Nana Yaw Aidoo
In the Acts of the apostles, the inspired historian teaches us how one is saved by the grace of God. May we with open hearts and open Bibles, study the sixteenth chapter of the Acts and learn how alien sinners in the city of Philippi were saved from their sins.
After the disagreement over John Mark, Paul parted ways with Barnabas and embarked on his second missionary journey, taking Silas with him (Acts 15:36-41). They went through many towns until they got to Troas. Here, Paul received a vision of a man from Macedonia pleading with Paul saying, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). Paul interpreted that as a call from the Lord to do evangelistic work in Macedonia and so he and those with him left Troas and went to Philippi, which was a big city in Macedonia.
Having landed in Philippi, Paul and his group went to a prayer meeting of Jewish women to preach the word. One of the praying women was a woman named Lydia, whose heart was opened by the Lord, through the Word she heard (Psa. 19:8, 119:130), “to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14 ASV). It is interesting to note that in heeding the things, which were spoken by the apostle, she and her household were baptized (Acts 16:15). Friends, if this does not prove the essentiality of baptism in the salvation of the alien sinner, then nothing else does. Proponents of the error of “infant sprinkling” allude to this and similar passages and contend that, since Lydia’s “household” was baptized, then it had to include babies and thus, this text justifies the practice of “infant sprinkling.” Friends, this proves too much. In 1 Corinthians 1:16, Paul affirmed that he “baptized also the household of Stephanas.” Yet, in 1 Corinthians 16:15, the household of Stephanas is said to “have addicted (devoted – NKJV) themselves to the ministry of the saints.” Did this include the helpless infants? If not, then why not?
Paul and his group continued to make the trip to the prayer meeting, evidently to continue their work of evangelism. On one of those days, it so happened that one slave girl who was possessed with “a spirit of divination” and “which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying” (Acts 16:16) confessed that Paul and his group were proclaiming “the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17). Who can deny that she spoke the truth? If Paul was proclaiming the way of salvation (he was) and if Lydia upon hearing Paul’s message got baptized (she did), does it not follow that we get to walk the way of salvation when we are baptized unto the remission of sins (cf. Acts 2:38)? Yet, denominational preachers would have us believe that baptism is not necessary in order to be saved. Even demons know the truth.
This demon-possessed girl kept on making this proclamation and when it had gone on too long, a greatly distressed Paul exorcised her (Acts 16:18). When her masters realized that their source of profit was gone, they accused Paul and Silas of teaching things contrary to Roman law (Acts 16:20-21). This led to severe beatings and Paul and Silas ending up in jail. In spite of all these trials, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God (Acts 16:25). We can learn a lot from the life of this peerless apostle. It has been said that “a messenger embodies his message.” This same apostle would later write, “In everything give thanks” (1 Thes. 5:18). Indeed Paul is worthy of emulation just as he also emulated Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).
As they sang, “…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 bands were loosed” (Acts 16:26). When the jailor woke up and saw what had happened, he almost committed suicide but for the intervention of Paul (Acts 16:27-28). Subsequently, the jailor went in, brought them out and asked the most important question ever to be on the tongue of man; “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Friends, have you asked yourselves this question yet? If not, why? Notice the answer the jailor received; “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). The “faith-only” proponent sees this and erroneously concludes that Paul was teaching the doctrine of salvation by faith only. Of this text, J.W McGarvey wrote;
Those who argue that the jailer obtained pardon by faith alone, leave the jail too soon. If they would remain one hour longer, they would see him immersed for the remission of his sins, and rejoicing in the knowledge of pardon after his immersion, not before it (Original commentary on Acts).
Notice what we see happen after Paul makes that statement. We see the Word preached to the jailor (v. 32). We see the jailor wash the clothes of the preachers (v. 33), which is proof that he had repented of how he treated them. “And…the same hour of the night…immediately he and all his family were baptized” (Acts 16:33 NKJV). Did Paul not tell him to “believe?” Why then was he baptized? And why the urgency to be baptized in the same hour of the night? It is evident that Paul used the word believe in a more comprehensive sense to mean an obedient faith (Rom. 1:5, 16:25). This is synecdoche, a literary figure in which the part is put in place of the whole. This figure is also seen in Acts 18:8; “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” Did Crispus do less than his fellow Corinthians did? No, for later we see Paul make this statement; “I thank God that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius” (1 Cor. 1:14). Crispus was not saved by “faith only” because no one is (Jam. 2:17, 24). Thus, when Paul told the jailor to believe, he used the word in a comprehensive sense to include the entire plan of salvation, which culminates in baptism unto the remission of sins (cf. Acts 2:38, 22:16, 1 Pet. 3:21). So important is baptism that the Philippian could not wait even until the next day and it was only after his baptism that he “rejoiced” (Acts 16:34), which is the reaction of one who has been saved from his sins (cf. Acts 8:39). Notice also that it was only after he was baptized that he is said to have “believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:34 NKJV).
What have we learnt from this study? We have learnt that those who are saved from their sins by the grace of God are those who hear the gospel preached, believe it, repent of all their sins and are baptized unto the remission of their sins.
Dear reader, have you been saved by grace? If not, what is hindering you? (cf. Acts 8:36).