgrace of execution.
When Paul realized what the jailer was about to do, he called out, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
The jailer was both relieved and terrified. He was relieved that the prisoners were all in their places, but terrified because he realized that the men whom he had unmercifully mistreated were indeed preaching salvation. With this in mind, he fell at the feet of his prisoners, Paul and Silas and called them Sirs. He said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
The jailer was told to, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
Paul and Silas proceeded to explain to the jailer the obedience that was involved in believing. After they had spoken the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house, he took his prisoners to a place where there was water.
In an act of repentance, the jailer washed the stripes of Paul and Silas. “And immediately he and all his family were baptized.”
To further demonstrate his repentance, the jailer set food before his teachers. There was great rejoicing in his household because they had believed in God and found salvation. Note that the jailer rejoiced after his baptism instead of before.
Paul and Silas returned to prison as if nothing had happened. The next morning, the magistrates sent to have them released. Paul had something to say about their treatment.
It was unlawful to beat a Roman citizen and because of their citizenship, this law had been broken. Paul demanded that the magistrates themselves release them.
Upon releasing Paul and Silas, the magistrates pleaded with them and asked them to leave the city. They went to Lydia’s house, encouraged the brethren and left Philippi. Luke and Timothy probably stayed behind to further edify the church.