Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
The Philippian Christians:


Acts 16:16-34


I. General remarks on the passage that we are studying.

1. Our Bibles are opened to a remarkable passage of the NT. Here we read of the remarkable conversion of a heathen jailor. In the rapid events which transpire in the text we are able to see a wonderful transformation in this man's life.

2. Following the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15) Paul and Silas decide to go back to the churches that they had recently established (Acts. 15:36-41).

3. As Paul and Silas travel they stop at Troas where Paul's vision of the Macedonian prompts them to go over to Philippi (Acts 16:7-10).

4. At Philippi Paul meets Lydia and baptizes her and her household (Acts 16:11-15). Here Paul comes in contact with a girl possessed with a spirit of divination and casts the spirit out. This brings Paul and Silas into conflict with the masters of the girl and they are then arrested. Upon their imprisonment they come in contact with the Philippian jailer.

II. This passage contains several vital lessons for believers today.

1. It is sad that many have seized upon it to sustain false error and have failed to gain the full benefit of it.

2. We want to look closely at it and mention several important truths that it teaches.


I. Before we look at the lessons, let me try to present a vivid description of what transpired in the passage.

A. The judge ruled that Paul and Silas should be beaten with rods.

1. "Rod"--similar to a broom handle. This was a very humiliating punishment (I Ths 2:2).

2. They received "many" blows. The Roman law was not restricted in this punishment. Such a beating would often break bones and lacerate the skin. Often the person would be killed during the beating.

B. Following the beating they were taken to prison.

1. "Threw"--they were thrown into the darkest area of the jail where no light and little air were available.

2. "Stocks"--their legs were pulled far apart until their muscles ached and the timbers were clamped shut. They were unable to walk, their muscles were cramping, and their backs were bleeding.

3. Perhaps the painful position and the physical ills kept them awake and prevented them from sleep. At midnight they sought the comfort of God through hymns (Psa. 119:62). The other prisoners listened intently to this unique sound which filled the dungeons. What a contrast this sermon in song was to the usual cries, moans, and curses!

4. God's comfort came quickly. The stocks and chains were loosed. Paul and Silas could stand and relieve their aching muscles.

5. The earthquake aroused the jailor and seeing the doors open he was about to commit suicide when Paul's voice called out to him.

6. The effect of all these events upon the jailor was amazing. He approaches Paul and Silas with trembling. He asks how he can be saved. Following Paul's teaching the jailor and his family are all saved that night!

II. Now, let's consider some of the most forceful lesson which we are able to find in this passage.

A. We are able to see that God places opportunities for us in many unlikely places!

1. There will be opportunities for salvation in unlikely places.

a. This jailor did not have the slightest idea that on that night his soul would be saved!

b. Anytime that salvation presents itself, the lost soul should readily accept (II Cor. 6:2).

2. There will be opportunities to preach Christ in many unlikely places!

a. I doubt that Paul and Silas thought they would be preaching Christ in the dark dungeons of Philippi. 

b. We must always be prepared to speak the gospel truth to another--no matter where we find ourselves. We need to seize every opportunity! (Rom. 1:15).

B. We are able to see a full illustration of how one is saved by faith (v. 34).

1. The jailor was saved "having believed"!

2. What all did he do in "having believed"?

a. He asked a question pointing to the fact that he now understood his lost state (v. 30).

b. He was taught the Word of the Lord (v. 32).

c. He repented (v. 33).

d. He was baptized (v. 33b).

3. If a person seeks to be saved today by "having believed", he must do exactly what this many did! 

C. We are able to see a good example of true repentance.

1. Repentance is a change of mind--attitudes and actions in life (Mtt. 21:28-29; Acts 3:19).

2. This is brought about by godly sorrow (II Cor. 7:10).

3. Just a few hours before this same man had brutally thrown Paul and Silas into jail and cruelly clamped them into the stocks, but now he treats them as honored guests (v. 24 comp. 29, 33a, 34).

4. Truly he was a changed man!

D. We are able to see the urgency of baptism, and how one is to be baptized.

1. He wanted to be baptized "immediately". Why? Because he realized that waiting would only mean remaining in a lost condition! (Mark 16:16).

2. He wanted to be immersed. Bible baptism is immersion (Rom. 6:3, 4; Col. 2:12).

3. Some argue that they were in jail and therefore had no access to a pool large enough. But look at v. 30--they had been taken out of the jail. After baptism they were taken to the jailor's house (v. 34), so they were outside where pools were available!

E. We are able to see what should be preached if one is preaching the "Word of the Lord".

F. We are able to see the wonderful attitude which should characterize the saved believer (v. 34b).


I. This text gives each reader valuable points to consider.

1. To the believer who has believed and has been baptized--seek opportunities to preach Christ, rejoice in your soul's salvation.

2. To the believer who has not obeyed the command of baptism--immediately respond and be baptized so that your faith will save you!

3. To the non-believer--believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved!

II. Let us respond to God's teachings in a believing and obedient way!

Copyright 1998 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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