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WAS THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER SAVED BEFORE BAPTISM?

The story of the Philippian jailer is found in Acts 16. The jailer was in charge of Paul and Silas, who had been arrested on false charges by the owners of a slave girl. They had cast a demon out of the girl, depriving her owners of the money they made by exploiting her (16:20-21). Because of this, Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten, and put into the innermost prison, with their feet in the stocks. The jailer was to keep them safely until the officials could deal with them.

Beaten and bleeding and locked in the inner prison, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God even though it was midnight (16:25). Suddenly an earthquake shook the prison. Awakening from sleep, the jailer was ready to kill himself rather than face his superiors because he was sure that the prisoners had escaped. When Paul calmed him, assuring him that the prisoners were still there, "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?" (16:29-30). Paul and Silas answered very simply: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (16:31). Since the jailer was not told to be baptized, does this mean that he was saved before baptism? Consider the rest of his story.

Paul and Silas had told the Jailer that salvation would come from believing on Christ, but what did this jailer know about Jesus'? It is unlikely that he had heard any of the sermons that Paul and Silas had preached in Philippi. He evidently knew nothing about Jesus, other than what he had learned from hearing their songs and prayers. They had to teach him. "And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house" (16:32). Did speaking the "word of the Lord" include the necessity of baptism?

Two appropriate questions are, "When were the jailer and his family baptized?" Luke records, "He took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway" (16:33). When was "the same hour of the night?" Remember the prisoners were worshipping at midnight (16:25). Then the earthquake came and they had spent time teaching him the "word of the Lord." Without question it was in the wee hours of the morning when the jailer responded. Why didn't they at least wait until morning light before they were baptized, if baptism was not essential?

A second appropriate question is, "When did they rejoice?" That would give an indication into when the burden of sin was lifted. Was it before or after baptism? "...And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house" (16:34). It was after their baptism. They rejoiced, knowing that their sins were forgiven, and they had truly obeyed the Lord. The jailer had a saving faith, a faith that responded to the sacrifice of Christ by obeying Him. His obedience in baptism demonstrated his faith, and his faith was demonstrated in his baptism. The jailer was like all other Christians we read of in the New Testament. He was saved after baptism.

-Bob Prichard, P. 0. Box 532, Morristown, TN  37815