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Philippian Jailer

…and came trembling, and fell down…”  Acts 16:29 These words describe the Philippian jailer and his conversion before Paul and Silas.  Many of you are familiar with the story.  Paul had been arrested for casting a devil out of a young maiden who had associated herself with them.  This cost the young maiden her supernatural powers and she became a liability instead of an asset to her masters.  They went into a rage over the loss of their income, arrested, beat and imprisoned Paul and Silas, charging the jailer with their safety.

As Paul and Silas were praying and singing, God sent an earthquake, opening the prison doors and the inmates’ chains.  Knowing that the loss of the prisoners would cost him his life, the jailer, assuming all had escaped, drew his sword to kill himself.  Paul cried out to him, assuring him that no one had escaped.  It is here that the convicting power of the Holy Spirit arrests this jailer and brings him face to face with eternity.  He has no fear of losing his life to the Roman magistrates because the prisoners are all intact.  His life and job are secure, yet we see him trembling and falling down before Paul, asking the most important question he or any other person would ever ask, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 

The Bible does not tell us what God used to get the jailer’s attention on his spiritual salvation.  Maybe it was observing the beating and punishment Paul and Silas endured.  Maybe it was because of hearing their prayers instead of complaints.  It could have been their singing of God’s praises as blood ran down their backs.  Maybe it was the thought of how close he came to losing his life due to losing his prisoners.  Could it have been a combination of all of them?  God works in different ways with people, but He always convicts men of their sins.  I have never known of anyone, young or old, who was not extremely aware and exceedingly sorry for their sins at the time of their salvation. 

In our modern churches the conviction of sin is passé.  People come for salvation with about as much emotion as joining the Rotary Club or the booster club.  If there is any commitment, it is shallow and often superficial.  Preachers are now called “communicators” instead of Bible preachers.  They preach with as much conviction as a newscaster reading the stock market report.  Auctioneers at a cattle sale show more enthusiasm than some of these so called preachers.  I am perfectly aware that an emotion does not make an experience real, but I also am aware that a real experience generates emotion.  Experiencing the new birth is not a casual walk in the park.  Jesus Christ was emotional and He showed His emotions.  He wept, He loved and He cared for people.  He was not a stoic.  He took the little children in His arms.  He voiced His concern over the city of Jerusalem.  He also got angry.  He berated people verbally.  He overthrew tables and called people names!

Notice the jailer’s question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  He did not ask, “What must I do to be a Christ follower?”  Following Christ is the result of being saved, it is not salvation.  He did not ask, “What must I do to be a church member?”  He did not ask, “What must I do to keep you prisoners in here?”  His question pertained to the destiny of his soul and Paul answered in like manner, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…”  This tells us that Paul knew exactly to what the jailer was referring.  He understood it in the eternal realm and he answered it in the eternal realm.  Paul went on to add, “…thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” 

Here it is in a nutshell.  How does anyone get to heaven?  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  It is that simple and it is that complete.  It wasn’t different for the jailer or anyone else in his family.  It is the same for everyone, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Obviously, Paul, gave him some explanation about Jesus Christ, for the Bible says that “they spake unto him the word of the Lord,” indicating that Paul didn’t drop him the moment he was saved.  Paul would give him words of assurance and clarify what he had done.  This didn’t make him any more saved nor does it mean he was in the process of salvation.  The moment the jailer believed, he was saved for all eternity.  The moment his family believed, they were saved for all eternity.  Once we are saved, we need training.  “That is called discipleship.  As newborn babies need milk, the newborn Christian needs “the sincere milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:2.)

The fact that the jailer and his family were baptized does not make baptism a part of his salvation anymore than washing Paul’s stripes were a part of it.  (How many Roman jails do you think had baptisteries?)

Denominations, various churches and groups have amended Paul’s answer or changed it to fit their beliefs, but it doesn’t change the facts presented by Paul in God’s Holy Scripture.

The direct question regarding one’s salvation is asked point blank one time in scripture.  It is answered just as clearly.

One must forever settle this question or continue in doubt and fear.  Until this question is settled our prayers have no guarantee of being heard.  Until this question is settled, we have no right to call Him our Lord or our Father.

Our nation is filled with people who call themselves “Christians,” yet they have never had the experience of the Philippian jailer.  They cannot point to a time or to a place where or when they trusted Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.

If you have not trusted Christ as your personal Saviour, why not do it today?

Keep Looking Up!

Leland Maples

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