The text for this lesson is Acts 16:25–34.
- God’s gift of Baptism is for believers of all ages.
- Law: Because of sin, there is nothing I, or anyone, can do to earn salvation or come to God.
- Gospel: God gives me and all people, young and old, the gift of Baptism, through which He forgives sins and makes us His children.
So much changed for Paul after his conversion on the road to Damascus. As a Pharisee, he enjoyed status and prestige within the Jewish community. Pharisee comes from a word meaning “separated.” As a consequence of his position, Paul enjoyed respect, authority, and seats of high honor at meals, weddings, and other events. He was educated, likely well paid, and, in general, quite comfortable.
God had other things in mind. On the road to Damascus, Jesus presented Himself to Paul—called Saul at this point in the Scriptures—and confronted him regarding his campaign of persecution against the Church. Paul was blinded, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, he came to trust in Christ. Soon after, Paul regained his sight and began preaching the Gospel.
More changed for Paul than his name, treatment of Christians, and trust in Jesus. As a consequence of loving Christ, Paul’s respect among Jewish religious leaders was gone. He now earned his living as a tentmaker. Once a figure of immense authority within the Jewish establishment, Paul now suffered ridicule, rejection, harassment, beatings, and—as we read in today’s passage—imprisonment.
God worked great faith in Paul’s heart. As a result, Paul was able to withstand harsh treatment for the sake of the Christ, even singing hymns of praise to God while in prison. Keep in mind that however unpleasant prisons may be today, they were even worse in first-century Palestine. They most likely had dirt floors, no plumbing, vermin, poor sanitation, overcrowding, inadequate food, little light, and worse.
Disturbed by the earthquake, the Roman guard rushed to the cells and found the cell doors standing open. Assuming the prisoners had escaped, and anticipating execution for what he believed to be his failure, the jailer resigned himself to suicide. Paul intervened, telling the jailer he mustn’t harm himself. As with Paul, God had other plans.
“What must I do to be saved?” the jailer asked Paul. It is a telling choice of words, given what God teaches us in the Bible regarding His work of converting unbelievers into Christians. In addition to the earthquake, the jailer recognized something special in Paul and Silas, but he was not able to trust in Christ without the Holy Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit works through the Word to create faith. He uses Paul’s words in this instance to do exactly that.
The power of Baptism is in the Word as well. God’s gift of Baptism combines the Word and His created element of water; nevertheless, without the Word, it is just plain water. Together, the water and the Word create saving faith, forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life, and give the believer the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
This reality has profound implications. Because Baptism is God’s work and is not dependent on the intellect or emotions of the baptized, it is appropriate to baptize children and infants as much as adults, as we read in today’s passage from Acts. The jailer and his entire household were baptized. Baptism saves because Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again. Through the Word, this Gospel message is tied to the water, and together, this divine washing makes a lost, condemned sinner one of God’s children forever.