Friday, 12 May 2023
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31
In the previous verse, the jailer had brought Paul and Silas out of their cell and then asked them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The words recorded by Luke speak volumes. First, he notes, “So they said.”
The use of the third person plural tells us that both Paul and Silas responded. Their voice and the substance of their response are united in thought. They were in complete agreement concerning the matter, saying, “Believe.”
In the Greek, as in the English, their first word excludes any work at all. They simply instruct him to believe. They don’t bring up their culture or heritage by introducing the Law of Moses. They don’t ask for anything, nor do they tell him he must vow, offer, or sacrifice anything. They simply tell him to believe.
The next word, epi, is rightly translated, on or upon. It is the same one that was used in Acts 3:16. At that time, it was noted that Peter had healed the man because of the faith found in (based upon) the name of Jesus. Here in Acts 16, Paul and Silas instruct the jailor to believe upon the One they will name, meaning He is to be the foundational subject of his faith. They then say that this belief is to be upon “the Lord Jesus Christ.’”
The jailor had just called the two men kurioi, lords. They now immediately subordinate themselves to the One Lord – Jesus Christ, the Kurion. Ultimately, there is one Lord that all other lords are subject to, whether they acknowledge it now or not.
What is evident, without it being said, is that their words elevate Jesus above all these other lords because they ascribe salvation to him. If Caesar could save, they would have said so. If any other “lord” could save, they would have said so. But by directly responding to the jailor with a single named Lord, it means that He – by default – is above all other lords.
It should be noted that some manuscripts leave off the word Christ. The word has the same meaning, Anointed One, as the Hebrew word Messiah, even if it has a different signification to the Jews than it would to the Greeks. However, in this case, that seems to be irrelevant because it is accompanied by the name Jesus.
This seems to tell us that the jailor had already been made aware of who Jesus is. If this were not the case, there would have been a much fuller explanation recorded by Luke. Otherwise, the jailor’s obvious question would have been, “Who is the Lord Jesus?”
The next verse will indicate that more explanation is given, but it seems likely by the direct response of these men that the jailor had already been made aware of Jesus’ name through either direct conversation or through listening while Paul and Silas talked with the other prisoners. Therefore, it is not a strong argument to say that the word Christ isn’t original based on its signification to a Greek.
Once someone has been instructed on who Jesus is, meaning being the Christ, the term is applied to Him as a fixed appellation from that point on. This is evidenced by its use hundreds of times by Paul in his epistles that are written to Gentiles.
But more, because the name Jesus was a common name at the time, there may have been many lords (meaning masters) named Jesus in Israel. But there is only one Messiah. To say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus” would not carry the same weight as saying, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” It identifies the Person, and it explains who He is.
A more comprehensive explanation of what Christ means would necessarily be needed to complete the thought. That would include that He is God incarnate, that He died for the sins of the world, that He was buried, and that He rose again. This fuller explanation was probably something that the jailor was already exposed to, at least partially, through the words of Paul and Silas as they talked about their faith to the other prisoners.
Therefore, whether the word Christ is original or not is not something to be so cavalierly dismissed as is done by scholars. With that, Luke next records, “and you will be saved.”
This is the completion of the thought in response to his question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” He wanted to know what would bring him personal salvation and they provided the necessary answer. The only requirement for him to be saved is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. But with that explanation out of the way, they continue their words with a fuller explanation, saying, “you and your household.”
This is an important addition. Jesus is not just the Savior of a certain group of people, nor is He the Savior of a limited number of people. He is the Savior of all who come to Him. Their response to the jailor is in line with what the messenger had said to the house of Cornelius –
“And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’” Acts 11:13, 14
Neither the messenger noted in Acts 11, nor Paul and Silas in Acts 16, mean that the household is saved through the master’s faith.
Peter’s words to the house of Cornelius were to be the good news of salvation, the gospel. Upon conveying them, those who believed would be saved. The term, “you and all your household,” does not mean that Cornelius’ salvation would lead directly to the salvation of his household as if his faith was sufficient to cover everyone. Earlier in Acts 10, it had said –
“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household.” Acts 10:1, 2
The family was already a family that feared God. The saving of the household spoken of was to be a salvation that was based upon the faith they already possessed. It just needed to be directed properly toward Jesus Christ. Likewise, Paul and Silas are not telling the jailor that his salvation would result in his family’s salvation, but that the necessary condition for any of them to be saved was to believe. Those who did, meaning any in all his household, would be saved.
Life application: For such a simple set of words, there is a great deal of underlying meaning in what has been conveyed. The main substance of it, however, is that there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, who is capable of saving. The simplicity of the response to the question excludes any other possible option.
But more, the words clearly indicate that one must believe in the right Jesus. Paul conveys this thought elsewhere, saying –
“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” 2 Corinthians 11:3, 4
There is not another Jesus who can save. There is also no other gospel that can save. In Galatians 1:6-8, Paul says any other such notion is anathema. Let us be precise when we give the gospel so that the message is clearly understood. Once it is, if the person believes the message, he will be saved. For those who have believed in a false Jesus or a false gospel, explain to them what was in error and ask them to reconsider what they have believed. It’s important.
Lord God, help us to properly convey the gospel so that those who hear it will have the chance to accept our words and be saved. May we be precise in our explanation so that those to whom we speak understand the importance of our words. Help us in this, O God. Amen.