16 Once, as we were on our way to prayer, a slave girl met us who had a spirit of prediction. She made a large profit for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 As she followed Paul and us she cried out, “These men, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation, are the slaves of the Most High God.” 18 And she did this for many days. But Paul was greatly aggravated and turning to the spirit, said, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out right away. 19 When her owners saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. 20 Bringing them before the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews 21 and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice.” 22 Then the mob joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23 After they had inflicted many blows on them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to keep them securely guarded. 24 Receiving such an order, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 When the jailer woke up and saw the doors of the prison open, he drew his sword and was going to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul called out in a loud voice, “Don’t harm yourself, because all of us are here!” 29 Then the jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he escorted them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the message of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house. 33 He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized. 34 He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had believed God with his entire household. 35 When daylight came, the chief magistrates sent the police to say, “Release those men!” 36 The jailer reported these words to Paul: “The magistrates have sent orders for you to be released. So come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They beat us in public without a trial, although we are Roman citizens, and threw us in jail. And now are they going to smuggle us out secretly? Certainly not! On the contrary, let them come themselves and escort us out!” 38 Then the police reported these words to the magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them, and escorting them out, they urged them to leave town. 40 After leaving the jail, they came to Lydia’s house where they saw and encouraged the brothers, and departed.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. — Acts 16:25
After reading today’s passage, how would you describe the faith of Paul and Silas? Think about specific evidences you see of courage, discernment, and joy in this account.
The inner strength they exhibited is truly astounding. Their capacity for joy when all seemed lost seems impossible. The sense of deep calm under duress and patience over days of ridicule and public spectacle defies logic.
It’s almost as if they’re not really human—some kind of extra strong intimidating Christians. Or even that they have some kind of extra power source. Wait.
Some of us know this biblical account well. My mother taught it to me as a preschooler, and Miss Grace Puckett reinforced it beautifully in preschool Sunday School at First Baptist in Paris, Tennessee.
The image of Paul and Silas singing in their stocks is a favorite of mine, and I find myself marveling at the faith they displayed. I can still see the teaching picture in my mind.
But now that I’m older I think we have this story in Scripture so we can understand better the power of the Holy Spirit. Maybe the most amazing think about Paul and Silas was not their strength, or even their faith, but their level of surrender. The Holy Spirit is really the hero of the story—not the people.
The patience displayed through day after day of public ridicule and spectacle came from a deep well. Clearly it was the Holy Spirit in action. After all, Paul didn’t seem to be necessarily characterized by excessive patience in other places.
When I think about the perseverance required to endure the wrath of an angry crowd, a fearsome court sentence, and being beaten and flogged, I cringe inwardly. Yet they endured.
Then the exclamation point on the demonstration of Holy Spirit power—they sang. Not a quick chorus, but a full on sacrifice of praise, with joy so magnetic everything and everyone else stilled itself to listen.
When the jailer found himself on his face trembling before Paul and Silas, their immediate response pointed to Jesus and helped usher the jailer and his whole family into real hope and relationship with God. Again—responses governed by the Holy Spirit, not human emotion or motive.
Instead of trying to imitate the person Paul, what if we imitated his level of surrender to the Holy Spirit’s work in his life instead? Honestly, it’s easy to put Paul, or any person, on a pedestal and excuse ourselves from ever being able to attain what he did.
We miss an incredible application if we do that—the same patience, power, perseverance, joy, and focus on God’s pursuit of people’s hearts is available to us just as it was to Paul and Silas. We can have “their” faith because as Christ-followers we have the same Holy Spirit living inside.
I feel confident of two things today after studying this passage. One, our strengths, accomplishments, coping skills, and our responses can be clearly the work of the Holy Spirit when we surrender to Him daily. That takes a lot of pressure off. And two, God will give us the strength we need when we need it. We can trust Him to do this.
- What is God asking you to surrender to Him today so His power can be revealed? Ask God for courage to surrender it.
- What instances can you point to where you have seen the Holy Spirit’s power at work in someone’s life recently?
- Tell the story of the Holy Spirit’s work you’ve seen, or the biblical account of Paul and Silas, to someone in your family or to a friend today.