“Then he brought them out and said, ‘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.’ 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. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” – Acts 16:30-34
Let me say up front that I believe baptism is absolutely essential to the salvation of an individual. There is too much discussion of baptism in the New Testament to ignore its role in conversion. On the day of Pentecost – baptism. When Philip preached to the Samaritans – baptism. When Philip preached to the Ethiopian Eunuch – baptism. Saul’s conversion – baptism. The conversion of Cornelius – baptism. The conversion of Lydia – baptism. And with the conversion of the Philippian jailor – baptism.
I am fully aware of the passages that say individuals are saved by faith, and I believe that with all my heart. The question is, “What does it mean to have faith?”
The Philippian Jailor asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Whatever the jailor meant by that, Paul took the opportunity to preach the Gospel – “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” The problem is that there is not enough information in those few words to convert someone! Paul, Silas, and the jailor knew this to be true because in Acts 16:32 (the very next verse) we read that Paul continued to teach. Well, what did he teach?
In Acts 8:5, we read that Philip preached Christ to the Samaritans. This had to be something similar to what Paul was teaching the jailor. So what does it mean to preach Christ? Acts 8:12 tells us that the people believed what Philip preached about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. We can infer that Philip preached about three things – the Kingdom of God, the name of Jesus Christ (the text states both of these), and baptism (how else would the people know to do it?).
Baptism was always a part of the Gospel message. “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved…” – Mark 16:16. “Repent and be baptized…” – Acts 2:38. “Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins…” – Acts 22:16. “Baptism saves you…” – 1 Peter 3:21.
The simple fact is that baptism is a part of belief in Christ Jesus. When one is baptized, he or she emulates the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. We die to sin, we are buried in water, and we rise to walk a new life. Ananias told Saul that baptism washes away sins. Side note: baptism is not a work that earns you salvation! I know of no one who argues or believes that. Baptism is simply an act obedience that brings one into contact with the blood of Jesus Christ which washes our sins away!
So, back to our main question – When was the Philippian Jailor saved? Paul said that he would be saved when he believed in the Lord Jesus. Read the passage again – Paul teaches the Gospel, the jailor washes Paul and Silas’s wounds (probably an act of repentance – cf. Acts 2:38), and the jailor is baptized. After all of this, the jailor rejoices because he had believed in God! Without baptism, he had not yet believed in God. This is the main idea behind James 2:14-26. How can you say you believe in God when you have not done what God has commanded? Jesus said quite simply, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” – John 14:15
Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” When was the Philippian Jailor saved? When his belief in the gospel led him to be baptized and his sins were washed away!