In Acts 16.30, a man known as the Philippian jailor asked the apostle Paul and his partner in ministry, Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul’s answer to the jailor comes in the following verse – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
Many people, maybe even you who are reading this, have been asking the same question as the Philippian jailor. “What must I do to be saved?” But perhaps the question needs to be understood first before the correct answer can be applied. Therefore, I want to break down the question in order to help you understand, dear reader, why you must ask this same question, “Sir, what must I do to be saved?”
Notice first of all that the jailor asked, “What must I do to be saved?” He recognized that there was something he needed to do. He just didn’t know what. Most people know that there is something they need to do to be saved (i.e. “go to heaven”), but often times they don’t know what. Some religions define the “what” as “be nice” or “try to keep the 10 Commandments” or “faithfully attend church” or obedience to some other type of religious activity or ceremony. But Paul’s answer includes none of those. He simply answers, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
Secondly, note the sense of urgency in the jailor’s question when he asks, “What must I do to be saved?” He knew that if He was to be saved, He needed to act quickly and without delay. This was not something to put off. If he was to be saved, he couldn’t depend upon anyone else to do it for him. He couldn’t sit back and wait to see if salvation would just happen. No, the issue of eternity was pressing upon him and he wanted to know from Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul simply answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
Finally, why did the jailor need to be saved? Saved from what? In our daily lives, when we talk about a person being saved we may use that word in the context of a child who just fell into the lake but cannot swim. The child needs to be saved from drowning. Or, if a person is trapped in a burning building, he or she needs to be saved from the smoke and fire. And when the word “saved” is used in the Bible, it also is speaking about being saved from something. But the something is much worse than deep water, smoke, or fire. When the jailor asked, “What must I do to be saved?” he was asking, “What must I do to be saved from being eternally separated from God in the place called hell?
Dear reader, do you agree that you have not perfectly kept God’s commandments? If you are honest, you know that obedience to every one of the 10 Commandments has alluded you. Have you ever lied, even just once? Have you ever stolen anything, even just one time, no matter how small the item? According to James 2.10, even if you violate just one of the commandments, you are guilty of them all. Now, I am not condemning you. I am not your judge. I am guilty as well. I simply want you to agree with what God already knows about you and says about you. Because of our inability to keep His commandments perfectly, God calls each one of us sinners. Because we are sinners, we sin. According to Romans 3.23, not one of us is exempt – “For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” To fall short of God’s glory means that our sin causes a separation between us and God. In fact, due to our sin, we are considered “enemies” of God (Romans 5.10).
In essence, sin is an offense against God. Because He is perfectly holy and just, He will punish the sinner for his or her sin. But because God is also loving, He made a way of escape; a way to be rescued; a way to be saved from being eternally separated from Him. Romans 5.8 tells us that, “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” When Jesus was crucified on the cross, He bore the entirety of God’s wrath for all who would one day believe in Him so that those who were separated from Him can be reconciled to Him and saved. First Peter 3.18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God…”
So when Paul says to the Philippian jailor, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” he is telling the man what he must do if he is to be spared from experiencing separation from God for all eternity. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16).
What must you do to be saved? Believe in Jesus as the Lord; as your Lord. Believe in Jesus as the Savior; your Savior. Pray, asking God to forgive you of your sins and to be reconciled to Him. Then you will be able to rejoice with Paul when he says in Romans 5.9-10: “Since, therefore, we have been made right by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.”