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Similar arguments can be made for the other instances of households that were baptized. For instance, the household of Cornelius feared God (Acts 10:2), heard the words spoken (Acts 10:33, 44), spoke in tongues (Acts 10:46), and could be commanded (Acts 10:48). The Philippian jailer’s household was baptized, and they could hear the words that were spoken to them, believe, and rejoice (Acts 16:31-34). Stephanas’ household was baptized (1 Cor. 1:16), and they could devote themselves to the ministry of the saints (1 Cor. 16:15). Since infants cannot do any of these things, it proves that these households did not have any.
As these men stayed in Philippi, they continued to go to the place of prayer. A slave girl, possessed by a spirit of divination, kept following them and saying: “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:16-17). It is interesting how these demons always spoke the truth about Jesus’ identity, and they recognized those who belonged to Him and preached His Word (Mt. 8:29; Mk. 1:24; 3:11; Lk. 4:41; 8:28; Acts 19:13-17).
This demon had given this slave girl the ability to tell the future, and her owners were making money from this ability.
From the Greek, this spirit was known as the Python Spirit.
Gareeth Reese writes:
In Greek mythology, Python was a monstrous dragon who lived in a cave on Mt. Parnassus just north of the town of Delphi in Greece. In the town of Delphi was a temple where people could get their fortunes told. The place had long been a center of pagan worship, whose priest had developed an elaborate ritual, centered about a chief priestess whose title was Pythia. Kings and public officials would come to get their fortunes told and to get advice on matters of national policy, and private citizens would come to seek information about marriage or business ventures. The Python was supposed to give them the advice they sought. It worked in this fashion. In the center of the temple at Delphi was a small opening in the ground from whence mind-bending fumes arose. The priestess breathed these, sat down on a threelegged stool located over the opening, and thence delivered the “oracles.” Having breathed the fumes, the priestess became violently agitated, and spoke in tongues (frenzied, ecstatic syllabication) whatever the Python prompted her to say. A poet or priest standing by would then “translate” what the Pythoness had said and give the “prophecy” to the worshipper who had come to inquire of the Oracle at Delphi…. Actually, according to Greek mythology, Apollo (the son of Zeus) had long ago slain the dragon, and himself took over giving these revelations. But the priestesses were still commonly said to be possessed by a Python spirit (Reese 580).
Knowing this background information teaches us the reason this particular Greek word was used because this slave girl was possessed by a spirit that had the same characteristics credited to the priestess of Delphi. There is no proof that this demon could predict the future. Most likely it was just good at deceiving those who were gullible enough to believe what it said.
Paul grew tired of the demon saying the same thing day after day, so he cast it out of the slave girl in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 16:18), which made her owners angry because they would no longer be able to make money off her ability.
So, they dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities and accused them of teaching things that were against Roman law.
(Acts 16:18-21). These false accusations made all the people angry, and the magistrates stripped them of their clothing and beat them with rods (Acts 16:22-23). When the Jews would beat someone, they gave them forty stripes minus one (2 Cor.
11:24; Deut. 25:2-3), but there was no such limit with a Roman beating. They were beaten with rods about the size of a broom handle, and since there was no limit, sometime people died from these beatings. There was no formal investigation of these accusations, and Paul considered this a shameful act by these people (1 Thes. 2:2).
After they beat them, they threw them into the inner prison (third compartment). In a Roman prison, there were usually
three distinct parts:
1. The communiora, which allowed the prisoner to have light and fresh air.
2. The Interiora, an area shut off by strong iron gates with bars and locks.
3. The tullianium or dungeon, a place of execution or for one condemned to die (Boles 261).
They also put their feet in stocks, which were a form of restraint and torture. They were made from “a log or timber with holes in which the feet, hands, neck of prisoners were inserted and fastened with thongs” (Thayer). The text points out that only their feet were bound. Typically the stocks would hold the prisoners legs so far apart that it caused them pain, and it made it almost impossible for them to stand.
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:25).
This was an amazing display of how much trust Paul and Silas had in God. They did not complain to God or ask Him why they had to suffer this way. Instead, they prayed and sung to the Lord. Grammatically from the Greek, this was one act; so they were singing their prayers to God. As A.T. Robertson
Were praying and singing (proseuchomenoi humnoun). Present middle participle and imperfect active indicative: Praying they were singing (simultaneously, blending together petition and praise).
As Christians, we should learn to match their faithfulness in our times of distress. When we compare our troubles to theirs, we will realize that our troubles are mild. As they sang and prayed to God at midnight, the other prisoners were listening to them, and so was God.
Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here” (Acts 16:26-28).
Those who try to dismiss this event as being from God will say this was just a coincidence because Philippi is known for having earthquakes. However, we can see this was a precise earthquake as it did not cause the roof to fall in, and it shook the prison just enough to knock the doors opens and break the chains free from the wall. God caused a similar earthquake in Acts 4:31.
This event woke up the jailer, and when he saw the doors were open, he assumed the prisoners had escaped. So, he drew his sword and was going to kill himself. Roman jailers were punished by death if they allowed prisoners to escape, and it was common for them to take their own life instead of facing a torturous death at the hands of the Romans. Paul knew what this man was about to do; so he yelled out to him to keep him from taking his own life.
Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household (Acts 16:29-34).
Even though it is not mentioned in the text, the jailer probably secured the other prisoners first so that they would not escape, and then he fell before Paul and Silas. The jailer’s action suggests that he associated this event as being from the God that Paul and Silas had been singing and praying to. This association would be made stronger if he was told how Paul had cast the demon out of the slave girl earlier. After the jailer fell down before them trembling, he brought them out of the jail, and he wanted to know what he must do to be saved, which implies that he was told what the slave girl had said about them: “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17So, they said: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Those who teach the “faith only” doctrine appeal to these verses as a prooftext.
However, this text does not teach what they want it to because simply believing in Jesus will not save a person (Jam.
2:24); it requires an obedient faith (Heb. 5:8-9).
As J.W. McGarvey once wrote:
Those who argue that the jailer obtained pardon by faith alone, leave the jail too soon. If they would remain one hour longer, they would see him immersed for the remission of his sins, and rejoicing in the knowledge of pardon after his immersion, not before it.
When they told the jailer to believe on Jesus, they were using the word believe as a synecdoche because believing on the Lord includes all that is necessary for salvation including baptism. We cannot exclude God’s grace, repentance, confession, or baptism from the plan of salvation because all these things are necessary to be saved (Eph. 2:8; Lk. 13:3; Rom. 10:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:21). This conversion teaches us that more than mere belief in Jesus was involved because Paul and Silas spoke the Word of God to the jailer’s household, which they had to hear to be saved (Acts 11:14).
After Paul and Silas preached to them, the jailer took these men in the middle of the night and washed their stripes.
When he finished, the jailer and his household were immediately baptized. Not only does this reaffirm that baptism was done in water, it also shows the urgency of being baptized. If baptism was just an outward sign for an inward change, why would this family get baptized in the middle of the night? The answer is obvious: their baptism was for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), and they understood they would be lost until they submitted themselves to it. Just like the Ethiopian eunuch, they did not rejoice until after they had been baptized.
The following verse also proves that believing on the Lord
Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8).
The Corinthians heard the Word, believed, and were baptized, but our text just says that Crispus “believed on the Lord with all his household.” Does this mean that Crispus and his household merely believed in Jesus? No, because when we consider the whole counsel of God, we learn that believing on the Lord includes baptism. Paul said, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius” (1 Cor. 1:14). Again, this fact proves that baptism is included in believing on the Lord.
The third conversion we will examine happened during Paul’s third missionary journey as he made his way into Ephesus.
And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit. And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into John's baptism” (Acts 19:1-3).
Since we are missing some details in these verses, we are forced to speculate on some things. Paul finds some disciples as he comes to Ephesus, but whose disciples are they? We need to remember that a disciple simply means a learner or a pupil. At this point, we cannot tell if Paul suspects they are Christians or non-Christians. There are two possible reasons Paul asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” First, he may have suspected or even knew they were not Christians, and he knew this question would confirm whose disciples they were and if they knew about the giving of the Holy Spirit.
Second, if he thought they were Christians, he may have asked this question to find out if they had received the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit through the hands of an apostle. If not, he could impart these miraculous gifts to them.
No matter what Paul’s intentions were with this question, it revealed that these men only knew John’s baptism, and they had not heard about the giving of the Holy Spirit.
Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:4-5).
John’s baptism was temporary, and it was only valid until the death of Jesus on the cross. After Jesus was raised from the dead with all power and authority, He commanded that baptism was to be done in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19). As revealed by Peter, baptism is for the remission of sins, and it is the time when we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). It is also when we are added to the church by God (Acts 2:47) and put into Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27).
When these disciples found out that John’s baptism was no longer valid, they realized they needed to believe on Jesus, which I have already shown includes the entire plan of salvation. That is the reason they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.