Acts 16:30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
This is a very famous story, and people tend to focus either on verse 25, which talks about Paul and Silas singing to God in their extreme circumstances, or verse 31, which is their answer to the jailer’s question recorded here. However, this verse expresses an essential element in anyone’s salvation: the awareness of need. If we think we’re OK already, better than the next guy, perhaps, then we aren’t going to repent of our assorted disobediences toward God. We tend to define sin upward, and excuse the things we do as at worst, minor mistakes. The thing is, as Paul so memorably expressed it, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) This jailer had just been confronted with an unbearable situation, because if the prisoners had indeed escaped, Roman “justice” would have demanded his life, and would have taken it very painfully indeed. Falling on his sword, though certainly not a painless death, seemed preferable. Not so many people encounter such a crisis! It’s no wonder he asked as he did. We need to realize, however, that the famous answer to this question doesn’t mean that his household would be saved without believing for themselves. The head of a household can and does have a major impact on the faith, or lack of it, of everyone in the household, but that doesn’t remove the matter of individual responsibility. That said, the spiritual dynamic of a faithful, or faithless, husband and father is a major reason the devil attacks the whole concept of the man as the head of his household. As it says in verse 34, this jailer’s whole family believed because of what happened, and therefore were indeed saved.
Ministering in Japan as I do, I see this dynamic at work all the time. Buddhism has no concept of salvation in its theology, as three different Buddhist priests have acknowledged to me at different times and locations. The best they can come up with is “mu,” an “emptying of self,” but it literally means “nothing.” As a result, Japanese people tend to be stoic but not aspirational, not seeking salvation because they don’t know it exists. When they use the term, they are almost always thinking of physical, temporal relief. Actually, many Americans tend to think of it that way too! “Eternal salvation” is a concept that all too often simply doesn’t register. It is only when we grasp the reality that we are eternal beings on this earth for a few moments only, that we can come to the position, which I have touched on several times recently, that “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Salvation in Christ rocks!
Father, You know the difficulties I have communicating the Gospel better than I do. You also know better than I do how well it’s actually getting across. However, nothing is difficult for You. I ask that You get through to men in particular to show them their need of salvation and the possibility of it, so that families may be restored in Your family, rising up to restore society as a whole and bringing Your rule and reign, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!