The story of Paul an Silas in jail in Acts 16 is a rather popular passage among Christians; the singing, the earthquake, the jailer’s conversion– all these elements make a compelling narrative. The overlooked portion of this chapter, in my view, comes at the very end. I think we may lack context to really get it and how to apply it.

Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their officers, saying, “Release those men.” And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The chief magistrates have sent word that you be released. So come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “After beating us in public without due process—men who are Romans—they threw us into prison; and now they are releasing us secretly? No indeed! On the contrary, let them come in person and lead us out.” The officers reported these words to the chief magistrates. And they became fearful when they heard that they were Romans, and they came and pleaded with them, and when they had led them out, they repeatedly asked them to leave the city. They left the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brothers and sisters, they encouraged them and departed.
Acts 16:35-40

The rights of Roman citizenship were no cheap item. There were many who signed on to the Roman army to attain them or bribed and cheated their way into being granted one (Acts 22:28). Perhaps citizenship in this era isn’t the same as it used to be then; to the Roman, it was the difference between slavery and freedom in some respects.

They used their status as citizens to continue the cause of Christ. If we have opportunities afforded to us in this world, we should value them for their usefulness to the Kingdom as they did. No matter what you have, God gave it to you for his purposes.

Ethan Kirl

Originally Published October 7, 2021