Summary: Paul's teaching on salvation
In this chapter of Acts, we see the Apostle Paul, the great evangelist, and Silas, his co-labourer, preaching and teaching in Philippi. Paul was preaching in the streets and the bible says, a “certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination.” Occultism was very prominent in Roman colonies in the first and second centuries and it was not unusual for people to practice witchcraft and other such horrendous things.
Well, it seems that this “damsel” was the property of some of the rich folk around town. The bible says she had a “spirit of divination,” meaning she could tell the future. These folks were using this slave girl to line their pockets by telling fortunes. She was following Paul and Silas wherever they went telling the people, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” Now the things she said were absolutely true, so you ask, “Why was Paul so troubled?” The fact of the matter is that the Gospel would be damaged if it was associated with a demon possessed slave girl. So Paul, fed up by the constant badgering, cast the demon out by saying, “I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And the bible says the demon “came out the same hour.”
Well, this didn’t set too well with the owners of the slave girl. They saw that they had lost a good source of income, and they were pretty upset about it. As a matter of fact, they were so upset that they went to the Roman magistrates to plead their case. They took for granted that Paul and Silas were Jews and never bothered to question them about Roman citizenship. They told the magistrates that Paul and Silas were preaching a religion not approved by the Roman government. Well, as a result, Paul and Silas were stripped of their clothing, beaten and cast into prison.
How many of us, under the same circumstances, would act the way Paul and Silas acted? I mean they could have had themselves a real “pity party” if they had so desired. They could have said, “Hey, this isn’t fair. I am being so mistreated. I want a lawyer!” But they didn’t. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, what did they do? They started singing praises to God Himself. Paul had told the Philippians in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” A little further on, in verse 13, he states, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me.” As Christians, we remember verse 13 very well. “Oh yes. I believe that with God’s help, we can do anything so long as it’s in His will.” That’s very true. But we tend to forget about verse 11 because if things don’t go exactly the way we want them to, we are not content and never will be.
Paul and Silas were singing their hearts out. Praising God and thankful that they were suffering for the cause of Christ. What an honor that was to them. The bible says the other prisoners heard them. Can you imagine what the other prisoners were thinking? “What’s with the two weirdo’s in that cell? Are they crazy? What’s going on in there?” What a testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ they were right at that moment! Not only did they get the attention of the other prisoners, they got the attention of God Himself. It says in verse 26, “And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.” Psalm 98 and verse 4 says, “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” Well, Paul and Silas did just that and God rewarded them for what they did. Maybe God was tapping His foot to the beat of the music and caused the earthquake. No, not really! God was pleased with what they did and it was all in His plan to begin with. God said, “There’s no jail strong enough to hold my people if I don’t want them held.” And here came the earthquake and opened the doors of the prison, released the shackles from Paul and Silas, and even woke the guard up!
When the guard saw that all the cell doors were open, he assumed that all the prisoners had escaped. That was a capital offense for any guard. If a prisoner escaped, the guard was put to death. This guard saw the doors open, and was about to take his own life, but Paul said to him, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” He was giving the guard assurance that no prisoner had escaped. What would you have done? Hid? Escaped? Run? Paul knew that the doors opened for a reason and he was not afraid to stand his ground. He told the jailer to do no harm to himself, for they were all there. The jailer, amazed at what he would probably have called a “stroke of luck” must have thought to himself, “What is it about these two guys that brings about this turn of events here at the prison?” And it is then, and only then, that he realizes that God Himself must have done these things. Not wanting to be left out, he asks Paul and Silas the million dollar question; the question above all other questions. He said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”