A Walk Through Acts
Next we come to Paul and Silas imprisoned and examine the salvation of the prison guard and his household.
Acts 16:25-34 – And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. [Emphasis added are mine]
Here we blatantly see the question being asked: What must I do to be saved? Briefly and quickly, so as to stop the guard from committing suicide, Paul and Silas answer, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved – and thy house." Now if we take this one verse of scripture and make a doctrine out of it we could say, and it is being said in this day and age, that all you have to do is believe that Jesus is Lord or that Jesus is the Son of God or the Messiah. This interpretation totally and completely ignores the whole picture of the scriptures on salvation that shows specifically what was preached and expected in the early days of the Church.
No doubt, trust/faith in Jesus is a foundational element. You must trust on Jesus to be saved. Trust is a verb, an action word and, as we said before, faith and obedience go hand in hand. Without obedience to the Word, Jesus, no one should bother saying that they have faith on Him. To trust on Him is to obey Him - His way, His plan, and His work for us in our lives. So that is their initial response, to a non-Jew, to his question. However, it doesn’t end there.
They leave the guardhouse to go to the guard’s house and there is where they sit down with him and his family and "...speak unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." Now according to what we have read so far in Acts, what was it that was consistently preached by the apostles and what was it that they have agreed upon is necessary for salvation thus far? Jesus, his death, burial and resurrection and their need for repentance, baptism in water in His name and the receiving of the Holy Ghost. That’s all, nothing else.
So what do you think Paul and Silas were speaking to them when it said that they spoke "the word of the Lord" to them? They only spoke what was required. Which is why we see that in the same hour of the night they are immediately baptized, the guard and his whole family. That tells me they must have been told of the necessity of the baptism in water. Would Paul leave out the necessity of repentance and receiving the Spirit? No. We have to believe, because of the pattern left for us in previous records, that he told them the whole gospel and not just part of it. The fruit of the word of the Lord being that it was recorded that the guard rejoiced – trusting in God with all his house. Sounds like the same kind of ending we saw with the eunuch earlier in Acts.
We’re coming very near the end of this walk through Acts. It’s a lot, but what we are seeing is a repetitively confirming pattern established by Jesus Christ through the apostles for salvation. Let us remember that Luke is the writer of Acts by the Holy Spirit. By reading through Acts, we can see that the details of message preached and the description of the salvation experienced become less and less vivid (detailed). I believe the reason why is that the Holy Spirit set an unarguable precedent right from the start. If you measure all the recorded experiences afterward from that beginning, you don’t get lost in the fact that each successive experience is not as detailed. Yet even without the details, you realize that He leaves enough clues and confirms by the words and actions of the apostles the same pattern established from the beginning of Acts chapter 2.
As we continue on, we see Paul preaching and teaching in Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth and you see this other pattern in that Paul preaches to the Jews first. Then when they reject him, he hands over the message to the Gentiles and they believe. Review for yourself what he was preaching.
Then come with me to Ephesus.
Acts 19:1-7 – And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve. [emphasis added are mine]
Here Paul runs into some "apparent" disciples. During his conversation with them, he immediately asks them, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" Pretty direct and confrontational, don’t you think? Must have been a pretty serious and important issue for Paul. He runs into some "apparent" disciples and in conversing with them he questions whether they have received the Spirit! If that happened today, Paul would have offended many a men because today most believe that you receive the Spirit when you simply believe in Jesus. This truly is another gospel. These "apparent" disciples answer that they hadn’t even heard that there was any Holy Spirit. This probably bewildered Paul because not only had they not received the Holy Spirit, they hadn't even heard of Him.
Paul then asks what they were baptized into? These "apparent" disciples answer that they were baptized into the baptism of John (the Baptist). Paul then sees that these "apparent" disciples needed to be shown the more perfect way (Acts 18:26). He then explains that John did indeed baptize the baptism of repentance, but that John the Baptist also told the people to trust in the one to come after him. That one is Jesus Christ.
So since they already were taught of repentance (by John the Baptist), Paul then baptizes them in the name of Lord Jesus Christ and lays his hands on them so that they would receive the Spirit. Guess what happens? All twelve men speak in tongues and prophesy. Halelu Yah! Can it get any more clearer than that? It is the final example in Acts of what has been preached from the beginning of Acts: repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus, and receive the Spirit. These "apparent" disciples became true disciples - believers with the Spirit.
Can we come to a point where we simply trust on and obey Him, His plan, His way and His work in our lives?
I want to add a couple of selected scriptures to review, but you should finish reading Acts on your own because it is profitable for doctrine, proof, setting straight, for discipline in righteousness – to equip the man of God – thoroughly complete unto all good works (II Timothy 3:16).
Acts 20:21-23, 32 (Paul speaking) – Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
Acts 26:18 (Jesus quoted) – To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
A faulty way of thinking has crept into the minds of men, including many who call themselves "Christians." It is born from an eastern mysticism paradigm. It’s a relativist mindset that we can control our surroundings by the power and sheer will of our mind. We think that we can make things real and happen just by believing it or saying it enough because of the power of thinking and our own mind. This is something that I call "believism".
There isn’t any validation to think that a man can simply touch another man and know that the Holy Spirit is taken without any manifestation. Scriptures clearly show repeatedly, by action and by the words of the apostles, that they clearly expected them to speak in tongues as the evidence that they received the Spirit.
So, we surmise here in this walk through Acts that to say that anyone who received the baptism in the Spirit, spoke in tongues. Furthermore, the moment you received the Spirit is truly the moment when you can say, "I received Jesus in my heart." This is not to say that because you spoke or speak in tongues that you are saved. This not the conclusion of the message of "A Walk through Acts". I'm simply saying that the evidence in the scriptures that someone received the Spirit is that they spoke in tongues.
All of this is predicated on the truth that a person will not be able to receive the Spirit without first trusting on Lord Jesus Messiah and obeying the gospel.
© copyright 2000, revised 2011 Jesus M. Ruiz