Lord, waken us, and create faith in our hearts. Amen.
Text: Acts 16:25-33
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 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.” 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.
Paul and Silas were imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel in the first European city the Apostles entered, but they were happy, joyfully singing hymns to the Lord. The body was in the dark, cold prison, but the spirit was free. Such is the condition of the Church in the world. And in this way she does her work: saving and gathering in souls. Luke does not tell what effect their hymn-singing and the miracle that followed had on their fellow-prisoners, but only about the jailer. He had just now locked their feet securely in the stocks and was surely sleeping soundly in his sin. But now he wakes up. First he wanted to kill himself, for according to Roman law he was to die in place of the prisoners who escaped. Then he hears Paul’s voice, experiences the miracle and looks the apostles in the face. He feels the presence of the living God and faces his own life of sin. He knows his unrighteousness and trembles before God’s wrath. Then he leads the apostles out and asks: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? How can I make up for all my wrongs? How shall I be able to show love to all those I have mistreated, that all my transgressions may be taken away? What sacrifice shall I bring to take away God’s wrath? You are God’s servants, and can tell me what to do!”
But Paul and Silas answer with one voice, saying: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household … This is all you have to do.” Wondrous way of salvation that never could be conceived by human thought! Glorious Gospel that delivers sinners from the power of Satan and creates light and peace and life in the soul! “Believe on the Lord,” they say. But where is He? Notice what the Spirit teaches about this in our text. “Believe on the Lord Jesus,” the Apostles say. “Then they spoke the Word of the Lord to them and baptized them.” So the Lord Jesus, in whom you should believe, is in the Word and in Baptism. They believed the Word and were baptized; they believe in God. Baptized into Christ, they believe His Gospel, and then everything is done.
Do likewise, dear friend! In the Word and in Baptism, believe on Him who died and rose again, and you shall be saved, – and your whole household shall follow you. Note this also! This is how it happened to the jailer. If you ask in the same way, you receive the same answer, and as the joy was implanted in the prisoners – as well as the jailer – so it shall be also for your heart and your house. “What must I do to be saved?” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Now is the time! Ask, and listen, and believe, and thank God! Isn’t it wonderful, even for us, that the Apostles came over to Macedonia?
Lord Jesus, wake us all to living desire for salvation and knowledge of sin, and grant us grace to believe on You with our whole household. Amen.
Those who in Jesus Christ believe
God’s children are, and precious;
They have forgiveness and now live
At peace with God most gracious,
To one another kind and fair,
Helpful to those who wander far,
To bring them God’s forgiveness.
God’s children go to Paradise;
It is a way so pleasant;
There heav’nly hosts sing God’s high praise
And thanks for grace abundant;
With them will we with all our heart
To their thanksgiving add our part
As evening soon is present.
Landstad: Jeg takker Gud, min kristen Tro L 83:3.5 tr. DeGarmeaux;
tune: Herr, wie du willst (ELH 219); alternate hymn: I trust, O Christ, in You alone ELH 415