A-Z: Famous stories from the Bible: Paul and Silas in prison


St Paul by Bartolomeo MontagnaThere was a slave girl in Philippi who was possessed by a spirit. The predictions this spirit gave her earned money for her owners. For several days, as Paul and Silas walked to the place of prayer by the river, this girl followed them, shouting, ‘These men are God’s servants and they are telling you how you can be saved.’ Paul could not stand this any more: he knew that this spirit was not from God. He said to the spirit, In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you to leave this girl!’ Immediately, the spirit left her.

The owners were furious as they realised that they would not make any more money from the girl. They dragged Paul and Silas in front of the magistrates of the city, accusing them of inciting actions against Roman law. The crowd supported them and Paul and Silas were flogged and thrown into prison on the magistrates’ orders. The jailer was told to guard them securely, so he put them in the stocks in the inner cell.

During the night, the two men were singing hymns and praying when a severe earthquake rocked the prison. All the prison doors flew open and the chains fell off all the prisoners. When the jailer realised this, he was about to kill himself, rather than wait for the authorities to punish him, as he expected that all the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘It’s alright - we’re all still here!’

Awe-struck, the jailer asked Paul and Silas, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ Then Paul taught the jailer and all in his household about Jesus and about his love. All of them were baptised as soon as the jailer had cared for the two men’s wounds. Then they ate a meal there and the jailer was overjoyed that he had become a Christian

The story illustrates:

  • The power of God.
  • The recognition by Christians that God is in control, even when events seem to prove otherwise, and that he can use any circumstances.

Related topics

Big Ideas: Mission, evangelism, conversion; Baptism; Christians

Bible References

Acts 16:16-34
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