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(Abridged version of a sermon delivered on Lord’s Day morning, 5 November 1871 by C H Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle – extracted from True Life BPC’s weekly dated 24th February 2013)

“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” (Acts 16: 32-34)

It sometimes happens that a good man has to go alone to heaven: God’s election has separated him from the midst of an ungodly family, and, notwithstanding his example and his prayers, and his admonitions, they still remain unconverted, and he himself, a solitary one, a speckled bird amongst them, has to pursue his lonely flight to the skies. Far oftener, however, it happens that the God who is the God of Abraham becomes the God of Sarah, and then of Isaac, and then of Jacob, and though grace does not run in the blood, and regeneration is not of blood nor of birth, yet doth it very frequently – I was about to say almost always – happen that God, by means of one of a household, draws the rest to himself. He calls an individual, and then uses him to be a sort of spiritual decoy to bring the rest of the family into the gospel net.

To allure and encourage you to long for family religion, I have selected this text this morning. God grant it may answer the purpose designed. May many here have a spiritual hunger and thirst, that they may receive the blessing which so largely rested upon the Philippian jailer. Note in our text, five things:

1. A Whole Household Hearing the Word

Most likely the word of God sounded at midnight in the ears of the jailer and his household for the first time, and, on that remarkable occasion, they all heard it together. The father first, in his alarm, asked the question, “What must I do to be saved?” and received personally the answer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house;” and then it appears that all the family gathered around their parent, and the two holy men, while Paul and Silas spake unto him the word of the Lord, and also to all that were in his house. His wife, his children, his servants, all that were in his house, listened to the heavenly message.

Prisoner as he was, the Apostle Paul preached to them a free gospel, and a gospel of divine authority. He erred not from the truth in what he taught; he preached unto them the “word of God.” Would to God that all preachers would keep to the word of God, and, above all things, would exalt The Incarnate Word of God. This were infinitely better than to delude men’s minds with those “germs of thought,” those strikingly new ideas, those metaphysical subtleties, and speculations, and theories, and discoveries of science, falsely so called, which are nowadays so fashionable. If all ministers could preach the word, the revealed mind and will of God, then hearers would in larger numbers become converts; for God will bless His own word, but He will not bless anything else. The jailor’s household all heard God’s word faithfully declared, and there was the main cause of blessing, for, alas! with many hearers, the Sabbath is utterly wasted; for,

though they are attentive listeners, they are left without a blessing, because that which they hear is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. A Whole Household Believing

We know that the whole household believed, for we are told so in the 34th verse; “Believing in God with all his house:” – all, all, all were powerfully affected, savingly affected by the gospel which Paul preached to them. This household heard the gospel probably but once, certainly only once or twice, yet they believed, and here are some of us who have heard it from our youth up, and remain rebellious still.

Of this family it may be said that as they were new hearers, so they were most unlikely hearers. The Romans did not select for jailers the most tender-hearted of men. Frequently they were old legionaries who had seen service in bloody wars, and been inured to cruel fights. They were, then, most unpromising hearers. Yet how often are the most unlikely persons convinced of sin, and led to the Saviour. How true is it still of many who are most moral and excellent, and even outwardly religious, that “the publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom of heaven before them.”

Who are you, that you should say, “It is of no use to invite such a man to hear, for he would not be converted?” The more improbable it seems to be in your judgment, perhaps the more likely it is that God will look upon him with an eye of love. How happy a thing it was for the jailer that, in the providence of God, his hardened but probably honest spirit was brought under the influence of the earnest apostle. Bring others, like him, into the place of worship, for who can tell?

(… to be concluded)