The Song in the Prison
Acts xv: 1, to
Paul and Barnabas brought to Antioch the news that
the Gentiles had turned to the Lord, a great
question arose in the Church. Some of the strict
Jews said, "All these Gentile believers must become
Jews, and keep the Jewish laws about food, and
feasts, and washings and offerings."
Others said that the laws were made for Jews only,
and that Gentiles who believed in Christ were not
called upon to live as Jews. After many words on
both sides, Paul and Barnabas, with other believers,
went up to Jerusalem to lay this matter before the
apostles and the elders of the Church. They listened
to Paul's story of God's great work among the
Gentiles, and talked about it, and sought God in
prayer, and at last the apostles, and elders, and
the whole Church in Jerusalem, sent a message to the
Gentiles who believed, telling them that Jews and
Gentiles were alike before God, that both were saved
by believing in Christ, and that Gentiles who
believed were not called upon to keep the laws given
to the Jews only.
The apostles sent with Paul and Barnabas two men,
Judas and Silas, to bring this news to the Church at
Antioch. They came, and read the letter, which
brought great joy to the Gentile believers. For now
the Gentiles who believed in Christ were able to
serve the Lord without obeying all the rules which
the Jews themselves found very hard to keep.
After a time Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go again
and visit the brethren in the cities where we
preached the gospel, and see how they are doing."
Barnabas was willing to go and wished to take again
with them John Mark as their helper in the work. But
Paul did not think it well to take with them the
young man who went home in the middle of their
journey, and left them to visit strange lands alone.
Barnabas was determined to take Mark, and Paul
refused to have him go, so at last Paul and Barnabas
separated. Barnabas took Mark, and went again to the
island of Cyprus. Paul chose as his helper Silas,
who had come from Jerusalem to Antioch, and Paul and
Silas went together through the lands in Asia Minor,
which Paul had visited on his earlier journey.
Everywhere they sought out the churches which before
had been planted by Paul and Barnabas, and they
encouraged the disciples to be faithful in the Lord.
When Paul came to Derbe and Lystra he found a young
man named Timothy, whose mother was of the Jewish
race and a believer in Christ. Timothy had known the
word of God from his childhood; he had given his
heart to Christ, and all the believers in Christ at
Lystra and Iconium knew him and spoke well of him.
Paul asked this young man Timothy to leave his home
and to go out with him as his helper in the gospel.
Timothy went, and from that time was with Paul as a
friend and a fellow-worker, dearly beloved by Paul.
Paul, and Silas, and Timothy went through many lands
in Asia Minor, preaching the gospel and planting the
church. The Spirit of the Lord would not let them go
to some places, which were not yet ready for the
gospel, and they came down to Troas, which was on
the sea, and opposite to the land of Macedonia in
While they were at Troas a vision came to Paul in
the night. He saw a man of Macedonia standing before
him, and pleading with him and saying, "Come over
into Macedonia, and help us."
When Paul told this vision to his friends they all
knew that this was a call from the Lord to carry the
gospel of Christ to Macedonia. As soon as they could
find a vessel sailing across the sea they went on
board, and with them went a doctor named Luke, who
at this time joined Paul. Luke stayed with Paul for
many years, and Paul called him "the beloved
physician." Afterward Luke wrote two books, which
are in the Bible, "The Gospel according to Luke,"
and "The Acts of the Apostles."
Paul and his three friends set sail from Troas; and
on the third day they came to the city of Philippi,
in Macedonia; and there they stayed for some days.
There was no synagogue in that city, and scarcely
any Jews; and on the Sabbath-day Paul and his
company went out of the city gate to the river-side
where was a place of prayer. There they sat down and
talked with a few women, who had met together to
pray. One of these was a woman named Lydia, who had
come from Thyatira in Asia Minor, and was a seller
of purple dyes. She was one who was seeking after
God, and the Lord opened her heart to hear the words
of Paul, and to believe in Christ. She was baptized,
the first one brought to the Lord in all Europe; and
with her all in her house were baptized also. Lydia
said to Paul and to his company, "If you count me as
one who is faithful to the Lord, come into my house,
and stay there."
She urged them so strongly that they all went to
Lydia's house, and made it their home while they
were in the city. One day while they were going to
the place of prayer, a young woman who had in her an
evil spirit, met them. She was a slave-girl, and
through the spirit in her, her owners pretended to
tell what was to happen; and by her they made great
gains of money. As soon as she saw Paul and his
friends, she cried out, "These men are servants of
the Most High God, who tell you the way to be
And this she did day after day, following Paul and
his companions. Paul was troubled to see her held in
the power of the evil spirit; and he spoke to the
spirit, "I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ
to come out of her!"
And in that very hour the spirit left the girl. But
with the evil spirit gone from her, there were no
more gains to her masters. They were very angry, and
took hold of Paul and Silas, and dragged them before
the rulers of the city, and they said, "These men,
who are Jews, are making great trouble in our city,
and are teaching the people to do what is against
the law for Romans."
And they stirred up the crowd of the lowest of the
people against them. To please the throng, the
rulers stripped off their garments from Paul and
Silas, and commanded that they should be beaten with
rods. When they had received many cruel blows, they
were thrown into the prison, and the jailor was
charged to keep them carefully. He took them, all
beaten and wounded, into the dungeon, which was in
the very middle of the prison, and made their feet
fast in the stocks.
But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and
singing hymns of praise to God, and the other
prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was
a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the
prison-house were shaken; every door was opened, and
all the chains on the prisoners were loosed, and all
could have gone out free if fear had not held them
in their places. The jailor of the prison was
suddenly roused out of sleep and saw the
prison-doors wide open. By the laws of the Romans, a
man in charge of a prisoner must take his place if
his prisoner escaped, and the jailor, thinking that
the men in the prison had gotten away, drew out his
sword, and was just going to kill himself, when Paul
called out, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all
Then the jailor called for lights, and sprang into
the room where Paul and Silas were, and, trembling
with fear, fell down at their feet and cried out,
"O, sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
And they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and you shall be saved, and those in your house with
And that night, in the prison, they spoke the word
of the Lord to the jailor, and to all that were with
him. The jailor washed their wounds, and he and all
his family were baptized in that hour. Afterward, he
brought them from the prison into his own house, and
set food before them. And the jailor and his
household were all happy in the Lord, believing in
The rulers of the city knew well that they had done
an unjust act in beating Paul and Silas, and
thrusting them into prison; but they did not know
that Paul and Silas, though Jews, were also free
citizens of Rome, whom it was unlawful to beat or to
put in prison without a fair trial. In the morning
the rulers sent their officers to the jailor,
saying, "Let those men go." And the jailor brought
their words to Paul and said, "The rulers have sent
to me to let you go; therefore, now come out of the
prison, and go in peace."
But Paul said, "We are free citizens of Rome, and
without a trial they have beaten us, and have cast
us into prison. And now do they turn us out
secretly? No, indeed, let those rulers come
themselves and bring us out!"
The officers told these words to the rulers, and
when they learned that these men were Roman
citizens, they were frightened; for their own lives
were in danger for having beaten them. They came to
Paul and Silas, and begged them to go away from the
prison and from the city. Then Paul and Silas walked
out of the prison, and went to the house of Lydia.
They met the brethren who believed in Jesus, and
spoke to them words of comfort and of help. And then
they went out of the city. In Philippi, from this
time there was a church which Paul loved greatly,
and to which in after-times he wrote "The Epistle
(or letter) to the Philippians."