“This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9).
Jesus does not mean that every member of Zacchaeus’ family automatically got saved because Zacchaeus did. A man’s salvation does not extend to his wife and children—they must personally repent and believe. Salvation is always individual and personal. But, when the head of a household believes, the entire household comes under the influence of the gospel and in that sense is set apart from the unbelieving world (1 Corinthians 7:14; Acts 16:31-34).
When Jesus says that Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham, He does not mean simply that he is a Jew by birth. He meant it in the sense that Paul put it, “They which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). Jesus used that phrase because the Pharisees self-righteously thought that they were right with God because they were physical descendants of Abraham and they outwardly kept the law. But Jesus is saying that this sinner whom they despised was a true son of Abraham, possessing salvation, because like Abraham, Zacchaeus believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3).
Jesus proclaimed Zacchaeus’ salvation before the crowd, in Zacchaeus’ presence, to give him assurance of God’s forgiveness. You can be sure that as soon as Jesus left town, Satan would come to Zacchaeus and say, “It was just a flash in the pan. You know how wicked your heart is! How can you call yourself a child of God?” The self-righteous crowd would have taunted him, “So you’ve become a follower of Jesus, have you! It won’t last! Just wait! You’ll go back to your old cheating, greedy ways!”
But whom the Lord saves, He keeps. And whom He keeps, He assures repeatedly with His love and kindness that they are His children forever. As Paul put it, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who … also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:33-34). As he goes on to show, nothing can “separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
—Steven J. Cole, condensed