Paul’s work in Philippi had only just begun. The next person God intended to receive the gospel was a jailor and his family, so this is how the Lord arranged for Paul and his team to get into the jail:
An enslaved girl, suffering from demon‑possession, was following Paul around, sort of giving him and his companions free advertising. But Paul knew her prophecies came from a demon, she was possessed by an evil spirit – and evil is incompatible with God. Jesus never allowed demons to proclaim His name, He always silenced them, then cast them out.
The evil spirit was also hostile to the presence of Jesus, and could at any time start making false statements which no one would know better than to believe.
By the power and authority of the Lord Jesus, Paul liberated the enslaved girl of the evil spirit, but the businessmen who claimed ownership of her were furious that she had been rendered useless to them, so they hauled Paul and Silas into court. It is important to know it was strictly against the law to beat a Roman citizen without a trial, and Paul was a Roman citizen. In addition, Paul had not committed a crime.
But the magistrate was facing a growing crowd of angry people. To him this looked like a small band of wandering Jews making trouble for some leading businessmen in the city. Without giving Paul and Silas a chance to defend themselves, the magistrate had them flogged and thrown in jail.
Now stop and think for a minute.
If -you- were in this situation, would you have guessed this was within God’s will?
- Out of obedience to God’s leading they ended up in Philippi.
- Continuing their call, they spread the gospel.
- In keeping with Jesus’ own example and word, they rebuked an evil spirit.
Yet their “reward” was being falsely accused, the verdict was unjust, and the punishment was cruel.
All Paul and Silas had, in that moment, to make any sense of what was happening to them, was faith in God’s character. They had to believe that God was still in control, that everything was working out right, that God still loved them, they were within His will, that there was a purpose for all this.
So, Paul and Silas bided their time and didn’t complain. Instead, they prayed and sang hymns all night, beaten to a pulp, with their feet in stocks. Crazily, they had real joy, rejoicing in their sufferings, feeling sure it would bring glory to God. Paul and Silas’ extremity of circumstances was God’s opportunity to reveal His sacrificial love to the jailer. Our extremity is also God’s opportunity.
The earthquake at midnight was a terrifying display of God’s awesome power and none of the prisoners dared to escape. Paul and Silas might have thought this was God opening a door for them to walk through. Their chains had fallen off. But in reality, it was the -jailer- God intended to set free, and both Paul and Silas must have known it.
By God’s grace, Paul was ready to rescue the jailer with the gospel. God inspired the jailer to believe and the jailer and his household were saved to eternal life with God
It seems out of keeping with Paul’s humble nature for him to have insisted upon public fanfare and an official apology for his release. But, by doing so, the magistrate and his officials were forced to publicly admit their mistake in front of the jailer,
- Protecting the jailer and his family from possible repercussions resulting from all those jail cell doors flying open.
- And, preventing the harassment of the other converts in Philippi, at least for the time being.
God’s way of leading is step by step, often with unexpected twists and turns
God sometimes allows something to happen in order to put us in position to be ready for the next step. Paul’s willingness to trust and accept even the really hard steps God took him through led to the church at Philippi being established—the only church Paul would later consistently receive help from, throughout his career.
God also made sure the east, where the Lord had prevented Paul from reaching, received the gospel. Eventually, the Lord sent Peter to Bythinia with Mark, and Paul did later get to evangelize Ephesus, where he would meet Priscilla and Aquilla, only just arrived themselves from fleeing the persecution of Jews in Rome.
[Paul and the Jailor | Howson, J. S. (John Saul), 1816-1885 [No restrictions]