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Saturday, February 4, 2023

He Rejoiced Greatly Having Believed in God

In Acts 16 verses 23 through 34 we have the account of the conversion of the Philippian jailer at the hands of Paul and Silas who preached the gospel to him and his household.  As you recall Paul and Silas had been imprisoned in Philippi when an earthquake struck at midnight, their bonds were loosed, and all the prison doors were opened.  Being responsible for the prisoners the jailer assuming all had escaped was ready to take his own life when Paul called out to him.  The opportunity was given to preach the gospel to him and his household. 

The first recorded words of the jailer after bringing Paul and Silas out of their confinement was "what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30 NAS)  There is a lot of information that can be gleaned from those few words.  First, it can be fairly inferred that the jailer was convinced that Paul and Silas were men of God who knew God's will.  Perhaps their reputation had proceeded them here in Philippi as not long before this they had converted Lydia (Acts 16:14-15) and also had cast out a spirit of divination from a slave girl, a spirit that was telling all that "these men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." (Acts 16:17 NAS)  All of this had occurred in the city before the jailing of Paul and Silas.     

Secondly, it is clear the jailer felt confident that there were things that he would have to do to be saved.  It was just not clear to him what those things were. 

In response to the jailer's question Paul and Silas tell him to "believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31 NAS)  This was a statement that needed clarification calling for preaching.  What does it mean to "believe in the Lord Jesus"?  The jailer needed to know.  What was to be believed?  He was receptive if he could only learn what it was he was to believe. 

Verse 32 indicates that Paul and Silas did speak "the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house." (Acts 16:32 NAS)  But, that is all that is said about the preaching.  We have to look elsewhere to find what the gospel is for we are all certain he preached the gospel to the jailer.  The gospel is, after all, “the power of God for salvation to every one who believes.” (Rom. 1:16 NAS) 

We find what the gospel is in 1 Cor. 15:1-4 where Paul says, "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you." (NAS)  He then goes on to explain it to us – that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and raised the third day. 

So, yes, we have a good idea of some of the things Paul and Silas preached to the Philippian jailer.  But, was believing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for the remission of our sins all there was to it?  Those who believe that put themselves in a bind.  How? 

Because the demons also believe and shudder (James 2:19), are they saved?  Because "many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him," (John 12:42 NAS) were they saved?  Can one be saved who is unwilling to confess Jesus?  Can one believe in Jesus but refuse to confess him and yet be saved?  Paul says, "With the mouth confession is made to salvation." (Rom. 10:10 NKJV)  In the verse just before that (Rom. 10:9) he says, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus."  Yes, "if" you do.  The word "if" has meaning. 

Another bind that those find themselves in who say all one has to do is believe in order to be saved is that they leave out repentance altogether.  If you can leave out repentance that ought to save the demons then, hadn't it?  

Yes, I am sure Paul taught faith in the Lord Jesus and when understood properly that will save a man.  However, faith in the Lord Jesus means you believe what Jesus taught and believe it so strongly you obey him.  Faith in the Lord Jesus is not just mental assent.  Faith in the Lord Jesus is not disregarding his word as of no account. 

Jesus said, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved."  (Mark 16:16 NAS)  We in so-called Christendom say yes, I believe in Jesus.  I just cannot believe what he says.  Well, that is an impressive statement of faith is it not?  

We know with certainty Paul once again preached baptism to the Philippian jailer for the text says of the jailer, "immediately he was baptized, he and all his household." (Acts 16:33 NAS)  I say Paul preached baptism again for earlier in the same city and in this very same chapter he preached it to Lydia as well (Acts 16:15).  Unless he preached another gospel in other places than what he did in Philippi he always preached baptism in preaching the gospel whether it is mentioned specifically or not.  Baptism is the water part when Jesus said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5 NAS)   

Every sincere seeker after God ought to pay close attention to verse 34.  Do you want to know what it means to believe in God?  The text says of the jailer that he "rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household."  We know of a certainty that whatever else that phrase means it means at least this much - baptism is a part of the gospel to be believed.  Paul and Silas taught it to the jailer and his household, they believed what they were taught, they obeyed it, and they were baptized immediately in the very late night hours (after midnight).  When this was done it is said then that the jailer "rejoiced greatly, having believed in God."  

Let me ask a question.  Would the jailer have rejoiced had he heard Paul and Silas preach baptism but then said I don't believe it and I refuse to do it?  Could it have been said in that scenario that he believed the word of the Lord?  Even the skeptic must admit that if Paul and Silas preached baptism then it must have been part of "the word of the Lord." (Acts 16:32 NAS)  It was a part, I might add, which they believed--believed and obeyed.  

But, all of this raises other questions.  Why preach baptism to the jailer or anyone else?  Might it not be that Paul and Silas spoke by inspiration?  Might it not be that baptism is a part of the gospel to be believed and obeyed?  Might it not be that Peter speaking by inspiration in Acts 2:38 knew what he was talking about and that baptism is actually and literally for the remission of sins?  Yes, I say, it might be.  I say even more, it is.  It is not to say it comes alone without faith and repentance but it comes with them.

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