The Jailor who was Saved Acts 16:16-40

by Steven Chan

Some lessons that we can learn from the account of the Philippian Jailor being saved are as follows:-

1. The Jailor understood the importance of salvation. When the earthquake occurred and he was assured by Paul that all the prisoners were accounted for, he knew that the gospel preached by Paul was indeed from God. Hence, he immediately asked: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”(Acts 16:30). Brethren & friends, the most important message pertains to our spiritual salvation – although important, it’s not about leading a happy life or resolving our marital situations or getting a good paying job or getting good grades – which are indeed blessings that follow from our subsequent walk with God but they are not the core message of the gospel.

The core message is that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23) and that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Rom 6:23). The gospel or good news as declared by Paul in 1 Cor 15:1-6 is as follows: “I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once…” The good news is that Jesus has died for our sins and paid the price for our redemption and He was raised from dead on the third day thereby evidencing His power/victory over death (I Cor 15:50-58). He now offers us salvation on His terms as outlined by Jesus in Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved”.

After telling the Jailor of his need to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God in order to be saved (John 8:24: “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”), the Bible records thus in Acts 16:32-34: “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.”

The Jailor obeyed the terms/steps/conditions for salvation as stated by our Lord Jesus in Mark 16:16 just as the 3000 souls did on the day of Pentecost when the apostle Peter urged them in Acts 2:38: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” When one believes that Jesus is the Son of God and one repents from his sins, then one ought to be baptized for the forgiveness of one’s sins so that one may be raised to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3-5). That was what the Jailor was told to do when he asked about how he could be saved. That was what the evangelist Philip taught the Ethiopian eunuch to do as well in Acts 8:37-40.

One does not need to study the entire Bible first and understand everything in the Bible or attend many Bible Classes before one may obey the gospel so as to be saved. How many study sessions did the Philippian Jailor attend before he was baptized? According to Jesus in Mark 16:16, one needs to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and then be baptized for the forgiveness of sins in order to saved (this gift of salvation is by God’s grace and not by our good works– Eph 2:8-9); thereafter one needs to walk faithfully in fellowship with God and doing His Will (Matt 7:21; I John 1:6-10; 2 John 9-11; Rev 2:10). This is consistent with what Jesus said in Matt 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”

Friends, if you have not believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, you will die in your sins (John 8:24; 14:6; Acts 4:12). If you believe that Jesus is truly the Son of God, then be baptized (by immersion in water: Acts 10:47) into Him for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38) so that you may be raised to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3-5) with the hope of the resurrection and our inheritance in heaven when our journey on earth is completed (I Pet 1:3-4).

2. The Jailor chose to obey God rather than men when it pertains to his salvation (Acts 5:29). He did not consider the risk of losing his job as a jailor as a matter that should stop him from obeying the gospel as taught to him by the apostle Paul. He considered the matter of his personal salvation and that of the salvation of his family to be so important that nothing else really matters. He and his family might have suffered for their decision to obey the gospel but that did not stop them from doing what was required in order to be saved. Do we consider our salvation as of over-riding importance?

3. The Jailor chose to obey the gospel and be saved even though it was midnight (Acts 16:25). He knew the importance and urgency of being saved immediately when he realized his need for salvation. He did not wait for another convenient time – there may not be another opportunity for him to be saved. In 2 Cor 6:1-2, the apostle Paul wrote thus: “We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”  We ought not to wait for a more convenient time to preach the gospel of salvation nor ought we to wait for a more convenient time to obey the gospel in order to be saved. Behold, “NOW” is the Day of Salvation!

4. Although persecuted and imprisoned, Paul and Silas, responded by “praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” – even at midnight (Acts 16:25). They behaved differently from all the others. They demonstrated their faith in God by “praying and singing hymns to God” while the prisoners listened. People around us watch what we do when we are placed under adverse circumstances. Do we respond by our faith and trust in God or do we behave like the rest of the world?

Paul and Silas “prayed and sang hymns” under such circumstances – we ought to do likewise as is also exhorted in James 5:13, 16: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms…The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  They were both suffering and being cheerful as they were both praying and singing! How could they be cheerful when they were also suffering from the imprisonment? Jesus said in Matt 5:11-12: “”Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  Yes, certainly, they could rejoice and be cheerful in spite of the circumstances because they were suffering for preaching the truth (for the sake of Christ and His gospel).

5. The salvation of the Philippian Jailor also highlights to us that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes – both Jews and Gentiles (Rom 1:16). It matters not that he was just a Jailor doing his duty of imprisoning people. He was still a person that God desires to be saved. It may not be an ideal situation to preach the gospel to the Jailor as an earthquake had just occurred in the middle of the night which had also threatened the job of the Jailor but it was nonetheless an opportunity because the Jailor had expressed his desire to be saved. Paul and Silas were ready to preach the gospel even at that hour of the night and under such extraordinary circumstances.

They had the attitude described in 1 Peter 3:14-16: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed.”And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”  15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”

They were ready to give an answer or defense for the reason for their hope. They conducted themselves well while under persecution.  They were not afraid nor troubled by the threats. They sanctified the Lord God in their hearts. May we do the same.