25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose.
27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.
28 But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!"
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.
30 He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."
32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.
33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.
34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God--he and his whole family.
Again, this passage reiterates that faith must precede baptism. It also demonstrates repentance in the jailer’s action of washing their wounds. It is not faith alone that saves us. It is not merely the act of being immersed alone that saves us. It is when faith, repentance AND baptism are all combined together that conversion takes place. “Believing in the Lord Jesus” means being baptized. Belief is equated with baptism according to Christ’s own words in Mark 16:16. Believing the Gospel gets you into a position to have your sins forgiven in baptism. One must believe first before they are baptized (otherwise, how would someone know getting immersed is when God will forgive their sins?).
Just as Philip “preached Jesus” to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, and the eunuch responded to this message by wanting to be baptized, so too, the jailer (and his household) had “the word of the Lord” spoken to them and, once again, their response was baptism. There can be no doubt then, that “preaching the Gospel”, “preaching Jesus”, and “speaking the word of the Lord” includes proper instruction in the purpose of baptism. This is a prime example of Mark 16:15-16 in action, where Jesus said,
“… Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, and he that does not believe shall be condemned.”
The jailer asked what he must do to be saved. We know from Mark 16:15-16 that he who believes the gospel and is baptized will be saved. We find in this example of the jailer that this is exactly what happens! Notice that the scripture does not directly tell us the jailer believed. The Scripture only says the jailer was told he must believe. The scripture only tells us he was taught the message of Jesus and that he was baptized. The fact that the scripture does say he was baptized implies that he believed the message. The only way we have to confirm that the jailer believed was by his baptism. The jailer’s faith is confirmed by his baptism just as it was confirmed that Christ belonged to God by His baptism. And so it is with us today.
It does no good to tell someone to get baptized unless they are first told the message of Jesus Christ. The first step is to believe, then baptism will be effectual. Faith in Christ is what gives baptism its significance. Obviously, it does no good to tell someone to get baptized unless they have first heard the message of the cross and the story of Jesus. And this is the example we see with the jailer.
It was the middle of the night and the urgency for these people to be baptized after they came to faith in Jesus was so great that Paul did not wait until the next day to baptize them. They did not wait until the next church meeting. They did not wait until it was more convenient. It was done so immediately. Why this urgency? Because baptism in when a person’s sins are forgiven and they become saved. When someone decides to be baptized to have their sins forgiven, their eternal destiny takes a 180-degree turn. From an eternal perspective, this is the most important event in a person’s life!
A common question about infant baptism and this passage:
It says his whole household was baptized. Doesn’t that mean infants would be present?
Actually, no. Just the fact that a whole household of people were baptized does not mean infants were automatically present. Millions of people around the world live in households where there are no infants present. This passage is often used in a vain attempt to justify the unbiblical practice of infant baptism. But if one actually reads the passage carefully, one will see that this passage actually tells us no infants were present! Let’s look at it again a little closer:
Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God--he and his whole family.
What this passage says regarding infant baptism:
1.) Paul and Silas spoke the Word of the Lord to all those in the jailer’s household.
2.) All members of the jailer’s family were baptized
3.) The whole family of the jailer came to BELIEVE in God.
Conclusion: Since every member of the jailer’s family came to BELIEVE (after having heard the Word preached to them) there could not possibly have been even a single infant present because infants cannot BELIEVE in God. Infants are not capable of understanding the “Word of the Lord”, nor can infants be described as “having come to believe in God.” Therefore, everyone in the household of the jailer was old enough that they could hear and understand the gospel being taught to them, and come to a personal faith in Christ. Only when an individual is old enough to believe the gospel do they become a valid candidate for baptism.