Paul and Silas were incarcerated in the city of Philippi for casting a “spirit of divination” out of a woman. After being lied about in front of the City Magistrates, the preachers were beaten and thrown in jail, fastened in stocks (Acts 16:19-24).
Midnight came, and as these Gospel preachers sang and prayed, an earthquake hit. The jail doors opened and all the prisoners’ chains fell off (Acts 16:25-26).
The commotion woke the jailer. Thinking the prisoners had all escaped, he drew his sword to take his own life. Just then, Paul called out from his cell, “Do yourself no harm: for we are all here” (Acts 16:27-28).
The jailer sprang in, fell down at Paul and Silas’s feet, then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:29-30).
This official—likely an atheist or an idolater—asked about salvation. They told him to believe on the Lord Jesus (Acts 16:31). Then they had to explain who Jesus was and what He did to make eternal life possible. “And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house” (Acts 16:32).
After hearing the Gospel, the jailer responded “the same hour of the night” by cleaning the wounds that Paul and Silas received from their beating, and by being baptized (Acts 16:33). Then he fed Paul and Silas and rejoiced, “believing in God with all his house,” (Acts 16:34).
Unfortunately, some today use this incident to allege that a sinner is saved by merely believing in Jesus as the Savior. That’s not true, and this passage doesn’t teach it. The jailer in Philippi asked virtually the same question that believing Jews asked in Jerusalem in Acts 2. But in Acts 2, the question and the answer came after Christ was preached. The jailer at Philippi in Acts 16 asked the question before hearing the Gospel.
Different answers were given because of the different levels of knowledge. In Acts 2, Peter spoke to people who’d seen Jesus, and they asked what to do after Peter applied Old Testament prophecy to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
But the jailer in Philippi hadn’t seen Jesus, and when he asked what to do, he still had not heard the Gospel.
When Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord, the jailer believed it, responded with an act of contrition—washing Paul and Silas’ wounds—then was baptized “the same hour of the night,” an ancient expression meaning immediately. The jailer had to be baptized to be saved.
So do you.