Summary from Pastor Andy
Here embedded in these short nine verses before us is a most profound exchange, in fact I dare to say it is the most imperative questions any human being could ask.
The question we have our minds set on this afternoon is found in verse 30 of today’s text. It is set at the most crucial juncture of the text Luke is writing. It’s almost as if everything that has happened since Paul’s dream in vs. 8 has led to this point. At the very least everything in this scene at the jail comes to a climax when the jailer throws himself to the floor and asks Paul and Silas, What must I do to be saved? There is in this question, humility. In this question there is fear, there is a kind of end of my ripeness.
The jailer is the one who asks this question. He is a responsible man. He is in charge of this entire prison. He is charged the evening before with guarding these two prisoners, (Paul and Silas) in particular. He is a family man. He doesn’t seem to have much problem discharging his duties even though what has been done to Paul and Silas is illegal. He is a confident man. He is asleep. I don’t take this to be dereliction of duty, but rather he is sure that he has done his job and the jail is secure. He pays no attention to Paul and Silas’ singing and praying. The prisoners themselves are listening very curiously though.
Suddenly a great earthquake shakes the prison. The earthquake wakes the jailer from his sleep. He assumes the prisoners have all escaped. He begins to panic. The magistrates would surely put him to death for letting so many prisoners to go free, not one, or two of them, but all of them. To be sure the jailer was so certain of the escape of the prisoners that he was about to take his own life. Why was it so quiet in the jail? Why didn’t the prisoners escape? This was their best chance. Not one of them decided to leave. Perhaps they were so intrigued by Paul and Silas they wanted to stay and hear more? Maybe they were scared and in shock from the quake itself. But I believe this is as much a part of the miracle as the earthquake localized on the prison, and the chains falling off, or every single door in the prison being flung open.
There is so much purpose in God’s dealings with us, is there not? So I attribute the silence and the darkness and the mistake of the jailer to misread the escape of the prisoners to be precisely what God wanted in this situation. In fact you may say it is exactly where he wanted the heart of the Jailer to be.
The jailer is frightened. He grabs his sword, or some other means of harming himself and is about to end his own life. He is in despair. He has no way out. Isn’t it interesting that Paul and Silas were literally in the stocks, but it is the Jailer who has no way out. But no way out was just what God had in mind, for he also provided Paul to shout out, DON”T DO IT, WE’RE ALL HERE!
Paul either had a leading of God’s Spirit to know what was on the man’s mind, or he was observing and loved people enough to observe closely, I don’t know, but by God’s grace Paul called out and the jailer heard him.
The jailer falls down at Paul’s feet. He is trembling. He’s frightened. This fear is different though. He knew that Paul and Silas had been in town for the past few weeks preaching. So here the jailer is trembling before his prisoners. And he asks what must I do to be saved? The answer is Jesus, believe in Him and he’ll be your peace in all kinds of troubles. He’ll be your light in all kinds of dungeons. He’ll be sufficient for you and your family. He’ll give you hope when there is no hope. He is the Lord.
And then Luke tells us that Paul continued to speak to the jailer about these things. It’s very curious to me. The jailer asks the question of all questions, what must I do to be saved and Luke leaves us in the dark as to what Paul tells him. He says believe in Jesus, and then more but what? We’re left to figure out this very mysterious phrase. Believe in Jesus? How do I believe in Jesus? Surely it’s got to be more than intellectual assent. There is no substitute in evangelism or any other kind of instruction for simply telling people about the man himself and what he did in his life. Go straight to the scriptures and ultimately the road to faith is the Spirit of God, awakening a dead heart to life, when the word of God is preached and connects with the gift of faith that God has planted in any given individual.
See Colossians 1
He would have told the Jailer that to believe Jesus you must turn from any other created thing and pledge to follow Jesus who is God. To know the Savior is to Know God.
This requires as Jesus said in Mark 1 repenting. It means you open up your heart, but the Bible said out of the heart the mouth speaks, so you must open your mouth as well and say to God, I have sinned against you. I have lived my whole life until now in service to created things rather than thanking you. I have lived for my own glory, rather than for yours. I have enjoyed all your gifts, without thanking you for them.
Jesus said if anyone would follow me they must lay down their own life and take up the cross. Believing in Jesus changes what you believe about life.
God is good. He opens hearts. He opens prison doors. He opens the gates of heaven wide for all who would come in.
The good news is if he has you asking questions like What must I do to be saved? You can be sure that he is in pursuit of you. Believe in Jesus Christ.
If you become a believer you’ll soon find yourself celebrating and remembering the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus around a table. It is a communion, or remembrance table. Paul is teaching the jailer how to remember Jesus sacrifice. And the Jailer will no doubt be among those who serve the communion feast at the church that would spring up in Philippi.
I want to say that as we grow as a church, are we about reminding one another and taking one another back to the word and inviting one another to take another look at Jesus. Are we caring for one another, feeding one another, dressing one another’s wounds? These are the ways that we become the church to one another. These are the ways you go about believing in Jesus. You repent of following any other thing in life and you devote yourselves to life in Jesus’ World according to Jesus’ view of people and work and hardship and anything else.
IF you haven’t been baptized and would like to be, We will be holding a three week baptism class in May and would love for you to join that class, and then we’d like to help you get baptized right here with us.