Saturday, April 14, 2012

Baptism Story 6: The Philippian Jailer

In Acts chapter 16 Paul and Silas are thrown into jail in Philippi.  While they are praying and singing a great earthquake occurs.  All the doors in the jail are opened and all the shackles of the prisoners are broken.

The jailer wakes up and sees the jail doors open and prepares to kill himself.  Paul and Silas call out to him not to harm himself. 

The jailer replies, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"  They respond, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."  Then the jailer and his household are baptized that night.

This is a very popular scripture passage with Baptists and evangelicals because believing is the only requirement stated for salvation.

Lutherans like this verse too.  We believe this verse literally because it is what God says.  This verse makes it clear that baptism, good works, nor anything else is required for salvation other than believing.

One part of this verse that Baptists and evangelicals tend to omit in the discussion of this verse, however, is the last part of verse 31:  "and thy house."

Paul and Silas promise salvation to the household of the Philippian jailer if and when HE believes.  Why would they promise salvation to persons who had not yet heard the Gospel and had not yet made a personal decision to accept Christ?

Lutherans believe that the Jewish custom of household conversion continued into the New Covenant of the New Testament:  when the head of the household believed, the entire family (including infants) automatically converted with him.  This is why Paul and Silas could include the man's family in the promise of salvation if he would believe.

Once again, Baptists and evangelicals will attempt to reinterpret this phrase because "and thy house" does not fit into their doctrinal thinking on how a sinner is saved.

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