Elder F. A. Chick – Dear Brother: – I want to set down a few things that have been passing through my mind lately; they are regarding the testimony of Paul and Silas in responding to the question asked them by the Philippian jailer recorded in the sixteenth chapter of the Acts. He said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The answer was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” My thoughts upon this passage of Scripture and its connection have been that this question of the jailer embraces and covers in its import everything needful, and that the answer is also full and definite upon the subject of the inquiry in the mind of the jailer, “What must I do to be saved!” Just this, and nothing more, was included in the answer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” The question then is resolved into a single subject, viz: the salvation of sinners and the means of its attainment. More than this would be superfluous, and add new thoughts, which at the time were not in the mind of the jailer, and so the minds of readers would be confused upon the subject. Less than what was written would leave a vagueness in the mind of the reader, who desires a complete answer to the point involved in the question. To throw another word into the subject of the question and answer would be adding to the word of the Lord, and any thought or word left out would fail to meet the requirements of the occasion, and the merits of the subject, and the words of the witnesses, Paul and Silas, who were chosen of God to speak of these things in the words which the Holy Ghost, chose for them, and thus the narrative would be so blurred and indistinct that the reader would be entirely mystified, and uncertain as to the conclusion to be drawn from the narrative; the testimony as to the plan of salvation would be indefinite, and would not bring any one to a definite conclusion in the development of his thoughts as to salvation, and the means by which it is attained, or the things necessary to it. Again, if the answer does not agree with the true report of the gospel, declaring the counsel of God on the point in question, then the inquiry of the jailer was not answered, only in part, leaving all the rest to the conjectural conclusions of the reader, to be understood according to his own fanciful notions, and to be set forth by preachers as terms and conditions of salvation, and given out by them as the gospel of salvation. Once more, if Paul and Silas on the occasion failed to set forth the counsel of God relating to the inquiry of the jailer, and to the full extent of the question, then they were unfaithful servants and kept back part of the word of the Lord, and the question was not answered in the words employed, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” and no assurance is given to any man who is in like condition with the jailer. But here is the witness of the Spirit by the word of God in writing, and it was sealed by signs and wonders which they did, God by them confirming the word spoken through the signs following, which signs were then present in the earthquake attending their ministry on that occasion. This is all recorded by Luke, in the sixteenth chapter of the Acts, as a matter of sacred history.
Now the conclusion of the whole matter is, if salvation came to the jailer specially and individually according to the testimony of Paul and Silas, then it follows that the same salvation comes to every living and repenting sinner in the same way. If this be not so, then it follows that God’s ways are not the same things, and so the processes of salvation are as varied as the views of men and as changeable as the wind. But said Paul in one place, “All that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” This brings us to the historical fact following: And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and set meat before them, and was baptized, both he and all his house, calling on the name of the Lord. These three acts of duty show the spirit of the faith which he had in the name of Christ for the remission of his sins. This was, as Peter declared in the house of Cornelius, a precedent to receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, which was first received at Jerusalem. Thus they were fellow-citizens with all saints by faith in Jesus, as he said. And so Jew and Gentile come into one fellowship, making of twain one new man. Now the visible token of this faith is baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; hence the baptism of the jailer and his household, calling on the name of the Lord, is neither essential to salvation nor for the remission of sins, but is the outward sign of inward grace, showing the faith by works of obedience, as is more plainly stated in the words, good works are the fruits of faith, and follow after regeneration. This is proved in the words of Peter: “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” Peter spake the words of salvation, and to this gave all the prophets witness. Here “sill” does not mean a part, but every one included in the list of the prophets, and their testimony is that all who believe on him shall receive the remission of sins. There is no exception to this rule, it was the same at Jerusalem at the beginning, at Caesarea and at Philippi in the house of the jailer, and the same things are signified in all and in the commission as it is fulfilled in all the world, “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved.” Now if baptism and believing in him in all the world be essential to the eternal salvation of any one, and if it were essential to the salvation of the jailer and all his house, and Paul and Silas did not tell him so, then they failed to bear full witness when they spoke the word of the Lord to him. Can we presume that they did urge this upon him! Then Luke failed to record their words, which if true, destroys the value of the historical record by the beloved physician who was in fellowship with Paul and Silas. This would erase the whole book of the Acts of the apostles by making Luke an unreliable historian.
I. N. NEWKIRK.
Signs Of The Times
VOL. 74., NO. 16.
AUGUST 15, 1906.