Devotion on Acts 16 for the Commemoration of Silas

We remember Silas today by reading a devotional excerpt from To the Ends of the Earth: A Journey through Acts.


The earthquake God sent to free Paul and Silas from prison was a miracle. But an even greater event took place that night—their jailer coming to faith in Jesus! We thank and praise God for His gift of faith, which leads us to life eternal.

Devotional Reading

Paul got into trouble not for his preaching, as in the past, but for a miracle. He drove a demon out of a slave girl. This enraged her owners because it ruined their prospects of continuing to profit from her predictions. They charged Paul and his companion Silas with promoting “un-Roman” customs and incited a crowd to attack them. Foregoing any investigation, city officials had Paul and Silas beaten with rods and thrown into prison (Acts 16:16–24).

Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, Paul and Silas prayed and sang from the depths of their dungeon. Then God provided an earthquake so violent that it opened all the locks that held the prisoners. The jailer, fearing a mass escape for which he would be held responsible, was about to commit suicide when Paul called out, “We are all here.” The jailer went to Paul and Silas with the all-important question, “What must I do to be saved?” (16:25–30).

The jailer was probably expecting a response such as, “Set us free,” or a more religious answer, “Work to get on God’s good side.” The jailer was awaiting a command.

Any such answer requiring work would be in line with much thinking even today that says, “Do something so God will be pleased with you.” We find this sort of advice all around us. It even creeps into the church.

But here is where the greatest twist occurs. Paul said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (16:31).

You may say that is a command. True, the grammatical form of Paul’s statement was an imperative. But consider this: It is also a command, formally speaking, when someone hands food to a starving person and says, “Here, eat this.” The individual understands that these words are actually an invitation. It does not enter the person’s mind to complain and ask, “Who are you to order me around?”

The words Paul and Silas spoke to the Philippian jailer formed a life-giving invitation, not a directive to do work. While the jailer may have expected a command, in the great twist of justification by grace, what he received was a pure gift.

No doubt the jailer or his family would have recalled this blessing when, about 10 or 12 years after the earthquake, Paul wrote to the church at Philippi and said, “It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29, emphasis added).

God alone brings people to faith. He gives repentance and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31). That is a twist from the way you and I naturally think. But it helps to put aside any idea of conversion as a process to which we contribute and to say instead, “All glory be to God alone!”

Devotional reading is adapted from To the Ends of the Earth: A Journey through Acts, pages 140–43 © 1997 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Almighty and everlasting God, Your servant Silas preached the Gospel alongside the apostles Peter and Paul to the peoples of Asia Minor, Greece, and Macedonia. We give You thanks for raising up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of Your kingdom, that the Church may continue to proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer is from Treasury of Daily Prayer, pages 1197–98 © 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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