It’s a question that has been asked repeatedly since the start, and still many struggle to answer. In this series of articles I will do my best to answer common questions and misconceptions as completely as I can. After seeing all the Bible has to say, then you can make your own decision — as you should in all matters related to Scripture.
When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:27-30 NASB
Paul and Silas’ answer was short and to the point, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the Word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. (vss.31-32)
This is where a lot of confusion gets started. You may have heard the question in verse 30 paired with the answer in verse 31 and been led to believe that’s all there is to it. But I’ve included verse 32 to show there is more to it than that. Don’t worry! It isn’t at all complicated.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you will soon see people taking a verse here and a verse there to justify some belief or action. That isn’t a problem if it’s a well established teaching, supported throughout Scripture. The problem comes in when only a part of the overall teaching is presented. We call this ‘taking a verse out of context’. Not only does a verse have to be presented in context with the surrounding verses, and sometimes chapters, but it has to be in context with the general teaching of the entire Bible.
Our salvation didn’t come about in a day some 2,000 years ago. Both Paul (Ephesians 1:4) and Peter (1 Peter 1:20) taught that salvation in Jesus was a plan God had “before the foundation of the world”. For this reason we must consider the plan as it has been unveiled throughout the entire Bible.
Not only is context important, but to whom the verse is directed can be of importance. There are different “rules” so-to-speak, for God’s chosen people, the Jews, than there are for the rest of the world (Gentiles). A good case in point concerns the Law itself. Because of Paul’s successful ministry to the Gentile people, a dispute had come up because he was not making Gentiles first go through rituals to become as Jews before they received salvation. The council of Apostles met at Jerusalem and came to this decision (Acts 15:28-29)
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well.” (Read the whole story at Acts 15:28-29 and also see Acts 21:17-26).
So God does have a double standard! I don’t think I’d call it that, but He does require more from those He’s given more. In Luke 12:47-48, Jesus is explaining that those who were entrusted with more, much will be required of them. He’s saying this in reference to the Jews because God has always shown them through the prophets, His plans long before it was made known to the rest of the world. Because of this privileged position as God’s chosen people, more is indeed required of them. It’s somewhat similar to a board of directors that bestows greater salary and benefits on their CEO while expecting more from them when it comes to all aspects of the company.
What this all means is that a Jew must still obey the Mosaic Law fully. Non-Jews (Gentiles) have a responsibility to at least try, but of them much of the Law is not required. We’ll deal with this more specifically in another study. For this one, it is good to know that, for the Gentile, the path to salvation begins here: Believe, repent, be baptized.
“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” –Acts 2:38
D. L. Wyer is an evangelist with the International Pentecostal Holiness Churches. He has served in ministry for more than 40 years as janitor, nursery coordinator, youth pastor, associate pastor, pastor and now evangelist. For more information write to firstname.lastname@example.org