Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. (Acts 16:32-34)
The Family Of The Philippian Jailer
Serving as a jailer for the Roman authorities would not have been a very glamorous occupation requiring very little to do but to keep men awaiting execution or adjudication of charges. The Romans cells were dim, damp, and filthy with an incredible stench. These would have been places that were repugnant to the human senses and to be in charge of such places would require little more than men of lower morals and values to keep men as cattle. On the scale of men who would have been prime candidates for the gospel of Christ the Philippian jailer would not have risen to the top. When Paul and Silas arrived in Philippi, they encountered a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination her masters used for fortune-telling. Annoyed by her constant harassment Paul cast out the evil spirit which greatly angered her masters. Inciting the crowd against Paul and Silas, the men were beaten with many stripes and thrown into prison. The jailer would have received these strangers with no little fanfare and decided to place these trouble makers into the inner prison. To further humiliate and punish Paul and Silas, the jailer had their feet fastened in stocks. Albert Barnes make a note about the jailer placing them into the stocks: “It is probable that the legs of the prisoners were bound to large pieces of wood which not only encumbered them but which were so placed as to extend their feet to a considerable distance. In this condition it might be necessary for them to lie on their backs; and if this, as is probable, was on the cold ground, after their severe scourging, their sufferings must have been very great. Yet in the midst of this, they sang praises to God.” And the jailer was the man who caused this misery on Paul and Silas.
The Lord had greater plans for His two servants. At midnight as Paul and Silas were singing hymns the Lord brought an earthquake that shook the foundation of the prison and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. The keeper of the prison was startled awake by the earthquake. He thought that all his prisoners would have escaped at such an opportune time and decided to kill himself. Knowing the fury of the Roman authorities for allowing prisoners to escape there would be no other choice. From the inner prison, Paul cried out for the man to not harm himself because all the prisoners had remained. Calling for a light he fell down at the feet of Paul and Silas begging to know what he must do to save himself. In the midst of a terrible injustice done to these messengers of God a wonderful story of grace is found in Paul preaching not only to the jailer but to all that were in his house. The Philippian jailer then took Paul and Silas and washed their stripes. Now the incarcerated are treated with sympathy and gratitude instead of the harshness of the stocks. The jailer washed Paul and Silas of their stripes and then Jesus washed the jailer and his household of their stripes. Immediately the jailer and all his family were baptized. It is not known who made up his family but they believed with open hearts who had witnessed the earthquake and the great faith of Paul and Silas. The jailer had concern not only for himself but for his family. God’s grace was brought into the home of a man who just a day earlier was nothing more than a jailer imprisoning the outcasts of society. Now he and all his family were children of God and glorifying in the saving grace of a loving Lord.
After Paul and Silas baptized the jailer and all his family they were brought into the jailer’s home to receive nourishment as they all rejoiced together their new found faith. The spirits of Paul and Silas were lifted to the throne of God for such a powerful testimony of the power of the gospel. This would be a story often retold in the presence of many witnesses to show how the Lord can and will work in the lives of the most unsuspecting souls. The household of a Philippian jailer was now part of the household of God. Not only did the jailer learn of the grace of God but he also saw the faith of Paul and Silas as they returned to their cells. They did not flee or try to escape. It was certain they had been beaten openly and as a Roman citizen, Paul was charging the city officials of the high crime of condemning a fellow Roman without charge. The jailer learned a great lesson of trust in the will of the Lord when he saw how Paul and Silas remained in jail until they were released with legal means. Luke does not tell what became of the jailer and his family but one can imagine what a strong church there was in Philippi when Lydia and her friends met their new Christian friends – the jailer and his family. Later Paul would write to “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” Could the jailer have been one of the bishops or deacons? It is certain he was one of the saints. Praise God for His incredible grace to save a jailer and his family.