Friday, August 22, 2008


Okay... we were reading from Acts 16 during family devotions tonight and a thought struck me (not literally :).

Acts 16:30-34

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.

And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed [their] stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.

And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

All of this happens in the jail. Could the 'house' referred to be the prison? And could 'all that were in his house' be the other prisoners? They are in a prison, all of the prisoners are suddenly released, and everyone there are saved and baptized. THEN, in verse 34, the jailer took them to his house and gave them food. How could his 'house' (in reference to a family) become saved and be baptized if they weren't there?

Just a few things to think about. I would appreciate any insight from others!


Stephen Boyd said...

Very interesting!

Many people use this as an example of covenantal theology in the Bible.

"How could his 'house' (in reference to a family) become saved and be baptized if they weren't there?"

I believe that's the point. Because of the Covenant established with the head of the household, when he became a Covenant member, the Jailer was trusting in God's faithfulness to save his family. Verse 31 clearly states, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thine household". It was solely an act of the Holy Spirit. That does not mean that the children were saved through the "good works" of the father. If they were not "predestined to adoption" they could break the Covenant and become a pagan at any future time. But the father, by believeing in the Lord Jesus Christ, was trusting in Him to save his children.

Does this make sense?

I'd like to hear your further comments.

Hannah said...

Okay, Stephen, I noticed you said household. The verse says 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy HOUSE.' Not household. Then 'they spake unto him the word of the Lord, AND TO ALL THAT WERE IN his house.' The same 'house' that was saved were the ones taught by Paul and Silas. Then, the jailer cleaned their wounds and was baptized 'he AND all his, straightway'.

I can see your point. Thank you for the comment. This is the reason I started this blog... to discuss my thoughts with others.

Stephen Boyd said...

I'm sooo sorry for not clarifying! I was using a different version. My bad.

I meant to say, in my previous comment that several versions have it "household", which I think is a more specific word than house, denoting a particular house.

By no means do I claim to know anything more about the passage being discussed.

Does what I'm trying to say make sense? Any more thoughts?

Hannah said...


Let me say first that, yes, I do understand what you're saying and it does make sense.

I found a Greek new testament so I could look up the actual word used there.

The word used is...


1. A house
a. Strictly, a habited house
b. any building whatever
c. any dwelling- place

2. by meton. the inmates of a house, all the persons forming one family, a household

3. stock, race, descendants of one

So, the first definition is usually the one used, right? It is also the one most described. A 'habited house' could refer to a prison house, couldn't it? It is 'habited' by the jailer and his prisoners.

Anyway, if you want, I can pull my laptop out tomorrow so you can read it yourself. I'm still not clear on what these verses mean either. Like I said before, my main reason for this blog is to discuss it with others. That's what we're doing! I look forward to many more such debates later on.

Stephen Boyd said...

I agree that the first definition is the one used in this particular instance and it also seems to indicate the prison "house".

But notice the word used in verse 34, which says: (KJV)"And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that the first use of the word "house" in this verse is oikos, a dwelling place. The second use of the word is panoikei, which means "all in the house; household". Do you think that would include the jailer's family?

I believe you addressed that in the original post, but I think the Covenant was established with the jailer, who began to raise his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, resulting in their Salvation.

Daniel said...

Interesting thought! But I don't think I'd read the passage this way for a few reasons:

1. Matthew Henry (one of my favorite biblical commentators) indicates that this refers to the jailer's private dwelling (i.e., family) here:
(scroll way down to section four of the commentary on verses 25-34).

2. Sequential events described in the Greek don't always translate easily into English, but one key word in the Greek text appears in verse 31 and is translated "Thy" in the phrase "thy house". It is the Greek word transliterated "sou", which is a personal possessive pronoun (indicating that this is his personal house/household, rather than the "jailhouse" for which he is overseer). The Greek "auto" is substituted for "sou" in the following verses, and still translated as "his" -- but "auto" simply means "again" or "the same", indicating that the same "house" is being discussed in all the verses from 31-34.

3. From a purely practical standpoint, it seems highly unlikely that the term "house" would refer to the jail from either the baptistic or covenantal perspectives. Certainly Christ could have saved all the inmates of the prison (if these are the "all his" in verse 33) in one night through the preaching of Paul and Silas, but that would be a remarkably thorough revival even by New Testament standards. And from the covenantal view, the jailer was not the federal head of the inmates in his prison any more than I am spiritually responsible for the employees at my store. So while it would make sense for the jailer's family to be baptized on the basis of his conversion (again, in the covenantal system), it would not make sense for the inmates because they constitute separate covenant households.

Just my three cents...

Stephen Boyd said...

Very interesting!

So, did it sound like I was insinuating that the jailer was the "head" of the prisoners?

Daniel said...

Stephen: Nope, didn't sound that way at all! The sentence about the jailer not being head of the prisoners was simply to demonstrate why the passage doesn't make sense from a covenantal perspective if you read "house" as "jailhouse".

All: Sorry about that dud of a link to the Matthew Henry commentary. Try this one instead: