Some years ago, someone said that a description of much of what passes as teaching is simply the transference of information from the notebook of the teacher to the notebook of the student without going through the mind of either. People today do very little in critical evaluation of what they hear or see and consequently they build their world view on “truth” that is at best, only assumed to be true (and of course we know that everything stated on the internet is true). There is an old computer adage, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” If we feed our minds with the garbage of lies, then our actions will be anything but right. Such was the case with the magistrates in Philippi as recorded in Acts 16:16-24.
After “many days” of preaching, Paul cast out a spirit of divination from a young woman who had been following him since the time he had started preaching there. Verse 19 states that when her masters found out that they were no longer going to be able to make a profit from her demonic activity they had Paul & Silas arrested. The charges were that Paul & Silas were creating havoc in the city and teaching things contrary to Roman law. Can I ask a question? If their preaching was illegal, why was it illegal only after a number of days and not the first day they preached it? Surely they knew of the preaching on the first day, if not the second day of ministry. Exactly what Roman laws were being violated? And if it was creating such a commotion, why wait a number of days to calm the situation? Could it be that there was nothing illegal about what they were doing and that there was no real commotion other than appreciation of the people?
But why ask these questions? The multitude was convinced of Paul & Silas’ guilt? And we know that the majority is always correct, isn’t it? So the magistrates pronounced them guilty and sentenced them to be beaten. The magistrates were interested in justice, weren’t they? Well let me ask another question. Why wasn’t Paul or Silas allowed to present a defense? Oh wait, it must be that people of social status or economic ability or political position or educational advancement always speak the truth and therefore there was no need to hear from the accused. Surely, that explains their refusal to allow Paul and Silas to defend themselves.
So Paul and Silas were beaten with “many stripes” and then handed over to the jailor to be held indefinitely. The jailor then cast them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in stocks. Can I ask another question? Wasn’t the beating with many stripes sufficient punishment for their seeming offense? What further punishment would be just for their “crimes”? And why was it necessary to go to extreme measures to insure that they would not escape? Apparently the magistrates were afraid that the same power Paul & Silas exercised over the young girl would be used in providing for their freedom. But that only leads to another question. If Paul could wield authority over the demonic realm, as he had demonstrated that he could do, what chance did any physical device have in restraining him and Silas? The inner prison and stocks had as much chance in keeping Paul & Silas in prison as did the tomb and the stone over its door did in keeping Jesus from rising from the dead.
Let’s examine the facts. The number that Paul preached to must have been very few. There was not a synagogue in Philippi and Jewish law required there to be 10 men present in order for the Torah to be read. Since this was not taking place, it seems reasonable to believe that fewer than 10 women were gathered together hearing the Apostle. Would 10 women have the ability to create an uproar in the city? Seems unreasonable. Secondly, they were gathered together outside the city (v. 13) so even if there was any type of commotion, it was not IN the city as they were accused.
It’s very easy not to ask questions about what you hear to be true. Consequently many people repeat what they believe to be true without any thought and consequently err in living. Ask questions for genuine truth will always withstand the test. One last question. Are you willing to accept anything else?