What Must I do to be Saved?
by G. Campbell Morgan
"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?". — Acts 16:30
The context of this most important question in life was in a prison. A jailer came trembling after an earthquake and fell at the feet of the apostle Paul with a repentant heart. Paul and Silas were worshipping in prison! They were having a prayer and praise service with their feet, hands and neck locked into stocks. The jailer was not content to cast them into one of the ordinary cells, but he cast them into the inner prison, dark and damp. He made double sure they would stay put by fastening their feet and hands into the stocks. Yet, this is a picture of vital authentic Christianity. "Anyone can sing when he gets out of prison," writes G. Campbell Morgan. "These men sang in prison. There was no human possibility of leaving the prison, at least until the morning." The missionaries were singing and "the prisoners were listening . . . with pleasure." The jailer was fast asleep. He did not hear the singing. He was comfortable and deep in sleep. Then something happened. Morgan writes:
While they were thus worshipping in praise, the Lord touched the land, and it trembled, and the prison doors were flung open. The word indicates the fact that the doors were set wide open, not ajar.
"The foundations of the prison-house were shaken . . . the doors were opened, and everyone's bands were loosed."
This surely was a supernatural breaking through. The Lord Himself Who came and opened a woman's heart, now to reach this man and this city, convulsed Nature in a touch of mighty power that produced the earthquake.
. . . . The man who had been terrified by the upheaval of Nature, and more terrified because he thought his prisoners had escaped, now heard this reassuring voice and message.
Now a new terror seized him. . . He had bound them safely, putting their feet fast in the stocks. Now he looked upon them free, the stocks open and the staples and chains wrenched from the walls. The sight brought from him the exclamation:
"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
The title he employed as he addressed them marked his consciousness of their superiority, and these were the very men whom he had treated with such brutality but yesterday. . . . It was the cry of a man coming to his sense of necessity. . . .
Paul's answer was immediate, and most remarkable:
"Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your house."
. . . . He cried to be saved, delivered from peril, hardly knowing what the peril was, and he had presented to him the one way of complete escape and freedom, "Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved . . . . Paul did not say, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved; but "believe on." Not en, in; but epi, upon. Belief in, might refer to an intellectual consent. To believe upon, suggests complete surrender. Paul was calling upon this man to yield himself to the Lordship of Jesus, and declaring that as he did so he would be saved. . . .
Believing in Jesus never brings salvation to the human soul. It is possible to believe in Him, in His idealism, in His intention, and yet still be in the place of peril. It is when the soul of man steps off and trusts Him wholly that he finds perfect safety.
. . . Paul did not tell the man to repent. . . he was already a repentant soul, that is, his mind was changed. The very question he asked showed this. Paul's own formula later for salvation is expressed in the words, "Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." This man, however, had already given evidence of a complete revolution, a change of mind. Last night they were prisoner, and . . . today they were addressed as "sirs," there, by a man with a changed mind, and a changed attitude. . . .
. . . Luke gives no details of what followed, but he does say that: "He spake unto him the Word of the Lord." That evidently means that having called him to complete surrender on the basis of his change of mind, he then interpreted to him what he meant by salvation. There can be no doubt that he told him about Jesus, and how His Lordship was based upon His teaching and His atoning death. . . .
The result is . . . the man is seen as an entirely changed being. This is evident by the fact that he brought Paul and Silas into his house, and washed their stripes (The Great Physician, pp. 362-366).
They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house" (Acts 16:31-32).