(This is an edited version of a children’s talk on the conversion of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16 at the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge)
Imagine the jailer before he believed in the Lord Jesus.
He looked a bit weedy in the picture story but in real life he would have looked pretty frightening – you had to be tough to be in charge of jail in those days so he would have been a big muscly man with some mean tattoos.
He worshipped the Greek and Roman gods, many gods, made-up gods who were always fighting each other – he didn’t worship the one true God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who made the world and us and who is in charge of the world.
The Apostle Paul and his fellow Christian worker Silas had arrived in Philippi in Greece and they had started telling people about the Lord Jesus, the fact that everybody needs to believe in God’s one and only Son, the Lord Jesus, who died and rose again so that sinful people can be forgiven and saved by God for ever.
Because some powerful people in Philippi did not like that message, Paul and Silas were beaten up and thrown in jail, and the jailer was in charge of them. The jailer heard them praying and singing hymns to God while in jail and all the other prisoners were listening to these men who just been beaten up but were now praising God and the Lord Jesus.
About midnight there was an earthquake and the doors of the jail flew open. Now the jailer when he saw the doors open was about to kill himself, because he thought all his prisoners had escaped. He knew he would be in massive trouble with the men in charge of the city for letting prisoners escape. In fact, he would be put to death, so he thought he may as well do it himself before anybody else did.
But what did Paul say to the jailer? ‘You’re a nasty piece of work. Go ahead.’ What did he say? ‘Don’t worry, we’re all here. Do not harm yourself.’
Then the jailer fell down before Paul and Silas and said: ‘What must I do to be saved?’
And they said: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your family.’
What happened to jailer and his family then? The font is the clue. After Paul and Silas had taught them the message at more length, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ because they had become Christians.
So, God changed this tough, wrong-god-worshipping Philippian jailer and his family.
Through the loving message of salvation Paul and Silas told him, God changed this man and turned him into a real Christian. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved from everlasting punishment – that was the message that changed this man for ever.
We should note that this is a command from God with a promise from God – believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. You will be safe from the punishment God is bringing on the world for all the bad things people do.
A command from God with a promise from God and we should also note that it is a command to believe to trust in the Saviour God has sent, God’s one and only Son, the Lord Jesus.
God did not say the man: ‘Try and make yourself a better person. Go and join the St John’s Ambulance or start collecting for Oxfam or start helping out with meals on wheels.’ God told the man to put his trust in someone other than himself, to put his trust in the Lord Jesus, for the forgiveness that he needed for all the wrong things that he had done.
And once he had put his trust in Jesus he became a better person. He looked after Paul and Silas, he washed the wounds they had got from the beatings they had had and he gave them a nice meal in his home.
‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.’ That’s God’s message to us and to the world. That’s the message we need to be believing ourselves for the salvation we need and it’s the message people around us who don’t yet believe in the Lord Jesus need to take on board if they are to be saved.