Joy in Tribulation
Acts 16:19-34
And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas…

All that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. "We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom." The truth of these Pauline sayings had often been tested by experiences, of which this at Philippi was one of the most significant. Here, too, was one of the places where he learned to say, "Thanks be to God, who always maketh us to triumph!

I. SELF-INTEREST IN ARMS AGAINST THE TRUTH. So often - especially in our day - are men's interests and profits on tile same side with Christianity; we need to be reminded that godliness and gain (in the immediate and lower sense) are not identical.

1. The root of opposition to the truth. They saw their hope of gain was gone. Wherever men strike a blow against pure morality, sound and unrefuted principles of teaching, we may rely upon it some "vested interest" is at bottom the cause. The progress of the gospel has put an end to many false callings, and, let us hope, will put an end to many more.

2. The weapons of falsehood. False accusations, misrepresentations. Malice knows that the most effective mode of attack is the indirect. If you cannot disprove a man's arguments, you may blacken his character. If his private life is blameless, try to show that his principles are dangerous to society. If he speaks unwelcome truth, accuse him of breaking up the general peace and good feeling (1 Kings 18:17; Amos 7:10). The wolf in the fable! Crafty use of catch-cries is another instrument of passion and malice. The great Roman name and power is assailed, and that by hated and despicable Jews! This the first time that Roman law is invoked against the Christian. Observe the half-truth in the arguments of malice. Christianity does make men restless - it frightens the evil out of false repose. It does unhinge old customs, and was destined to overthrow the Roman pride. Thus was the multitude excited, as often under such circumstances, and, amidst howls of rage and gusts of indignation, the apostles are roughly handled, their garments torn; they are beaten and cast into close confinement.. So do malice and passion often appear to gain their will, while they are preparing for themselves a defeat.

II. INWARD JOY AMIDST OUTWARD DARKNESS; INWARD LIBERTY IN BONDS AND PRISON. At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns. What seems to be the gate of death and of hell may be converted by prayer and song into the gate of heaven, the avenue to Paradise. 'Tis not the place that sanctifies the spirit, but the spirit that sanctifies the place. Great the triumph of the spirit, to sing, not within the safe walls of the church, but behind the barred doors of the dungeon! Sweet are "songs in the night"! It is suffering which wrings the very soul of music from the heart; and to the prayers thus uttered, a deep Amen echoes in heaven.


1. The earthquake. This was the outward answer to the prayer and song. Heaven and earth are moved at the prayer of the holy. As it trembled awfully through the prison, opening doors and loosening bonds, hearts also were smitten and flew open at the touch of God.

2. The agitation of the soul. The jailor wakes, at first to anguish and despair. The prisoners have escaped; he is a lost man! There is a sudden temptation to suicide, and at the eleventh hour crime is averted and salvation received. "Do thyself no harm: for we are all here!" Those who love allegorical treatment of texts may find matter here. Duty and the will of God are firmer bonds than handcuffs and the stocks. "We are all here" cry the servants of God, with the witness of our word, the pattern of our life, the intercessory prayer of our love. But a new fear, more awful than the former, seizes on the jailor's soul: "What must I do to be saved?" When it comes to this question in earnest, the soul is ripe for salvation. One such cry brings all the mercy of Heaven down.

3. The great question. It is not unprepared for. He had heard the apostles praying. Doubtless seeds of filth, dropped into his mind on some former occasion, now germinated and swiftly broke into life. As the earth breaks forth into greenness after a thunderstorm, so was new life born in the man's soul in the midst of the dread earthquake.

4. The great answer. Believe! "'Faith' is all your wisdom," said the skeptical emperor Julian. True! and let us abide by it. Affiance in the Holiest and Divinest, for time and for eternity; this and this alone is wisdom. Faith in the ever-blessed One makes blessed. In him we obtain a Divine Friend in the home; a holy domestic order; sweet domestic peace; assured domestic stability; a portion in the heavenly home.

5. The great decision. It is rather implied than expressed; shown by practical results than by words. Faith works in the jailor's heart by love. His thankfulness to Christ is shown by attentions of thoughtful kindness to his servants. The stern keeper of the stocks is transformed by the magic of love into the physician and the host. The jailor has become a "prisoner of Jesus Christ." Having washed his now honored guests from the stains of outward defilement, he receives at their hands the baptism of spiritual purity. The scene closes amidst purest jay. Thus do the darkest places and most repulsive associations become glorified and idealized by the Spirit of the living and loving God. The prison becomes a chapel; a dread place of judgment; a school of penitence and faith; a home of love and kindness; a place of new birth and new life. - J.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

WEB: But when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.

Indirect Means of Doing Good
Top of Page
Top of Page