Q: Can you explain what Acts 16:30-31 really means? I have been told that if one believes on the Lord Jesus Christ that not only will the person be saved, but their household as well. I have claimed this promise for my unbelieving family for years, but the problem is I remain the only believer. Right now I am confused and frustrated about this part of Scripture.
A: When I was first saved, I was given this Scripture as an encouragement that now the unbelieving members of my household would be saved as well. It is true that because of my salvation experience, I was able to share the Gospel with my family, but not all received Jesus as Lord and Savior. There was even one who accepted Christ, but went back to the world. At the time, I was reminded of the four soils that represent the four heart conditions found in the parable of the sower and the seed in Matthew 13:3-23.
People’s heart conditions vary. Some have hard hearts (unreceptive), some hearts are stony (full of self), some are worldly (divided), and some are open to receive the seed of the Gospel. Those who are hard must experience brokenness before they can receive, while those with a stony heart must have their hearts ploughed up by truth before the seeds can take root, and those who are worldly must become lean in their soul and desperate in their spirits before they will be separated from the claim of the world upon them to effectively confront the influence of it in their lives.
It is clear that not everyone will receive the Gospel in the right way when they first hear it. However, that does not mean that such individuals are hopeless. If the seeds of the Word have been cast among families, friends, and acquaintances, we have the promise that they will not return void (Ecclesiastes 11:1; Isaiah 55:11). The key is the seed must be cast out on the ground of people’s hearts through proclaiming, preaching, and example before they can take root and produce life.
The other part of the equation is that the hardest people to witness to are family members. Jesus stated that a prophet is not accepted in his own country. The problem is our family remembers us before our conversion and often wants to hold to their same opinions and attitudes towards us. It is for this reason that Jesus speaks of the fact that He does not bring peace to families, but a sword (truth) that will often divide family members (Luke 4:24; Matthew 10:34-37). I have personally experienced this division and in such cases I asked the Lord to send in others to cultivate the seeds that have been left behind.
Regardless of unreceptive or angry reactions of family members, I know that saving people is God’s work and that the Gospel is the power of God onto salvation (Romans 1:16). Meanwhile, I am very thankful for those of my family who were drawn by the Father, heard the glorious invitation of Christ, and upon receiving the gift of eternal life into their hearts were sealed by His Holy Spirit to the eternal inheritance of our redemption.
I have realized that my salvation broke the dark cycle of delusion and oppression in some members of my family, but it is not a sure thing that others will be receptive. After all, they have their own will and form of light that they walk according to. In some cases, some will stay where they are at regardless of being on a sinking ship, while others are convinced that they possess the light and have no need of Jesus.
In order to put Acts 16:30-31 into perspective, we must ask ourselves if this is a promise of God or a prophetic response from the Apostle Paul. The salvation of our family is a great possibility because of who God is and what He is able to do, but is this text a promise we can cling to and try to hold God to?
People have their free wills. Some refuse to believe and receive the provision of salvation even though it is God’s will that all come to repentance. If a person refuses to turn and receive God’s gift by faith, Jesus is clear that the individual will perish in their sins (2 Peter 3:9; Luke 13:3, 5).
I believe that this Scripture is prophetic. The Apostle Paul was giving a word of knowledge that, not only would this jailer be saved upon believing, but so would his family. Whether this text is prophetic or not, we must note that it is a passage that can indeed instill great hope in us where unsaved family members are concerned. It serves as a shining example of what God can do once His Gospel makes inroads into people’s hearts and lives. We can stand on the fact that God is Almighty and nothing is impossible to Him. We can believe He knows how to save those who are open, challenge those who are hard, stir up those who are selfish, and cause leanness to come to souls that are complacent. We can always believe and pray knowing God is able.
My parting advice is not to give up on God when it comes to unsaved family members. God is never done with any of us until we take our last breath.