35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, “Let those men go.”
36 So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.”
38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans.
39 Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city.
40 So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.
officers (v.35) — lictors (see v.22)
Let those men go (v.35) — We aren’t told why the magistrates changed their minds. Perhaps they connected the earthquake with the arrest of the two men and were afraid, or perhaps they got word that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. (See note on Acts 9:1-2.)
According to Cicero, to bind a Roman was a crime, to scourge him a scandal, to kill him a homicide. It was one of the the most valued privileges of Roman citizenship, this immunity from corporal punishment. The cry civis Romanus sum (I am a Roman citizen) brought even among Barbarians help and safety. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Arno C. Gaebelein, page 294.
put us out (v.37) — same Greek word as “thrown” in the save verse. The officials threw them into prison and then attempted to throw them out.
secretly (v.37) — in contrast with “openly”
We aren’t told why Paul didn’t mention his Roman citizenship at his arrest or beating. Perhaps the crowd was too riotous, or maybe the Spirit held him back so he could witness to the other prisoners and the jailer.
afraid (v.38) — of the penalty for mistreating a Roman citizen
them (v.40) — not “we” — Luke (and perhaps Timothy) must have stayed in Philippi
Claiming his citizen rights at the point may have been Paul’s attempt to protect the members of the Philippian church from persecution or arrest.