19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. (Acts 16:18-24 (ESV)
Some days it feels like you can’t win for losing, but that is exactly what happens with Paul and Silas. Luke is conspicuously absent from this whole debacle. In any case, no sooner do the owners of the slave girl realize that they will no longer be able to profit off of this slave girl, at least not in the same manner, and they seize Paul and Silas accuse them before the magistrates and incite a riot in the name of public order and peace. There wasn’t much of a trial. It was assumed Paul and Silas were guilty, and they were beaten with rods and thrown in prison before they could even appeal to their Roman citizenship, which would have poked large holes in the theory that Romans could not accept or practice the customs Paul and Silas were advocating. It is said the whole crowd joins in attacking them. To this day the gospel inspires such violence against those who preach it. The magistrates intervene and throw them in prison, it seems that at least partially they do this for the safety of Paul and Silas. The last thing magistrates wanted was rioting. Riots called for soldiers. A city that rioted put itself at odds with the Roman government. Serious odds. The magistrates would have to pay, and in turn the citizens would have to pay. And the payment could be quite severe. At the end of the day they find themselves in prison and it will be here that they find wonderful opportunity for the gospel. God works all things for good for those who love him. But more on that tomorrow, there is too much in the conversion of the jailer to go into here.