#197 THE JAILER'S CONVERSION, ACTS 16:29-31
Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house, ACT 16:29-31.
At the conclusion of the series on the Sermon on the Mount, I believe the Lord Jesus centered His focus on the exercise of saving faith. That is what He meant when He said, "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock," MAT 7:24. Jesus distinguishes the exercise of saving faith from saving faith; you cannot separate them. It is very essential to study the distinction between faith and saving faith. With the Lord's help, I will go into this study.
Our text says, "Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." The vital point is that Satan's master art is to use truths out of context to deceive. So it is in his preaching of salvation by faith. We must understand that if this passage of Scripture, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," is taken out of context in which it was spoken by the Holy Spirit and brought forth in the Word of God, this can be used to make the most counterfeit faith and diabolical lie. Such use will deceive souls for hell. Yet, in its context, properly applied and used, it is one of the most precious parts of the gospel. Satan always has a counterfeit, and we must be able to discern the counterfeit from the genuine with a keen eye and mind.
Especially in our day, one could go into a flower shop to see some of the most beautiful flowers. You cannot really discern whether or not they are counterfeit or genuine until you feel them. You can detect the artificial ones by touch, but they are so close to genuine. Do you know what the distinction is? One has life and the other is dead.
Now we need to analyze faith. Counterfeit faith is dead; saving faith is alive. The Apostle James said, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone," JAM 2:17. He goes on to say in V:26, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." The counterfeit can look so identical and genuine that you cannot discern it until you can detect life in it. What does the Apostle James give us to distinguish between the real faith and counterfeit faith? Works! Is there salvation by works? No. Is there salvation without works? A thousand times, No! The only way to tell if there is life in faith is by the exercise of that faith. This is brought out by the Lord Jesus Christ in MAT 7:24, "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock." Why? We can see the exercise of that faith because the person is doing the will of God.
All soul winning gospel must begin by weighing it in the balances of God's Word to see if it is found wanting. I was brought up in a church that taught infant baptism. They teach that baptism replaced circumcision. It was a mystery to me. I couldn't find any place in Scripture where this transition was made. Did baptism replace circumcision? That became the question in my mind. The more I searched, the more I needed to know.
What is baptism? Then I must search out of Scripture, not out of the works of philosophers, what is circumcision? Then at what point did baptism replace circumcision. As I studied it out, I began to find out that I had to look at Christ as the answer. Christ was circumcised and baptized! Why was Christ circumcised? " . . . every man that is circumcised . . . is a debtor to do the whole law!" GAL 5:3. When Christ was circumcised He became a debtor to do the whole law for His church.
What happened when Christ was baptized? He was marked for death; He pledged that He would step into death under the wrath of the Father to take away the penalty of sin for His church. When I looked to Christ for the true meaning of circumcision and baptism, I saw that they were co-essential. You cannot replace obedience with the payment of the penalty, neither can you remove the penalty by obedience. They were co-essential. Then I began to realize that baptism did not replace circumcision because they were both essential. Each has a distinct meaning. Christs perfect obedience and His satisfaction of the penalty for sin are both imputed unto His church.
Look at COL 2:9-12 where we find we are complete in Christ. "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead."
What does being complete in Christ mean? We are circumcised in Him; in other words, in Christ we have fulfilled the law of love with perfect obedience. It is in His circumcision, but also in Christ we have been baptized and are raised again to the newness of life. In His circumcision, baptism, and resurrection we are complete. Look at the crafty deceit of Satan; he wants to say one replaces the other. Satan isn't particular which of the two you chose. You may chose to be a debtor to do the whole law and have a counterfeit salvation of works, or he will offer you a legalistic religion under the sacrifice without righteousness, i.e., Christs perfect obedience imputed to you. Satan would have you chose one of the two, but they are co-essential.
Now let's look at the gospel. We must look at Christ. Where did Christ begin His gospel? Go to MAT 4:17, but look at the context. Jesus had just been baptized, and tempted 40 days of the devil in the wilderness. HEB 4:15 says, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Jesus is now qualified; He can be touched by our infirmities because He was tempted in all points as we are. Now He was ready to preach the gospel to those who have no power against those temptations.
"From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," MAT 4:17. What does that teach us? Repentance is where the gospel begins. Why? Notice the connecting word "for." That means we are to enter into the service of the kingship of Christ. We are not to serve the world and the sins of our heart any longer. We are to come into the kingdom of Christ. It is at hand; it is here now, i.e., today! It is not something one enters after death. We are to enter into the kingdom today and bow under the kingship of Christ. We are to repent of our sins, turn from them. This is not a legalistic repentance to escape hell; it is with a remorse over having offended the goodness of God, and serving Christ from a motive of love. That is where the gospel begins. Any gospel that begins anywhere else is not the gospel of Christ.
"...for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." That runs parallel to James teachings about saving faith and the exercise of faith. JAM 2:21-22 says "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? Faith without works is dead. It means we must enter the kingdom and come under the service of Christ. We are to serve Christ, not self, Satan, and sin.
What is the first thing that must be revealed in the gospel which can stand the light of God's Word? ROM 1:16-18 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness."
Remember the message given to the jailer in our text, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house," ACT 16:31. The power of the gospel unto salvation is to be delivered from the power of sin. Now look at the word "power." Power is that which moves; the gospel moves our heart to turn from sin and serving the things of this world to serve the Lord. There is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. Can you believe and not be turned from the power of sin? The answer is no. Therein is the righteousness of God revealed; the just demands of the law are revealed in the gospel.
God's wrath upon sin is revealed in the gospel, and that is the call to repent. God is so wroth with sin that He would rather send His own Son to step under this wrath to take the penalty of sin rather than leave one sin unpunished. That is what is revealed in the gospel. As we see that, then sin becomes exceeding sinful, and we have a desire to be delivered from sin's power by coming under the service of Christ.
Verse 18 says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." Ungodliness is any infraction of the first table of the law, i.e., to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. Unrighteousness is any infraction of the second table of the law, i.e., to love one's neighbour as themselves. God's wrath is revealed from heaven in the gospel; it is in the proclamation of Christ coming upon the cross. In this we see the righteousness and the wrath of God upon all unrighteousness and all ungodliness of men. They who hold the truth in unrighteousness are those who know the truth but walk on in the way of sin.
Without understanding God's wrath upon sin, a sinner will never rightly understand his need of Jesus as Saviour. A person must understand the power of sin and God's wrath upon sin first. MAT 1:21 says, "...thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." How will anyone understand their need of Jesus Christ as Saviour until they understand the sinfulness of sin and God's displeasure upon sin?
To have a right understanding of salvation we must realize it is two-fold. Salvation is reconciliation. If you or I can say that we have been fully and truly reconciled to God, we can claim we have salvation. Reconciliation is two-fold; it must be from both sides.
As an example we can look at a marriage union. A man and his wife become separated in their feelings. One of the two sees that they were wrong and is willing to repent. However, the other partner is unwilling to accept it and give forgiveness. Is there reconciliation? No. Reconciliation must be from both sides or there is no reconciliation.
2CO 5:17-19 the apostle is explaining what it means to have saving faith; "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation."
This tells us that from God's side there is reconciliation to the world in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not imputing the trespasses of the world unto them; He looks upon them in Christ. God's wrath has been fully appeased, but reconciliation must come from both sides.
As long as the sinner is in rebellion with bitterness and hatred toward God, he cannot say he is reconciled to God. You now see where the exercise of saving faith comes into the picture. Of necessity saving faith is that which confers reconciliation from our side. Our rebellion must be broken; our sin must become sinful. Everything that is abominable to God must become loathsome to us. Our will must be reconciled with His will; that is the exercise of saving faith.
When the apostle made the statement to the jailer to believe, it is contingent on believing that God is wroth with sin and that God hates sin. Can you say you believe but do not believe that God hates sin or that He looks upon His Son as the appeasing of His wrath on sin? We must understand this to understand faith in the light of Scripture. Believing means that we believe what He says to be true, and do what He says. One cannot separate believing and doing. "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock," MAT 7:24. In the exercise of saving faith we see a desire to do the will of God.
V:20 continues, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."
Salvation is much more than just being saved from hell; it is being transformed into a new creature. We must understand that if we claim salvation we are claiming we are dead to sin, self, and the things of the world. It means we have become a new creature. In ROM 12:1-2 we read, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Isn't that precious? Our life is put on the altar of sacrifice unto the Lord. Our heart has been reconciled, and we are able to give up all our rebellion to serve under the kingship and the yoke of Christ. "...acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" is qualified in the next verse. "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." What does the apostle mean by being "transformed by the renewing of your mind"?
Consider this; if you see two people at odds, what does it take for them to be reconciled? It requires a change of mind; there must be a harmony of thinking. We must come into the mind of Christ. What was it? He humbled Himself and became obedient. By the renewing of our mind our will comes in harmony with His will.
We cannot apply the words of our text, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," to one who has not been spiritually awakened to see God's wrath upon sin. Many times people try to do this, but it is absolutely out of the context that the Lord has given this comforting message. A pastor cannot preach that message to those who are not spiritually awakened.
Placing more emphasis on God's mercy than on His wrath upon sin is taking God's Word out of its context, but it is seen often today. Preaching centers on the fact that God is love. It is true, but He is also just. He is not a justifier of the wicked. God does not love sin. He loves sinners, but not sin. It is taking Scripture out of context when He is made such a merciful God that He could tolerate sin.
If we rightly understand the gospel, we will see that God's wrath upon sin must first be appeased before mercy could be obtained. Let's look to the Word of God to see the chronology of this. His justice must be preached before His mercy. Therefore, repentance must precede remission of sin, then there is reconciliation, i.e., salvation.
In the following passage of Scripture look for the order; which is first, second, and third. PSA 85:9-10 says, "Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; [First: i.e., them that have a holy reverence for His will!] that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness [Second: i.e., that which is altogether just; which was accomplished by Christ's conformity of heart and life to God's Divine Will], and [Third:] peace have kissed each other."
Fearing God comes first; that means having a holy reverence for His will. Is there salvation to those who have not come into reconciliation, whose heart is still rebellious against the Lord? No. The Lord is glorified when obedience has been restored and the heart is brought into subjection to the Lord. Righteousness and peace came together in Christ. How? It was through His perfect submission to the will of God in our human nature, taking away the penalty of sin. It was an act of obedience.
See how blessedly the psalmist recognized the need for Christ's righteousness, i.e., His obedience, and our need to conform to His foot steps. In PSA 85:13 we read, "Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps." That means that perfect harmony with the will of God in heart and action. The righteousness of Christ, the perfect harmony of Christ to the will of the Father, reflected in our human nature, will go before us to set us in His steps. Do you see where salvation lays? It is to be conformed or reconciled with God.
The words of our text, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," are taken out of their context when they are used to assure those who have never been awakened by the Spirit to see God's wrath on sin. The glad tidings of the gospel are not sent from heaven to set God-defying rebels at ease in their sin. Those glad tidings of the gospel are to call sinners to repentance. To tell an unrepentant sinner all he has to do is believe on the Lord Jesus and you are eternally secure, you have made Christ a minister of sin. You have used His badge as a license to continue in sin. That is not saving faith, yet it is the faith of this generation. It is a horribly dangerous situation.
MAT 9:10-13 says, "And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. [He did not go just to the righteous; He came to sinners, but watch how He answered the Pharisees.] And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Jesus condescended so low as to sit at the table of sinners. He ate and drank with them; He spoke and communed with them. Do you see His commission in the above verses? Jesus came to preach the gospel of repentance; He came for reconciliation. He didn't come to those who were righteous in their own eyes, to tell them they were going to be saved from hell by sacrifice. He tells them to go and learn what He means. People want to come under sacrifice and the mercy of Him; they want to be delivered from hell, but they don't want to be reconciled to the will of God. They want to be saved in their sins, not from their sins. He came to call sinners to repentance; that was His commission.
To understand the meaning of the words of our text, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," we must consider the context in which they were spoken. Many people spend years learning what the jailer learned in one night, but what the jailer learned was no less full.
We need to look at the context in which it was spoken. These words were not spoken to the jailer in his state of rebellion! Remember that when Paul and Silas were put in jail, the jailer was in a state of rebellion. That is not when these words were spoken to him because he had no desire for salvation. He did not understand his need for Jesus to be saved from his sins; he never saw himself as a sinner.
We must see the conversion of this jailer and his faith in believing in context with what Jesus taught in JOH 3:14-15. Again, look for the chronology of salvation that the Lord Jesus taught here. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."
How was the serpent lifted up by Moses? Those who were bitten by the serpent were commanded to look to the brazen serpent and live. That is the same chronology we see here with the jailer. The jailer had been bitten by the serpent of sin; he now faced a death sentence. Now he was told to look unto Christ. Those who look unto Jesus realize they have been bitten by the serpent of sin.
ACT 16:26 tells us, "And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed." When God's Spirit works grace in the soul through repentance unto righteousness we are not shaken because we are upon the Rock. The Spirit of God broke all his false security. The first work of the Spirit in the jailer was to awaken him to his false security in things that can be shaken. That was the first work of the Spirit. The jailer thought he held the apostles prisoners in a secure prison until the foundations were shaken. Then all of his security was gone; the prisoners could all escape.
When the Lord comes and shakes our natural foundations, we begin to understand that we need our foundation based on the Rock. LUK 6:47-48 says, "Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock."
This shaking was an awakening to this jailer; it awakened him to understand that he was on a foundation that could be removed. He saw that he needed something better. The awakening was a prerequisite to be told to believe.
When we are founded upon the Rock, we are not soon shaken. 2TH 2:1-2 says, "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, [We are talking about faith.] or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand."
Are we talking about faith now? YES!. The foundation is being laid for faith. The jailer saw the foundation of the whole prison was shaken. The foundation crumbled and the prisoners could leave. His sense of security was taken away by the Lord who was preparing him. Now we see there is no security in the things of this world. That is what the jailer learned that night. The Lord prepared him to hear the gospel that was being preached to him.
The jailer's mind was transformed, and he showed it by changing his ways. ACT 16:33 says, "And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway." Do you see the change in the jailer's ways? He is washing their stripes. He became a new man; the Lord shook this brutal jailers conscience. He saw, he heard, and he understood.
His self-complacency was gone, and he was humbled before the mighty hand of God. We see this in ACT 16:29, "Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas." The jailer is now a trembling sinner. That shows a changed mind. The Lord did this with the jailer in a very short time, but it was genuine. All these things preceded the preaching to believe and be saved.
This jailer was brought to a deep concern for his soul as we see in V:30, "And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" The man saw that he was lost and was in need of salvation. He had a deep concern for his own soul as he saw his genuine need. There was a quick transition from a hard criminal to a childlike supplicant. He was not an unconverted man any longer.
It was to this man whom the Holy Spirit had awakened that the apostle said in V:31, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." The jailer was a man who had fallen on his face in the dust before the Lord; he saw his lost condition.
In this Scriptural example of the work of grace it must not be overlooked that the jailer became a new man, even though his conversion happened instantly. In this instance there was no need to impress upon him his lost condition, for he had obviously revealed that he felt it. That is why the preparatory language of the gospel was not necessary for this man. The Lord had brought him to the place where he sought relief. ACT 16:30 says, "And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" There was no need for Paul to preach to him about his need for repentance because the Lord had already worked that in his heart. His entire demeanor revealed his unconditional surrender to the kingship of God. He had already repented and come to a change of mind. Therefore, we do not see the preaching of God's Word beforehand in this instance. That doesn't mean it was omitted or that it can be omitted.
These same word's, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," cannot be spoken to or taken by one who is totally blind to his depraved condition under the power of sin. That would be taking the gospel out of its context. We must keep the context in which this gospel was preached to this jailer. The work of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit had brought the jailer to the essential element to prepare him for that gospel. One who is not prepared is not a recipient of the gospel.
Search and see if ever the Lord Jesus, or the apostles ever addresses an audience of unrepentant sinners with a call to believe in Christ. It is nowhere in Scripture. The messages of believe in Christ is in its right context every time it is named in Scripture. Neither the Lord Jesus nor the apostles have ever urged upon a rebellious sinner to believe in Christ. The urge has always been to repent. That is where the gospel begins. We cannot begin the gospel with a call to believe in Christ and you will be saved. That is not the gospel of Christ.
This is not a new philosophy or new theory that I have come up with. This is the Word of God. The Old Testament gospel required circumcision before any were allowed to come under the blood.
See this in EZE 44:6-7, "And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations, In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations." Uncircumcised in heart means unrepentant in ones heart. Uncircumcised in the flesh means uncircumcised in your walk of life. There is no sign of repentance in ones walk of life or the spirit of their heart. Such were brought into the Lord's sanctuary to pollute it and make the blood an unholy thing. Do you see the point? Repentance before sacrifice is in the Old Testament. It isn't new.
The doctrine of circumcision pointed to the need for repentance, i.e., turning from sin, before one was permitted to come into the sacrifice which was made for sin. You can't come into the sacrifice, the atonement that was made for sin, and have a part in it until you have been cleansed from your sin. Cleansing comes before pardon.
EZE 44:9 says, "Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel." I don't know how this could be more clearly when we learn to understand what circumcision is. Circumcision is the pledge of obedience; it is a removing of the flesh, the foreskin; it is removing the pollution that must be removed before they were allowed in the sanctuary where the blood was. Are we doing that today? Are we bringing unrepentant in and assuring them of salvation in the blood where there has never been a circumcision of the heart or the flesh, or shall we say their walk of life? They may have faith in Christ, but it is not saving faith. There is a distinction.
John the Baptist insisted upon repentance before one could become a proper candidate for baptism. Baptism was a type of a sacrifice. Christ pledged to take the penalty of the wrath of God upon sin when He was baptized. You cannot come under that until you have repentance. MAT 3:7-8 says, "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance." Do you see that you cannot come into the blood of Christ without repentance?
This clearly teaches that no person can be assured of salvation under the gospel until the law has enlightened the heart and mind with the knowledge of God's wrath upon sin. There must be a renewing of the mind and heart; it is the regenerative work of the Spirit in the way of sanctification before you talk pardon.
ROM 3:20 tells us, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." Teaching of the law must precede the gospel; what does a person who has no conviction of sin need of a Jesus to save him from his sins. Until we understand that we are condemned under the law, there is no place for the gospel. We must first understand the will of God, which is the law, before we have any desire to do His will. We must first understand the law; you cannot separate the law from the gospel. What law? It is the law of love, loving God above all. It is a desire to have our will dissolved in His will. The second part of the law is to love ones neighbour as themselves. Until we understand that law of love, we don't need salvation. There is no place for it.
To present the precious blood of Christ to those who live on in their passion for sin is to violate what Jesus said in MAT 7:6 "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."
Today's gospel preaches a legal gospel, i.e., justification before the courts of heaven to be saved from hell, instead of repentance, desiring to be saved from sin. Think of what is usually preached today; everyone is going to heaven, but without repentance. A legal repentance means having remorse over sin because we want to avoid the consequences of sin. A legal religion teaches that we can then come into Christ, have an assurance, believe, and be saved without repentance entering the formula. That is not the gospel of Christ.
A truly awakened sinner who longs to be free from the love of sin, its dominion, guilt and pollution as well as its penalty, not only for self but for spouse and children as well, is a proper candidate for the gospel message of our text. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." When we have learned to see the love of sin that we have in our heart, and we mourn over it, and we have a desire to be delivered from it, then we see that our own righteousness will never excel. Our own righteousness is not sufficient. Now we hate sin; now we desire to be delivered from sin. Now we are a proper candidate for our text, "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." ACT 16:31. You will be saved from that which is so abominable to you, from the pollution of sin and a walk in sin. Now the Lord will deliver you.
Turn with me now to ISA 55:6. "Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." Notice the order of matters before a pardon. One must first forsake the old ways and evil thoughts, then turn to the Lord. Mercy and then pardon follow. It doesn't say turn to the Lord for a pardon so you can live in sin.
Today's gospel usually preaches a legal repentance, a Saviour from hell instead of a Saviour from sin. MAT 1:21 says, "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people [Not from the wrath to come! But] from their sins." There is not even a hint of saving people from wrath to come. It clearly says Jesus will save His people from their sins. The only proper candidate for our text is the truly awakened sinner who longs to be free from sin and its dominion.
The only ones who will truly seek to be healed by the great Physician are those who have learned to see their leprosy of sin. They, and they only, will ever become sick of sin! When one learns to see sin as an incurable disease, that it is a deadly disease, then one finds value in the great Physician.
Satan has perverted the gospel of Christ by teaching the truth, but not the whole truth! When the Lord allows Satan to preach the partial truth, we have the most dangerous gospel there is. Telling a partial truth is making a lie.
Satan's partial truth is that salvation is a free gift; Christ has done everything for the sinner, and nothing remains to be done but for him to "believe," trusting in the merits of Christ's blood. It sounds like truth, doesn't it. It is a diabolical lie.
Salvation is by grace alone! A fallen creature cannot possibly do anything to merit God's favour; however the rest of the truth is that Divine grace is not given at the expense of holiness. That is the part Satan didn't tell you.
HEB 12:12-15 says, "Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."
Satan doesn't preach that one, unless that is all he will preach to make a legal religion of salvation by works. The Scriptures teach that we need God's grace and holiness. They cannot be separated.
It is also true that salvation is a free gift, but an empty hand must receive it, and not a hand which is still clinging fast unto the things of the world. You cannot have your hands filled with the things of this world and take God's free gift.
However, it is not true that Christ has done everything for the sinner! Satan splices in a little untruth with the partial truth. It sound generous, but it is a lie. He does not fill his belly with the husks, which the swine leave, so he can be satisfied to dwell among the swine. That is what the sinner would love from his own heart. He would love to have Christ use His blood to take away the guilt of sin and allow him to continue to wallow in sin. God does not do that.
Salvation is realized after the Lord had made a true believer out of a sinner. Have you ever heard the expression, "It'll make a believer out of you."? Do you know what the Lord does? Before He makes you a candidate for our text, He makes a believer out of you. Let's look at how He does it. The prodigal son is an example. LUK 15:16-23 tells us, "And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, [The Lord brought him to see that he was filling his belly with emptiness. He made a believer out of him.] he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."
After the Lord has made a believer out of you, I can preach our text to you, but to preach that to an unbeliever is blasphemy. You cannot separate faith from the obedience of faith. Unbelief is walking in rebellion to the Lord.
We continue with V:20, "And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." The son didn't only come to a change of mind, but he arose, turned, and went to his father. He confessed his sin, and his father had mercy on him. " But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry."
The Lord made a believer out of the prodigal son who acted. That was obedience of faith. He was no longer an unbeliever. To such a believer I may preach, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Amen.
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