Household Salvation

Acts 16 31 a

Q. Acts 16:31 says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” When a person believes in Jesus, does this verse mean that all his/her household (family members) will be saved?

A. There are 2 ways to interpret this verse:

1. Specific promise and prophecy only for the jailer. The jailer asked Paul and Silas in v 30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”, to which Paul replied in v 31. Then in v 32. “they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.” V 34 adds, “he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.” Paul shared the gospel with all in the jailer’s household, and all of them believed. In this case this promise would not apply to others.

2. General principle for all, but not an unconditional promise. This would be similar to Prov 22:6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Does child training work? Yes it does. Is it guaranteed to work all the time? No, this is a general principle, not an unchanging law. Similarly, when a person believes in the Lord Jesus, he will be saved, and becomes the channel where his household will be introduced to the gospel. However, each individual must choose to follow Jesus for himself or herself. There is no automatic blanket conversion for the whole household when one member believes. The reason is explained in detail in Ezk 18., in particular v 20 The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

Having said that, Scripture has many examples in which entire households turn to God because of the faith of a key member e.g.

Gen 18:19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
• Jn 4:53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.
• Acts 16:15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
• Acts 18:8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

So while it is not an iron-clad guarantee without exceptions, it is a very comforting promise for us to direct our children and our household so that all will believe.

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