Acts 16:25-40 (web)
2nd Missionary Journey
Imprisoned in Philippi
and the prisoners were listening to them.
16:26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake,
so that the foundations of the prison were shaken;
and immediately all the doors were opened,
and everyone's bonds were loosened.
16:27 The jailer, being roused out of sleep and seeing the prison doors open,
drew his sword and was about to kill himself,
supposing that the prisoners had escaped.
16:28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying,
"Don't harm yourself, for we are all here!"
16:29 He called for lights and sprang in, and,
fell down trembling before Paul and Silas,
16:30 and brought them out and said,
"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
16:31 They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,
and you will be saved, you and your household."
16:32 They spoke the word of the Lord to him,
and to all who were in his house.
16:33 He took them the same hour of the night,
and washed their stripes, and was immediately baptized,
he and all his household.
16:34 He brought them up into his house, and set food before them,
and rejoiced greatly, with all his household, having believed in God.
16:35 But when it was day,
vs 25 It is unclear why Timothy isn't with them. But I don't think too much can be clearly inferred from that fact. Paul and Silas were very courageous, very vocal and very public spreading the message. How many today being imprisoned unjustly would nonetheless pray and sing in prison in a very public fashion? I commend the work of Chuck Colson and others involved in such prison ministries. Furthermore we find them praying at midnight rather than sleeping.
vs 27 Prison guards were severly punished if their prisoners escaped. We saw in Acts 12:19 that the guards were put to death when Peter escaped prison. But it is surprising to me that this guard would have tried to kill himself before checking whether the prisoners had escaped. Perhaps we can infer that he deduced there being sufficient time for the prisoners to have escaped. As such it seems to me that the prisoners purposely remained with Paul and Silas, who themselves were determined to remain so as to not be perceived as outlaws and fugitives.
So we have here a situation which calls for wisdom in response to circumstances.
For many would presume that this situation may be likened to that of Peter's
in which God miraculously provided an escape from prison. Many would presume
that the earthquake was for the purpose of Paul and Silas escaping. But
they didn't interpret the event in that way, submitting themselves to the
governing authorities. And this was no doubt also a testimony to the whole
society, both to the other prisoners and to the authorities and other citizens
alike, that the gospel did not advocate rebellion against the secular authorities.