Miracles in Philippi

Opening Prayer

“Set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain and I can’t control. I want more of You, God” (United Pursuit).

Read Acts 16:16–40

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”

37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”

38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

Reflect

There are a great many accounts of revival. Look up some of the ones that have impacted your part of the world.

Paul and Silas have some amazing experiences in Philippi. We must assume that it wasn’t like this every day and in every place. In fact there is lots of evidence that, in some places, people didn’t always turn to Christ (Acts 17:5–8,32–34). In other places the apostles experienced serious persecution for little apparent gain. For several months at a time, towards the end of Acts, Paul is locked up in prison.No miraculous escape. No crowds of people turning to Christ. Then he’s sent off to Rome and we hear little of him, though tradition has it that he was executed there. He falls off the map.
In Philippi, however, it’s high-octane excitement from the outset. First a dramatic exorcism as Paul has to silence a troublesome girl; then a riot and imprisonment; finally miraculous escape followed by the jailer’s conversion. High drama all the way, though it must have been incredibly demanding, emotionally and spiritually, for Paul and Silas. Do you see such times as normative—evidence of how the church ought to be operating most of the time? Or might it simply be evidence of the extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit for a certain time and place?

Apply

Revival simply means a reviving of people’s hearts—a wholehearted return to God. Do you need to return to God today?

Closing prayer

Pray that, whatever your own experience of God right now, you might remain faithful and committed to him at all times.

Syndicated via Scripture Union. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Terry Schneider