Acts 16:39

ESV So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city.
NIV They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city.
NASB and they came and pleaded with them, and when they had led them out, they repeatedly asked them to leave the city.
CSB So they came to appease them, and escorting them from prison, they urged them to leave town.
NLT So they came to the jail and apologized to them. Then they brought them out and begged them to leave the city.
KJV And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.

What does Acts 16:39 mean?

Christians are to obey their governments (1 Peter 2:13–14). God established government to uphold order (Romans 13:1–7). If a law goes against God's instruction, Christians are free to ignore that law, but they should expect to pay the cost. Christians should anticipate persecution as they follow Jesus (John 15:18–20). All those concepts are true, and important. What is also true and important is that Christians are justified to take advantage of their rights and to demand just treatment under the law.

Men from Philippi with a grudge against Paul and Silas have accused them of breaking the law. Magistrates have the two beaten with metal rods and imprisoned (Acts 16:19–24). The next morning, they send police to throw the prisoners out of town. They have just learned their terrible mistake: Paul and Silas are Roman citizens (Acts 16:35–37). Everything the magistrates have done is a federal crime.

When charged with a crime short of treason, Roman citizens were to be placed under house arrest until trial. They were not to be beaten, bound, imprisoned, or forcibly expelled from a Roman city, such as Philippi. Paul and Silas demanded that the magistrates publicly acknowledge their crime and apologize. They do not demand the magistrates be punished for their crime, and they do not demand to stay in Philippi.

Peter writes instructions which apply here. Servants are to be respectful, even to masters who are unjust. They are to endure unjust treatment graciously, as Christ did. They are not to echo their oppressors' insults and condemnation, but to trust God for ultimate judgment (1 Peter 2:18–23).

The rules apply to Paul and Silas before the Philippian magistrates and to us in the face of our own governing authorities. Paul and Silas show respect for themselves and the Roman law and mercy toward their oppressors. They will peacefully and voluntarily leave the city. In so doing, it's likely they protect and inspire the young church in Philippi. Paul will be able to return to Philippi twice (Acts 20:1–2, 6) and the church there remains a blessing to him as he continues his ministry (Philippians 4:10).
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