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Paul and Silas in Jail

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Flex (Multi-Age)Year 1Unit 6Session 4
4

Paul and Silas in Jail

Scripture
Focus
Paul helped the jailer believe in Jesus.
Faith Nurture Goals
  • Imagine Paul and Silas in jail and tell what happened to the Philippian jailer.
  • Know that Jesus is always with us.
  • Share the good news of Jesus with others.

Leader Reflection

Preparing to Tell God's Story

Of all the stories in Acts, this one is probably the most exciting and entrancing. It pictures such a variety of human reactions: Lydia's warm hospitality, Paul's deep indignation at the slave girl's words, the slave owners' selfish anger, the magistrate's cold indifference, Paul and Silas's courageous spirit, the jailer's despair, and then his eager acceptance of the good news. And through it all the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work.

While traveling in Asia Minor, Paul saw a vision of a man begging him to cross the Aegean Sea to Macedonia. Paul immediately made arrangements to cross over, having concluded "that God had called us to preach the gospel to them."

Paul and Silas's first stop was the Roman colony at Philippi. There was no synagogue, but a number of women gathered regularly for Sabbath prayers at the riverbank. One of these women was Lydia, described as a "worshiper of God," though probably not a full convert to Judaism. In Luke's typical way of describing the conversion, "the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message." As a well-to-do businesswoman, she is able to provide a place for the missionaries to stay, and her entire household, including family members, servants, slaves, and business associates were baptized. (The baptism of households is also a common practice in Acts.)

As Paul continued his stay, he came across a young female slave who was also a fortune teller. She loudly proclaimed that Paul and Silas were "servants of the most high God." This deeply irritated Paul, probably because it was hindering his work in some way, though what the girl said was certainly true. So Paul drove out the evil spirit.

The girl's owners were outraged. They took advantage of the local prejudice against Jews, causing an uproar in which Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into jail. The tough jailer, probably an old Roman soldier, showed them no mercy. But that night his life forever changed.

Living with his family in the jail compound, he must have heard the missionaries praying and singing hymns to the Lord instead of the groaning and complaining he often heard from the prisoners. Then came an earthquake that burst open the doors of the prison, which the jailer assumed would allow all the prisoners to escape. Answering to equally brutal superiors, the jailer decided to kill himself instead. Paul's firm voice of assurance saved his life, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!"

Likely after a time of conversation, the jailer asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Paul and Silas's reply, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved---you and your household," beautifully states the gospel of salvation by grace through faith.

Like Lydia, the jailer was baptized along with his entire household that very day, and the former prisoners became welcome houseguests as they all enjoyed a meal together.

The next day the magistrates ordered the prisoners to be released. But instead of slipping quietly away, Paul challenged them on the treatment they had received. "And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out" (Acts 16:37). Why did Paul do this? Well, it's probably just a part of his personality for one thing. But he probably also wanted to make them careful in the way they treated his fellow Christians in the future.

Steps

Step 1 Breathe

Use this time to focus your attention on God.

Do this with me: calm your head, heart, and hands as you slowly breathe in . . . and out. (Demonstrate a few deep "in and out breaths" with eyes closed.)

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