Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved Acts 16:31

“What must I do to be saved?” “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”
The story so far. In our morning sermons before the holidays we were following the apostle Paul as he travelled preaching the gospel and planting churches around the Mediterranean. We saw how Paul and Silas were led by a vision of a man from Macedonia to go to the Roman colonies to the north of Greece between the Adriatic and the Aegean Seas. They ended up in Philippi where Paul preached the good news about Jesus. Some people believed the message and became Christians and were baptised. Last week we read that there was a backlash of fierce opposition and Paul and Silas were thrown into jail. But on this occasion God intervened in a miraculous way and an earthquake set the prisoners free. And that leads on to their jailer asking what is possibly the most important question we find in the Bible – indeed the most important question anybody can ask. “What must I do to be saved?” And Paul gives the most wonderful answer any of us can ever hear. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”
What must I do to be saved. The Bible talks a lot about being saved. We find the idea of being saved in more than 300 places in the Bible and the word salvation appears 127 times. Jesus talked a lot about salvation and the church talks a lot about salvation, because “being saved” is at the heart of the Christian faith. But what is salvation? What does it mean to be “saved”?
Salvation is an umbrella word for all wonderful blessings God gives to people. In the Old Testament in the Exodus it meant rescue from slavery for the Israelites. In the New Testament salvation starts when God forgives our sins and rescues from judgment. This makes the way for us to receive God’s free gift of eternal life, life in all its fullness which not even death can take away. Acts chapter 16 gives us three pictures of what salvation is all about. The first comes in the event which caused Paul and Silas to be thrown into jail.
Acts 16 16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.’ 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned round and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realised that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place to face the authorities.
This first example of salvation concerns an act of deliverance. An evil spirit or demon was controlling this girl and enabling her to foretell the future. It knew that Paul and Silas were preaching the gospel which shows people the way to be saved. But the evil spirit was imprisoning the girl and so Paul commanded it to leave her in the name of Jesus. And as will always happen, the demon left her immediately. This was a miracle of deliverance or exorcism. Sometimes when people dabble in fortune-telling or magic or spiritualism they can get dragged so deep that evil spirits can take over their lives. This is no horror story – we have seen such things over the years even in England. And we ourselves have seen people like this girl set free from evil by the power Jesus. This shows us the enormous power of Jesus who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords – power over all the forces of evil in the world. Miracles of deliverance are one very visible and dramatic aspect of salvation. Saved from the grip of evil.
In the next stage of the story God sets Paul and Silas free from prison.
Acts 16 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.
Where’s the most unusual place you have heard people singing hymns? We read that Paul and Silas had been stripped and beaten with rods before they were put in the stocks in the most secure cell. But there at midnight in the pitch dark they were still praising God, praying and singing hymns and God set them free by an earthquake. Not every Christian who is put in prison for believing in Jesus will miraculously escape. Most aren’t. Many Christians have died in prison for their faith – and that still happens around the world to the persecuted church even today. But God set Paul and Silas free because he had important work for them to do and this release from prison gives us, if you like, a visual aid for the freedom which Jesus brings. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus said. If we’re honest, most people have things they wish they could be set free from. For some people it may be pressures at work or problems in the family or with neighbours. Some people long to be free from suffering and pain, others to be free from worries and fears. Some just wish they could be free from guilt. God released Paul and Silas from prison and this gives us a visual aid of salvation – a picture of the freedom which Jesus offers to everybody who believes him. If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
So we read how the jailer was desperate for the salvation which Paul and Silas had been preaching about.
27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’
Of course, the jailer’s immediate concern was for his life. If the prisoners escaped he would be held responsible. But when he realised that hadn’t happened, the jailer began to think of even more important issues. The earthquake probably reminded him of the awesome power of Almighty God. So he starts thinking not just about this life but about eternity. “What must I do to be saved?” The jailer asked. How can I find salvation? Whether we admit it or not, the truth is that all of us do need to be saved. I came across a profound cartoon this week. Charlie Brown was sitting up in bed reflecting on life. “Sometimes I lie awake all night and ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’” he is saying to himself. “Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’”
We all need to be saved. We may not be guilty of crimes like murder, or adultery, or theft. But every one of us is guilty of many things. We are guilty of pride and greed and selfishness and deceit. All the things which get in the way of us being the kind of people we ought to be and which in our hearts we really want to be. All the evil thoughts and words and deeds which the Bible calls sin. Some people are caught in the traps of materialism or alcohol or drugs or gambling or immorality. Others are trapped by the more subtle sins, which A.W.Tozer called “the fine threads of the self-life, the hyphenated sins of the human spirit.” The “self sins”, “self-sufficiency, self-pity, self absorption, self aggrandizement, self-deception, self-exaltation, self-indulgence.” Somebody has said that “sin is a little word with I in the middle”. All of us go wrong when we keep ourselves in the centre of our lives and leave other people out and especially when we leave God out. In the end we all need saving from sin. We need saving from ourselves. I saw a T-shirt with a challenging slogan. “How much can I get away with and still get into heaven?” The answer to that question is – absolutely nothing! We won’t get away with anything. “What must I do to be saved?” The jailer asked. And Paul gives God’s wonderful answer to this problem which all of us face.
‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.’
God has made a way for any of us to escape the prison of all those self-sins and to live a brand new life. And that way of salvation is Jesus Christ.
‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.’
Let me explain. Believing in Jesus is not just about intellectually accepting that certain facts are true. Believing that Jesus was the Son of God and that he died on the cross so that we can be forgiven. Believing that Jesus rose from the dead to bring us eternal life. These facts are important. But believing in Jesus is more than that. Believing in Jesus is about putting our trust in Jesus that he is able to save us and that he is willing save us.
In June of 1859 the legendary tightrope walker Charles Blondin strung a rope 340 metres long 50 metres above the waters of Niagara Falls. After walking across he then walked back and paused half way to cook and eat an omelette. Blondin then crossed with his manager Harry Colcord on his back. He then crossed Niagara Falls once more pushing a wheelbarrow. The story goes (although it may only be a myth) that Blondin then asked the cheering crowds, “Who believes I can carry a person across in the wheelbarrow?” Lots of people agreed that he would be able to do that. “Right”, said Blondin, “If you believe I can do that, get in the wheelbarrow!” Believing in Jesus is not merely believing He CAN save me. It is trusting that Jesus WILL save me. Believing in Jesus is putting my life and my eternal future into his hands. Getting into the wheelbarrow.
Perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16 tells us, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. That is what salvation is all about. Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The jailer responded to Paul’s message by putting his trust in Jesus.
‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’ 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptised. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
Immediately the jailer and those in his household were baptised. All those who believed showed that they had put their trust in Jesus by being baptised. That is what believer’s baptism is all about. It is the outward sign that a person believes in Jesus and that Jesus has saved them. Jesus himself commanded his followers, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”. The way that a person shows they are a disciple, a follower of Jesus, is by being baptised. Earlier in Acts chapter 16 we heard about the first person in Philippi to become a Christian, a woman called Lydia. 14….. She was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home. That is the pattern we find everywhere in the New Testament. People put their trust in Jesus and they show that they are believers by being baptised. That is what Jo is doing by being baptised as a believer this morning. The jailer was baptised, and then we read, (he) brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
Filled with joy because he had come to believe in God! Filled with joy because he had put his trust in Jesus that he would save him! I remember a poster of a beautiful butterfly with a Bible verse on it. It read, When a person becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same any more. A new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
When we put our trust in Jesus, he forgives all our sins. And like a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly, we begin a brand new life, life in all its fulness life which begins right now and continues into eternity.
“Amazing grace – how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see.”
Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.
Of course, the starting point, is for us to realise that we need saving because none of us can save ourselves. Let me finish with a simple story which I call the parable of the two drowning men.
Two men fell into a river. One man could swim – the other one couldn’t. The current was strong and carried them towards a dangerous waterfall. One of the men drowned, the other one was saved. Which man do you think it was who survived?
It was the man who could not swim survived. When onlookers on the bank threw a lifebuoy to the man who could not swim, he took firm hold of it. The onlookers pulled on the rope and pulled the man who could not swim to safety on dry land.
But when the onlookers threw a lifebuoy to the man who could swim, he ignored it. He kept on swimming towards the shore but the current was too strong for him. Still he refused to take hold of the lifebuoy. So the man who could swim was drowned. But the man who could not swim was saved.
“What must I do to be saved?” “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

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