Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Acts 16:30-32
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Acts 16:30-32
vs30-32 (continued): What a remarkable turnaround. In a moment, what appeared to be defeat turned into triumph. Darkness, chains and stocks gave way to open cell doors, broken bonds, and a jailer trembling, probably face down on the ground, asking how to be saved. What caused this sudden change? Yes, the earthquake played a part, but the earthquake didn’t change the spiritual atmosphere of the place. That had already changed before the earthquake arrived (v25). Something had turned a place of torture into a place filled with the peace of God. To understand this change we have to review what took place beforehand.

Monday: Acts 16:30-32
vs30-32 (continued): Luke tells us Paul and Silas had their feet “secured into the wood” (literal) undoubtedly meaning their feet had been locked in stocks. The cruelty of the jailer was remarkable. He placed men who had just been beaten until their backs and legs were bruised and bloodied into devices that forced them to sit with their legs immobile. He had been ordered to guard them carefully, but nothing had been said about restricting them so they would have to sit on their wounds. Roman stocks were instruments of torture with leg holes at different widths to make the victim miserable, and we have no idea whether or not he added to their suffering by using that feature.

Tuesday: Acts 16:30-32
vs30-32 (continued): Who could blame these missionaries had they spent the night in confusion? After all, they came to this city in response to a vision, and had committed no crime. Their only offense was that they had set a young girl free from a horrible demonic possession. And their trial in front of the local authorities had been a complete violation of Roman law (vs 37, 38). The officers apparently felt free to humiliate and abuse them because they were Jews. So the fact that these two men sat in the darkness praying to God by reciting or singing hymns was clearly an act of spiritual warfare on their part. They were fighting against despair, refusing to give it place in their hearts, and at the same time they were transforming the spiritual atmosphere in that outpost of hell on earth.

Wednesday: Acts 16:30-32
vs30-32 (continued): They refused to doubt their guidance. They refused to question God’s wisdom or power. Instead they deliberately invited His power to fill that jail. Luke describes their actions using a surprising combination of words. He literally said they were praying by singing or reciting hymns to God. By specifically using the word “hymn,” he is probably telling us they were singing the psalms, in particular, they may have been singing from the Hallel of the Passover Seder meaning they were reciting or singing from Psalms 113 through 118 (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume, Geoffrey W. Bromiley ed., Eerdmans, 1985, p.1226), and the prisoners were listening intently to every word. Luke, being a physician, employed a Greek word which was often used to describe a doctor listening to sounds within a patient’s body, especially in the chest and abdomen, to detect disorders or pregnancy (W.R. Nicolle, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Eerdman, 1983, Vol. 2, p. 350. Also: Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1959, “ausculation”).

Thursday: Acts 16:30-32
vs30-32 (continued): He’s telling us something profound was taking place in that inner jail. There in the dark, the prisoners were being drawn to God by listening to these men worship. The effect on them was so strong that after the earthquake opened their prison doors and loosed their bonds, not one of them rushed to escape. It appears Paul took charge of the situation and all remained in their places. That such restraint was totally unexpected is shown by the fact that the jailer, when he discovered the doors had been opened, didn’t even check to see if anyone had stayed in their cells. He assumed they had escaped immediately, and was so certain of it he prepared to kill himself rather than face the punishment he was sure would be waiting for him.

Friday: Acts 16:30-32
vs30-32 (continued): The earthquake hadn’t caused the change in the spiritual atmosphere of that place, but rather it seems to have come as a result of that change. Paul and Silas had driven back the darkness by inviting God’s active presence. They had presented their need to God using the faith-filled language of the Psalms. And God heard them, and answered with an earthquake that shook the city. The jailer himself evidently had not been part of this scene. Up until the earthquake he had been asleep, sound asleep, to the point that he arrived so late all the prisoners would have had time to escape. Had he been awake, or awakened quickly, he could have called for help and rushed to the outer gate to prevent any who tried to escape. But by the time he arrived all hope of preventing an escape was gone. So the way God reached this man’s heart was by the grace shown him when he arrived. Paul and Silas did not return evil for evil (Mt 5:44; Ro 12:17-21), but called out to prevent his suicide, and had kept the prisoners from escaping. The mercy they showed him was so profound that he became overwhelmed. Nothing in his religion or life experience had prepared him for this.

Saturday: Acts 16:30-32
vs30-32 (continued): Had he been in their place, it would never have crossed his mind to do the same thing. He would have been delighted to watch his tormenter fall on his sword, for that matter, he would have fled within the first few seconds, yet these two Jews had not. Instead they treated him with kindness as if his life mattered. And undoubtedly the Spirit’s presence still lingered there. He called for lamps to be brought in and as he surveyed the cells with their doors flung open and prisoners still there, or gathered near Paul, he began to tremble, and then he came and fell (face down) in front of Paul and Silas. His physical posture spoke louder than words. They had given him his life back and he was now their “slave.” He knew they had been jailed for preaching something religious, and he knew many in the city had been angered by their message (vs20, 22). Though it appears he had never heard them preach, he certainly knew their “crime,” and he may have heard the oracle screamed out day after day, “These men… are proclaiming to you a way of salvation.” At any rate, he had enough information to know that if he submitted to them they would change his religion. His first move was to lead them out of the inner prison, because he had no intention of keeping them there, and then once outside he asked, “Sirs (lords), what must I do to be saved?” In other words, “I’m already convinced that whatever you’re preaching around our city must be true. God is obviously with you, and you are different from any humans I’ve ever met. Please tell me what you’ve been preaching so I can believe it and become like you.” They answered, “Believe upon the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household.” At that point he must have taken them home so his whole family could hear what they said.

Return to Daily Bible Studies