Acts 16:36

ESV And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.”
NIV The jailer told Paul, 'The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.'
NASB 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.'
CSB The jailer reported these words to Paul: "The magistrates have sent orders for you to be released. So come out now and go in peace."
NLT So the jailer told Paul, 'The city officials have said you and Silas are free to leave. Go in peace.'
KJV And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.

What does Acts 16:36 mean?

Resentful men of the Roman outpost of Philippi charged Paul and Silas with promoting the worship of Jesus, something not legally sanctioned by the Roman Empire. The magistrates follow standard procedure for crimes committed by non-citizens when the offense does not call for execution: they beat and imprison the men for one night, intending to force them into a quiet exile away from the city (Acts 16:19–24, 35).

The magistrates send the message to the jailer. They don't know that Paul and Silas recently saved the jailer's life. When an earthquake opened the doors and shackles of the jail, apparently the two convinced the other prisoners to stay—protecting the jailer from a capital offense (Acts 12:19). The jailer knew Paul and Silas had been arrested for teaching about what the Romans assumed was a "new" deity who offered salvation—he wanted that salvation. He and his entire family put their trust in Jesus for reconciliation with the Creator God and were baptized into new life (Acts 16:25–34).

The police arrive with the message that it's time for Paul and Silas to leave town. What they don't realize—because they never asked—is that Paul and Silas are Roman citizens (Acts 16:37). At most, they should have been held under house arrest until a legal trial. Not only were the abuse and the imprisonment illegal, but also no one can force a Roman citizen out of a Roman city.

In Romans 13:1–7, Paul tells the Christians in Rome to obey the government authorities. God has established government to enforce good conduct and a peaceful society. Obviously, governments don't always do this. As Christians, we should obey any law that does not contradict what God tells us in the Bible. But when the government breaks its own laws, we should feel free to point this out to them and expect justice. Paul and Silas do this. They will leave peacefully, but not in secret. They demand the magistrates publicly acknowledge their own injustice and apologize first.
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