What Must I Do To Be Saved?
The conversion of the Philippian jailer is one of the more touching stories in Acts and bears similarities with other events in the book. First, they are singing hymns after being beaten for preaching the gospel, just as the apostles were beaten before the Sanhedrin and then left “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (5:41); second, while singing there was an earthquake that shook the prison, just as happened after the believers lifted their voices in prayer upon being threatened that they no longer preach in the name of Jesus (4:31). But what makes this account so different is what happened between Paul and the jailer.
Upon awakening and seeing the prison doors open after the earthquake, the jailer was about to kill himself. It was not uncommon for guards to be put to death if prisoners escaped, an incentive to be vigilant to say the least. No doubt many guards preferred suicide to what awaited them if they failed to keep their quarry. Paul and Silas could certainly have waltzed out of the prison but didn’t, the life of the jailer (perhaps up until that time, their tormentor) being more precious to them than their freedom. Instead Paul cried out, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” This was all it took; the jailer knew that he was in the presence of a different kind of men. He came trembling before them and asked the most important question a person will ever ask, the question that rings down through the corridors of eternity: “What must I do to be saved?” And the answer returns ringing through those same corridors: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
And so the unnamed jailer is saved and baptized along with his household whom he had gathered together to hear Paul. And as is often the case in the New Testament upon receiving saving grace, we see that the one saved ministers to the one who ministered the gospel to him (Mark 1:31), so we see here the jailer ministering to the apostles by washing their wounds. So he who was washed by the wounds of Christ washed the wounds of those who ministered those saving wounds to him.
What must I do to be saved? There is no greater question which one will ask oneself; there is no greater question one will ever ask of another. And how we answer this question is the very hinge upon which eternity turns: Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. Jailer, prostitute, slaver, murderer, good guy – the answer is always the same, and it always will be.