And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened…
God does not always manifest himself "in the still small voice" (1 Kings 19.); there are times when he makes himself known in other forms. We learn from our text -
I. THAT GOD IS SOMETIMES, IF NOT OFTEN, IN THE TERRIBLE. (Ver. 26.) "By terrible things in righteousness," as well as by gracious things in mercy and in love, does he answer us. He is in the earthquake and in the fire and in the great and strong wind, sometimes. He was, here. The earthquake was the moving of his hand, the utterance of his voice, the expression of his mind. It was his condemnation of human injustice and cruelty; it was his declaration on behalf of human innocence and worth. As in nature we have the solemn as well as the pleasant, the fearful as well as the delightful, the storm as well as the sunshine, so in God's providential dealings with us, and also in his revelation of himself in Jesus Christ, we have the awful and the stern as well as the benignant and the merciful, the rebuke as well as the invitation, punishment as well as reward, death as well as life.
II. THAT GOD'S AIM, IN THE TERRIBLE, IS TO AWAKEN THE SLUMBERING SOUL. "The keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep" (ver. 27). It was the sleep of sin from which this earthquake called him, rather than from bodily slumber. God aroused his spirit thus; and from a guilty, deadly unconsciousness of all that is most precious in the human heart, he awoke to "newness of life." "God doeth it that men should fear before him" (Ecclesiastes 3:14). God sends the earthquake; he shakes the very ground under men's feet; he makes their life-prospects to rock and quiver; he threatens with loss, or he permits terrible bereavements, to compel men to think of those things which otherwise they would continue to disregard, to make men see the solemn realities which are about them, to place judgment and eternity in full view before their eyes.
III. THAT SPIRITUAL AGITATION STILL ASKS THE OLD QUESTION AND RECEIVES THE OLD REPLY. Let men say what they will about "refined selfishness," it will always remain true that a man's first duty to God is the duty he owes to himself; that the first thing a man awakened by God has to do is to consider how he can come into a right and happy relation to the God with whom he has to do; in other words, to ask him how he can "be saved," how his sin can be forever and himself be taken back into the favor and the service of the living God. And the answer of Paul will always be the reply of the Christian teacher. The earnest seeker after salvation must be directed to a Divine Savior, in whom he can "believe." For us to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is to accept him for all that he offers to be to us - to accept him
(1) as the Savior in whom we trust for Divine mercy;
(2) as the Friend to whom we give our heart;
(3) as the Lord to whom we dedicate our life.
IV. THAT THE ACCEPTANCE OF JESUS CHRIST IS TO BE FOLLOWED BY DISCIPLESHIP AND PROFESSION. The converted jailor, so far from being satisfied with his first change, gave his mind to the further and fuller understanding of the truth (ver. 32); moreover, he showed the sincerity of his conversion by being baptized into the Christian faith (ver. 33), by carrying with him all the members of his household, and by offering hospitality to those whom he had treated as criminals and now welcomed as friends. We, too, if our faith be genuine, shall
(1) be eager to learn more of Christ and of his holy will;
(2) make profession of our change of heart and life;
(3) do all we can to befriend and further those who are the ambassadors of Christ.
V. THAT FAITH IN CHRIST TURNS PASSING PLEASURE INTO ABIDING JOY. "He rejoiced" (ver. 34). He had often laughed and been merry before; now joy takes up its home in his heart. "Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.