And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Acts 16:31 (NASB)
And thy house – Does this strike you odd? This prison keeper asked Paul what he must do to be saved. And Paul’s answer is that if he would believe on Yeshua, then not only he would be saved, but his whole house as well. Isn’t salvation an individual choice? How is it that by this one man’s belief his entire household would be saved?
Of course we can reason that he, being the man, would relay the teaching of Christ down to his family and they too would believe and become saved as well. But still, it’s an individualistic choice, right? And keep in mind that the “family” in this time was often an extended family including grandparents, great-grandparents, and possibly even aunts and uncles within the same household. So how could Paul be so confident that this man’s entire household would accept this teaching? Did he have some sort of foreknowledge?
This reminds me of the first Passover. A time when a certain set of rules had to be carried out through belief in YHWH. The household was instructed to eat the Passover meal and it didn’t matter if everyone in the house believed or not, but as long as the belief was carried out through action, the entire house was saved. The entire household was saved by the actions of the household leader.
It’s almost a minified version of the work of Yeshua. Through one man, the Son of God, the entire household would be saved. But how does this fit in with the individual choice? Doesn’t everyone have to believe? Yes, believing is important, but ‘believe’ in the Hebrew culture is a verb, not a noun. Belief isn’t something you accumulate, it’s something you do. It’s all about action. God’s not necessarily concerned if you have the correct tenants of faith, or if you side with trinity theology or not, or whether or not you cognitively agree with Him. But what He is concerned about is your action. Are you obedient? Your actions are your belief.
So when Paul tells the jail keeper to believe on Yeshua, he’s essentially instructing him to live in accordance with Yeshua’s teachings. The jail keeper would then return and begin to set up his household to ultimately become a household in obedience to YHWH. Isn’t this Joshua’s famous statement? “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” This is a perfect example of the Hebraic understanding of obedience. First obey and do it… understanding and knowledge will come later. The house, by the father, would be set up to obey, and it didn’t matter if everyone in the house believed. Through their actions of obedience, understanding would come, and eventually each would be fully committed to the work of Yeshua.
But salvation isn’t gained by works, but rather by the grace of God, right? Right! Salvation is an affordance to all. Grace is the invitation to partake, and become part of the people of God. But if you are lawless, if you choose to continue living as you are in disobedience, God is not going to keep you around. Remember, the man who wasn’t wearing the proper wedding attire was kicked out of the wedding even though he was invited to partake.
The invitation has been sent, so start taking the actions that keep you in alignment with God’s Word and in obedience to His will. And through your obedience, your entire household might just come to receive Yeshua as the Messiah, and the Son of God. Wouldn’t that be glorious!
And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”