Acts 16:21-25
Acts 16:21 (KJB)
And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
Receive - To accept or to acknowledge
These people had brought Paul and Silas before the magistrates and started to accuse them of teaching customs which were not lawful for Romans to acknowledge. Judaism was a legal religion in the Roman empire but it was only tolerated and not embraced. In fact the fourth Roman Emperor Claudius had all the Jews expelled from Rome. Most of the Greek speaking cities where there were synagogues, the Jews did exert some influence over the Gentiles. There was no synagogue in Philippi and the people prided themselves in being Romans which means they would have adhered to the Roman gods. Christianity would have been a strange religion to the false gods of Rome and their worshippers.
Acts 16:22 (KJB)
And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
These people who accuse Paul and Silas before the magistrates had caused the crowd to go into a frenzy, to such a point that the magistrates did what Pilate did and that was to acquiesce to the mob. They themselves became part of the mob and ripped off their clothes and had commanded that they be flogged. This treatment which they received was illegal for Roman citizens who had not undergone a legal trial. They were probably flogged with rods, which was a common Roman punishment.
Acts 16:23 (KJB)
And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
The number of lashes with the rods is not given but it is a guarantee that when a mob is whipped up into a frenzy, they probably received more than a legal set amount for whatever crime they were being accused of. Then to top it all off, they were not released after the flogging but thrown into prison for further punishment. What these magistrates did was totally against Roman law. They not only flogged them but threw them into prison without so much as a fair hearing. The magistrates could be in deep trouble if Paul and Silas chose to report this to Rome. This is a good example why it is never right to follow a mob.
Acts 16:24 (KJB)
Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
The jailor had probably thought that he was given two important prisoners to watch, so he did not just place them in a holding cell, but placed them into the inner prison. The inner prison was probably the furthermost part of the prison lacking any windows or light. It was probably the place where the most notorious criminals were held. It was probably a damp, insect infested room. Not only were they placed in this room, but they were placed in the stocks which held their feet in place which means they could not even tend to their wounds or fend off a rat or insect attack. These stocks might also have been the type where the head is placed as we have seen these types used in the 1600ís by the Pilgrims and Puritans to punish lawbreakers.
Acts 16:25 (KJB)
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
Here is a beautiful example of true believers living above their circumstances. Paul and Silas could have sat there and stewed in anger desiring to get even with these magistrates but they did not. What they did was trust the whole situation to God, and just like King Jehoshaphat who faced the Ammonites and Moabites plus others, did in 2 Chronicles 20. (2 Chr 20:21-22 KJV) And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever. {22} And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. They sang praises to the Lord and God gave Jehoshaphat the victory over his enemies and they did not lose a single man in battle. Paul and Silas did the same thing, they had a prayer session and they started to sing praises unto God, probably the Psalms. The other prisoners heard them and I am sure that this was the first time any of them heard anything like that coming from a prison cell. This is a principle for stable Christian living. We cannot control the situations which come into our lives but we can control how we act in response to them. Paul and Silas could have become angry instead they chose to focus their eyes upon the Lord and trust the entire situation to Him. (Isa 26:3 KJV) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.