1-2 From Cilicia, Paul and Silas passed into the province of Galatia and visited the cities of Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium, where Paul and Barnabas had preached on their first missionary journey.
19 But the girl’s ability to predict the future also left her, and she could no longer tell people’s fortunes. Thus, when her masters realized that they had lost their income from her fortune-telling, they were furious.
20-21 The girl’s masters accused Paul and Silas of “advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to obey”, and to a large extent their accusation was true. By preaching the Gospel of Christ in a Roman colony like Philippi, Paul and his companions were, in fact, breaking the law of the Roman Empire. Because, according to Roman law, it was illegal for anyone to preach a strange or foreign religion among Roman citizens.
22-24 In New Testament times, the Jews used to punish criminals by whipping them. The Romans used to punish criminals by beating them with rods. Without even examining Paul and Silas, the magistrates of Philippi concluded on the basis of the crowd’s uproar that they must be guilty of the accusation against them, and so they gave the order that they be beaten. After their beating, Paul and Silas were thrown into prison.
The jailer fastened Paul and Silas’ feet in stocks. In Roman prisons such stocks were placed so that the prisoner’s feet were spread widely apart; this resulted in intense discomfort for the prisoner.
In 2 Corinthians 11:25, Paul writes that three times he was beaten with rods. This beating in Philippi was one of those times.
25 Then what did these two apostles do? There they were—sitting in jail, just beaten with rods, their feet stretched apart in stocks. So what did they do? They began to sing hymns and praise God! The other prisoners in the jail surely must have been dumbfounded!
26 Then God, by means of an earthquake, caused the prison doors to open and the chains of the prisoners to come loose—not only the chains of Paul and Silas, but the chains of all the other prisoners as well. Such chains would have been securely attached to the walls and floor of the prison; nevertheless, God caused them to come apart.
27 The jailer awoke from the earthquake and ran to the jail. Seeing the doors of the jail wide open, he immediately assumed that all the prisoners had escaped. For a Roman jailer, there could be no greater disgrace. Fearing that he would receive the death penalty for allowing his prisoners to escape (Acts 12:18-19), the jailer at once decided that the best thing to do would be to kill himself.
28 Because of the darkness, the jailer could not see inside the prison. But Paul, from inside, could see the jailer drawing his sword to kill himself. “We are all here!” Paul shouted. The other prisoners hadn’t even tried to escape. Perhaps Paul had ordered them to stay, and because they recognized that he was in some way sent from God, they had obeyed him. God had loosened their feet, but He had bound their hearts.
29-30 The jailer fell at Paul and Silas’ feet trembling with fear. Perhaps earlier the jailor had heard that slave girl crying out: “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (verse 17). These men possessed God’s power. No jail was strong enough to hold them. “Such men can show me how to escape from God’s wrath,” thought the jailer. Having just barely been saved from killing himself, the jailer had now begun to think about his soul.
31-34 After they had spoken the word of the Lord to the jailer and his family, Paul and Silas baptized them. There was no reason to wait. Furthermore, Paul and Silas might be gone by tomorrow. Because they had believed, the jailer and his family were filled with joy. From this, we can assume that they were also filled with the Holy Spirit; one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22).
35-36 The magistrates of Philippi decided that the beating plus one night in jail was enough punishment for Paul and Silas, so the next morning they ordered that they be released.
37 Both Paul and Silas were Roman cit-izens.70 According to Roman law, it was illegal to beat a Roman citizen. Thus, in causing Paul and Silas to be beaten, the magistrates had made a terrible mistake. They were filled with fear. If the news of what they had done spread, they would be severely punished.
It would seem that the previous day Paul and Silas had not told anyone they were Roman citizens. They were prepared to suffer for Christ’s sake. They didn’t want to give the appearance of being afraid. But now they demanded that the city magistrates apologize to them openly. By forcing them to do this, Paul and Silas hoped that the people would then have more respect for Christ’s Gospel and for His servants. They also hoped that the people would have a higher regard for the new Philippian believers as well.
38-40 The magistrates had thrown Paul and Silas into jail publicly; let them now come and publicly let them out! Therefore, the magistrates came and apologized and released Paul and Silas, asking them to please leave their city. Before they left, however, Paul and Silas went to Lydia’s house to encourage and comfort the new disciples who had gathered there to see them of f.
We know from reading Paul’s New Testament letter to the Philippians that the Philippian church grew rapidly and became strong. The Philippian believers continued to send gifts to Paul to support him in his travels (Philippians 4:10,14-16). And by their love and faithful Christian testimony, they continued to give Paul great joy.