16:27 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. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
Last night at our church we celebrated another baptism. By "coincidence" I have been reading about the baptism of this Macedonian jailer, one of thousands of baptisms in the book of Acts. One thing I can't ignore is how different the timing was then versus what our church normally does. In the early church baptism was almost instant. One the day of Pentecost thousands were baptized. Did they even know their names? In Acts 8 Philip is called to meet a man in the desert. An Ethiopian man of noble position is heading back home from Jerusalem in his chariot. He believes in the God of Abraham and is reading the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He is in chapter 53 and can't understand who he is reading about. Long story short Philip joins him, explains that the suffering servant is Jesus, the Son of God. The man sees water and asks "What prevents me from being baptized?"
Philip has one question. "Do you believe with all your heart that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?" The man affirms that he does and immediately they stop and Philip baptizes him.
Now here in Acts 16 the jailer finds Paul willingly remaining in an unlocked jail cell and asks "What must I do to be saved?" Paul's response is very much the same. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your whole household." Before the sun comes up the next morning he and his entire family is already baptized.
For those of you paying close attention you will have already noted that in both instances teaching occurred. You will remember that after Jesus rose from the dead He told His disciples to go out into all the world and teach, baptize, and teach. The Ethiopian had already been a believer who just hadn't heard or understood who Jesus was yet. The jailer was so far away from people who believed in the God of Abraham that there wasn't even a synagogue in his city. Yet both men were baptized very quickly after some teaching and one burning question: "Do you believe in Jesus?"
Some feel this is too simplified but is it? A preacher who taught and believed that physical adornment was not in harmony with the humble simple life of a believer was holding a large baptism. As people were heading into the water single file a man came he had never seen before. On his finger was a large gaudy ring. What to do? Did this man understand? Should he baptize him? Was he ready? He prayed a quick prayer for guidance and one question fell from his lips. He looked into the man's eyes and asked "If Jesus asked you to remove your ring and never wear it again would you do it?"
"Yes, I will do anything for my Lord" was the man's quick and firm reply.
With the ring still on the man was baptized. Teaching is important. Jesus said "Teach, baptize, teach". Sometimes I fear we have put too little emphasis on what the centrality of all true teaching is: "Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?" Any teaching that distracts from Him or prevents people from committing to Him in baptism when they come to believe in Him is a mistake. May we never lose sight of Him no matter what we have been taught.