Did Paul Tell The Jailer He Must Be Baptized To Be Saved?
Acts 16:29-34: “Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 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.”
Paul did, in fact, tell the jailer the requirement of baptism. The baptism requirement is implied in the comprehensive term for “belief” and is stated explicitly in other passages that make up “Jesus’ word” as a whole.
First, Paul gives the jailer a command - “believe.” As far as we know, this jailer had never even heard of Jesus and the gospel. Then why did he bring up the question: “What must I do to be saved?” Perhaps he had overheard the story of how Paul and Silas were thrown in jail because they had performed an “unusual” act upon a slave woman who could no longer act as a sorceress. She had proclaimed that Paul and Silas were “servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation” (Acts 16:17). Furthermore, the earthquake episode might have provoked the jailer to think that it was some type of act of God.
This is the main point: Paul gives the jailer an initial, comprehensive command (compare the same type of initial, comprehensive command in Acts 3:19). Is it going to be left there? No! Notice the text: “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” Why did they speak God's word to him? To produce faith (Romans 10:17). He must have wanted to know who this “Lord Jesus” was. But how can you believe on someone unless you are taught first (Romans 10:13-16)? Biblical faith produces obedience (John 3:36). Repentance and water baptism are commands (Acts 10:48; 17:30).
Notice what the jailer did next? “And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes.” Why did he do this? To show genuine fruits of repentance, which is a condition of faith (Acts 2:38; 3:19). “And immediately he and all his family were baptized.”
Why were they immediately immersed? He needed to be baptized into Christ, which is the source of salvation (2 Timothy 2:10; Galatians 3:26-29). This is where the blood of Jesus washes away his sins (Revelation 1:5; 1 Peter 1:2,19; Heb. 9:22; 13:11; Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; Romans 5:9). How did the Philippian jailer receive the benefits of the blood of Jesus? He believed on Jesus Christ as His Savior (Mark 16:15,16) and knew he must repent and be immersed to contact the blood that can wash away the filthy stains of sin! (Acts 2:38; Colossians 2:11,12; Romans 6:3,4)
Notice that he and his household rejoiced after they had obeyed the gospel! “Having believed” is a comprehensive term that includes everything the jailer did in order to be saved – belief in Jesus Christ, repentance of sins, confessing Jesus as God’s Son, and being immersed for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
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