Acts 16:25-34


40 Days of Witness
Day 4 More
Acts 16:25-34
Great Commission Church
Intro: In his book Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee, a Chinese evangelist of the 20th century (1903-1972) whose ministry was not known for miracles, recounts his experience with a nature miracle. Nee and six friends were preaching about Christ in the village of Mei-hwa, but they were mocked by skeptics as they spoke. The local deity had ensured that it never rained on the day of the god’s festival – for 286 years. Li Kuo-ching, one of Nee’s enthusiastic/impulsive younger colleagues, blurted out that it would rain on that day. When Li told Watchman Nee and his other companions about this challenge, they were appalled. Even if the local god was just a powerless idol, half the villagers were commercial fishermen who could read the sky and weather patterns and would know if it would likely rain that day or not. Now if it did not rain on the scheduled day, no one would listen to their preaching. Then again, no one was listening anyway, so the seven believers prayed. They felt the Lord’s assurance that He would indeed send rain on the day of the god’s festival. The appointed day began as usual, but soon the streets flooded due to the greatest rainstorm in years! The elders of the village who were carrying the carved statue of the god stumbled on the wet road, injuring themselves and damaging the statue. In the face of this unexpected rain, the local priests took up sorcery and divined that they had chosen the wrong day, so they rescheduled their festival for a few days later. This time, however, Nee and his colleagues were confident that God would act again, so they promised the village that it would rain on that day, too! The next few days were dry as a bone, but at the time appointed for the parade on the new celebration day, rain poured from the skies. Many of the people of Mei-hwa village became Christians on that 2nd rainy day! 

To what lengths did the Lord go to save one family?

(1)    One demonized slave girl delivered

Acts 16:17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 

In Luke’s writings, salvation involved the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit through trusting in Israel’s Messiah, with the ultimate blessing of sharing in God’s eternal kingdom through resurrection.

Acts 16:18 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. 

(2)    Two missionaries unjustly imprisoned

The slave girl’s “owners/abusers” were outraged when their source of income went away with the demon. They stirred up the public and falsely accused Paul and Silas before the local authorities, who immediately ruled against the Lord’s servants.

Acts 16:23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 

The magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. Being caned with rods was a Roman form of punishment for non-citizens of the empire. It should not have been inflicted on Paul and Silas since they were Roman citizens.

The jailer was commanded to guard them carefully, perhaps because the magistrates feared that such prisoners, who had displayed supernatural powers, needed to be guarded especially carefully. 

If they can cast out a soothsaying spirit, what will prevent them from using their magical powers to escape incarceration?

When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. But we know that no matter how securely men bind them, God can set them free.

Did Paul and Silas allow themselves to be beaten on purpose?

Acts 16:37 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.”
Acts 16:38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. 
Why did they not identify themselves as Roman citizens before? Did they endure suffering to evangelize in Philippi?

Acts 16:25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

There was no sleep for the missionaries that night, thanks to their pain and the discomfort of being in a dungeon. 

The picture of Paul and Silas praying and singing hymns while clamped in stocks in their damp, dark cell is an enduring one. 

John Stott – “Not groans but songs came from their mouths. Instead of cursing men, they blessed God.”

Little wonder the other prisoners were listening to them: whether they were regarded as holy men or just lunatics, no-one could accuse them of being dull or uninteresting! 

Psalm 42:8 The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me— a prayer to the God of my life.

The prayers offered may have been simply of praise to God; there is no suggestion that the missionaries prayed for release.

(3)    One surgical earthquake (sign from heaven)

Acts 16:26 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.

What an unusual midnight experience in a prison—the earth quaking, the prison shaking, doors flying open…chains falling off!

Paul and Silas prayed and sang but did not leave! Escape was now possible, but that was not the reason for the earthquake. 

The nature miracle served not to deliver them but rather to deliver the jailer by night’s end. Attention shifts to him.

When he saw the open doors, he drew the conclusion that the prisoners had already escaped. Rather than letting Rome execute him, he decided it would be more merciful if he killed himself.

(4)    One pierced conscience

Acts 16:28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
Acts 16:29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 

Were the other prisoners were so impressed with the God of Paul and Silas that they did not dare flee?

One thought filled the apostle’s mind at that moment—"we must save a potential brother from sending himself into eternity, ignorant of the only way to eternal life.”

The jailer called his aides for torches and rushed into the dungeon. He went straight to Paul and Silas because he considered them to be the reason behind the whole drama.

(5)    One most important question

Acts 16:30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

The jailer had become immediately alarmed about his spiritual condition. Just a moment before, he was ready to plunge into eternity with the guilt of suicide on his head. 

Now flashing upon his soul were the thoughts: (a) he was unfit to appear before God (b) he needed to be saved from wrath 

How had he heard of “salvation?” The slave girl and how she had announced these men to be servants of God with the message of salvation (v. 17). Possibly also the prayers and singing of Paul and Silas (v. 25) had reached his ears. 
The miracle of the earthquake and the oddity of prisoners who wouldn’t flee caught his attention and prepared his heart to receive Paul’s message.

Why is it that too often our personal worlds must be shaken up by the onset of a life-threatening disease, a divorce, a career or financial reversal, before we consider the really important questions in life?

(6)    One simple message

Acts 16:31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 

The jailer had asked what he should do. The answer was that he did not need to perform any works; he only needed to believe on Jesus who is the Lord.

The missionaries’ answer reflects the early Christian confession, “Jesus is Lord.” 

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’’ (Rom 10:9); “…no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3);“…every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11)

Jesus is Savior to those to whom he is Lord.

Earlier in Acts, Peter prayed for a dead girl. Then he commanded her to get up, and she opened her eyes and sat up. It was a miracle.

Acts 9:42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord.

There is an important difference between “believing that” and “believing on.”

(7)    One household baptism

Acts 16:32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 
Acts 16:33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

For the task of evangelism to be effective, there is normally the need for careful instruction.

Often in NT, when a head of household believes it is common for the rest of the family to follow.

The gospel is offered to them on the same terms: they too must the Word, believe, and be baptized. (The father’s faith does not cover them).

It was remarkable that the jailer washed their wounds – it was evidence of a new heart. 

John Chrysostom —"He washed and was washed, he washed them from their stripes, and was himself washed from his sins.” 

Then by water baptism he and all his family gave testimony to the washing away of their sins.

Then the jailer treated Paul and Silas in a most unusual fashion for prisoners. He took them into his house and fed them at his own table. They were no longer prisoners in his eyes; they were brothers in Christ.


Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.