Week #4 Reflection: Acts of the Apostles 16:16-40

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Verse to memorize

“Paul and Silas were singing hymns to God in jail.”


The Book of the Acts of the Apostles by St. Luke tells the story of what the apostles said and did after Jesus died, rose and ascended to heaven. The Apostle Paul was called to teach the Word of God much later than “the Twelve”. After Jesus ascended to heaven, he spoke to Paul in a flash of light as Paul was traveling to persecute Christians in Damascus. After a period of time, Paul became a forceful and fearless witness to Jesus, traveling thousands of miles on foot or by boat from Israel to Rome spreading the Gospel. In this reading, Paul and the disciple, Silas, have reached the city of Philippi in Macedonia.

As we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl with an oracular spirit, who used to bring a large profit to her owners through her fortune-telling. She began to follow Paul and us, shouting, “These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She did this for many days. Paul became annoyed, turned, and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” Then it came out at that moment. When her owners saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the public square before the local authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These people are Jews and are disturbing our city and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us Romans to adopt or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack on them, and the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be beaten with rods.
After inflicting many blows on them, they threw them into prison and instructed the jailer to guard them securely. When he received these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and secured their feet to a stake. About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew [his] sword and was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted out in a loud voice, “Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.” He asked for a light and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.” So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house. He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once. He brought them up into his house and provided a meal and with his household rejoiced at having come to faith in God. (NAB Acts 16:16-40 NAB)


1. In the Roman Empire, slavery was legal and extensive. There were more slaves than free citizens! Slaves were often mistreated. The slave girl in this narrative “has an oracular spirit”. What does that mean? An oracle is a spoken message from God, via the prophets, OR from a demon (evil spirit). This girl has an evil spirit. How do we know?? (Ans: Saint Paul casts the spirit out of her and she no longer can earn money for her owners)

2. Why do the owners grab Paul and Silas and take them before the magistrates? What did they accuse them of doing? (Ans: disturbing the city) Were they guilty of this? (Ans: No) What was their punishment? Have you ever been punished for something you did not do?

3. After being stripped of their clothes, beaten with rods and thrown in jail, what did St. Paul and Silas do in jail? See vs. 25. Who was listening? What happened at midnight? Why didn’t St. Paul and Silas get up and leave when the doors were opened and the chains fell off? Why did the Jailer start to kill himself? (Footnote: In the Roman Empire, provincial jails were let out to private individuals who lived there with their families. The punishment for a jailer whose prisoners escaped could be death!) St. Paul and Silas did not want that to happen.

4. What reward did St. Paul and Silas receive for their concern for the Jailer? What reward did the Jailer receive in his meeting with St. Paul and Silas? Ans: Faith and Baptism

5. How is being in jail like our experience of the Corona virus pandemic? How could we imitate St. Paul and Silas when we are confined to our homes and we have to “social distance”? Here’s a children’s song called “Saints of God” by Max Exner that includes the line, “When I get tired of feeling stale, I walk with Paul and Silas singing in jail.”


Courtesy of The Bible Project