Acts 16:29
Then he called for a light, etc. The significance of the jailor's case, as a Roman, and almost instantaneously converted, as illustrating the comparative religious freedom of a Roman colony, the openness of the Gentile mind to impression, the yearning of the heart after a true religion prevailing at that time in the better class of people.


1. A realization of personal dangers and need.

2. A forsaking of all other refuges.

3. An appeal for help to those who, by their confidence and peace, showed that they had a better hope.


1. Different from mere curiosity or speculation.

2. Ready humbly to wait for brotherly sympathy and direction.

3. Casting the will as well as the mind on the truth. "What must I do?"


1. Salvation possible, therefore sought after.

2. Self-surrender at the feet of the messenger, as expressing desire for the message.

3. Doubtless "the way of salvation," of which the city bad heard, was something definitely before his mind as something to be found. Why is not such earnestness universal? - R.

Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling.

1. He was a careless sinner. This appears not so much from his official acts; for the guilt of persecution rested on the people and magistrates: but from his conduct as depicted in ver. 26, in which we have the picture of a worldly, careless, godless man, driven to desperation by an unexpected temporal calamity. He had no fear of God, since he was more afraid of "them that could kill the body," etc.; he had no care for his soul, since he was ready to peril its salvation; he was utterly reckless about eternity, since to escape present misery he was about to rush unsummoned into the presence of his Judge. The idea of suicide could not have occurred to any man unless he were utterly careless alike to God and His everlasting prospects.

2. But a change was wrought before conversion; from being a careless he becomes a convinced sinner. This preliminary change consisted in strong convictions of conscience and lively apprehensions of danger; and these, although suddenly produced, were profound and sincere (ver. 29). Here is a great change from apathy to concern, from recklessness to anxious inquiry. This conviction may be accounted for by what he had seen and heard; the confession of the slave girl; the conduct of the apostles; the earthquake; Paul's exhortation.

3. But while a marked change had been wrought, it was not conversion. Conviction, while it precedes conversion, is not always followed by it. He had remorse, but remorse is not repentance; he had fear; but fear is not faith; he had an apprehension of danger, but danger may be apprehended while the method of deliverance is unknown. These convictions were useful as preparatory means; they were hopeful symptoms; but they may be, and often are, stifled, resisted, and overcome. That he was not converted is evident from his question, which implies that as yet he was ignorant of the ground of a sinner's hope, and that he was disposed to look to something that he might himself do, rather than what might be Divinely done for him.

II. THE MEANS BY WHICH HIS CONVERSION WAS EFFECTED. It matters little by what circumstances a sinner is first awakened to inquire; whether by the earthquake, or the still small voice. But while the circumstances are various the means are the same in all — the truth as it is in Jesus, the full and free gospel of the grace of God. The jailer was not converted by the earthquake, on the contrary, the effect of that was suicidal terror; but what the miraculous event could not do was done by the gospel. He was directed to look out of himself to Christ, to relinquish all hope of salvation by works, and to work it by faith. The exhortation implies —

1. That he should believe the truth concerning Christ — which is involved in the names given him.

(1)Jesusi.e., Saviour.

(2)Christ, the Lord's anointed.


2. That believing the truth concerning Christ, he should place his own personal trust and reliance in Christ alone as One able to save to the uttermost. The gospel thus proposed was —(1) A suitable means, as prescribing a remedy in all respects adapted to the evils he felt or feared.(2) Sufficient, as containing everything to instruct, encourage, or persuade.

III. THE NATURE OF THE CHANGE. His conversion properly consisted in believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Until he believed he was unconverted; but as soon as he believed he became a converted man. The production of pure faith is not a mere change of opinion, but a radical and thorough renovation attested by certain fruits.

1. He thirsted for more instruction (ver. 32).

2. He was concerned for the souls of his family.

3. His faith wrought by love.

4. He had peace and joy in believing.

5. He made an open profession of his faith.Conclusion: Learn —

1. That men in their unconverted state are often careless, and destitute of all fear of God and concern for their souls.

2. While they are thus careless God is often pleased to make use of some solemn and awakening dispensation to arouse and alarm them.

3. Sometimes the trials and disappointments of sinners only serve to exasperate their natural enmity, as was the case with the jailer, or attempted suicide.

4. Convictions are only useful when they produce an earnest spirit of thoughtfulness and inquiry.

5. Conviction only ends in conversion when a true sense of sin is combined with an apprehension of God's mercy in Christ.

(J. Buchanan, D. D.)

I. THE AWAKENING OF THE JAILER. The first circumstance that appears powerfully to have affected his mind was, great temporal calamity threatening his immediate ruin and death, Great and sudden and heavy afflictions are often sent by the providence of God that He may bring men to recollection and prayer. There were many things here, all concurring, which powerfully affected the jailer's mind. But these were only outward circumstances; and it was only by the special grace of God that they were made serviceable to his soul. Many people suffer huge afflictions, but never think of God in them; and so their afflictions come to no blessed issue. It was not, indeed, till after the jailer had come to himself that he thinks about his soul, and sees the hand of God in the surrounding circumstances. In the day of God's conviction men are thankful for help from those whom they had reviled: and in the great day of all, when the door of repentance shall be forever closed, the persecutors of the true Church of Jesus shall fall down before them, and be as ashes under the soles of their feet.

II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS AWAKENING, in his earnest inquiry. Let me point out to you what it is to be saved.

1. To be delivered from all our sins.

2. To be delivered from all the penalty of all these evil acts.

3. To be placed in a capacity to overcome them.

4. To be saved from the practice of sin, as well as from the condemnation of it.

5. To be delivered from the devil.

6. To be delivered from the world.

7. To be saved from the curse of the Almighty.

8. To be delivered from hell.But to be saved is far more than this: it is to be brought from sin to holiness, from the curse to the blessing, from death to life, from unquietness to peace, from Satan to God.

III. THE ANSWER GIVEN TO THIS INQUIRING, AWAKENING MAN. They call away his attention at once from himself to Christ, to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. He entered into a new life from that very hour. And now, observe, the jailer has found Jesus; and his terror is turned into joy. As the blessed fruits of his believing, his heart is filled with joy and love to the brethren; and he attended, with swift obedience, to the Lord's laws, and entered, by baptism, upon his Christian course. Conclusion: In the narrative observe —

1. A remarkable instance of free and rich mercy to a desperate sinner reduced to the last extremity.

2. An instructive instance of the mysteriousness of God's ways in the accomplishment of His purposes of mercy.

3. That the salvation of God is as free as it is vast.

4. The simplicity of the gospel.

5. That all the children of God are not awakened in the same way.

6. A picture of the world.This earth is a prison; the persons in it are condemned to die — yea, a thousand are led forth to execution daily. And though the unconverted man may not draw a sword to plunge it into his own heart, the sword of Divine vengeance is unsheathed against him, and may pierce him at any moment. And whereas, while Paul and Silas were praising God for redemption, the earthquake shook the prison, and the fetters fell off the prisoners, we see, as it were, a picture of the blessings of the gospel, whereby "the prisoner leaps to loose his chains," and those who are enabled to believe are emancipated from the bondage of sin, and brought to the glorious liberty of the children of God.

(T. Snow, A. M.)


1. A terrible sense of danger. The earthquake, and the strange, sublime conduct of the prisoners, roused his guilty conscience.

2. An earnest spirit of inquiry. "What must I do," etc.

3. A readiness to do whatever is required.

II. THE EXCLUSIVE MEANS OF CONVERSION. Faith in Christ is indispensable to produce this moral change.

1. A change of character requires a change in beliefs. We are controlled and moulded by motives: motives are beliefs.

2. The new beliefs necessary to produce this change must be directed to Christ. Christ alone gives us —

(1)The true ideal of character.

(2)The true way of reaching it.

(3)The true aids to enable us to do so.

III. THE GLORIOUS ISSUE OF CONVERSION. "Thou shalt be saved." What is salvation? It is not in any sense a physical change, nor merely an intellectual change, nor necessarily a local change. It is a moral revolution. It is the soul rising from sensualism to spirituality, from selfishness to benevolence, from the world to God. This conversion —

1. Will ensure the salvation of our own souls. "Thou shalt," etc.

2. Will lead to the salvation of others. "And thy house" — not, of course, that his belief would save his family independently of theirs; but that it would prompt him to use such efforts as would, under God, lead his family to a saving faith.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. WHAT KIND OF MAN BEFORE CONVERSION? The jailer a remarkable instance of the power of God's grace. He was a stern Roman disciplinarian. He respected authority. He was probably an old soldier, who for good service in the past was rewarded with this post. This was creditable to him. We must be faithful in our daily work. I grant there is a little harshness in the execution of his orders; he was not commanded to thrust, but to keep them safely, and he tried his best to do so. He goes to bed. He is asleep. An earthquake comes. Not alarmed about his wife and family. His one business was, under the seal of the Roman Emperor, to look after the prison doors. Would that all Christians were as faithful to their office as this unenlightened man. He finds the door open. He fears disgrace. He cannot combat the charge of neglected duty. He would have killed himself. He was a man sternly upright. I am always glad when such men are saved. They are not always saved. They stand high in public esteem, and are apt to forget their Master in heaven. The jailer was a man of few words. "What must I do to be saved?" Men of this kind are often cold. It is hard to warm their hearts. He was a man of action and decision, he says to this man, "Go, and he goeth"; he is prompt himself.

II. WHAT OCCASIONED HIS CONVERSION? He had received some instruction before, he had heard the testimony of the girl, and possibly the words of Paul. They did not impress him. He slept afterwards, he was not made to tremble because the prisoners had escaped; this fear had been banished by Paul. What then, the miracle, that the doors were opened, and yet that none had escaped! What gladness filled his soul! No blame possible. He was brought near to the unseen world by the danger he had escaped; and as the light shone around he saw his past life, and the Eternal Spirit unveiled that life and made him to see the evil of it. Then his conversion grew out of the further instruction of the apostle. Plain teaching and a simple heart to receive it make quick work of the matter. Let us thank God for any circumstances which secure the conversion of a soul. Do not complain because the earthquake is not in the conversion; no matter how accomplished, or through whom.


1. He was a believing convert. He believed without delay or doubt. He was told to believe, and he did. Who will not believe what the experience of thousands promises to be true?

2. He was an humble convert. He fell down at the feet of the apostle. He waited upon them in his house. A convinced soul does not want the highest seat in the synagogue. If good people dispute at all, let it be for a place at the feet of Christ.

3. He was a ready convert. Hearing — believing — fellowship — all in the midnight hour. When we know what Christ would have us do, any moment of delay is sin.

4. He was a practical convert. He washed their stripes. He set food before them. Not easy to get up a feast in the middle of the night, He fetched them the best. He is the right sort of a convert who wants to be doing something for Christ; he can soon find something to do.

5. He was a joyful convert.

6. He was an influential convert. All in his house were converted.

7. He was a sensible convert. He still kept on in his position, he did not give up keeping the gaol. Who so fit to be a jailer as a man who knows the Lord and will be humane? We like those who are converted to keep to their business and to make money for the cause of Christ.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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