what Must i do to be saved

What Must I Do To Be Saved?(Acts 16:19-34)
By Dr. James Maxwell

Section 1

Paul and Silas encountered many hard blows while traveling on their missionary tour. Out of all the places they visited, Philippi appears to have been the most dangerous and exciting. These two evangelists knew of the moral decay, paganism and worldliness in Philippi. They realized that the Philippians needed bread to sustain their lives, water to quench their thirst, shelter to protect them from severe weather conditions, and love to stabilize their security. Paul and Silas knew that they had a far greater need for Jesus, the “bread of life,” to fulfill their spiritual hunger.

Christ was needed as the “water of life” to satisfy the kind of thirst that H20 can’t quench. The Philippians needed Christ, the towering rock, to provide shelter in the time of storm. Also, they needed our Lord as the loving “friend that sticketh closer than a brother. “Paul and Silas preached the gospel of Christ with boldness on the streets of Philippi, in the Jewish synagogue, the market places and in public and domestic buildings. The tremendous impact of their message of the risen Lord caused various reactions. Some renounced their sins and obeyed the gospel of Christ.

Others became enraged and frustrated, and brought an accusation to the magistrates concerning Paul and Silas’ teaching. They said,” … These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city. And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans” (Acts16:30-31). The magistrates arrested Paul and Silas for disturbing the peace, and for disturbing the consciences of the people. “And the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely; who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks”(Acts 16:22- 24).

Section 2

While in prison, Paul and Silas did not waste time brooding over their persecution and confinement. They developed the kind of Christian optimism that the word needs so greatly. Paul wrote of this to the church in Philippi saying,” I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians4:11).The keeper of the prison cautiously guarded the cell of Paul and Silas and the other prisoners. He undoubtedly thought that Paul and Silas were nothing but crackpots and fanatics for preaching that Jesus died, was buried and raised from the dead.

To a carnally minded man such as the jail keeper, this was utter foolishness; but to those “who are saved, it is the power of God” (l Corinthians I: 18). Most likely the jail or was filled with pride, having authority over two gospel messengers whose notorious popularity had spread like wild fire. As a guard the jailor was probably overwhelmed with his own stamina and strength. His sword and armor might have given him a sense of power to overcome all adversaries and foes against the civil laws which he respected.

As midnight was approaching, the jail keeper was fast asleep. “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 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 bands were loosed” (Acts 16:25-26). The keeper of the jail was astounded at

God’s miraculous power over the elements, and divine control in the affairs of life. At last! Paul and Silas were free to do the same things again for which they were imprisoned. According to our lesson text, the jailor had shown no fear previous to the earthquake. He knew the possibility of his prisoners escaping.

Section 3

Why didn’t the guard try to kill Paul and Silas seeing that they might escape? Was he afraid of Paul and Silas? Certainly not! He feared their God! He knew that if he harmed God’s servants, he would be fighting against God. Thus, he decided to kill himself to avoid the punishment he would suffer from his Roman superiors. As he was about to give himself a suicidal stab with his sword, “… Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, “Do thyself no harm; for we are all here” (Acts 16:28).The keeper of the prison was full of anguish and despair.

He concluded that Paul and Silas were offering him their help, and thereby responded, for he realized he couldn’t help himself. Many times it takes experiences in life such as this one to bring people to the fact that they need the kind of help that comes from above. Sometimes an accident, an injury, a chronic disease or illness, a flood, a war, a disaster, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a position or a job, and the death or calamity of a relative are needed to make us realize how much we need God in our lives.

The Philippian jailor knew that he was lost, miserably lost. He knew he would lose his rank and position as a guard. He knew he would lose his prestige and power; so now he was convinced that he needed the spiritual power and strength provided only in our Lord. He was aware that the omnipotent attributes of God were more needful than anything in this whole world, yea, even than life itself

Section 4

With this state of mind and condition of heart the jailor asked the most important question ever asked by man. He cried from the very depths of his inner being, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” This does not sound like the kind of question a prison keeper would ask his prisoners. Do you notice the humility by which the jailor addressed Paul and Silas? He did not address them as prisoners, peons, false prophets, “jacklegs” or scalawags. He called them “Sirs” in a respectful manner. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” There is a lot of valuable information wrapped up in the question asked by the jailor. There are many suggestive thoughts packaged within the framework of this question.

The first word is WHAT. When the word WHAT is at the very beginning of a written thought, a question is asked desiring information or instructions. The jailor was deeply concerned about his soul, and wanted to become acquainted with the right information to remedy his spiritual inadequacies. The word MUST implies that the jailor knew whatever instructions were given to him, it was imperative that he comply with them.

It was a dire necessity that the directions given him be obeyed. It could not wait for a more favorable setting nor a more convenient season. Let us notice the word “I” in this question. “What must “I” do to be saved?” The jailor suggested that he, himself, was individually responsible for his own sins. He blamed no one for his faults. He was cognizant that he must follow the directions given him. Nobody else could stand for him but himself. He did not ask what must the Roman officials do. Or what must the Jews do? Or what must the other prisoners do? nor what must God do? but “What must ·r do to be saved?”

Another word to consider in the question under scrutiny is the word DO. “What must I DO?” The word “DO” IMPLIES ACTION. The jailor understood that there was something for him to DO in order to be saved. He did not say, “Nothing must I do to be saved {” He did not ask, what must I say to be saved? or what must I feel to be saved? or what must I get to be saved? or what must I experience to be saved? Neither did he ask what must I pray for to be saved? He asked “What must I DO to be saved?”

Section 5

Many people think that there is nothing that man has to do to obtain salvation. They fee) that God, through his grace, saves us and that the moment we believe we are saved. Friends, this doctrine will cause many honest souls to be lost. Jesus said, ”Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 ). In Revelation 22: 14, the Bible says, “Blessed are they that do His commandments that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates of the city.”

The Bible teaches against the “faith only” doctrine in many passages. Listen to James in the second chapter of his epistle and verse seventeen. He said, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead being alone.” Listen to James again in James 2:24, ” … by works a man is justified and not by faith only.” An honest man will accept what the Bible says, not what man says. The last three words in the question asked by the prison keeper are “TO BE SAVED.”

These three words teach us that salvation was to be enjoyed last, not first. First, the jailor had to know something-the gospel of Christ. Second, the jailor was compelled to believe something – the gospel. Third, the jailor was to do something – repent, confess faith in Christ and be baptized (Acts 15:7, Acts 17:30, Matthew 10:32, Acts 22:16). Lastly, he was to receive something -salvation from God.

Section 6

The question asked by the jailor contains two major parts in regard to salvation. God’ part and man’s part. God’s part is the big part. God has arranged a plan for us “… TO BE SAVED.” God has done his part by sending Christ to the world that it might be saved (John 3:16-17, Luke 19:10). Christ did His part by dying a horrible death on the tree of the cross that we might be

Saved. The Holy Spirit was sent to guide the apostles into “all truth” (John 16:13). The apostles spoke and wrote God’s plan of salvation without error, being inspired by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:1-5).

We now have the Bible – God’s revealed message to man. This is God’s part. The “… to be saved” part of this question is God’s part; but the “What must I do? “Part of this question is man’s part. “What must I do to be saved?” was asked by the jail keeper. The answer to this question is applicable even today. No person was more qualified to give the answer than Paul, and his helper Silas. The jailor was told to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

He was not told to believe only. Believing was necessary, but what else was necessary? The Bible teaches that the jailor and his house were baptized (Acts 16:33). This example of conversion was done as Jesus commanded in the Great Commission. He said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved …” (Mark 16:15-16).

Section 7

Hence, the answer to the prison keeper’s question was to “believe and be baptized.” Thus, we know that a man cannot be saved by belief only, nor by repentance only, nor by confession only -although these prerequisites are necessary. One’s obedience to the first principles of the gospel must be climaxed in baptism, which puts him into Christ and His Church (Galatians 3:27, 1 Corinthians 12:13).

This narrative teaches the value of baptism, by the time element in which the jailor was baptized. He was baptized at midnight (Acts 16:25). It was during the same hour of the night (Acts 16:33). Some denominational churches wait until the first or second Sunday in every month to baptize their candidates; others wait until momentous holidays to baptize their candidates.

This shows just how much importance is attached to it! If baptism saves and remits sins as Peter taught in l Peter 3:20-21 and Acts 2:38, why prolong it? What if the candidate dies before he’s baptized? During Bible times people were baptized during “the same day”(Acts 2:41); “immediately” after they were taught (Acts 9: 18); and “the same hour of the night” (Acts 16:33). Who are we to change God’s plan? Let us believe it like the Bible teaches and practice it like the Bible teaches. ” … What must I do to be saved?” I must obey the gospel of Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).