Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ

Acts 16:31
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

This answer of Paul to the Philippian jailor is frequently wrested to justify unbelief of the gospel that Jesus and Paul preached; sometimes to exclude the necessity of baptism for believers of the gospel, and at others to justify what is called "infant baptism"; and often to uphold the idea of instantaneous conversion. All this is done "ignorantly, and in unbelief," though frequently in all good conscience, as when Paul thus "blasphemed" before his conversion (see 1 Tim. 1:13; Acts 26:9). Jesus himself had said that some would think they did God service in killing his disciples! (John 16:2). So it behoves us to be very careful that we really understand the Word of God, or we also, like Paul, may "do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth."

Christ's conditions of salvation: Belief of the Gospel and Obedience.— We are told in the chapter under consideration (Acts 16:10) that Paul, by reason of the vision of the man of Macedonia, saying, "Come over into Macedonia and help us," came to Philippi, "to preach the gospel unto them." This gospel was "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). And, says Paul, "I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:12). It was the gospel of the kingdom of God (Acts 20:24,25), which the Lord Jesus himself had preached before him (Mark 1:14). Being requested to tarry at a certain village on one occasion, Jesus replied, "I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also, for therefore am I sent" (Luke 4:43). And he sent his disciples forth "to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick." And in obedience to his commandment "they departed, and went through the towns preaching the gospel" (Luke 9:2,6). This was before they understood that Christ was to suffer. When the Lord Jesus expressly revealed to them his approaching crucifixion, "they understood none of these things" (Luke 18:34). After his crucifixion and resurrection "repentance and remission of sins" was preached "in his name among all nations" (Luke 24:47). He said to them: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19,20). Thus, Christ's conditions of salvation were (and are), belief of the gospel of the kingdom of God, baptism, and obedience in all things commanded.

To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, is to believe that Jesus is the Christ.— "These things are written," says John, "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life in his name" (John 20:31). A somewhat similar comment might have been made on the things that Paul spoke. "The Christ" means "The Anointed," the "Messiah" of Israel (Dan. 9:26; John 1:41, and margin). The woman of Samaria looked for his coming (John 4:25), but did not fully understand the doctrine of "The Christ" (verse 29). He is the Anointed "King of Israel" (John 1:49); anointed — not with oil, as were the mortal kings of Israel in old time — but "with the Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38); and, in his resurrection from the dead and ascent unto the Father, who "is spirit," "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows" (Heb. 1:9). On a certain notable occasion he asked his disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" And Peter presently answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). Jesus thereupon pronounced Peter "blessed" because God had revealed this to him, and went on to speak of his approaching sacrifice, and the glory of the Kingdom of God that should follow, when he should "come in the glory of the Father." "Thy kingdom come: thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Such was the Lord's prayer. And just before he suffered he said to them, "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me ; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:29,30). Hence their anxiety, after his resurrection, for him to "restore again the kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:6); a thing he will most certainly do, as they afterwards declared (Acts 2:30; 3:19-21).

How Paul preached "the Word of the Lord."— Of course Paul did not simply and only say to the Philippian jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," but it is written, "They (Paul and Silas) spake unto them the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." There are abundant illustrations of Paul's preaching in the Acts of the Apostles, and Paul was terribly particular as to "the word of the Lord," saying, "If any man preach any other gospel unto you ... let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8). Paul "preached Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God," "proving that this is the very Christ" (Acts 9:20,22). In the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia, he preached the resurrection of Jesus, and remission of sins in his name (Acts 13:30,38). This he said was speaking "the word of the Lord" of ch. 16:32; and comprehends all the doctrines of Christ and Paul above indicated. This was Paul's "manner" (Acts 17:2,3) whether at Thessalonica or at Corinth. At the latter place, when he "testified that Jesus is the Christ ... Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized" (Acts 18:5,8). Paul preached "saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come" (Acts 26:22). These things he said concerned "the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers" (verses 6,7); and Agrippa knew a good deal about these things and the relation of Jesus thereto, "for this thing was not done in a corner" (verse 26). It was a matter of public notoriety, as Peter said to the household of Cornelius : "That word you know, which was published throughout all Judea" (Acts 10:37). These things show, or at least indicate, the nature of "the word of the Lord" that Paul and Silas spoke to the Philippian jailor. Jew and Gentile alike have perverted that "word." The Jews boasted in Moses and the prophets, and in a sense looked for the coming of Messiah and the establishment of the kingdom of God — the restored kingdom of David; but they stumbled over "Christ crucified," and so rejected their Messiah. The Gentiles have, in a way, professed Christ crucified, but have resolved him into "another Jesus" (2 Cor. 11:4) and substituted the heathen notion of immortal souls going to heaven, for the gospel of the kingdom, which promised the return of Christ to raise the dead and cause them to "inherit the land for ever" in the kingdom of God. The only hope is to get back to "what is written."

Baptism into Christ is the obedience of faith. When the jailor had believed, he "was baptized, he and all his straightway ... and rejoiced, believing in God, with all his house" (verses 23, 24). This is not emphasized by those who wrest the passage. There are no infants in the question. The apostles could not and did not "speak the word of the Lord" to such. Infants could not "believe," and certainly do not "rejoice" when the clergy submit them to what they so sadly misname "baptism"! New Testament baptism is the burial of a believer of the gospel in water for remission of sins and a union with the name of Christ, and a raising to "newness of life." See the following texts in addition to what has already been advanced — Acts 2:38,41; 8:12,36,38; 10:47; 16:15; Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:21; Rom. 2:7; Jas. 2:14,24.

Miracle and Quick Conversion.— God bore witness to the apostolic testimony "with signs and wonders and divers miracles" (Heb. 2:4), in this case an earthquake and loosing of the prisoners. It was altogether different from modern "revivals" where they do not speak the same "word of the Lord," nor baptize, and there are no miracles. Besides, it must be remembered that Paul was in Philippi "abiding certain days," that Lydia and others had obeyed the truth, and that it was the miraculous casting out of a "spirit of divination" (verses 16-18) that brought Paul and Silas into prison. The matter was not so hasty as some seem to suppose. More than that, "the word" was known to many, especially among the Jews. The age of miracle has not closed for ever. God will "revive his work in the midst of the years" (Hab. 3:2). "When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (Isa. 26:9).

Reproduced from: The Christadelphian Shield: Papers Explanatory of Wrested Scriptures