Destination Jail

Acts 16:16-34


Our last two sermons from Acts 16 we entitled destination Europe. We saw how that the Holy Spirit directed Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke into Macedonia, which was the first time the Gospel was sent to Europe under the authority of the church. Now that Paul and his company are in Europe, ministering in the city of Philippi, his next destination that we want to see is jail! From this well known text in Acts 16 we want to notice four points, which are as follows: 1) Putting the devil out of business; 2) The wrath of man and the devil upon the workers of righteousness; 3) Praying and singing, and salvation bringing; and 4) The affects of the Gospel on the jailor’s house.


1. Putting the devil out of business.


1) Profiting from the devils business (vv. 16-18).


Paul and his friends continued to attend the prayer meeting on the riverbank with Lydia and the other woman, and no doubt they continued to present the Gospel of Christ to the lost there. But we see that they were constantly harassed by this demon possessed girl, who brought her masters much gain through her sooth-saying. We want to consider the devil’s business for a few minutes.


The devil’s business is to destroy the souls of men. Whatever guise he puts on, the end of his evil business is always the destruction of lives and souls in hell - never forget it. The devil is not satisfied that he is doomed for eternal torments in the lake of fire, but he wants to take every man, woman, boy and girl down to the pit with him. The devil is never out to do anyone any good! You young people especially listen to me. You see and experience new things everyday. The devil will offer you a good time and the pleasures of sin, but he knows that the end of sin and a sinful life is eternal death. Don’t let the devil fool you and entice with his sinful dainties!


Wicked men join hands with the devil when they make merchandise of the souls of men. Among these are drug pushers and dealers; alcohol dealers, and all bars and sleaze joints, and houses of ill-repute that promote the sinful sale of people’s bodies; gambling houses, and all forms of gambling, whether legal or illegal; making and selling of pornographic media of all kinds; making and selling of idols and religious paraphernalia of all kinds (Acts 19:19, 23-28). These and many other similar business that could be named, are all the devil’s business and they are designed to destroy the lives and the souls men.


2) An evil witness is a bad witness (v. 17).


When the devil and his crowd speak well of God’s people and our work for the Lord, it does not help the furtherance of the gospel. A wicked sinner who speaks well of us and our ministry is a reproach on Christ and a hindrance to the work. Jesus doesn’t need the devil to introduce Him and His people and His work to the lost world. An evil witness only brings a reproach on our name and on Jesus’ name, and casts doubt upon our work for Christ. If we would rebuke all such who speak well of us, they will soon change their tune and will turn on us.


3) We notice that the demon spirits have a strange affinity for the things of God (v.18).


How often in the New Testament were demons found in religions gatherings? Even in the first church, it is said that Satan entered into to Judas Iscariot in that dark hour before he betrayed the Lord. Don’t be surprised when you are out witnessing if you are harassed by demonic influences! This sounds frightening perhaps, but I have often wondered when out witnessing for the Lord, if demons weren’t there trying to hinder the Gospel.


4) Next, we see that Christianity put the devil out of business with the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit working through God’s people (v. 18).


The influence of Christians and the Gospel can put the devil’s crowd out of work. When people are saved they won’t work for the devil and his cohorts anymore. If they were demon possessed they’ll lose their demonic powers to do evil, and they will lose all desire to serve the devil, and to sell their souls to do evil.


A strong Christian influence and evangelic program can close the doors of a lot of evil business. This was certainly true in New Testament times. I wonder if our churches have lost that power and influence today in our communities.


2. The wrath of man and the devil upon the workers of righteousness (v. 19-24).


If we will proclaim the Gospel and rebuke evil is this world, we will stir up the devil and wicked men against us, you can be sure of that. But how many of us are willing to rebuke that evil spirit, or that vile sinner for their assaults on our Saviour, or for their offensive talk and their vile public behavior. We don’t want to take the beating that Paul and Silas took for standing up for righteousness.


I wonder how many Baptist Churches would keep a pastor who constantly stirred up the wrath of the community by preaching salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone for salvation, and rebuking their sin and sinful ways! But beloved, if our witness was half as strong as Paul’s was in his day, we would be hated and persecuted just like they were. We’re just not stirring the devil up today.


Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that we should try to provoke the devil or his evil servants, but if we do the Lord’s work like Paul did, we will stir up the devil – we can count on that as a matter of fact.


We see in Acts 16 that Paul and Silas were falsely accused; they were unjustly beaten with the lictor’s rods until their backs were gashed and bloody; they were thrust into the inner prison where their feet were made fast with stocks. All of this just because they cast an demon spirit out of a poor young servant girl, and put a some wicked men out of business.


Paul did the community of Philippi a service by his righteous act, but all they could see is the loss of their filthy material gain by ungodly means. True Christianity today does our nation and our community a good service, but they can’t see it. They see us as evil doers.


3. Thirdly, we want to see praying and singing, and salvation bringing (v. 25-34).


1) Paul and Silas were in prison at midnight praying and singing hymns (25).


What a testimony it is to the lost world, when Christians rejoice in their trials! How we lose our effectiveness when we groan and complain in our suffering. But when we rejoice in our trials, we convince sinners that God is real and that He is with us. And when we rejoice in suffering, God might just do a mighty work in our midst.


2) Next we see that the foundations of the prison were shaken (26).


How we need the foundations of Satan’s prison shaken by the power of God! Lost sinners need the foundation of their false hopes shaken. They need to be loosed from the shackles of sin, and Satan, and their unbelief. May God be pleased to shake the foundations of Satan’s prison is Ashland, Kentucky.


3) And then we see that all of his hope was gone (27).


The jailor was at the end of himself. He heard Paul and Silas singing and praying to God. He heard their gracious words of joy and songs of thanksgiving to God. He began to feel the guilt and heavy burden of his sins. He was feeling the guilt for harming innocent men of God. Now he thought all the prisoners were escaped. He would face certain death for allowing the prisoners to escape. Suicide was the only way out that he could see. But thank God, there was another way, and that way was the Gospel of Jesus.


4) Next we see that the light of salvation shines in (28-32)


Paul cried “Do yourself no harm!” (28). Suicide is not a good option. It is not acceptable with society nor with God. How many people turn to suicide, when they lose their hope in life? But there is a better way to escape a dreadful end and that is the cross of Jesus. “Do yourself no harm, but come to the light of the gospel instead”!


The jailor called for a light, and came in trembling in fear (29). He called for a light; but little did he know that God would send the Gospel light. He feared for his life, but mostly I believe he feared God! He heard about repentance and the judgment of God, and he felt the earthquake. Oh that lost sinners would be brought to fear the Lord! They go on their way thinking they are alright, thinking they are not in danger, when the very wrath of God is ready to fall on them and consume their souls.


The jailor brought them out of the prison, and asked “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” What was not Paul’s the answer to that question? Paul did not say “you must be baptized and join a church to be saved". He did not say “repeat this prayer and sign this card and thou shalt be saved”. He did not say “you must prayer your way through in order to be saved”. He did not say “there are 9 things that you must do if you want to be saved”. He did not say “keep the law of Moses, and do the best you can to be saved”. He did not say “you must hold out faithful to the end in order to be saved.” No beloved, Paul didn’t say any of these things.


Beloved, this is the only place in the Scriptures that this question was so simply and plainly put. And since this question was sincerely asked by a lost and needy sinner, I would think that God would want for him to know, and for us to know the correct answer, wouldn’t you? And what was Paul’s answer? (31-32). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Yes, we are saved by simple faith in Jesus Christ and His work on Calvary’s cross.


And then Paul and Silas spake the Word of the Lord unto the jailor and all that were in his house. What do you suppose Paul and Silas spake to them? They told them all about what it meant to believe in Jesus for salvation. Paul told them about the person of Jesus Christ, about his virgin birth and incarnation, and about His perfect sinless life. He told them all about the work of Christ on the cross and all that He accomplished for sinners through His death, burial, and resurrection for them. He taught them about baptism and the way of Christian service and worship in the Lord’s Church. And beloved, God saved everyone in that household that night!


4. The affects of the Gospel on the jailor’s house (33-34).


The jailor washed the stripes and tended the wounds of the men of God, which they suffered for Jesus’ sake. He and all his household then were baptized, and no doubt they became new members of the church at Philippi. Then they fed Paul and Silas and provided for their carnal needs. Finally its says that all believed in God and rejoiced in the Lord.


What a difference that salvation makes in people’s lives. What a change in their conduct and behavior. The jailor was changed from hurting and harming the men of God, to tenderly and affectionately caring and providing for them. What more evidence of true salvation could this man have shown than what did toward Paul and Silas?


What a difference a day might bring forth! At midnight the jailor was on the brink of taking his own life, and all of his household were lost in there sins. But after midnight the jailor and all of his house were saved and praising God. The whole household went to bed that night lost in their sins on their was to hell, but the woke up the next morning saved from their sins and on their way to heaven with Jesus. Yes, what a difference a day might make, when the Gospel of Jesus enters the house.




Are we helping to put the devil out of business? The most effective way to fight the corrosion and degeneration of our community and of our world, is to carry out the great commission, and preach the gospel to every creature, and rebuke sin and sinners in the Name of Jesus Christ.


Are we suffering as a result of our witness for the Lord? If we will truly live faithful lives for Christ, and do His work in the world, I’ll assure you that we will suffer for His sake. May God give each of us the boldness to stand up, stand up for Jesus, and not be ashamed of Him, and not be afraid of what men or the devil can do unto us.


Do we see the salvation of sinners as a result of our testimony for Christ? I believe if God’s people will be strong and faithful witnesses, and suffer for His sake and the Gospels, that we will see the fruit of our labors in the salvation of sinners.


Perhaps you are like this Philippian jailor. Perhaps you were a lost sinner that God has brought to the end of yourself. Perhaps you have seen the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus; how that Christ died, was buried, and rose again the third day to save you from your sins, and to give you eternal life by faith in His work on the cross for you.


If you confess Jesus as your Saviour, has the power of the Gospel made a change in your life? Do you now hate the sins and sinful ways of the devil wherein he held you captive? Do you now love the things of God and the people of God that you once despised or even persecuted? Do you show that change in your life by serving the men of God and the people of God in the Lord’s New Testament Church? Have you submitted to Scriptural baptism and membership in the Lord’s Church? If not, may this be the very hour that you will trust and obey the Lord.