In the city of Philippi some 2,000 years ago, Paul, Silas, Timothy, Luke and others were walking the busy streets spreading the Gospel. They had established headquarters at Lydia’s house. She was a new convert, a successful business woman, and so she wanted to take care of these bold missionaries with the astonishing message. Actually, a church was established in her home.
Well, as Paul and his colleagues were preaching and teaching in the street, a servant girl who brought in a lot of money by fortune-telling, latched onto their ministry. To make herself look good and to tap into the large crowds, she cried out repeatedly, “These are servants of God who can tell you how to be saved.” Paul was irritated but let the woman go on like this for a while—after all, she was speaking the truth. But, when he and the others had enough of this constant diatribe, Paul turned to her and cast out the demon motivating her, thereby losing a lot of money for her handlers.
So, they told the city magistrates Paul and Silas were stirring up people with talk not legal for Romans to hear. Without a trial, the officials had them publically whipped and thrown into the innermost part of jail, shackling their legs. The stalwart pair was undaunted. About midnight, they were praying aloud and singing hymns (in harmony, no doubt) and an earthquake came, knocking down the prison gates and making the leg chains of no effect. The Roman guard was so alarmed he would have fallen on his sword if Paul had not stopped him. “We are all here. Do not harm yourself,” he said. Seeing the power, the jailer said, “What do I have to do to be saved?” So Paul witnessed to him, he accepted the message, took the twosome home with him, washed their wounds and gave them an early breakfast. The jail birds ended up baptizing everyone in the house and scripture tells us the jailer was filled with joy.
The magistrates realized they had made a mistake and sent word to release them. But Paul said, let them come personally escort us away. “We are Roman citizens and we were mistreated without a trial.” Well, the officials came running and apologetically escorted them out, telling them to leave town. They did not leave town right away, but went to Lydia’s house and strengthened the brothers there.
A lot of points could be drawn out of the story from Acts 16, but what stands out to me today is the fact that Paul and Silas went by a Higher Law than provincial rules and regulations. They did not fear what man could do to them. It reminded me of Peter and John after they were told by authorities not to teach in the name of Jesus. They kept on doing so and remarked, “Which should we do, obey man or God?” How do we answer that one?