[CF Devotionals] 2009-10-17 - A Commendable Jailer

Acts 16:23, 24, “They threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks.”

The Philippian jailer presents an interesting person in the Bible. We are told a little about him and what he did. It seems he did his job well. We know that later in this passage, he seeks salvation, and is told, “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household,” Acts 16:31. Thus we know there is a good outcome for him, but who is he?

Let us remember, first, that he was a man doing his job. He did it well. There are no extraordinary sins mentioned concerning him. He seems rather common, but being common still places him in the category of a sinner in need of grace. He was probably disciplined, as he was head of a jail, which was a position of importance. He followed the rules, and when he is told to guard Paul and Silas, he puts them into the inner prison. We might learn something from him. He was dedicated to his duty, and after the earthquake, his first thought seems to have been concerning his duty. May it be that in all our concerns we are found faithful like this jailer. He sets a good example for us. However, we can’t commend him for considering self-murder (Acts 16:27). We ought to be more like him in loyalty to our callings, but respond better to adversity.

When it comes to his faith, we might wonder what it was that brought him to faith. Maybe when he was putting the stocks on Paul and Silas, they spoke to him of the Gospel. Maybe there was talk in the town of the message of Jesus that these visitors had brought. Maybe it was the death experience of the earthquake, or his brush with self-murder. It seems however, that Scripture does not really speak of these things leading to his cry for salvation. It seems that we can only attribute this to the Holy Spirit working in his heart. This is something we can take with us from the account of the jailer in Acts 16. It is the Holy Spirit that regenerates hearts. Circumstances may have a role, but it is the Spirit who opens eyes to the need for Christ. This is significant - and something that we can’t overlook. We are not given any other option in the account. God works through His Spirit in the hearts of men and women. In Acts 16, grace is not attributed to any other factor, and we should not look for what Scripture does not give. God works in hearts today, the same way He did in the 1st Century.

We can learn from the jailer. He acted immediately on his new faith. He took Paul and Silas home, cleaned their wounds, and fed them. It must have been quite an evening, stirring up the house at around 2am, to care for some prisoners. His faith led to action. It showed the genuineness of regenerating grace in his heart, and it leaves us an example – new believer or seasoned veteran of faith – we all have work to do.

Soli Deo Gloria,

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