In Acts 16:16-34 we read the account of the salvation of the Philippians jailer and his household.  Paul and Silas were on their second missionary journey and were in the city of Philippi.   They had cast a demon out of a slave girl who was being used as a source of profit by fortune-telling.   Her owners seeing their loss of revenue seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the magistrates.  They were beaten and thrown into prison.  About midnight, while Paul and Silas were singing, there was an earthquake which shook the prison, opened all the doors and loosed the chains of the prisoners.  The jailer, fearing that his charge of prisoners had escaped drew his sword to kill himself.   But Paul stops him saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”  The jailer then called for a light, ran in and fell down before Paul and Silas and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 

There is no question that we will ask in this life that is more important than this question.   It was a question asked by the rich, young ruler when he said to Jesus, “Good teacher what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18)   It was asked by a lawyer who asked Him, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)  By looking at these examples we can see that the question is not always asked with a receptive heart (The rich, young ruler didn’t like his answer and the lawyer tried to manipulate the answer).  Nevertheless, if we are to be have the hope of a home in heaven, we need to ask this question, and it must be with a heart that is willing to accept whatever He commands us to do.   In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said, “21Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  22Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (emp. mine - TT)  Notice how Jesus said that our salvation is dependent upon our DOING what the Father in heaven wills, not merely saying we believe in Him.

So what does the Bible say one must do to be saved?  There are five steps to one’s salvation.  Having HEARD the word, one must BELIEVE in Jesus and His Word, REPENT of his sins, CONFESS Jesus as the Son of God and be BAPTIZED for the remission of his sins.  Let us notice some passages and brief thoughts on each of them.

HEAR: Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  This comes on the heels of a discussion dealing with one being saved.  Vs. 13 says, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Then Paul explains, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (vs. 14)  In every example of conversion recorded in the New Testament (especially see the book of Acts) the gospel was preached before one became a Christian.

BELIEVE: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. “  (John 3:16)  Perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible we read of our need to believe in Him to have everlasting life.  Jesus said on another occasion, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24)  See also Romans 10:9-10.

REPENT: This word is misunderstood by many, but it is oh so important in leading to one’s salvation.  The word in the original Greek language is defined as, “to change one’s mind” (Thayer)[1]  Another resource defines the word as, “to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness.” (Louw & Nida)[2]  One the day of Pentecost as Peter preached we are told that many were cut to the heart and said, “Men and brethren what shall we do?”  “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37-38)  Paul would tell the Athenians, “Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent…” (Acts 2:38).  Acts 3:19 says, “Repent and be converted, that you sins may be blotted out.”   It ought to be clearly understood that BEFORE one can obey the gospel they must CHANGE their mind and direction of their life.

CONFESS:  In Acts 8:36-37, having been taught about Jesus on his way home from Jerusalem, the Ethiopian Eunuch had inquired about being baptized.  Philip responded, “If you believe with all you heart, you may.”  To this the Eunuch gave what we sometimes describe as the good confession.  He said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.   With this answer, Philip baptized him.  While upon this earth Jesus said, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”  (Matt. 10:32-33)  While this confession ought to be ongoing throughout the life of a believer, it is also something to be understood and acknowledged in order to be saved.  Romans 10:10 says, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Be BAPTIZED: The importance of baptism is deemphasized by many in the religious world, but it is CLEARLY taught as that final step that leads to one’s salvation.  Jesus Himself taught in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”  Again on the day of Pentecost, Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38).  In recounting his conversion before a gathering in Jerusalem, Paul recalled what he was told to do, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)  Peter, in his 1st epistle, discussing the importance of water described how Noah and his family were saved “through water.”  Then he said, “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20-21)  Finally, Paul writing to the church at Rome reminded them, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)  From these passages and many others it is abundantly clear that baptism is essential to one’s salvation.

But what about the Philippian jailer?  Often times he is used as the example of “faith only.”  Let’s revisit  our original text in Acts 16:30-34.  It says, “And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”  Sometimes the expression, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” Is used to emphasize that such is all one needs.  But to do so is to ignore the context.  Notice how AFTER saying that we read, “THEN they spoke the word of the Lord to him.  The statement, “Believe on the Lord” was a general statement that encompasses EVERYTHING associated with being saved.  Paul then explains what believing on the Lord involved.  Notice that further in the text we read, “immediately, he and all his family were baptized.”  It can be inferred from the context that a part of Paul’s message on how to be saved by believing in the Lord INCLUDED baptism.  The jailer IMMEDIATELY complied along with his household.

Friends, the gospel has not changed.  The same plan of salvation that was preached in the first century still applies today.  What about you?  Have you obeyed the gospel following God’s plan?  If you have questions, please ask!  TATJR

[1] Strong, J. (2001). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies.