Jailer Captured by the Gospel

Bible Book: Acts  16 : 25-34
Subject: Salvation; Witnessing Everywhere

A jailer's job is to keep his prisoners locked up; however, it was the Philippian jailer who was actually in the worse kind of prison. He was a prisoner to his own sin. He heard the good news from his prisoners and was freed from the shackles of his sin. Like the jailer, people need good news. The gospel offers forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life. The gospel has the power to change a sinner into a new man or woman.



The Jailer had been fast asleep when a great earthquake shook the foundation of the prison. The doors of the prison flew open. The noise and the shaking of the earth caused great fear in the guard's heart.

His greatest fear was the thought of the prisoners escaping. If they had escaped, the jailer knew his life would be required for their lives. The experience of the earthquake and fear of punishment opened the jailer’s eyes to see his personal need of salvation.

Many of us can tell of various experiences and circumstances that God used to speak to our hearts to awaken us to the need to be saved.


The jailer's first reaction was to take his own life. If the prisoners had escaped, he knew he was in serious trouble. Rome had only one treatment for jailers who lost their prisoners. Death! It would be easier to take his own life than to face the agony of torture. He called for a light and sprang into the prison cell. He came trembling into the cell and fell down before Paul and Silas. The presence of God will bring fear to the sinner, but God's presence will also bring peace when a person turns to Christ.



During the early night, the guard had listened to Paul and Silas singing and praising God. He would have heard the prayers of Paul and Silas. These prisoners would have been in pain, their bodies bruised and bleeding from the beating they had received. Their prayers and praises to God were heard by the other prisoners. (v. 23)

Paul and Silas may have sung from the words of David in Psalms 27:1: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" They may have sung Psalms 56:11: "In God have l put my trust, I will not be afraid what man can do unto me". We don't know for sure, but there are two things we do know. First, their song and praise was God honoring and secondly, it had a profound influence on the other prisoners.

The other prisoners were probably in fear wondering about their coming torture and fate. The prisoners listened as Paul and Silas worshipped God. They would have heard the sound of hope in their voices. How could these men have such joy in their suffering?

The jailer heard what the other prisoners heard. The words of Paul and Silas were heavy upon his mind. He probably went to sleep thinking about God. The power of the gospel was bringing conviction to his heart.

There must be conviction of sin in a person's life before he can be saved. Conviction causes a person to acknowledge their sin and their need of the Savior. They become aware of God's holiness, God's power, and God's presence.

There is a story that has often been told that reveals the power of the gospel to pierce a sinner's heart.

Many years ago, the great evangelist D.L. Moody was holding a series of evangelistic meetings in St. Louis. One night he preached from Acts 16 of the jailer getting saved.

The following day the local paper reported the sermon (a common practice back in those days) under the sensational headline: "How the Jailor at Philippi Was Caught."

A notorious criminal named Valentine Burke happened to pick up the paper in the city prison. He had already spent half his life in jail and was at this time awaiting trial for another crime that he had committed.

Glancing at the headlines, he did not realize that it was about a sermon preached by D.L. Moody. He had once passed through a small town in Illinois named Philippi, and so he assumed that this was what the story was about.

However, as he read the story he kept seeing the words: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." He threw the newspaper down and walked away.

But it was too late – he was already under conviction. He picked up the paper and read the sermon carefully. Alone in his jail cell, he got on his knees and prayed. And God miraculously saved him.

A hardened sinner became a humble Christian. He served a reduced sentence due to his Christian conduct and was later offered a position as deputy by the same sheriff who had once arrested him. He was genuinely saved.


1. Pertinent question. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

The Jailer was under conviction. He knew he needed to be saved. The jailer asked the most important question anyone could ask, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

2. Precise answer. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ."

Jesus said, "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." (John 6:47) Saving faith believes Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross, was buried and was resurrected from the grave. Saving faith is a sinner placing his/her faith only in Jesus as their Savior. The Bible states it clearly: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12 KJV) In John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6 KJV) If you want to be saved you must "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ."

3. Promised result. "and thou shalt be saved, and thy house"

Jesus said, "him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) Paul stated it clearly, "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Rom. 10:13)

This verse does not promise everyone in a household will be saved. It does promise that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ and acknowledges Him as Lord will be saved. (Rom 10:9-10) No one else can believe on Jesus for you. It is a personal response to the invitation of the Holy Spirit. It is a call to come to Jesus for salvation. (Rom. 10:13) He that does not believe in Jesus is condemned already. (John 3:18)

"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17 KJV)

4. Proof of conversion. (v. 33-34)

The word "convert" means to change. We may speak of a person having a change in attitude or maybe a change of political belief.

In a biblical sense, it means spiritual change from sinfulness to righteousness. The jailer heard the gospel that Paul and Silas were proclaiming. He had a change of heart about his sins, and he saw his need of the Savior. This is a proof of genuine conversion. He cared for Paul's and Silas' wounds that they had received from the beating. (v. 22-23) The Jailer that night was baptized in obedience to Christ's command. (Matt. 28:19) He even fixed a meal for the prisoners. All of this give evidence of a changed life.

A person who has truly been converted will have to tell others about his Savior. This is in fact a great testimony of a person being saved.

“Paul Bell was a missionary in Bastrop, Texas. He led a man to the Lord one day who was in sixties. When the man was saved, he said, ‘I can’t read or write, so I want you to teach me John 3:16 and a stanza of the song we sang today, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’ He promised to come back to church to be baptized. Three weeks passed, and the new convert did not show up. On the fourth Sunday he came, along with five other men. All five walked the aisle. After the service, the convert turned to the missionary and said, ‘We are all here to be baptized.’ This new Christian lived only two years after that. By the time of his death, this old woodcutter had won fifty men to the Lord with one verse of Scripture and one stanza of a song.”



When the jailer's family heard the gospel, they too believed on the Lord Jesus. They made public their faith in Jesus by following the Lord in baptism.

Their life as a family was changed. They joined together as a family to show hospitality to Paul and Silas. Their home was different because Jesus was in their lives.


"rejoiced, believing in God with all his house"

The Bible tells us that there is rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents and gets saved. (Luke 15:7 KJV)

This family had met the Lord. They were filled with joy as they believed in God. Paul and Silas probably talked with them all night and on into the morning about Jesus. This family got a crash course on who Jesus is and what He has done in creation and redemption. Joy flooded their hearts in being saved and forgiven.


We never know who is watching or listening as we witness for Christ. This is why we must be careful in our daily walk to honor Christ. God can use our witness without us knowing what He is doing in a life of a another person. The gospel is the power of God to salvation to those who will believe.

In the Bible, those who were saved were immediately baptized. A person who is truly saved will want to be identified with their Lord and Savior. A saving faith is an obedient faith. Jesus said we are to be baptized.

Salvation precedes baptism. A person is saved by faith in Christ. Salvation is the result of the sinner being convicted of his sins and having a desire to change. This is repentance. Repentance and faith go together. It is turning from sin (repentance) and turning to Jesus Christ (faith). Have you come to Christ for salvation?

In the darkness of the night the jailer saw a great light. That Light was Jesus. "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6 KJV)