This might be the most important conversation in the history of the world:
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30–31 ESV)
The little summary that follows is also very helpful:
And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. (Acts 16:32-33 ESV)
What a remarkable story! What an encouraging illustration of the power of the Gospel to individuals and families!
But it does beg a very important question: What exactly do I have to believe about Jesus in order to be saved?
Obviously, the text is not as detailed as we might like. It sounds like they spoke about things in the Old Testament that referred, ultimately to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Perhaps they spoke to him about the promised Seed of the Woman in Genesis 3, or the Offspring of Abraham in Genesis 17, or the Prophet like Moses from Deuteronomy 18, or the Son of David in 2 Samuel 7, or the Child of the Virgin in Isaiah 7, or the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52 and 53, or the Good Shepherd in Ezekiel 34 or the Son of Man from Daniel 7.
Perhaps they read those things in the Old Testament and said to this man and his household that they needed to believe that Jesus was the Child sent from heaven to defeat our enemy and to bring us home to God; he was born of a virgin; he lived sinlessly and perfectly and earned for us all the rewards and dignities that God intended to bestow on human beings; he was somehow both God and the Good Shepherd, the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man; his example and teaching are powerful, life-giving and authoritative for all people; he voluntarily suffered and died for us on the cross to pay for our sins and then rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven; he reigns now through his Holy Spirit and will one day return to judge the living and the dead and to rule over all things to the glory of the Father forever.
Maybe they said something very much like that, but of course, we’ll never know.
What we do know is that the New Testament is often gloriously minimalistic when it comes to what exactly a person must believe in order to be saved. Whatever it was Paul said to the Philippian jailor it couldn’t possibly have been any more economical in terms of content than what he said to the believers in Rome:
if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 ESV)
Unless my math is off, that’s just one thing. It’s a big thing, but it’s still just one thing.
He doesn’t say anything about baptism, communion, the two natures of Christ, the role and function of Mary, ecclesiology, eschatology, speaking in tongues, or signs and wonders in the church.
Just believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you will be saved.
Now, of course, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t care about those other things – of course we should! But it does perhaps mean that we should pursue clarity on those issues while extending grace, mercy, kindness and humility to those with whom we disagree.
Because at the end of the day, this is the most important question in the world: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30 ESV).”
And this is the most important answer in the world: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. (Acts 16:31 ESV).”
Everything else is by definition, secondary. Not unimportant, not unworthy of study, not unworthy of consideration and contention – just secondary. As in “we can talk about this without hating, dismissing and anathematizing one another.”
Thanks be to God!
Pastor Paul Carter
To listen to Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here. You can also find it on iTunes.