The Philippian Jailer’s Suicide Attempt Interrupted

By: Alan Harvey

Posted: August 30, 2017

Category: Daily Devotional

But Paul cried out with a loud voice saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”
Acts of the Apostles 16: 28

Once again we encounter a nameless character in the scriptures. We know him only by what he did for a living and how he responded to hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

He had not been given this responsibility without having proved his trustworthiness. The government leaders knew he could be trusted and would guard the prisoners with his life. He knew that should any of the prisoners escape, he would be held responsible. No excuse, not even something beyond his control, for example, a natural disaster, would be acceptable. He also knew if his prisoners escaped his own life was worth nothing. He would forfeit his life regardless of the circumstances contributing to the escape of those imprisoned.

On this particular night of the jailer’s watch, Paul and Silas occupy a cell. They are remarkably unlike other prisoners he has guarded. Instead of languishing in the prison, Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns of praise to God. Their behavior not only attracts the jailer’s attention but also the other prisoners. The jailer may have even bellowed, “Quiet down!” as it was midnight and he wanted sleep and did not want the other prisoners roused.

Suddenly there comes a great earthquake that shook the prison at its foundation, caused cell doors to fly open and broke chains previously binding the prisoners. The jailer leaps up from sleep and sees the escape routes, he knows his life is over and he draws a sword to die by his own hand. Just then Paul cries out, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” Calling for lights he rushes in, finds them and falls before them trembling with fear. He brings Paul and Silas out and asks, “What must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” The jailer does and his household does. He shows Paul and Silas hospitality by washing their wounds and then submits to be washed by them through the waters of baptism. And then they all sat down and ate.

The jailer was first saved by grace when Paul urged him not to harm himself. He was saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and he received the sacraments of grace: baptism and the breaking of bread (symbolic of the Lord’s Supper).


O God, we thank You that we are saved by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We also thank You for the sacraments of grace in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Amen.