Rattle! Rattle! Rattle! On and on the psychic slave girl rattled about Paul and Silas working for the Most High God! Finally, Paul was fed up and commanded the tormenting spirit to come out of her in the name of Jesus, and just like that, it was gone!
Of course, this put an end to her fortune-telling abilities so her owners beat these two men and accused them of disturbing the peace. The judges ordered them flogged and thrown into jail. They were stripped, bleeding, cold, and hungry.
Still, I showed no concern. I was told to put them under heavy guard so there would be no chance of escape. I threw them into the inner cell and clamped leg irons on them. My job was very important to me. After serving Rome as a soldier, I retired to the city of Philippi and was appointed jailer by the Roman officials, a great honor.
In Philippi, no one is blind to the talk of God’s salvation. The Via Egnatia, Rome’s most important road, became known as the Roman Road to Salvation. Missionaries use this route to spread the news of the gospel, and like Paul and Silas, many of them ended up in my jail.
Along about midnight, the two men began to pray and sing praises unto God. I heard them clearly; the other prisoners listened also. I could not understand why they would praise this God who allowed them to be beaten, chained, thrown in prison, and left to die, and if they had traveled here to minister the word of salvation, they could not do so now. God’s plan was clearly thwarted.
I must have let the singing lure me to sleep. Prayer and song can be very therapeutic. Suddenly, the ground began to shake. The foundations of the prison rattled, and immediately all the doors flew opened, and every one’s bands fell loose. I panicked. I could not see into the dark cells. I thought all the prisoners had escaped. In my trepidation, my life flashed before my eyes. I visualized the consequences of losing a prisoner: interrogation, beating, disgrace, and a humiliating death. With a cry of despair, I drew my sword to commit suicide. The Roman law was clear: a jailer's life for the life of the prisoner whom he had lost. Even if only one prisoner had escaped, I would still have to pay the price.
Paul heard my cry, heard my sword being drawn—perhaps, he saw its shadow cast upon the prison wall, and he spoke out in mercy, “Harm not yourself. We are all here.” No one had escaped. My life was saved, my position secured, and my heart softened. This is when I knew I had tasted salvation. I was wrong to believe that Paul and Silas could not minister the word of God in Philippi; God’s grace reached my heart inside a cold, loathsome jail cell.
I grabbed a torch and ran to Paul and Silas. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (NIV, Acts 16:30).
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (NIV, Acts 16:31).
What wonderful news! I wanted to know more so I led the men away to my home. My family and I listened intently as Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord. They spoke of the saving work of Jesus: his death, resurrection, ascension and exaltation. God forgave me because Jesus became a sacrifice for sin.
I showed no compassion to these two missionaries when I threw them into a damp dungeon. I did not provide them with so much as a bowl of water in which to bath their wounds. I needed to right the wrong I had done to Paul and Silas. I repented of my callowness and demonstrated this by personally washing their wounds.
In spite of their weak condition, Paul and Silas were eager to baptize us as soon as possible, and in the middle of the night, my family and I were baptized. What a glorious outpouring of love!
I am now a converted man, a saved man, a rejoicing man, by simply believing God's message. I am an emancipated man, delivered from the power of Satan. What began as a rattling from a slave girl, to a rattling of the earth, ended in a rattling of my soul: I will never cease to praise Him!
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