35 “But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.” (Acts 16:35-40)
What a difference a day makes. Perhaps it was because cooler heads were now prevailing following a night’s sleep, that the magistrates send the Philippian police to the jailer telling him to release Paul and Silas from jail. The jailer informed of this news then bids them both to go in peace.
However, Paul was not having it. He said to the police, ““They (the magistrates) have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.”
The police officials reported Paul’s words to the city magistrates. They in turn became afraid when they understood Paul and Silas were Roman citizens.
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “Roman citizens were exempted from scourging and torture, and had the right to due process in a trial before any punishment was inflicted. If Roman citizens were tried in a Roman court, they had the right to appeal their case to Caesar” (Acts 25:11; 26:12).
Why was Paul so aggrieved? Was it because he had been personally insulted and humiliated by the magistrate’s treatment of him and Silas? Maybe. Paul was human after all. More likely it was his desire to reaffirm the Gospel’s reputation and refute the slander that been leveled against it (Acts 16:21).
The magistrates came and apologized to Paul and Silas. Notice, the magistrates did not summon the two, but rather came to them. Instead of commanding the two of them to leave Philippi, they asked them to leave. Paul and Silas complied.
They left the prison and visited their friend Lydia. They also said goodbye to all their new friends. This would have included not only Lydia and her household, but also the jailer and his household, the other women at the river bank and anyone else who responded to the preaching of the Gospel by the missionary team. It was then that they departed Philippi and journeyed to Thessalonica.
What a congregation God built in Philippi. A merchant woman, a jailer, a slave girl. This is the wonder, the diversity and the beauty of the church. Elect from every nation, tribe, and language yet one in all the earth.
Soli deo Gloria!