About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and 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 bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
Understanding And Applying the Text
It is easy for us to not understand what was going on in prison if we start at verse 25. Or when we get to verse 25 we forget the previous passages. Or, we ignore Paul’s and Silas’ pain because we do not understand what it is to take a beating. They were in extreme pain. They were in stocks. They could not treat their wounds. Their muscles cramped from the beating. Yet they sang, worshiped and praised God.
They did not sing soft and low. They were loud. They were not singing to keep up their spirits. They were praising God. The other prisoners could hear them singing, praising God and praying.
Their prayers were not “Why God why?” The
An earthquake came and shook the jail. The jail was not destroyed yet the all the prisoners’ bonds came loose. The prison doors opened. God could have freed Paul and Silas without an earthquake. He did so with Peter. (Acts 12:6-10) But this miracle was for the benefit of the other prisoners and the jailer and his family. It was not for Paul and Silas. They were tools of revelation.
When the jailer awoke and saw the doors open he assumed all the prisoners had fled. The punishment was severe for allowing prisoners to escape. No one would believe all the doors opened on their own. So rather than face the punishment he would end his life. Maybe they will believe the prisoners killed him during the escape.
Escape was not on Paul and Silas’ mind. They could have allowed the jailer to kill himself and escaped with ease. But telling others the good news of Jesus their all-consuming passion. They were not going anywhere. They saw a soul who needed to know the Lord.
Paul yelled to the jailer not to harm himself. He said all the prisoners were still in their cells. The irony is a prisoner saved the jailer, a man who, only a few hours earlier, had bound them.
Trembling with fear the jailer calls for light. He rushed in and fell at Paul and Silas’ feet. Paul did not rebuke him. Peter rebuked Cornelius for falling at his feet. (Acts 10:25-26) What is the difference? Cornelius was worshiping Peter. The jailer was expressing thanks. The jailer was not worshiping Paul. So Paul could accept his gratitude.
The jailer asked what he had to do for his salvation. Paul’s answer is short and sweet. “Believe on the Lord Jesus” In other words, “you ain’t gotta do nut’n” Believe Jesus will do it all for you. And Jesus will save you, not only you but your entire household.
Blessing and eternal life are only in Christ. He offers them to us through the gospel. We receive them by faith (Act 15:9.) Here we note two things. First, Christ is the object of our faith. It is not enough to have faith in something. We must trust in Christ and Christ alone. Second, faith in Christ alone is enough for salvation.
Since Christ is the object of our faith. Paul and Silas had to first preach the word of the Lord to all that were in the household. They needed to know who Jesus is.
Here is another passage paedobaptists use to support infant baptism. The entire household was baptized. There is no explicate mention of infants or even children. But it is a reasonable assumption.
Our culture is very individualistic. Individualism is very American. But it was not so in the first century. In fact, it has not been the case for most of history. It is still not the case in large portions of the world today.
As Americans, we emphasize individual responsibility. But, scripture supports a corporate covenant. (Genesis 17:7-14 Act 2:38-39, Romans 4:11-12 1 Corinthians 7:14).
Paul and Silas baptized the entire household. Jesus saved the entire household. Other examples of household salvation are: Acts 2:38,39; Acts 10:24, 48; Acts 16:15 1 Corinthians 1:16. Paul baptized them straight away. He did not need to wait to see if the profession of faith was real. They professed faith and Paul baptized them within an hour.
The next morning the magistrates sent the police to the jailer to release Paul and Silas. The magistrates may have thought they were magnanimous. They were letting Paul and Silas go. They were in jail for less than 24 hours.
I am sure the jailer told Paul and Silas thinking he was bringing good news. What happened next shocked everyone. Paul and Silas refused to leave. Say What?! The magistrates owed them an apology. They needed to come down to the jail and released them themselves. And then Paul adds. “Y’all didn’t give us a trail. So we couldn’t tell y’all we’re Roman citizens.”
Oops! Rome exempted Roman citizens from scourging and torture. Roman citizens also had the right to appeal their case to Caesar.
The magistrates were not now worried. If Paul and Silas appealed to Caesar they would be in big trouble. What trouble are Paul and Silas going to create for them? The magistrates complied and apologized to Paul and Silas. But they asked them to leave the city.
On their way out of the