Acts 16:36-40
Acts 16:36 (KJB)
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.
When the word came to the jailer that they were free to go, he immediately passed on the information to Paul notifying them that they were free to go. The jailer had bid them to depart and gave a Christian farewell to them that they go in peace. He had urged them to accept this release and to leave the prison area. He no doubt was joyful that Paul and Silas was free to go.
Acts 16:37 (KJB)
But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.
Paul does something here that he normally would never do and that is to take advantage of his Roman citizenship. Paul addresses the serjeants and tells them that they have a problem on their hands. The Magistrates had violated several laws by beating them without them being condemned, in fact, they had no real charges levied against them. Not only were they beaten openly but instead of them being released after the beating, they were thrown into prison. No doubt they wanted to instill further punishment upon them. Paul then states that they did this openly in front of a crowd and now they want us leave privately without anyone knowing what happened. Paul then states that they will remain in the prison until the Magistrates themselves bring them out of the prison. Paul wanted them to have a sense of accountability for their law violations.
Acts 16:38 (KJB)
And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.
The serjeants had conveyed these words of Paul to the Magistrates, they had feared because they knew that they had yielded to the mob and that Paul and Silas had absolutely no trial, which was a right of every accused Roman citizen, plus there was no evidence of a crime brought before the Magistrates just a bunch of angry businessmen who would now have to find another source of income. They had feared because Paul and Silas could lodge a complaint against them which means major trouble. It could mean that they would lose their positions and they themselves might be subject to physical punishment.
Acts 16:39 (KJB)
And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.
So the Magistrates had to humble themselves in this situation if they were going to keep their positions and that is what they feared. So they had asked Paul and Silas to come forth out of the prison and requested that they would leave the city. No doubt they also begged them not to file any charges against them with the Roman government. The Magistrates did not ask them to leave the city because they wanted to stop the preaching of the Gospel but that they might change their mind and file charges against them. The faster they were out of the city, the quicker this issue would come to an end.
Acts 16:40 (KJB)
And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.
Once they had left the prison, they did not immediately leave the city, instead they had gone to the house of Lydia where there was a large contingent of believers who had gathered there, who no doubt was praying for the situation that Paul and Silas were in. They had entered her home and met with the brethren and it is not known how long they stayed there but if you notice now that it is more than just a few women who were meeting at the river, now there were many believers in that town. Once they met with the believers and told them that all was now well, they departed from them.