1, 2. What events in Philippi led to the imprisonment of Paul and Silas? (See opening picture.)
IT IS about midnight. Two missionaries, Paul and Silas, are in prison—the innermost part of the prison—in the city of Philippi. Their feet are fastened securely in stocks, and their backs are still aching from the beatings they had just received. (Acts 16:23, 24) How quickly things had happened! Without any warning, they had been dragged by a mob to the marketplace to stand before a hastily convened court. Their clothes were torn off them, and they were severely beaten with rods. (Acts 16:16-22) The injustice of it all! Paul, a Roman citizen, deserved a proper trial.*
2 As Paul sits in the darkness, he contemplates the events of the day. He thinks about the people of Philippi. They do not even have a Jewish synagogue in their city, unlike so many other cities that Paul has visited. In fact, the Jewish worshippers need to gather outside the city gates beside a river. (Acts 16:13, 14) Is this because there are not even ten Jewish males in the city, the number required to form a synagogue? The people of Philippi are obviously very proud of their Roman citizenship, even if it is only a partial or secondary form of citizenship. (Acts 16:21) Could this be why they do not even think it possible that these Jews, Paul and Silas, could be Roman citizens? Whatever the case, here they are, unjustly thrown into prison.
3. Why may Paul have found his imprisonment confusing; yet, what attitude did he display?
3 Perhaps Paul is also thinking about the events of the past few months. He was on the other side of the Aegean Sea, in Asia Minor. While Paul was there, the holy spirit repeatedly stopped him from preaching in certain areas. It was as if the holy spirit were pushing him to go somewhere else. (Acts 16:6, 7) But where? The answer came in a vision while he was in Troas. Paul was told: “Step over into Macedonia.” With such a clear indication of Jehovah’s will, Paul immediately accepted the invitation. (Read Acts 16:8-10.) But what happened next? Soon after he arrived in Macedonia, he ended up in prison! Why did Jehovah allow this to happen to Paul? How long would he be stuck in prison? Even if these questions weighed heavily on Paul’s mind, he did not let them erode his faith and joy. Both he and Silas started “praying and praising God with song.” (Acts 16:25) Their hearts and minds were soothed by the peace of God.
4, 5. (a) How could our situation be similar to that of Paul? (b) How did Paul’s situation change unexpectedly?
4 Perhaps there have been times in your life when you felt that you, like Paul, were following the leadings of God’s holy spirit, but then things did not turn out the way you expected. You came face-to-face with challenges, or you found yourself in new circumstances that required massive changes in your life. (Eccl. 9:11) As you look back, maybe you are left wondering why Jehovah allowed certain things to happen. If so, what can help you to continue to endure with full confidence in Jehovah? To find the answer, let us return to the account of Paul and Silas.
5 As Paul and Silas sing songs of praise, a series of totally unexpected events occurs. Suddenly, there is a violent earthquake. The doors of the prison are thrown wide open. All the prisoners’ bonds are loosened. Paul stops the jailer from committing suicide. The jailer and his entire family get baptized. As the new day starts, the city magistrates send constables to release Paul and Silas. The officials ask them to leave the city peacefully. Then, on realizing that Paul and Silas are Roman citizens, the magistrates see that they have made a huge blunder, so they themselves come to escort the two men out. But Paul and Silas insist on first saying good-bye to their newly baptized sister Lydia. Additionally, they use the opportunity to strengthen the brothers. (Acts 16:26-40) How quickly everything changed!