In Acts 16 does God promise to save an entire household when one person comes to faith. How can I secure this promise for my family? The Whole Household Saved
In Acts 16 we read:
Acts 16:25-33 (NKJV)
The Philippian Jailer Saved
25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The Whole Household Saved
31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.
At this moment, Paul and Silas are in prison, and when the Lord delivers a supernatural prison break for these men, the jailer awakes and sees the miracle God performed. Just as the jailer was preparing to kill himself (which Roman jailers were required to do if their prisoners escaped), Paul intervenes by the leading of the Holy Spirit and delivers the Gospel message.
Included in Paul’s commands to this jailer was the promise that if the jailer believes, then his household would follow suit. And because all believed, all would be saved.
Were Paul’s words to this jailer meant to be a universal truth for all believers? Both the word of God and our personal experience tell us the answer is no. Paul’s words are not a promise to all believers. The Whole Household Saved
First, scripture never makes such a promise to all believers. In this circumstance, Paul gave a promise to one man, the jailer. Paul did not include this command in any of his letters written to all believers, nor does Christ ever issue such a promise. When the Lord makes promises to all believers, His word makes clear that the promise is universal. We cannot assume that what Paul said to one person is automatically true for all believers.
Proper interpretation of scripture requires that we distinguish between descriptions and prescriptions. In the Bible, a description is, any account of events, and a prescription is a specific command given to the believer. Descriptions (i.e., historical accounts, prophecy, etc.) are given in scripture to explain God and His character, purposes, and plans. We simply cannot interpret such descriptions as commands or promises for all believers. The Whole Household Saved
For example, we read about David’s adultery with Bathsheba in the Bible, but this account is not intended to prescribe adultery for all believers. Instead, we understand that David’s mistake was merely described so we can learn from it. We also read in Isaiah 20 how the Lord commanded the prophet to live without clothing for three years, but this is not a prescription to the believer to do the same.
Likewise, Paul’s instructions to the jailer were not a prescription for all believers. Instead, this scene was described for our benefit. Paul spoke under the inspiration of the Spirit, and his words were intended solely for that man and his family. The events were described for us so that we might know about them, not so that we might expect the same outcome in our own lives. The Whole Household Saved
Secondly, our personal experience confirms that this passage is NOT a prescription or promise for all believers. Unfortunately, many, many individuals have come to know Christ as Savior over the centuries without the rest of the family, following suit. If we interpret Paul’s comment as a promise from God to all believers, then what would we conclude about God’s faithfulness? Did He make a promise that He didn’t keep? Are we to say God is a liar?
Never! Instead, we must conclude that this statement is not a promise to all believers. Instead, the Lord was speaking only about one man and his family, because the Lord chooses to save those He wishes: The Whole Household Saved
Romans 9:15-16 (NKJV)
15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever, I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. The Whole Household Saved
While we should hope and pray for the Lord to save our unbelieving family members, we will find no guarantee in scripture that the Lord is likely to do so. On the contrary, in many families, the Lord chooses to save only some individuals while passing over others, according to His sovereign will. The Whole Household Saved
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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