About halfway through his second missionary journey, Paul arrived at the city of Philippi. “The Roman colony of Philippi (Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis) was an important city in Macedonia, located on the main highway leading from the eastern provinces to Rome. This road, the Via Egnatia, bisected the city’s forum and was the chief cause of its prosperity and political importance. Ten miles distant on the coast was Neapolis, the place where Paul landed after sailing from Troas, in response to the Macedonian vision. As a prominent city of the gold-producing region of Macedonia, Philippi had a proud history. Named originally after Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, the city was later honored with the name of Julius Caesar and Augustus” (Philippi in the Time of Paul, p. 1705).
A significant event that probably turned the tide in Paul’s favor in this particular missionary trip was his imprisonment at Philippi. As result of casting a demon out of a female slave, Paul and Silas were arrested and according to Acts 16:22-24, “the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.” The brutal treatment Paul and Silas received was likely meant to deter them from settling down in Philippi. Because they were staying in the home of Lydia, a Philippian citizen “whose heart the Lord opened” (Acts 16:14), Paul and Silas may have been perceived to be a threat to the undisputed cultural dominance the Romans had achieved at Philippi.
Paul and Silas’ miraculous deliverance from prison not only shocked the Philippian jailor, but also caused the magistrates that had beaten them to rethink the position they had taken. Luke tells us that “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was an earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed” (Acts 16:25-26). Afterward, the keeper of the prison “brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), and the next morning, “the magistrates sent the sergeants, saying, Let those men go” (Acts 16:35). Paul’s response showed that he was emboldened by the jailor and magistrates’ changes of heart and wanted to make the most of this turn of events. When he was told he was free to go and instructed to leave Philippi peacefully, Paul refused to go unless the magistrates came and gave him a public escort (Acts 16:37). In other words, Paul wanted it to look like he was a hero and that he had won the respect of the Philippian officials, which he apparently had.