Biblical People

Biblical People: The Philippian Jailer

After casting the fortune-telling spirit out of the slave girl, freeing her from possession in the spiritual realm and exploitation in the physical realm, Paul and Silas end up in trouble.

Though this is Paul’s doing—when he commanded the spirit to come out of the fortune-teller—Silas is guilty by association. Dragged before the authorities, Paul and Silas are stripped, flogged, and thrown into prison.

Instead of feeling sorry for their predicament, they spend their time in jail praying and singing about God. They have a captive audience. All the other prisoners hear their impromptu concert.

This goes on until midnight. I wonder if the prisoners are inspired by the praise music or angry about having their sleep interrupted.

Suddenly an earthquake shakes the prison, the doors fly open, and everyone’s chains fall off. They’re free! 

The jailer awakes and assumes all his prisoners have escaped. He prepares to kill himself because he faces an even worse fate from his Roman boss. But Paul intervenes, “Wait, don’t do it! We’re still here.”

The jailer calls for a torch, rushes to Paul and Silas, and falls before them, shaking in fear. He asks, “How can I get right with God?” Paul and Silas explain Jesus to him.

After he treats their wounds, Paul and Silas baptize him and his family. Then, full of joy, he brings them into his home, and they share a meal.

The Philippian jailer made a wrong assumption and almost killed himself. Fortunately, he didn’t, and was able to receive the saving goodness of Jesus.

Do we ever jump to the wrong conclusions and get in the way of what Jesus is trying to do?

[Discover more about the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:22–40.]

Read more about other biblical characters in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at