Shelby G. Floyd
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
Several years ago I was asked, “Sir, when Paul told the Philippian jailor to believe on Christ and he would be saved, Acts 16:31, was he saved if he believed on Christ?” It is not “if he believed on Christ,” for the record plainly states that “…he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:34 NKJV). The question should be, “When did the belief of the jailor save him?” And the answer to that question can be found according to the context of Acts 16:24-34. The jailor was not saved until his faith in Christ was conjoined with obedience to the gospel command of baptism. I intend to prove by sound reasoning that proposition.
The kind of faith mentioned in Acts 16:31 is an obedient faith. For, “The faith that saves is the faith that obeys.” “Faith alone” is a dead faith, it is the faith of demons and by “faith alone” no one can be justified (See James 2:20-26).
(1) First, the jailor asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30)?The “faith only” preacher will say, “You do not need to do anything, but believe.” But faith is something that man does. Jesus said that faith is the work of God (John 6:28-29).
(2) The answer was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (Acts 16:31 NIV). “Believe” translates from [pisteuson,1 aorist imperative, 2 person singular from pisteuo]. It is important to know just exactly what believe really means according to the original language. Therefore I give a lengthy definition by the celebrated lexicographer, J. H. Thayer:
“to believe, i.e. 1. Intrans. To think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, place confidence in; b. spec., in a moral and religious reference,is used in the N.T. of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of his soul; thus it stands used especially of the faith by which a man embraces Jesus, i.e. a conviction full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah—the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, conjoined with obedience to Christ” (Thayer, p. 511).
Thus to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ–is to have a faith directed towards the Lord Jesus Christ. Thayer, p. 511. Therefore, Paul and Silas commanded the jailor to believe—have a conviction of joyful trust in the proposition that Jesus is the Christ and to conjoin that with obedience to Christ. There is no true faith without obedience to the word of God. And since “believe” is an aorist imperative it is an urgent command of God.
Sir, you further stated, “This person did not have the luxury of having any books of the Bible available to him so all the jailor had to go on was what Paul told him.” What is said may be true, but he did not need any books of the Bible, because the inspired word of God was in Paul, the inspired man of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 4:7). But what was he to believe in concerning the Lord Jesus Christ? Paul the preacher had to speak the word of the Lord unto him so he could believe in the Lord. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).
Since faith comes by hearing or reading the word of God (John 20:30-31), it is not surprising that the record declares what Paul and Silas did: “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house” (Acts 16:32). Paul was simply doing for the jailor what Christ had commanded in the great commission. “And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). It takes belief and baptism to be saved, but unbelief is all that is needed to be lost.
The first thing the jailor did after hearing the gospel message was to show evidence of his faith and repentance, by taking Paul and Silas the same hour of the night to wash their stripes from being beaten with “the cat of nine tails.” “Godly sorrow works repentance not to be regretted, but the sorrow of the work works death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Therefore, the jailor demonstrated that he believed in Christ by bringing forth fruits of repentance, namely treating Paul and Silas with kindness and refreshments.
Immediately after washing their stripes the belief of the jailor and the faith of his family members led them to be baptized: “And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized” (Acts 16:33). Not only in this account of conversion, but throughout the book of Acts, baptism is a condition of salvation as well as faith, repentance and confession of faith. Belief plus baptism equals salvation (Mark 16:15-16). Our “faith only” friends say faith minus baptism equals salvation. Repentance plus baptism equals salvation (Acts 2:36-38). Our “faith only” friends say repentance minus baptism equals salvation. Confession of faith in Christ plus baptism equals salvation (Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:36-39). Our “faith only” friends say confession minus baptism equals salvation.
According to the word of God, faith is “unto” (eis) salvation (Romans 10:9-10); repentance is “unto” (eis) salvation (Acts 11:18); confession of faith in “unto” (eis) salvation; but also baptism is “unto” or “into” salvation:
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:3-4 plainly teaches that we are baptized into Christ when we are buried with him by baptism into his death. Paul teaches the same thing to the Galatians: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). The Greek preposition “for” [gar] assigns the reason why we are all children of God by faith—“for—as many of you as were baptized etc.”
In this study there is only one more point to be made from the Acts 16:24-34 account of the jailor’s conversion. After the jailor believed, repented and was baptized, he immediately started doing things that a Christian should be and do. He showed hospitality to Paul and Silas. He also had a new spirit about him—he was filled with joy and gladness. There is no example of conversion where anyone ever rejoiced until they were baptized into Christ: “The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family” (Acts 16:34, NIV). The NKJV says, “…and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:34). This proves beyond “a shadow of a doubt” that the command to “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household” (Acts 16:31, NIV), includes baptism, for it was not until he was baptized that he rejoiced “having believed in God…” “Having believed” in Acts 16:34 is translated from [pepisteukos], a perfect participle from [pisteuo]. “The Greek perfect tense denotes the present state resultant upon a past action.” In other words the perfect tense gives a relationship of the present tense to an action in the past tense. Therefore, to put it in simple language, the present state of believing on the part of the Philippian jailor is the result of the past action of being baptized “the same hour of the night.
To my “faith only” friends, I beg you to quit explaining away every statement on baptism from the word of God, because it conflicts with your dogma. Read the Bible as if you were reading it for the first time and accept it all “by faith.”
Copyright © 2008 2015 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street