Acts: Day 25

Conversion of the Philippian Jailer


Today's Text: Acts 16:16-40, 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, 1 Peter 2:19-21

Text: Acts 16:16-40, 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, 1 Peter 2:19-21

Locked in prison and bound in chains, Paul and Silas make strange poster boys for freedom. When we conjure up images of freedom, we are more likely to picture an eagle in flight or a child running uninhibited through a field, than to picture two fellas in a shared prison cell. But make no mistake, even in prison, Paul and Silas were free. Their story reminds us that when God’s people live as though they’re free, the shock waves of radical faith radiate out into the world.

If you’re someone who likes to underline (or circle, doodle beside, or watercolor), grab your Bible and pen or paintbrush, and get to work highlighting verse 25:

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”
-Acts 16:25

Paul and Silas had been arrested for disturbing the peace, and were then dragged into the marketplace where they were stripped and beaten with rods. Their response? They had church.

There simply wasn’t a dungeon dark enough to snuff out their status as the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). No earthly shackles could compare to the chains of sin Christ died to free them from. The key had been turned on the cages of death and condemnation, and no prison sentence could strip them of that freedom. Though imprisoned, they chose to live out the message of that favorite children’s song, “Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine.” The prisoners in chains all around them couldn’t help but listen in.

I can’t get enough of the jailer’s conversion from this passage. This man who held the keys to an earthly prison exchanged them for the keys to the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19). What a beautiful picture of the gospel!

As the earth shook beneath him and the prison doors flew open, perhaps he saw his own chains for the first time. When God’s people live freely, those in bondage all around us are moved to look at their own chains and repeat the jailer’s question:

“What must I do to be saved?”
-Acts 16:30

Don’t miss this! If we are in Christ, we are free indeed (John 8:36).  

Free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).
Free from the enslaving weight of sin (Galatians 5:1).
Free from the bondage of corruption (Romans 8:21).
Free from eternal condemnation (Romans 8:1).   

Jesus is the great abolitionist. From the cross, He shook the foundations of our prison cells and flung open the doors to our hearts, freeing the bound and enslaved so that we might freely live.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
-Galatians 5:1


Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

  • This reminded me of a book I once read called “singing through the night” by Anneke Campajan. It is about women from the persecuted church and how by singing hymns they were made stronger in Christ. In fact because of this, I am going to read it again. It is amazing how a song or hymn can mean so much and see us through tough times. I know how much music means to me and such an encouragement to see Paul and Silas did the same. Thank you SRT. Xxx

  • Carrie Rogers

    When God’s people live freely, those in bondage all around us are moved to look at their own chains and repeat the jailer’s question:

    “What must I do to be saved?”
    -Acts 16:30

    Yes, yes & yes!!! Lord, help me to live freely.

  • After rereading the passage for day 25 a few times I can’t stop pondering why did Paul wait till after they were released to speak up that he was a Roman citizen? Was it to just show the leaders that put him in jail that he easily could get them into great deal of trouble but instead he showed them grace?
    Any thoughts on this?

    • April

      Maybe he didn’t tell them till later so he could show the prisoners and the jailer his joy and freedom in Jesus, giving them their chance to be saved.

  • Ellington

    Praying for you Kristine!

  • Susan Shields

    The wonderful message of belief and baptism is seen again in the telling of the conversion of the jailer. This is one of the central and reoccurring messages of Acts as we witness the first century church grow. Praise to God for this pattern of salvation and that He continues to add us to His church as we believe in His Son and are cleansed from sins as we come up out of the waters of baptism!

    • Roberta Lopez

      Baptism in that day was not about becoming clean from sins. It was the way to follow under a rabbi’s teaching or a profession of following under ones instruction. In the Jewish culture they were baptized into ones teaching, and the early church followed in that way. We are baptized now into Christ’s teaching. In the modern church we have made baptism about “cleansing”, but that was not how it was in the days of the first church. It is our first act of obedience to Jesus. Hoping this gives some enlightenment. Blessings to you all.

  • What stuck out to me in this well known story of the chains breaking free in the prison, was the torture beforehand. They were beaten with rods for preaching the Good News. We are so incredibly blessed to live in a country where we don’t have to fear death for our faith. I am broken hearted that not all Christians can say the same around the world. We like to complain (remember, everyone is listening) about our small persecutions in America, but some people are still facing actual death on a daily basis. And it makes me think how we would do in those situations. Could be we strong like the disciples? Could we continue to praise Jesus like people in China or the Middle East?
    Tonight, I pray for Christians across the world. That we continue to rejoice in our faith- no matter the circumstance. And that God will protect and bless Christians whose lives are in danger solely because of their faith.

  • This is my first SRT study and it has blessed my heart in so many ways. One thing that’s continued to resonate with me is the number of people they meet with willing hearts who long to know Christ. We read stories of the most unusual situations, and definitely those where I would be annoyed or hopeless or feel exasperated, yet these great men of God continue to press forward and encourage and every single time there is provision by the Spirit and lives changed. It makes me appreciate the love that God has for us so much more, and challenges me to look at those unusual situations in a different light. Rather than being a punishment for me, maybe it’s an opportunity for someone else. So thankful for this community and for SRT!

    • Nikravesous

      “Rather than Bing a punishment for me, maybe it is an opportunity for someone else” yes!! That is an awesome way of putting it. Thank you for sharing!

  • Caroline

    Freedom to love, freedom to dance, freedom to sing, freedom to praise His name, freedom to pursue Him more fervently each day- We are free indeed!

  • This past week a sweet, young woman I have known since she birth, tried to take her own life. She has suffered with depression for the past five years, been on medication, been to counseling, but all the while trying to keep it secret because she felt so much shame. Her suicide attempt kicked the door wide open for her to get the love, support and prayers she has always needed. Last night, as I was praying for her, 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 came into my mind. So this morning when I saw this wonderful verse again, I texted this verse to a weary momma who has been sitting next to a hospital bed for two days. I am so grateful for this teaching today reminding me that God is in the business of bringing freedom!!!

    • Tina

      When I was 15, that was me. I suffered from depression, was a ‘cutter’, had some trauma in my life up to that point, that I also attempted suicide. I spent some time in the hospital and then was sent to a mental health clinic for about a week. BUT God…he used that pain, that suffering from then as well as future events, to draw me to him. When I turned 24 I accepted Jesus as my savior. I had known about the Lord my whole life, grew up in a Christian home, prayed the ‘prayer’, but I didn’t actually get to the end of myself willing to give it all to him, until 24. I don’t regret the things in my past…because without them who knows where I’d be now. As a result of my brokenness, I came to know Jesus. I tell you this to give you hope. Keep praying for that young lady’s heart, I don’t think God is finished with her yet! It is also through that pain that I can comfort and speak to others that have gone through it, God will use us and our histories to glorify him if we let him. Her story, her path may reach so many for Christ, in time. Praying for healing of her heart and that the Lord open her eyes and bring her peace. And if she does know him, then I pray that she learns who she is in Christ so she can see and value her importance. Praying for her hurting family as well!!

  • I continue to be blown away by the study of Acts. Wow, the faith, love and discernment of Paul and Silas, two men truly filled by the Holy Spirit; the same Holy Spirit available to us today!!!

    • She Reads Truth

      Love this, Page! Thanks for reading with us today!


  • So much goodness to think about in today’s devotional. Having freedom through faith in Jesus, freedom from it all, is so life changing.
    And so Paul and Silas were constantly doing good, and being judged by others for it, physically abused even, yet they continued to do good and they Praised God.
    There’s a saying that I’ve heard others tell me recently; ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’ Where’s the encouragement or hope in those words?
    But 1 Peter 2: 19-21. Continue to do good, Endure, Stay confident in Christ knowing you are chosen, loved, free, and forever give praise to the Lord.

  • Caroline

    I just love their story. We can continue praising even in our own “jails.” That is what I am choosing to do today!

  • Keri Underwood

    Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that prison! I think about if I were in that situation, how quickly I might have turned bitter and angry that I was thrown into prison. How quick I am to get angry when someone say something untrue about me or how fast I am to get sad and lose hope in a trial. Lord I pray that we can follow the example set in this passage. That we can have the joy and hope even when we are thrown into prisons or hurt by others. I pray that we can use that time to be used by you! That we can be a light in the darkest of prisons!

  • Jennifer

    For years I’ve clung to the words of Ephesians 6:12 as a continual reminder that my struggles are not against flesh and blood. That verse often pops into my mind as I reach what feels like my breaking point, and I’m able to say, “Oh yeah! Can’t believe I forgot that again.” My entire perspective changes and I’m better able to deal with the source of my struggle. Today’s 2 Corinthians passage adds even deeper meaning to my “oh yeah” moments. Just as my struggle is not against flesh, neither do I wage war according to the flesh because my weapons of warfare are not of the flesh. My weapons have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). For me, that’s a life-changing epiphany! Why do I so often try to fight spiritual battles with earthly effort when I have the weapons of the Holy Spirit available to me? It’s time for me to lay down my useless striving and trust God to bring about the breakthroughs He desires for my life.

  • This morning as I read, I found myself wondering about the other prisoners. Who knows what they were imprisoned for…or how long they had been there in that dark, filthy prison, held fast in stocks. But then two newcomers — obviously badly beaten with rods — are brought in and their legs fastened in stocks. Yet, as the midnight hour approaches, these two newly imprisoned guys, who surely must have been feeling terrible aches and pains, are praying out loud and singing hymns to their ‘one true God’. That in itself must have been quite a concept to Romans, who regularly offered sacrifices to an entire list of so-called gods! The other prisoners had no choice but to listen to the duo sing and pray…and THEN a powerful earthquake struck, which not only swung wide all the prison doors (despite their having been locked!)…but also, unfastened every single prisoner’s chains and freed them from their stocks. But notice: despite this brand new freedom, so very long desired and dreamed of, not a single prisoner gets up and makes his way out of that dark prison! You would have thought that would have transpired immediately! But they, like the two new prisoners, stay put! Why? Did they recognize that in Paul and Silas there was a tremendous freedom that they yet desired? That could yet be theirs? …And when the jailer arrives, he who thought he would take his life instead falls trembling with gratitude at the feet of Paul and Silas. He wants what they have: “What must I do to be saved?”
    Paul’s answer to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you and your house [family] will be saved” continues to give spiritual guidance and encouragement, all these many years later. How good of our God to be so mindful of OUR need to know the answer to the jailer’s question, too!! Praise you, Father!!

  • 2 Corinthians 10:4 really spoke to me today: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” Instead of fighting with worldly weapons, Paul and Silas prayed and praised God. Prayer and praise are so powerful and yet, when we are going through trials, we often put them on the backburner. Right now, my boyfriend is going through one of those trials. He has been in a job he hates for almost two years and it has really taken its toll on him. It’s obvious that he is suffering from depression and anxiety, but he hasn’t sought help yet. I know that deep down he wants to, but he tells himself he can do this on his own. I’ve been praying for him and sharing God’s word with him and am trusting that those weapons will demolish this stronghold in his life. We are both Christians, although I have recently gone through a spiritual awakening and have begun to seek a closer relationship with the Lord. I believe that God is using this trial to not only increase my boyfriend’s faith, but mine as well. Please pray for him and pray that God will continue to lead and use me in this situation!

  • Christina Gandy

    My God wants me to be happy joyous and free! I live, breathe and move through Christ. Thank God I am alive! Thank God I am alive!

  • Through this passage, I am struck by how much trouble God goes through to bring the jailer to him. What incredible love he shows for the jailer and in turn, I am reminded of his love for me.

    • Janet

      Jen. That is an awesome observation. Paul and Silas’ suffering were part of Gods plan to bring the jailer and his whole family to Christ. Makes me wonder about some of the difficulties I face. Is my reaction to those difficulties a statement of my faith? Not that we should be glad for our sufferings but we should be glad we have a God who is there in all of our sufferings and he uses it all to bring recognition to A joy that can only come from him. His ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts Isaiah 55:9

    • Marie

      That’s an interesting thought. Am I willing to go through suffering in order to see others come to know Christ?? Something for me to think about…

  • Every time I read the story of Paul and Silas being beaten and thrown in jail I get so angry . How can those Roman citizens beat the men of
    God and throw them in jail. But then….. I hear voices singing the praises of our God and my heart leaps for joy! I get excited and begin to root for them…. “You go Paul and Silas!” As if I was cheering outside the prison walls.
    This is how I feel when I see people today in crisis, their world comes crashing in on them but then…. Songs of praise come forth from their lips and my pom poms come out cheering them on.
    What an encouragement to see such joy, in the lives of Paul and Silas. They sing with arms lifted to the heavens in the midst of their suffering. They sing in the midst of their pain. They sing in the midst of a dark and dirty jail.
    The song “I will praise you in the storm” comes to my mind….
    I will praise you in this storm.
    And I will lift my hands
    That you are who you are
    No ,after where I am
    and every tear I’ve cried
    You hold in your hand
    You never left my side
    And though my heart is torn
    I will praise you in this storm.

    • Kristi

      Yes! That song came to mind for me too! Thanks for sharing!

  • “The key had been turned on the cages of death and condemnation, and no prison sentence could strip them of that freedom.”

    When I was much younger, a teen in fact, I knew of Christ, attended church and was part of a christian family … but I didn’t *know* Christ. I found myself faltering in my self guided steps and plummeted myself, without thought, into a dark, deep well of despair and what did I do, I grabbed a shovel and dug myself further. The bad decisions I made were only compounded by further bad decisions and before long I found myself, metaphorically covered in mud on the dark, wet floor of a cold and lonely earth … I wore my shame and insecurity like shackles and wouldn’t believe I could be more, that I deserved more and I lived out my life silently weeping … BUT God in His great goodness reached down and like the father kneeling before his hurting child, He broke my self-imposed chains, washed me clean and lifted me out of that deep, dark place. He set me on a firm footing of faith in Him and freed me of my own imprisonment. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful but it is so interesting that after all these years, those insecurities can be like warfare on my spirit and if I don’t have my eyes on Christ I end up re-imprisoning myself, forgetting that from that moment forward, I have been freed;
    “Freed from the law of sin and death.
    Freed from the enslaving weight of sin.
    Free from the bondage of corruption.
    Free from eternal condemnation.”

    Prayerful that each day I remember, WE remember who we are and WHO is with us, that our shackles have been broken and no matter how we try to refit them, to lock them back on, it is forever impossible … we have been freed from our personal prisons and Christ has gloriously walked us out.

    • Nancy

      Beautifully said! And oh how Satan wants to draw us back into bondage with memories, guilt, etc. But He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world!! Praise be to God!!

    • Martha

      You shared my story.
      Thank you for the beautiful reminder of who we are in and with Christ.

    • churchmouse

      B – your words are beautiful. Tears here over your vulnerability and your victory. Thank you

  • churchmouse

    How interesting that in Acts 16: 16 it says that Paul and Silas are going to a place of prayer. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if others would know our homes to be just such a place? Or that others would know that a group of women gather faithfully in a particular place and there they pray? And that those others would be drawn to just that place? That that prayer group was gathering (who knew?!) for such a time as those others would need them? Oh that our homes and our churches would be known as places of prayer and that the light is always on!

    • Kristine L

      I’m leaving one school, where I met regularly with a group of teachers to pray, to go to a new school, where I don’t know anyone or if there is even a prayer group going. Thank you churchmouse for your words… They are encouraging me to walk into those new halls with boldness to begin again. I pray God helps me find others of the same mind to start a new prayer group.

      • Christa

        Praying for you. I went through this a few years ago. We had a prayer warrior team at the school I left, but none at the school I went to. We didn’t meet, but it was an email network that included many faculty members, which spread to include family members, friends, people I didn’t even know. After getting a feel for my principal, I asked if I could send out an email to the staff, inviting them to become a prayer warrior team, and he encouraged it! I was nervous asking him, but so glad I did. Praying that you will connect with other teachers and that your administrators are godly leaders!

    • Christa

      Loved reading your words. My pastor asked the question, “when you are taken, will those who go through your house see your faith and know that is the reason you are gone and they were left behind?”

  • churchmouse

    Have reread several times what you have written. Yes! Blessed by Erin and you this day

  • Michaela

    To live free, to actually believe that the Son has set me free, that’s what I want. Paul and Silas believed in their freedom in Christ and were able to live boldly because of it.

  • I’m a complainer. It is something that I really struggle with because that is who my mom is. It is also a quality that I can’t stand in her, so it hurts me more to know that I have it! It is something I battle on a daily basis and God is constantly surrounding me with people with REAL problems who have every right to complain, but are the most joyful people I know. Sometimes I forget that people are listening–they are ALWAYS listening, especially when they know you’re a Christian. They look to see how you handle certain situations and what you do with trials. When Paul and Silas were faced with utter darkness after being stripped and beaten, they had every right to grumble! Who wouldn’t? But instead they chose to praise God and “the other prisoners were listening.” When God tests our joy with difficulties, sicknesses, and death, we have the choice to sink low and stay in the darkness of our despair, or we have the option to affect others around us with our unshakable faith. I pray today that my words will be used to build others up and further the kingdom because someone is always listening…

    • Gina

      Amen , Emily!

    • Jenn

      Thank you!

    • churchmouse

      I so agree with you! I have found that if I listen to God first thing in the morning then I will later speak out words that are edifying and encouraging, words that others will be blessed by hearing. Because they are, just as you said, watching and listening. Listen to Him first so that later others will hear Him through me. My prayer joins yours today, Emily!

    • Halee


      I too can really work up a mighty complaint! Sometimes the things I complain about are a huge deal (to me) and other times I complain (I hope you’re sitting down) just to make conversation. Yep.
      Something that has helped me complain much less is to think “there is always something to be thankful for because Our God is THAT good!”.

      • MsDunny

        Halee, your first paragraph made me laugh this morning! I love the reminder, though, to look for something to be thankful for. There is always something, isn’t there? :-)

      • Rhonda

        Thank you, Halee…I jotted down your quote! A thankful day to you, friend!

    • Rhonda

      Thank you, Emily. Your words spoke to my heart this morning. A blessed day to you, friend!

  • Acts 16 is one of my favourite passages of Scripture, and as I was reading it this morning, the Holy Spirit reminded me how topsy turvy the Kingdom of God is. The justice and righteousness of God often seems to contradict the way the world perceives justice: Paul and Silas freed the slave girl from the demon, and yet this was seen as punishable. They were sent to one of the world’s darkest, most pitiable places, and yet they were filled with joy. The jailer was on the point of taking his own life, only to then truly find it in Jesus. The ripples of God’s Kingdom work are amazing – He restored Paul and Silas’ position, he granted salvation not only to the jailer, but to his whole family, and those who persecuted them were later brought to humility and told to right their wrongs. The Kingdom often appears upside down, but the parallel trajectories are inspiring to read – joy in the face of suffering and salvation in the face of death. Praise God!

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