And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house.
Introduce by a review of the incidents connected with the text. Both the prisoners and the jailor heard the songs and prayers of the apostles; and the jailor had in all probability heard of the testimony of the Pythoness (ver. 17), so he was in a measure prepared for sudden conviction. There are historical hints of a serious earthquake occurring in this district at this time, and the effects described, - loosening doors from their jambs and staples from the walls, - are quite such as might be caused by earthquake. The anxiety of the jailor was aroused by the certainty that his own life would be forfeited if any of his prisoners had escaped. No allowance would be made for the extraordinary cause of such escape. Suicide was the Roman's way of escaping from what he esteemed to be disgrace. St. Paul's words, "We are all here," exactly met the occasion, and removed the man's fears. Then came a tumult of emotions. The man seemed to feel that God was there, and these men were his servants. In a sudden impulse 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?" St. Paul sets before him Jesus, and says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." What is this faith that saves? We observe that our Lord always asked for it, or expected to find it, or reproached men for the lack of it. To the blind man he said," Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" To the Syrophoenician woman he said, "O woman, great is thy faith." Of the centurion he said, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." Of the men who let the sufferer down through the roofing, it is said, "When Jesus saw their faith." Of the people at Capernaum the sad remark is made, "He did not, many mighty works there because of their unbelief." And the apostles also required faith. "All that believed... had all things common." "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." "Faith cometh by hearing." "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." "The just shall live by faith." "Perceiving that he had faith to be healed." Faith is seldom won by mere descriptions of what faith is. Such descriptions too often only hinder and bewilder. Faith is most surely won by setting forth the great Object of faith, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, and able to save unto the uttermost. From the text we note two points.
I. THE FAITH THAT SAVES IS FAITH IN A PERSON. Illustrate from the appeal at Pentecost. "That same Jesus... both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). The application of the sermon connected with the healing of the lame man is, "God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you" Acts 3:26). Philip drew near to the eunuch, and "preached unto him Jesus." Peter said to the sick AEneas, "Jesus Christ maketh thee whole." To Paul of Tarsus the Person Jesus appeared and spoke. At Athens Paul declared that God would judge the world by one Man whom he had appointed. The object of saving faith is
(1) not any scheme of doctrine;
(2) not any historical record;
(3) not any finished work,
conceived as distinct from a living person with a present power. A salvation that was a mental apprehension of a form of truth could not suit everybody. Trust in a person is possible to everybody. So Christ's own way of salvation is this: "He that hath the Son of God hath life." And the apostles' way is: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." But it may be urged that we must know something about Jesus if we are to trust him. It may be answered that the essentials of a saving knowledge are very few and very simple. They are these: Jesus was the promised Messiah; Jesus lived a life of innocence and self-denial; Jesus died on the cross, a sacrifice for sin; Jesus rose from the grave that he might have power to redeem; and Jesus lives, able to save us now. It is Christ himself lifted up who draws all men unto him.
II. THE FAITH THAT SAVES IS FAITH WITH THE HEART. Minds believe doctrines, hearts trust persons. It is necessary to distinguish carefully between faith in a thing and faith in a person. We believe things on reasons which can be submitted to the intellect. We believe persons because we feel their goodness, their character. Illustrate by the trust of a child in a father; of a patient in his physician; of a wife in her husband. It is that kind of faith or trust which the Lord Jesus seeks to win as the condition in us to which he may respond with his saving grace. If we "know him" well, we shall find in him just the goodness which will make our faith in him easy. Do you say, "Is the Lord Jesus really one whom I may fully trust"? See him taking the children in his arms. See him speaking so tenderly to the woman who was bathing his feet with her tears. See him talking to Mary in the Bethany home, whose "eyes were homes of silent prayer." See him standing up on the great day of the feast, and yearning over the multitude, and calling them to come to him, and drink, and live forever. See him on his very cross praying for his murderers. Surely we can trust him. Our hearts respond to such goodness. He is worthy of our love. Appeal that Jesus is really God manifest, God revealing himself to your soul. He would win your love. What will your response to him be? - B.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.