v23 People whipped Paul and Silas very hard. Afterwards, they threw Paul and Silas into prison. They ordered the officer of the prison to guard Paul and Silas carefully. v24 When he received this order, the officer put Paul and Silas into the inner room. He put chains on their feet. And he tied their feet to heavy pieces of wood. v25 At about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying. And they were singing to praise God. The other prisoners were listening to them. v26 Then a powerful earthquake shook the strong base of the prison. Immediately, all the doors opened and the chains fell off the prisoners. v27 The prison officer woke up. He saw that the doors were open. So, he thought that the prisoners had escaped. He took out his sword to kill himself. v28 But Paul shouted, ‘Do not hurt yourself! We are all here!’
v29 The officer of the prison asked someone to fetch a light. The officer rushed into the prison and he kneeled at Paul and Silas’s feet. His whole body was shaking. v30 He led them out. Then he asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to receive salvation?’ v31 They answered, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and trust in him. Then you will receive salvation. This is true for your family. And it is true for everyone who lives with you.’ v32 Then Paul and Silas preached the Lord’s message to the officer of the prison. And they preached it to everyone in his house. v33 It was still night. The officer took Paul and Silas to another place. He washed their cuts and bruises. At once, he received baptism and so did everyone in his house. v34 The officer of the prison brought Paul and Silas into his home. He gave a meal to them. He and his family were very happy because they believed in God now.
Verses 23-24 Luke now describes how a third person from Philippi became a Christian. This man was neither rich nor poor. He was from the middle class. He did his job well as an officer of the prison. He did not want Paul and Silas to escape. He wanted to prevent their escape. So, he did everything that he could do for that purpose. He did not seem to be a kind man. But then he changed. He changed because he believed in Jesus as his Savior and Lord. Paul and Silas felt much pain because people had whipped them. But the officer tied their feet to heavy pieces of wood. This would cause even more pain.
Verse 25 Paul and Silas were very tired and they felt terrible pain. In their situation, most people would be angry and miserable. But Paul and Silas prayed and they praised God. They were very happy. This was not because of their circumstances. But it was because they knew Jesus. People who know Jesus are very happy. They are happy even when bad things happen to them.
The other prisoners listened. They were surprised when Paul and Silas praised God aloud. The other prisoners knew that these men were different. God was the reason that Paul and Silas were happy.
We must always praise God in difficult circumstances. In that way, we show something to people. We show to them that we are happy. We know that God is looking after us. That is why we are happy.
Verse 26 Earthquakes were common in Philippi. But this earthquake happened at exactly the right time. It was certainly very powerful. It shook the prison so that the doors opened. And the prisoners’ chains fell off.
Verse 27 The officer of the prison thought that the prisoners had escaped. So, he tried to kill himself. He wanted to die quickly. By Roman law, if any prisoner escaped, that prisoner would receive punishment. And the officer of the prison would receive that same punishment, even if the escape was not his fault. (Look at Acts 12:19; 27:42.)
Verses 28-30 But Paul saw the officer. Paul told him that all the prisoners were still there! The officer checked that this was true. Immediately he asked Paul and Silas how to receive salvation. Perhaps he had heard the slave girl when she was shouting about it (Acts 16:17). Perhaps he had heard Paul and Silas preach in Philippi. Or perhaps he had heard them in the prison when they were praising God. The earthquake proved to him that their message was true. He was afraid. The Holy Spirit had shown to him that he needed salvation. So, he asked Paul and Silas about this.
Verses 31-32 Paul and Silas told the officer what to do. He needed to have faith in Jesus. Then they explained what this meant. They told the good news about Jesus to him. And they told it to everyone in his house.
Verses 33-34 Everyone there believed the Lord’s message. They believed that Jesus was their Saviour and Lord. The officer of the prison showed kindness. He washed Paul and Silas’s injuries. Afterward, they baptized him and they baptized the people in his house. He continued to be kind. He invited them into his house and he gave food to them. Luke says that the officer and his family were ‘very happy’ (verse 34). So, it seems that they also received the Holy Spirit.