Coney Hill Baptist Church

Demonstrating God’s Love Together

Prison Break

Acts 16:16-40


Paul and Silas’s mission in Philippi was clearly significant.  It’s summarised in 3 very different stories; with the wealthy business-woman, Lydia, as we have seen, and now, here, in a rather strange encounter with a possessed slave-girl, and a wonderful story of a jail break.

In these accounts, all levels of society, ever manner of opposition and a whole variety different reactions and emotions are stirred and recorded.


Slave –woman:

We’re not specifically told that this slave girl became a convert, like Lydia and the jailer, but it seems likely.

Instead her role here is to be both the unconscious proclaimer of the truth, about Paul and Silas and a catalyst for the uproar in the city.

The whole passage might be seen as a contrast between a statement of faith, and a call to salvation that is simply shouted, unfelt and ineffective, and that demonstration of true salvation ministry, that is powerful, personal and fruitful.

This girl was spiritually afflicted, yet healed, but more fundamentally still she was, like so many women since (Harriet from Paul & Sarah’s blog inThailand), financially exploited, and it was that, and the interests vested in her that threatened the peace of the whole city, and the lives of Paul and Silas.

The Bible teaches a lot about battles with ‘principalities and powers’ and the link here between the spiritual and the economic is a good case study of it.



Finding themselves beaten and thrown into prison, Paul and Silas found their way to the next dramatic encounter.

The over-riding characteristic of their time in this prison cell was not questioning or fear, or doubt or despondency, but joy.  They were.... ‘...praying and singing hymns to God’ (v.25).

This was massive, and made a huge impact, it came to define this whole community as this notion of ‘joy’ was the central theme of the subsequent letter to the Philippians – ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, rejoice’.

It was immediately powerful too,  ‘The other prisoners were listening...’ (v25).  The world is always watching to see how those who make great claims as to the reality of God measure up themselves, especially when things go wrong.  These, most powerful of testimony’s always have a ready audience.

It became characteristic too of the jailer himself was ultimately, ‘... was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God.’ (v34)


Conc:  What Must I do to be Saved....

I mentioned at the beginning this passage was, in part, a contrast between different ways of proclaiming the salvation of Jesus.  That is summed up in the classic question of the jailer; what must I do to be saved.

I remember being told as a young preacher never to leave anyone in any doubt, in any sermon, what they must do in order to be made right with God.  I’m not sure I’ve always followed that advice but today I want to, this text demands it:

What must I do...

Belief in Jesus.... first, fundamental and sufficient  (v.31)

Action .... inevitable and evidential of real belief... (compassion, hospitality & baptism) (v’s. 33-34)

Such faith will always have an impact ... on household... on community

What was it, humanly speaking, that convicted the jailer?  The miraculous power of God, in the earthquake?  No doubt. The joyful, confident worship of Paul and Silas?  Without question. But perhaps, most of all, the graceful love that he was shown by them (v.28).  Paul knew the unthinking, disconnected announcement of verse 17, although true, would impress no-one.  But that same truth, proclaimed, lived acted, would prove irresistible.  Then and now, power, combined with experience, always demands attention