I was reading in the Book of Acts this morning, and I was encouraged by the historical account of Paul and Silas in prison. It is found in chapter 16 and I am excited to share this section of Scripture with you! It is incredible what they went through that day and this is just one of the many incredible events in the Bible! I invite you to read these verses with me and be encouraged by how the Lord works in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit!
This story takes place when Paul and Silas traveled to Philippi to preach the Gospel. Philippi was a thriving city in the Roman empire and it was the lead city of that district. It was also filled with idolatry and violence and it was very dangerous for them to be there preaching about Jesus.
“From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.”
What is so cool about the New Testament books is that they are very personal letters. They are personal testimonies and eye witness accounts of what happened during the time of Jesus and what happened after He ascended into Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples and all who would believe. The Book of Acts is a historical record of Jesus ascending to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, the Holy Spirit coming down to earth like fire, how the apostles formed the early church, and how they went out into all the world to share the Gospel in fulfillment of the Great Commission by the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. It is filled with amazing miracles and after reading it, you will have a great understanding of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit and truly follow Jesus! The same miracles of Acts are still happening today and I have testified to that truth in my own life! The Lord still sends angels, He still casts out demons, He still does miracles where He brings people back to life, and the Holy Spirit can still sound like a rushing wind, amen!
The author of Acts is commonly believed to be Luke, who also wrote the Book of Luke. It does not specifically state who wrote Acts in the introduction, but Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3 show it was Luke. It was written sometime between A.D. 61 and 64 only 28 to 31 years after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. Luke was also a doctor (see Colossians 4:14).
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”
Did you know Jesus stayed with his followers for forty days after He rose from the dead?! How cool is that?! That is really cool, and how incredibly comforting that must have been to them! That is just one of the many awesome things you will learn reading the Book of Acts!
Now that we have the stage set, let’s take a look as Luke shares the true historical account of Paul and Silas in prison:
“Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God–he and his whole family.
When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”
What an amazing day Paul and Silas had! First they cast a demon out of a girl, then they are arrested, stripped naked, beaten, flogged, and imprisoned, then God does a great miracle and shakes the earth for them, then Paul stops the suicide of a Roman guard, and then the guard and his whole family get saved and the man takes care of their wounds and feeds them! Praise God!
You might wonder why the guard was going to kill himself. The life of a Roman soldier was hard, brutal, and violent. He thought the prisoners had escaped, which meant he failed at doing his job. The penalty for such a mistake would have been death. If the prisoners had escaped, he was already a dead man, so he was going to end his own life. Paul had great compassion and love to stay inside the prison, so the man could live!
When the man washed their wounds that they had received from the severe flogging, what kind of wounds did you imagine? The Roman flogging whip had sharp jagged bones and metal spikes and balls embedded in the whipping strands. It was not just a whip. It would literally cut into the person’s back and tear it with every horrible stroke. They would have had large open gashes all over their backs and they were in excruciating pain. And that is what happened to them after they were stripped and beaten first! It was a great blessing that the newly saved Roman guard took care of them with such love and compassion. The man just about ran his own sword through himself! What an amazing miracle that he was saved in such a mighty way!
It is so beautiful that Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God while they were in such terrible pain sitting inside a Roman prison cell. What a powerful testimony as the other prisoners listened to them sing and pray in the power of the Holy Spirit! What amazing hope and trust in God!
Do you see how powerful the Holy Spirit truly is inside of us?! Demons still have to flee when they are commanded to get out in the Name of Jesus! Whether it is the Apostle Paul, or me, or you, those filled with the Holy Spirit have the power of God inside of them! That is exactly what I said in December of 1996 (just two months after I was saved at the age of 18) when I ran from room to room in my parent’s house casting that demon out! I said, “I cast you out in the Name of Jesus Christ!” I had never felt such power inside me before! The Holy Spirit is so amazing and beautiful and powerful, and trust me when I say that you need to know Jesus Christ to overcome evil! I love how Paul just turned around and rebuked that evil spirit out of the girl! So awesome!
What a simple, humble, and powerful question the guard asked Paul and Silas! What must I do to be saved? There is only one answer that Paul and Silas gave him: believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!
That is the only answer that can save us still today! If you want to go to Heaven, you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and He will save your soul! The stories in Acts are all true and similar miraculous events are still happening in our time by the power of the Holy Spirit! The Lord is still moving in power among us and nothing is impossible for God!
Believe in Jesus today and you will be saved! That promise is for you, your whole family, and everyone in the whole world! Jesus loves you! Just like with the Roman guard, Jesus does not want you to perish! Jesus cares for you and He died for you, so you could be free from sin and death and have eternal life! That is why Paul and Silas stayed in the prison! That is why they could still sing and pray after being beaten so badly! They had the love, compassion, and strength of Jesus inside of them by the power of the Holy Spirit! What must you do to be saved? Believe in Jesus!
“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
The Apostle Paul in Romans 10:9
It’s just that simple, beautiful, and powerful folks! The same amazing grace that saved the Roman soldier can save you too! God can save anyone and no one is ever too far gone to be saved!
Grace and peace to you all!