Online Bible Commentary
Acts 16:25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 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 chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here." 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. (NKJV)
The time is about A.D. 50. Paul is on his second missionary journey. Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke have now traveled to Europe and are in the city of Philippi in the Roman colony of Macedonia.
Now Paul and Silas have been thrown into prison for ministering to a slave girl. The charge against them was essentially disturbing the peace. For this, they were beaten with rods and imprisoned without a trial. Instead of having a pity party they are praying and singing hymns, as the other prisoners listened (v. 25a). No doubt the prison guard heard them prior to falling asleep.
Suddenly, at midnight, there is an earthquake (vv. 25b-26a). The prison shakes, but does not crumble (v. 26b). However, “all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed” (v. 26c).
Meanwhile, the prison guard is shaken out of his sleep only to see the doors of the prison open (v. 27a). Assuming the worst, that the prisoners had fled, he starts to end his life with his own sword (v. 27b), saving the authorities the trouble (12:19).
But Paul, somehow sensing this through the Holy Spirit, yells to the guard "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here" (v. 28). The guard then calls for a torch, since the prison was pitch dark (v. 29a). He runs into Paul and Silas’s cell and falls at their feet, “trembling” (v. 29b).
Next the guard brings the two missionaries “out” to his home and his household, at the risk of his own life (v. 30). A “household” would typically consist of family members and servants. The guard would have secured the prisoners before leaving with Paul and Silas.
So the guard brings them to his home and asks the age old question “Sirs, what must I do to be saved" (v. 30)? Paul and Silas encourage the man and his whole household to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” and they will all be saved (v. 31). They then present the gospel to those in the home (v. 32).
Immediately the guard then washes the wounds of Paul and Silas and he and all his household accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior and are baptized that night (v. 33). They then return to the home for a meal and rejoicing fellowship before the guard hurries them back to prison to beat the morning light (v. 34).
It is obvious that the guard had been impressed by the way Paul and Silas had handled their situation. They had been persecuted for merely helping someone and, yet, they exuded joy in the midst of their troubles.
This authentic Christianity made an impression on the guard. He wanted what they had, and he wanted it for all of his loved ones. He wanted it so much that he took Paul and Silas to his home for a few hours, at the risk of his own life! Authentic Christianity is contagious. We call this lifestyle evangelism.