Acts 16:31 – They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”
I have recently been following an intramural theological debate in print that, in my humble opinion, borders dangerously close to the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Of course, both sides would undoubtedly pound their fists and declare that the very truth of God was at stake and that it must be defended. Fair enough. But as someone who has read a theological book or two, all this debate has done for me is bring on despair. The debate gives me the sinking feeling, even in the midst of protestations on both sides to the contrary, that in the end, I will be saved – not by grace – but by passing a theological examination… where “passing” is a 100%. I’ve never seen so many “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed. Precision is appreciated, and even required, but how far is too far? I’m still thinking on that.
It was therefore a precious balm to my soul to read this morning about the gospel message given to the Philippian jailer in Acts 16. Finding himself in dire straights, the jailer cried out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ (v. 30). The response to his plea was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.”
What a simple and concise message. To be fair, the following verse does say, “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house (v. 32). I take that to mean that Paul and Silas explained what “believe in the Lord Jesus,” meant. I’m sure they carefully instructed the family on who Jesus was and is, what he did on the cross, the power of his resurrection, what it means to submit to him as Lord, to place one’s trust in him alone for salvation, to turn away from sin and self-dependence and lean on the power of his Spirit, etc. There are details to our faith to be sure. It is not a “contentless” faith.
And yet, there is still a simplicity about it that contains great power. I want to get the gospel right, but I fear that so much in-house fighting will bring forth more damage than what may or may not be gained.
I want to be able to say to an unbeliever, “believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” I want to help clarify some of the details of that statement. I want to encourage that person to respond in faith to Christ and then go deeper with Christ in discipleship. But what I do not want to do is construct a hurdle so high at the beginning that no one will be able to jump over it. Nor do I want to dumb down the gospel so low that the ignorant can enter and remain ignorant.
Sanctification is about growing in grace and knowledge. A disciple is a learner. Both of those concepts imply a life-long, progressive pursuit of growth – intellectually, morally, spiritually, and so on. By God’s grace I am not now where I once was when I began down the narrow way. But I hope and pray that I won’t be 20 years from now where I presently am.
Praise God for discerning theologians who clarify and defend God’s truth. But let’s not place unnecessary hurdles before the people we’re called to serve.
“Hasten the day I beseech Thee, when all men shall acknowledge Thee as Lord over all. Hasten the day when our earthly society shall become the kingdom of Christ.” John Baillie
Grace and Truth,