Read: Acts 16:35-40 (www.biblestudytools.com/nrs/acts/16.html)
After Silas and Paul had been whipped and put in jail they had kept the jailer from committing suicide when he thought his prisoners had escaped. They spoke with the jailer and his family about Jesus and then baptized them into the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The next morning the city officials sent some officers with orders for the jailer to release Paul and Silas.
But Silas and Paul refused to go, “We are Roman citizens, and the Roman officials had us beaten in public without giving us a trial. They threw us into jail. Now do they think they can secretly send us away? No, they cannot! They will have to come here themselves and let us out.”
There were three levels of Roman citizenship in Paul’s day: optimo iure, non optimo iure, and Latini. These citizens could not be tortured or whipped. They had the right to a fair trial in which they could offer a defense. They had the right to appeal decisions by lower courts. There were other rights as well but these seem to me to be the ones applicable to Paul and Silas.
Many of the city leaders of Philippi would have been former Roman legion soldiers. They would have understood the saying of the centurion who encountered Jesus in Luke 7:8; “I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” They had acted beyond their authority. They had mistreated two men they were charged to protect. They were afraid. They apologized to Silas and Paul and led them out of jail. Then they asked Silas and Paul to leave their town.
But Paul and Silas went to Lydia’s home. They met with the new believers of Philippi and they offered them words of encouragement. And then, when they were ready to go, they left Philippi.
Have you ever used the freedom that God gives you to do something you knew was right?