The Most Important Question Ever Asked
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing to God, and 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 bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
(Acts 16:25-30, ESV)
The question that the Philippian Jailer asks is the most important question ever asked At first glance, the answer to this question seems extremely simple. In reality it is quite simple, but nonetheless requires somewhat more thought than it first appears.
Paul and Silas answer his question in the very next verse, which says:
And they said “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, you and your household.”
The reference to the household may be seen as confusing. We see a few verses later (Although I’m not going to quote all of them right now) that the entire household of the jailer rejoices after they accept Paul’s good news. Thus, it can be presumed that each person in the household was being given the opportunity to believe, and each person did so.
However, even ignoring this, this is still a little more complex than it first appears. What does “Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ” mean. Does believing just anything about Jesus Christ do?
Acts 16:32 begins to answer this question. The verse says:
And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and all who were in his house.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 gives us some idea of what this message contained. These verses say:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you- unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance which I also received: That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.
“According to the Scriptures”? What does this mean.
Well, if you look at Isaiah 53, which was written over seven hundred years before Christ came to earth, you get an idea. Paul is saying that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was predicted in the Scriptures before it happened. Take a look at this:
Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[b] by men;
a man of sorrows,[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[f]
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;[g]
when his soul makes[h] an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[i] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[j]
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[k]
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors
That last verse is the key. Christ bore the sins of his people on the cross so they wouldn’t have to. This is an essential part of the gospel message. Otherwise, you have empty faith, as James says in James 2:19 says, quoted below:
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
The demons accept the fact that God is real, but they do not believe that Christ died for them. Of course, Christ did not die for the demons. But James is saying that a saved man will not merely profess that God exists, but that Christ accomplished his redemption on the cross, because man could not do anything to ensure his own salvation.
John 3:16-18 makes very clear that there is only one way to heaven, and that is through Jesus Christ. This verses say:
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
This right here is essential gospel doctrine. The only way sinners can be saved is through trusting that the blood of Christ covered their sin. If a man believes that anything else, whether it be works, or faith in something other than Christ, this shows that he is condemned. Read Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:8-9, and compare them to his frightening words in Galatians 1:6-9.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this isnot your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
So, what does believing in Christ mean? As I have shown, it means believing that Christ came to die for his people, that he paid for their sins so they didn’t have to. It means believing that Christ defeated death by rising from the dead. And it means trusting solely in his finished work on the cross, not adding any of your own works to it.