The Philippian jailor (Acts 16:30-34)
Paul and Silas are in prison where they have been singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening. A violent earthquake rips the foundations of the jail and all the prison doors are opened. The jailor is about to kill himself for failing at his job, thinking the prisoners had escaped, but Paul calls out in a loud voice that he not harm himself for they are all there. Now this leads the jailor to the question that every person must come to ask. What must I do to be saved? Verse 31 gives the answer that they need believe on the Lord Jesus, and they will be saved. Now is this the end of the passage? Is this all that these people were told to do? Other religious groups would like to teach you that this is the case. They have booklets that will say that salvation simply requires belief, just like the jailor and his household. I believe that we are saved just like the jailor and his household, but to see their salvation we must read the rest of the passage. Notice verse 32, “then they spoke the message of the Lord to him along with everyone in the house.” We do not see here simple acknowledgment. No, they needed to be taught about the Lord and so they were taught. Notice what happens after they were taught. First, he washes their wounds. Back in verse 22 we see that Paul and Silas were beaten with rods many times. So the jailor is washing his wounds. It seems to me that he is showing an act of repentance. He is showing a desire to right his wrongs and turn his life against sin. But that is not all. The jailor and his family were right away baptized. The jailor could now stand upon the promise that Jesus made in Mark 16:16 “he who believes and is baptized will be saved.”
The Jews (Acts 2:37-40)
The apostles have just received the Holy Spirit and were speaking in tongues. Peter gets up to preach to the people to explain to them what had taken place. Peter reaches the pinnacle of his sermon and concludes by saying, “therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” When the people heard this, they asked the question, “what shall we do?” Peter responds, “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Now why did Peter not tell these people to believe, like Paul told the jailor? The answer seems simple: they already were believers in God. Belief had already been produced. The message of the Lord had already been preached to them. It was time for them to follow through with obedience. What was their response to these words? Did they say we just want to believe only? Was that enough for them? Notice verse 41, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” This answer also applies to us for Peter said in verse 39 that the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off. This would be a call not only to the Jews but to those who were far from God, the Gentiles, the heathen nations.
Saul (Acts 22:6-16)
Saul has been persecuting the disciples of the Lord and is on his way to Damascus to seek out more Christians to persecute. On his way to Damascus, a bright light from heaven flashes around Paul. Paul falls to the ground and hears Jesus saying to him why are you persecuting me? Paul asks what he must do in Acts 22:10. He is told to go to Damascus and he will be told what to do. We then see that Paul was blinded, unable to see for three days, and Paul also fasted not having food or drink. Paul comes to Ananias and Ananias heals Paul of the blindness that he had. Now let us notice two things thus far. If you had heard the voice of Jesus speak to you, blinded by the light, you fasted, and you were healed of the blindness, would you think you were saved? Ask any religious group and tell them that this happened to you and I believe they would say that you were saved. But Paul is still told to wash away his sins.
We also see that belief and repentance alone is not what is required for the washing away of sins. Did Paul believe? Absolutely, he believed. He just had a conversation with Jesus. Was he repentant? I think that is clearly seen in his obedience to go to Ananias and not continue on his mission to persecute Christians and by his fasting. Was he saved? Ananias says what are you waiting for? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins. Why didn’t Ananias say that he needed to belief only? He already believed but belief alone is not the total of obedience and submission we must show God. Why not tell him to repent, like Peter did in Acts 2? Because he had already. Notice that there are three different answers we have looked at, yet the same end result: baptism. These people were at different learning stages about God. The jailor needed to know about God. He needed to believe and be baptized. The Jews in Acts 2 believed, but needed to repent for crucifying the son of God and be baptized. Paul already believed and was repentant. He simply needed to be baptized. There is no confusion on what one must do be saved. The steps are the same, we are reading of people at different stages.