But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household. Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, “Release those men.” And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out.” The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.”
Paul and Silas had been thrown into prison because they had cast out a demon and had ruined a lucrative business. Once again we see the deliverance from a prison cell by the Lord. This is a dramatic story of physical deliverance of Paul and Silas and spiritual deliverance of their jailer and his entire household. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, Paul and Silas were praying and singing. They were “counting themselves worthy to suffer for Christ.” They had been tried and beaten illegally by the local authorities and are now in the dungeon of the prison being closely guarded. But even in prison Paul and Silas were witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ. The songs they were singing were certainly doctrinal songs with and message of salvation and all the prisoners were listening. At this point God takes over and a miracle was the result.
Once again God used the laws of nature to create a miracle for his faithful servants. The result of the earthquake was twofold - immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. Apparently the only damage in the prison was the opening of the gates of the prison and the breaking of the shackles confirming that this was the only purpose of the miracle/earthquake.
The jailer knew he was in trouble and that the Romans were going to kill him for this. He assumed that the prisoners were all gone and that there was nothing left for him but to take his own life. But Paul stopped the jailer immediately. The situation was uncertain to him and so it says he rushed in to make sure no one had escaped. (Acts 12:19)
Now the famous question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The Greek word for sirs is “kurios” meaning lords which was a title of courtesy addressed to a stranger. The jailer was thinking of two things. The word to save here does not mean spiritual salvation in the jailer’s mind. In his mind there was physical deliverance from his difficulty. “How can I get out of this terrible situation?” The Greek word for saved is “sozo,” which is used both for physical deliverance and for spiritual deliverance/salvation as we think of it today. But when he came in and confronted Paul and Silas the first thing on his mind was deliverance from his problem. God brought him to the place of an unsolvable problem in order that the issue of the Gospel might be brought to him.
Now he gets the perfect answer. Notice that it is short. In disaster conditions, answers must be brief and to the point. They simply said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Believe is the Greek verb “pisteuo,” which as a noun is translated “faith.” Faith alone in Christ alone is the meaning. And thy house is an idiom meaning that what applies to the jailer applies to his family. The members of the jailer’s household will be saved in exactly the same way he was, and that was by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
They had given the mechanics of salvation in one brief sentence; now there was a more complete explanation. They have all gathered around and are listening to the Gospel. Apparently the jailer made a decision to trust Christ right then and there. The one who had fastened them to the stocks was now a different person - and he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. His whole attitude toward these two men had changed. Once the jailer and his family understood the doctrines about baptism they were baptized by Paul.
“And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.” The Greek word for rejoiced is “agalliao,” which means to be exceedingly glad. This was a legitimate temporary emotional response to having believed in Christ. However, this is not the same as sharing the happiest of God, which is having permanent contentment as your constant companion. This happiness is permanent because it does not depend on the circumstances in your life. It is actually God’s own perfect happiness that He shares with the advancing believer as a grace gift. Sharing God’s happiness is obtained only by consistently learning, believing and applying the Word of God over a period of time. The more time you log under the power and the control of God the Holy Spirit and thinking divine viewpoint, the happier you are going to be. Therefore, sharing the happiness of God is not for the novice believer. It is impossible to share in something that you know nothing about. Being happy is one of the many spiritual blessings that comes with increased capacity. Increased capacity to receive God’s blessing of happiness comes only one way - study and application of Bible doctrine. (Jeremiah 15:16; John 13:17)
It is impossible to be happy as a believer in Christ without obeying the principles and commands we find in the Word of God. As Christians, we must learn to make good decisions from a position of strength. Our position of strength is in direct proportion to the amount of truth we have stored in our souls and the maximum utilization of that truth to our circumstances. This is what is meant by creating an environment in your soul for happiness. Bible doctrine is stored in the soul and is accessed from the soul by wisdom (application). (Proverbs 3:13) A state of genuine, true and complete happiness depends on absolute truth found only in God’s Word. There are degrees of happiness. As a believer continues to seek truth over time, his capacity to receive blessing increases. One of the many blessings that God gives, as a fruit of the Spirit, is happiness. But as with everything in the Christian Way of Life, happiness is only a potential. A believer must make the decision to spend time in study and application of God’s Word. The more application of God’s Word that is made, the happier a person will be. (Matthew 6:33; Romans 14:16-19; Galatians 5:22-23; II John 12)
When a person trusts Jesus Christ as personal Savior, a potential is established for blessing from God. Salvation is based on the grace of God, apart from any human merit, as is the Christian Way of Life. (Titus 2:11-12) Therefore, the potential for blessing is based on the grace of God. A blessing is a benefit bestowed upon the believer by God.
Why does God bless or bestow benefits on believers? Since blessings were given to us in eternity past and based on the grace of God (Ephesians 1:3), it is impossible for the believer to earn or deserve the blessings of God. In others words, God does not bless you because of your works, even if they are legitimate divine production (i.e. witnessing, giving, praying, etc.). God blesses you on the basis of His righteousness resident in your soul (Matthew 6:33, II Corinthians 5:21). This allows God to be just and in keeping with His grace policy (even if you are not living your spiritual life).
You cannot coerce God into blessing you by what you do or do not do. However, it is your choice to access or appropriate these blessings. The way to access divine blessing is to increase your capacity to receive blessing by learning and applying Bible doctrine under the control of God the Holy Spirit. And remember that the production of divine good is itself a divine blessing.
Increasing capacity in your life is a grace function. Under your right pastor-teacher, you study and apply Bible doctrine, which produces growth and increases capacity. Remember that God is not going to give you more than you can handle. Therefore, divine blessing comes as a result of compliance with God’s system of blessing. Is your volition involved? Absolutely! You are the one who must choose to trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, you must choose to study and apply the accurate teaching of God’s Word to your life, and you must choose to allow God the Holy Spirit to control your life. Accordingly, God is waiting to send blessings to each of us. (Isaiah 30:18)
In order to understand the concept of increased capacity, we need to briefly review the Royal Priesthood and the Royal Ambassadorship of the believer. Remember our illustration? Your spiritual life is represented by a vertical line (which is your relationship with God), as a Royal Priest. A horizontal line represents your Christian life (which is your relationship with other people), as a Royal Ambassador. Together we call this the Christian Way of Life.
As a Royal Priest, we represent ourselves before God, which is always a private matter. When we sin and remove ourselves from fellowship with God, we are able to go directly to the throne of God in prayer and utilize I John 1:9 that restores fellowship. The more time you spend studying and applying accurate Bible teaching under the control of the Holy Spirit, the faster your capacity will increase. This translates into spiritual advance and eventually leads to spiritual maturity (our goal as believers). The only way that we are going to increase our capacity to receive God’s blessings is to develop our relationship with God.
As a Royal Ambassador, we represent the Lord Jesus Christ to the world. (II Corinthians 5:17) This, of course, involves interaction with others. This representation is a spiritual service and does not contribute to your spiritual growth or your capacity for blessing as a believer. It is a result of your growth. It is a blessing in itself and a means for you to be a blessing to others.
“Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, “Release those men.” And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” The chief magistrates are the rulers of this Roman colony. What they had done to Paul and Silas could have caused them to lose their charter as a Roman colony and they could have gotten into very serious trouble. The Romans were sticklers for their law. Rome had a thousand years of greatness because of their law, and the strict adherence to that law.
Paul was a Roman citizen and he knew that it was unlawful to scourge a Roman citizen and that these magistrates had violated Roman law. Because of this Paul was now taking a civic stand for at least three reasons:
The Romans had enacted a law which said that it was a crime to scourge a Roman citizen without a trial. The accusation against Paul and Silas was heard and accepted without any opportunity for rebuttal. So Paul lets them know that they had violated the Roman law by beating them and putting them in prison. He didn’t say that he was a Roman in the sense of the Greek verb “ginomai,” which means he became a Roman citizen. The Greek verb that he used was “huparcho,” which means to exist in a status which had existed long before he was born. In other words, Paul was apparently from a long line of Roman citizens. He did not purchase his citizenship or acquire it in his life time; he was born a Roman citizen. As such, Paul had greater privilege than someone who had purchased or earned their citizenship.
“They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.” The house of Lydia was where the Philippian church was now meeting. Notice that it is Paul and Silas who are encouraging the church, not the other way, even though they had just been in prison.