Claiming Your Family For Christ
by —Theodore H Epp
The jailer was about to take his own life when Paul called out to him: “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (v. 28). The jailer recognized that what had happened was of God, and he asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” (v. 30). The answer that Paul and Silas gave him is one of the most significant statements of the Bible: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house: (v. 31).
Here is God’s great promise of salvation for an individual and his family. Hours of worry and anxiety could have been spared many a Christian father or mother if he or she had recognized this precious promise and appropriated it by faith. The salvation of a believer’s family is a precious truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures.
Proverbs 11:21 says, “The seed of the righteous shall be delivered.” Delivered from what? Delivered from hell; delivered from the grip of the Devil; delivered from all that is opposed to our blessed Lord and Saviour. This promise is all inclusive. God, in His grace, has presented the believer with a check, to be drawn on God’s own account, and the believer may fill it in according to the need.
What About Personal Faith?
Does the individual himself need to exercise faith to be saved? Yes, definitely. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith But you may ask, “If Paul said that the jailer’s faith would bring salvation to his family and household, how does that correspond with the fact that each individual himself must have faith to be saved?”
The answer lies in the fact that the same faith which made it possible for the individual to be saved from condemnation WILL ALSO BRING HIS FAMILY TO THE PLACE WEHRE THEY WILL PERSONALLY TRUST CHRIST FOR SALVATION.
But suppose they do not believe? Then that could be the fault of the believer’s lack of faith, for God has indicated that when one believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, his family will eventually be saved.
Have you accepted the first part of the promise—“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”? You cannot claim the second part—“and thy house”—until you have claimed the first part. If you have claimed the first part but do not believe the second part of Paul’s statement to the jailer, then you lack faith to accept all that God’s Word ways.
If you believe in Christ as your Saviour, you will be saved. And, according to Paul’s statement to the jailer, if you believe in Christ as your Saviour, your family will eventually turn to Christ for salvation. Just as surely as you have eternal life, you can be sure that your family will be brought to the same realization.
This, of course, includes that fact that one’s family must be exposed to the gospel so God can bring everlasting salvation to them as a result of the believer’s faith. That the gospel is to be given to the family for them to trust Christ is evident from Acts 16:32, which says that Paul and Silas spoke the Word of the Lord to all who were in the jailer’s house.
The Bible says, “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children” (Ps. 103:17).
The fact that a parent looks to God for the soul of his child does not keep the matter of salvation from being a personal act of faith, and by no means does it pave the way for an easy-going Christian experience. It ensures the dealings of God with your child on behalf of your faith, for salvation is of the Lord.
This is not saying that there is some kind of a covenant relationship, as is taught by some groups. Some think that when a child is born in a Christian home, he is in a covenant relationship in God’s family, and the parents go through a ceremony to indicate this. I do not believe that this is taught by the Scriptures, and this is not what I am emphasizing. I am emphasizing only that when a person receives Christ as Saviour, he can, by faith, claim the salvation of his entire family for God. As the individual has faith in God concerning this matter and the family is exposed to the gospel, they will eventually trust Jesus Christ as personal Saviour.
Noah and His Family.
God told Noah, “Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (Gen. 7:1).
Dr. Harry Ironside says about this passage: “It is the desire of God to save the household of His people. Noah’s family found a place in the ark because of their father’s acceptance of God, yet on their part there had to be obedience to the divine call. Invited by God, they entered the place of safety and so were saved, through the water, from the judgment that overwhelmed the world of the ungodly.”
While Noah believed God for the salvation of his whole household, he made preparation for all of them. In response to Noah’s faith, God was able to procure obedience through faith on the part of the family, and they, too, entered the ark.
Rahab and Her Family
When Joshua sent spies into Jericho, they were protected by Rahab (Josh.2). Before the spies left, Rahab asked them to spare her and her household when the Israelites came to take the city. The promise was made that she and her household would be spared, which was done precisely as promised, for the believed and they then also believed and gathered with her in the place prescribed by the spies (2:12-21; 6:25).
Abraham and World Blessing
Abraham’s faith is possibly the most outstanding illustration for individual faith that brought blessing to both a blood-related family and also to a spiritually related family. Abraham was called out from the country and home to follow the Lord. Genesis 12:1 tells of Abraham’s call, and verse 2 and 3 record the promise of blessing God gave to him.
Because of this one man’s faith, blessing has come on the whole human family. Each member of Abraham’s family had to be brought to individual saving faith, unconditional promises were made that included the whole world as recipients for the blessings for God. This incident involving Abraham’s life reveals that God is able to benefit future generations by the faith of a single individual. Because of Abraham’s faith, believers today enjoy the blessings of the gospel of the grace of God.
Joshua and His Family
An incident from the closing days of Joshua’s life serves as an outstanding example of how one man, by faith, is able to claim something for his family. In his final challenge to Israel, after he had enumerated the wonderful blessings of God, Joshua said, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).
Joshua spoke firmly in behalf of his whole family. Did he speak prematurely? Between the time of his making the statement and the death of his family could not some in his family fail to trust God for salvation?
Joshua did not place his confidence in his own children but in the promise of God; he believed that God would honor his faith and bring each member of his family to salvation. Of course, Joshua would have been faithful in exposing his family to the truth of God so each member could make a personal response of faith.
David and His family
The promise that God made to David included more than salvation; nevertheless, it is a promise based on God’s promise of household blessing. God had previously promised Abraham that he would establish an everlasting covenant with him. Then David, believing God, received the promise from God that his throne should be established forever (II Sam. 7:13). That promise is yet to be fulfilled at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will sit on the throne of David.
There was also a New Testament illustration of God’s principle of working with the family. It involved Cornelius, who believed that not only he himself would be saved but also his whole household. The result of the faith of Cornelius is clearly stated in Acts 10.
Faith Versus Worry
Many a mother who has prayed for the salvation of her children worries as she sees them go astray. Her prayer is not a prayer of faith based on the promise of God. It may be that she is ignorant of the promise of God that her faith will save not only herself but also bring her family to saving faith. Worry and faith do not go together. Whether there is faith, there is no worry; where there is worry, there is no faith.
A promise which has helped many people is found in Philippians 4:6, 7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” If prayer is accompanied by faith, there can definitely be thanksgiving. True faith will bring such peace to a believer’s heart that he can cease from worrying and give thanks to God for the accomplishment of faith right there and then.
As we consider family salvation, it does not necessarily mean that the family will come to know Jesus Christ as Saviour before the death of the parents. Such was the case with John. He was a straying child, but when his mother died, she had claimed salvation for all of her children. She said her faith was based on God’s promise that salvation would extend not only t her but also to her household. Five years after her death, John rose in a meeting to say he had been brought to the Lord in answer to the prayer of his mother. First Corinthians 7:14 says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.”
In this verse, the words translated “sanctified” and “holy” are derived from the same root word meaning “set apart.” The unbelieving partner is not saved by living in the same house with a believing partner. However, he is set apart in an atmosphere where he can see the Word of God being living out daily by his believing partner. So also, the children of Christian parents—or even of one Christian parent—are not Christians just because their parents are. But the children are set apart in such a family, for they are under the direct influence of the gospel. In such a setting, the Holy Spirit can use the Word and the prayers of the parent or parents to bring the children to see the need of trusting Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Taking courage. You may be the only one of your family who is saved but God’s promise holds true. You may not see the results in your lifetime, but you can rejoice, by faith, in the salvation of your household. Pray, trust God, and He will bring it to pass. CL