Day 94: Prison Ministry

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Acts 16:25-36 :

But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 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 loosened. The jailer, being roused out of sleep and seeing the prison doors open, drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, “Don’t harm yourself, for we are all here!”

He called for lights and sprang in, and, fell down trembling before Paul and Silas, and brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him, and to all who were in his house.

He took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was immediately baptized, he and all his household. He brought them up into his house, and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, with all his household, having believed in God.

But when it was day, the magistrates sent the sergeants, saying, “Let those men go.”

The jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go; now therefore come out, and go in peace.”

It is ironic that it was the guard who was really in jail and the prisoners who were free, isn’t it?

After such a horrible day, Paul and Silas were up praying and singing hymns to God at midnight. It could have been the cold and the pain from the beatings or the fact that they were locked in an awkward position that kept them awake, but instead of complaining, the Holy Spirit gave them joy in their hearts. That is exactly how the Holy Spirit works. What would be natural for us is not what ends up happening when the Holy Spirit is in charge.

Then we see that God did a great miracle by earthquake and used it to free the man who was really in prison; the guard. You can tell that the guard needed freedom because of howhe begged Paul and Silas to tell him how to be saved.

I noticed that this passage illustrates a common pattern of oppression in which the oppressor threatens people with death in order to get them to do evil on their behalf. It seems to me that this guard knew that what was going on wasn’t good but to disobey his orders would mean for him to die. When he accepted Christ he had the power to invite Paul and Silas to come up to living quarters in spite of the fact that they were supposed to be locked in jail. This may have been a kind of disobedience to the magistrates but it appears that he was no longer afraid for his own life.