“What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).
What an awful condition it is to be unsaved! But many people are really ignorant of the terrible danger they are in. They do not perceive the brittle thread by which their lives are suspended—they are not aware that they live on the very threshold of eternity. They do not realize that they are distant from God, rebellious against God, guilty before God. Therefore they are not anxious for salvation.
With regard to the Philippian jailer in Acts 16, we know little about his life. It is very likely that he had heard something of Paul’s ways, but all that he heard and saw of the servants of the Lord Jesus was insufficient to awaken his mind and his conscience. Therefore, other means must be used to alarm his unresponsive soul.
In the darkness and stillness of the night, “suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken … and every one’s bands were loosed” (Acts 16:26). When the jailer saw the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had all fled, he drew his sword and would have killed himself. “Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.”
The jailer’s conscience was awakened. The earthquake might have ended his life and sent him to give account of himself to God. He now realizes that he is an unsaved man, and that if he were to die, he must go where hope and mercy can never come. He is assured that Paul and Silas have the peace and joy to which he is a stranger. He springs at once into the inner prison and cries out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
He was anxious for salvation—not religious ceremonies, but salvation. What must I do to be saved? The reply was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” This was the gospel that Paul and Silas preached, and it was an echo of their Master’s voice. When Jesus was asked, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered … This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent” (John 6:28-29).
The jailer thought, like many others, that salvation is received by works (“what must I do?”). But Paul and Silas presented the Lord Jesus Christ to him as the object of faith. His finished work, and God’s acceptance of it, is the ground of salvation and the warrant for perfect peace. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
“God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Faith reads the lessons of redeeming love in the death of the Son of God upon the cross, and rests in His finished work. —H. H. Snell