30 ...Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
You may remember the story. Paul and Silas had been traveling and arrived in Philippi of Macedonia and caused some trouble by casting a demon out of a young woman. The problem? She was a slave and had been making her masters a great deal of money by fortune-telling. So Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison. That night there was a great earthquake which loosed the shackles that had bound them and opened the doors of the prison. The jailer was going to commit suicide but Paul called out to him that all prisoners were still present. After the jailer called for light and came in to the prison cell, he fell before Paul and asked the above question.
The response of Paul and Silas is one that can be confusing to some who look at this verse alone without looking at it within the context of every other passage involving the regeneration of the dead spirit in man. It was Paul who wrote passages like 1 Corinthians 2:14 that tell us a lost man can NOT understand anything from the Holy Spirit and he rejects it (truth). Nowhere in the Bible will you find an exception. Nowhere will you find it written that a lost man will occasionally accept it. The places in Holy Scripture where the Arminian may point out a lost man accepting the free gift of salvation is, in fact, a saved man whose spirit has been quickened by God and he is now responding to the work God had already accomplished.
Paul penned the statement of fact in Romans 8:8 that a lost man can NOT please God. This means he can NOT “accept” Christ or repent of his sin, he can NOT please God. Would not a lost man repenting be pleasing to God? NO! If God were pleased then it would make His words in Romans 8:8 a lie! Again, there is no exception to the truth of God’s word.
Paul wrote to Titus and Timothy telling them that we are NOT saved because of anything we have done (2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 3:5) - and believing or repenting IS something we do. True belief and repentance are gifts from God and are done AFTER God quickens the dead spirit in a man. A man with a dead spirit repenting or believing is working from the flesh and Jesus said the flesh counts for nothing (John 6:63). To be saved a man must be called by God and God does NOT call everyone to salvation (1 Corinthians 1:26).
Paul is not the only one who spoke about this. Jesus said that we believe because God did a work in us (John 6:29). We didn’t choose to believe because we came to a realization of the Truth! We believed because God gave us belief! (Philippians 1:29) Once God gives a man belief, he believes, period. He is not given a choice whether to believe or not. God not only gives a man the ability to believe, i.e. enabling him (John 6:65), He gives him belief.
Jesus spoke words of truth when He told the Pharisees that they don’t believe because they are children of the Devil (John 8:44), not of God. Because these Pharisees were not chosen, they had no hope of becoming children of God (Ephesians 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:13). A man is either a child of God or not. You aren’t conceived a child of the devil and then once you’re saved you become a child of God. Because God’s Elect are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), we were ALWAYS children of God. Yes, we’re lost and dead in our sins until we come to the point in our lives when God quickens our spirit but we were always His, we were never children of the Devil. And how do we become children of God? We become children of God NOT by human decision. (John 1:13)
Paul was simply telling the Philippian jailer to believe, KNOWING that if he didn’t believe it’s because God had not done a work in him and if he did believe, God HAD done a work in him and had given him belief (John 6:29; Philippians 1:29). It is no different with us. When we witness to someone or if a man who is lost goes to church and hears the Gospel preached - if he doesn’t believe it’s because God has not done a work in him and given him belief. So if a man walks out of church still lost after hearing God’s Word preached it’s because that’s exactly what God wants. (Isaiah 55:11)