“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”Acts 16:30–31 (NLT)
“But Jesus is in my stomach!” That was how our two-year-old daughter responded when my wife lovingly tried to explain Jesus would watch over her as she slept that night. If Jesus lives inside of her—right next to the fruit snacks in her belly, apparently—how could He watch over her at the same time? It was all a little too much for this toddler to comprehend.
I chuckle when I think about this story, and I credit my pre-K’er for grasping a simple yet profound truth. Jesus wants to be more than a historical figure we read about. He wants to be real to us, to relate to us, to live in us.
So how does one receive salvation? Acts 16 records the story of Paul and Silas in prison. In my holy imagination, I can see them singing while incarcerated. God starts tapping his feet to the hip-hop beat and simultaneously creates an earthquake. Because of this incredible experience, the jailer in charge of the prison asked Paul and Silas a question. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30, NLT). Their response was simple and clear: “Believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31, NLT).
That’s it. Five words. There’s no special clause demanding he stop doing all the bad stuff and start doing all the good stuff. These early saints simply taught if you want to receive the free gift of salvation, all you have to do is believe in the Lord Jesus. The truth is these five words are transformative. You see, to believe means we place our trust in the finished work of Christ. He died on a cross to pay for our sins (the actions and attitudes that don’t meet God’s standard) so we could receive forgiveness and experience eternal, abundant life.
Additionally, their reply includes Jesus’ title: Lord. Why is this important? Because lordship communicates there is a new master, ruler, or leader. Lordship declares, “I’m no longer in charge, I surrender.” Paul even echoes this in Romans 10:9 (NIV) where he writes, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Therefore, the jailer understood that salvation means both reception and surrender.
Think of it like this: Imagine you’re about to receive a large gift from God. In order to receive it, you stand up and raise your hands to grasp it. From the front, it looks like you are receiving an immense present. From the back, it appears you are in a posture of surrender. This is salvation. It’s you and me believing in Jesus, surrendering our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and receiving His forgiveness, friendship, and future.