Series 56


by Francis W. Dixon
(Scripture Reference: Acts 16:30)

As we approach this study we should read Acts 16:14-34, which records three conversion stories of: (1) Lydia (vs. 14-15); (2) a slave girl (vs. 16-18); and (3) the jailor in the prison at Philippi (vs. 25-34). We learn from these incidents that the gospel is relevant to and adequate for all kinds and conditions of people. Lydia was quite different from the slave girl, and both were totally different from the jailor, yet the gospel met the needs of each (Romans 10:12-14). We also learn that God’s methods in seeking and saving men and women vary according to the people concerned. Presumably Lydia was an educated woman and her conversion was a quiet one. The jailor, on the other hand, was pretty tough and he was converted rather noisily! The slave girl had a great struggle before she was converted. To gain the full significance of the jailor’s question (verse 30),  it will help to notice the three stages in the process of his entrance into the Christian life.


Nobody ever turns to the Lord for salvation until he first feels his need to be saved. This is why many people do not come to Christ: they do not feel their need of Him. Similarly, we go to the doctor only when we feel ill. Certain things happened to make this man realise his need of the Saviour, which then produced within him a deep sense of conviction.

    (1) The praises of Paul and Silas convinced him of the reality of divine things. Verse 25 tells us that although Paul and Silas were suffering physically and mentally (compare verses 22-24) yet they were praising God and praying. The fact of these men praising God in the midst of their trial influenced the jailor greatly. When Christians react to suffering in the right way, unbelievers are greatly influenced (Philippians 1:12).

    (2) The earthquake and the fear that this brought upon the jailor caused him to think about God and about his spiritual need (verses 26-27). Here was a careless, thoughtless and irreligious man, shaken by an earthquake and faced with imminent death. All this awoke him to his need – that he was facing eternity and was unprepared to die. There are some people today who need an earthquake before they will feel their need of Jesus and often He graciously permits one to shake them out of their complacency, causing them to feel how desperately they need to be saved.

    (3) The attitude of Paul and Silas after the earthquake convinced the jailor that these men were real Christians. Verses 27-28 tell us that the jailor expected that Paul and Silas and the other prisoners would have fled, but in actual fact Paul and Silas were still there waiting to be of service to this man and to lead him into the kingdom. Here were prisoners actually helping their own jailor! Here were good men indeed!

We see that the jailor was brought under a deep sense of conviction of his need of salvation. He cried out in anguish, “What must I do to be saved?” Do you feel any such need? If you are not a Christian you are lost (Luke 19:10); dead (Ephesians 2:1); and the wrath of God is upon you (John 3:36). Now notice that the jailor was not only convicted of His need, but was gloriously converted.


What do we mean by conversion? The jailor was completely transformed simply by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 31). He had been lost, fearful, and on the point of committing suicide – suddenly he was saved, rejoicing in the Lord, praising Him for His goodness and confessing Him by baptism.

    (1) His conversion was radical. Every real conversion results in a complete change of life (2 Corinthians 5:17). Verse 33 says that the man even washed the wounds of Paul and Silas (verse 33). What a work of grace!

    (2) His conversion was sudden. You may realise through reading this study that you have not been converted;  you can be converted at this very moment through putting your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. It is simple and straightforward – look up Romans 10:13.

    (3) His conversion was scriptural. The only way to be converted is the Bible way, summed up in verse 31. Why do we need to put our trust in Jesus? Because He is the only Saviour (Isaiah 45:22; John 14:6).

The jailor was brought under deep conviction, leading him to seek the Lord and to ask the question, “What must I do to be saved?”


Notice verse 32. Paul and Silas engaged in a teaching evangelism. This is urgently needed today. It is not enough to tell people that they must come to Jesus and believe on Him; simple and solid instruction must be given, and this happened in the case of the jailor; after he had received instruction he was led at once, even at midnight, to confess his Lord. There are three ways in which he confessed that he was now a Christian:-

    (1) He confessed by word of mouth (verses 33-34). Compare Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10.

    (2) He confessed by obedience in baptism (verse 33). There was no waiting and there were no excuses; evidently Paul had spoken to the jailor about Matthew 28:19, telling him that this was the Lord’s way for every believer.

    (3) He confessed by enjoying fellowship with other Christians (verse 34). He gathered his loved-ones together so that they could share in his blessing. A true Christian confesses Christ by joining with others in fellowship, in worship and in service.

How do you fit into this picture? Have you been deeply convicted and convinced of your need of the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you put your trust in Him? Have you confessed Him by word of mouth, by baptism and by uniting in fellowship with other Christians?