Doctrine 1: The Doctrine of Household Salvation, Part 4 (continued from Friday)
“For men swear by what is greater than themselves; and with them an oath in confirmation of a statement always puts an end to a dispute.” (Hebrews 6:16)
“31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” (Acts 16:31-33)
Notice Hebrews 6:16, “men swear by what is greater than themselves …”. The passage is referring to God, appealing to himself. God is the highest court. He is the greatest. By appealing to himself, God is able to put and “end to a dispute,” as this verse teaches. The matter is solved. In a like matter, greater than one verse which is possibly out of context, is the “whole counsel of God” (the entire Bible), which ensures that we keep all doctrine (biblical teaching) in its proper context. The Bible, then, in this context, is that which is “greater”. An isolated passage is the “lesser.” In agreement with Hebrews 6:16, then, we do not appeal to the “lesser” — we do not appeal to one verse — to put an end to a dispute! Rather, we appeal to the greater — the whole counsel of God — to prove the lesser, and to help us understand what the lesser really means, is really getting at. And so it is with all teaching. It must properly “fit” the context of Scripture. Otherwise, it is not sound.
The Bible says, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (1 Timothy 4:16). Doctrine then, is important. In fact, it is very important. If, like some, we say, “That is not important, that only creates arguments and divisions, we again are arguing against “sound doctrine” — the whole counsel of God, the Bible. If we say, “You argue your doctrine, and I’ll get on with living the Christian life, and making disciples,” we again are falling into a trap. For the Bible commands that we pay close attention to our doctrine, to our teaching. And why? Because sound doctrine will, in the end, “save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16). That is important! That is crucial. We are in a battle for the souls of men and women. The battle is played out, largely, in the minds. Our minds are important. The Bible commands us in various spots to be renewed in our minds, and to be a of a sound mind (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23, 2 Timothy 1:7).
Of all the passages that I can find, none teaches that God has promised that a person’s household will be saved if they themselves become a believer. I cannot, then, believe for someone else. He or she must believe for him or herself. So then, what does a person make of Acts 16:31-33, which at first glance may appear to teach that a person’s household will be saved if that person becomes a believer? First, because of the greater context of Scripture, we must immediately rule out the possibility that this passage teaches that a person can believe for someone else (see parts 1-3 of this series). He or she cannot, but he or she can, of course, assist, aid, or influence, someone in believing. The Philippian jailer, then, as the head of his household, had influence in his family. That was natural then, and it is natural today. Many of the sins that you or I will commit as a parent, or leader, may well be reproduced in our children, or our followers. By the same token, our righteousness can have a strong influence on others. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)
When Paul and Silas said to the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31), he most likely had this thought in his mind: “You are the head of your household. You will guide your family into salvation. You will lead them, and influence them.” Do not neglect the next verse. “And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.” (Acts 16:32) Do you see what it says, “… and to all that were in his house.” That means that all of the jailer’s household heard the good news that Paul and Silas were preaching. And what does the Bible say about this? “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) So we see, then, how the picture fits together. The Philippian family did not become saved on account of the faith of the jailer alone, but the faith of the jailer was used to bring in the gospel teaching to the jailer’s household. Preaching, then, leads to faith and salvation. “And they went out, and preached that men should repent” (Mark 6:12). “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor” (Luke 4:18).
Rather than becoming complacent, then, and relying upon our own salvation to save our family, should we not then be more encouraged by this passage to invite preachers to come into our very midst — nay, into our very households — and preach the good news unto us, so that we may all believe and be saved? Yes, if anything, this is what this passage is teaching us! “18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Corinthian 1:18-21)
Does Acts 16:31-33 then teach us that if you believe, God promises to save your family from an eternal hell of destruction, that will surely come upon all those who refuse to believe? Again, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that my salvation comes as a result of my own faith and repentance, not as a result of your faith and repentance. You can influence me, like the jailer did his family. In the end, however, I must repent and believe myself — and no one can force me to do it. If you want to influence your family, then, and you are a parent, you must do the following: Following the lead of the Philippian jailer, who was able to “win his whole family to Christ,” make it your prayer and your goal each and every week to surround you and your family with strong, influential (not watered down) biblical preaching, which has the power to save both you and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:16). This, then, is entirely biblical, and consistent with the Scriptures! And doing this may well produce incredible results in your entire family! (Just think of what happened to the Philippian jailer and his household!)