The earth shook, buildings crumbled and people fled as the quake struck. The year was approximately A.D. 50 and the place was Philippi in ancient Macedonia. In the town prison the barred doors sprung open. The jailer, fearing those in his charge had escaped, drew a sword to kill himself rather than face his harsh and unreasonable superiors. But a voice pierced the darkness as he leaned into his sword: “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (Act 16:28). In disbelief, he grabbed a lantern and rushed down to the darkened cells. Sure enough, the prisoners were all there. Trembling and astonished, he approached the two prisoners who had earlier been praying and singing hymns while shackled by chains in their dark, damp cell. Their names were Paul and Silas. They were Christian missionaries who had brought the gospel to Philippi for the first time and who had, as a result, been cast into the prison. The jailer blurted out his urgent question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Act 16:30).
This same question (posed in slightly different terms) was asked by Job in what is regarded as the oldest book in our Bible: “How shall a man be just with [or right before] God?” Millions down through the ages have likewise sought the path that brings an unworthy sinner to a place of acceptance before a righteous God. Romans 5:1 describes the end of that journey as “peace with God.” Think of that – deep, lasting, unassailable peace! Can one who daily struggles under the burden and bondage of sin really find liberty from sin’s power, pardon from sin’s penalty and peace with God?
The jailer on that dark night felt the crushing conviction of his sin, the fragility of his own life and the vast gap that separated him from God. Confronted by the impact of genuine faith evident in the lives of Paul and Silas, his concern was to know what he must do to secure salvation. He understood, perhaps for the first time, that he was a needy sinner. He knew he needed the salvation of God. He longed for peace that had eluded him for a lifetime. But how? What must he do to be saved?
Again, we recall the words of Romans 5:1: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (KJV). Here is the stunningly simple answer to this age-old question. The justification that Job sought, the salvation the jailer longed for, the peace that we as sinners separated from God so desperately need, are available through faith alone, in Christ alone. And so, Paul’s emphatic answer to the jailer’s question was this: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
For many, this seems too simple an answer. They feel there must be more, that God requires more. But there is nothing that we can do to earn God’s favour and secure His salvation (Eph 2:8-9). It is faith and only faith that pleases God (Heb 11:6). It is faith, to the exclusion of all else, that secures salvation. It is faith in Christ alone because only Christ’s death on our behalf is sufficient to meet the sinner’s need. The jailer proved this to be gloriously true that momentous night. Have you?