Each year I read through the Bible, and my reading this morning was in the book of Acts. Even though I have read it probably hundreds of times over the years, the power of this passage really spoke to me today…
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose. When the jailer woke up and saw the doors of the prison open, he drew his sword and was going to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul called out in a loud voice, “Don’t harm yourself, because all of us are here!” Then the jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he escorted them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the message of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house. He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized. He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had believed God with his entire household.” (Acts 16:25–34, HCSB)
There are some scholars who argue that the Philippian jailor was not asking a spiritual question here, but rather he was seeking to learn how he could avoid the consequences (likely execution) of allowing prisoners to escape. If that is the case, then Paul and Silas used the occasion to build a great gospel bridge into his life and connect him to his need for a different type of salvation. Personally, I believe the man was so shaken by seeing the power of God that he was asking a spiritual question. However, either way the end result is the same: salvation came to this man and eventually his household through simple faith.
Think about all of the theology books that have been written. They are needful, and I am very much in favor of making sure we have our theology correct and struggling with the things of God taught in the scriptures. There are some real, profound disagreements in theology – even among evangelical Christians. It’s o.k. to wrestle with those issues, and even debate them in the proper forums. However, I feel like sometimes we forget that the gospel message is so very simple. To say the gospel message is simple is not to say it is shallow. In fact, the gospel is so deep that the greatest theologians cannot exhaust it’s treasure, but yet it is simple enough so that a child can understand and be saved.
The answer to the Philippian jailor’s question was not a systematic theology textbook – it was one verse, Acts 16:31. We would do well not to forget that. Saving faith is simple faith, and simple faith is saving faith. How did I become a Christian as an eight year old boy in Henagar, Alabama? I heard the simple gospel and responded with a simple faith. Saving faith is simple faith, and simple faith is saving faith.