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Acts 16:22-34

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION IN THE WORLD

Intro: There are several important questions swirling around in our world today. NASA is asking, "What happed to the space shuttle Columbia?" Americans are asking, "When will the economy pick back up?" The United Nations is asking, "What should we do about Saddam Hussein and the situation in Iraq?" The whole world is asking, "What will be the results of a war in the Middle East?" Everyone is asking questions it seems, but it also seems that no one is asking the most important question of all.

In our text today, a sin-hardened, pagan jailer asks the most important question that has ever been uttered in the history of the world. He asks, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" If you look at these verses, you will see that there are some other great questions that this jailer might have asked. He might have asked, "How did the doors of the prison get opened?" Or, "Why haven't all my prisoners escaped?" Instead, he asks a question that gets to the heart of his problem as an individual and to the heart of the problem for every person in the entire human race. He asks, "What must I do to be saved?"

Today, I would like for us to examine that question for a few minutes. As we do, I am going to ask each of you to ask that question within your own heart. For a few minutes this morning, stop asking questions about all the things that are happening in your life, and ask yourself the most important question in the world, "What must I do to be saved?"

This passage not only poses the question, it also provides the answers. Let me share them with you today. I want to preach for a while on The Most Important Question In The World.

I. THE REASON FOR THIS QUESTION

A. It Was Provoked By Fear - Ill. The Context. This jailer thought that he was going to die. Under Roman law, that is just what would have happened to him had he lost his prisoners. It was the fear of his own punishment and death that drove him to the feet of the Apostle Paul that night in Philippi. (Note: Every person who gets saved comes to Jesus by faith. However, the road that leads them to Him may be different for all! Ill. Lydia, Acts 16:14-16 and the Jailer - Acts 16:22-34. Some people come to Jesus to escape Hell and the wrath of God. Others come because they are moved by the cross. Thank God for whatever He uses in your life to "awaken you" and to bring you to Jesus!)

B. It Was Provoked By Faith - Ill. It is interesting to note that this jailer did not take the time to secure the prison or the prisoners. His first thought was for his own salvation. Many have read this and thought that he is just trying to save his skin. I think he was interested in saving his soul. You see, as he lay down in his bed that night to sleep, there were to men in that prison who were engaged in worship. As they sang about Jesus and, no doubt, shared the promises of Christ from the Word of God, this man heard them. His heart was pricked and he experienced a "spiritual" awakening as well as a physical one. He had probably never given God a moment's thought before that night, but what he saw and what he heard were used of the Lord to open his spiritual eyes. (Note: That is how salvation beings for every person in the world. They are dead to God and to all He represents, Eph. 2:1. Then, through the awakening ministry of the Holy Spirit, John 16:8, the sinner is made to understand his sins, his future in hell and the gift of God in Christ Jesus. This is called conviction, John 6:44, and it is a blessed gift of God!)

(Note: God used both the physical and the spiritual to open this man's heart to the truth of his need. Whatever it takes in any life to do this is a price worth paying!)

II. THE RESPONSE TO THIS QUESTION

A. It Mentioned A Person - Paul points the jailer to the "Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus is lifted up as the sinner's only hope for salvation. This is what the Bible teaches, Acts 4:12; John 14:6. I know that we live in a society that seeks to find the good in all religions. And, there are aspects to all the religions of the world that make them appealing to certain people. I also know that there are good people in all religions. I also concede that all religions produce "good" things after the flesh. However, I also know that the only way any person, anywhere can ever be saved is by receiving Jesus Christ as his Savior! It may sound narrow-minded and exclusive to men, but that is just what the Word of God teaches! (Note: Just as a reminder, Jesus is the One Who left heaven to be born in human flesh, John 1:1, 14. He is the same One Who lived a perfect, sinless life while here, 1 Pet. 2:22. He is the One Who died for you on the cross, Rom. 5:8; Rev. 1:5. He is the One Who arose from the dead on the third day, Matt. 28:1-6. He is the One Who ascended back to Heaven and now sits on the right hand of God, Heb. 10:12. It is His blood alone that saves, 1 Pet. 1:18-19. And it is He Who will return someday to retrieve His people and judge the world, Rev. 22:12. You can try any method you please, but only Jesus Christ can save your soul!)

B. It Mentioned A Plan - The jailer is told to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." That is, he is to place his faith in Christ and His work alone for salvation. At this point, the jailer surely does not all about the message of the Gospel, but the basis for salvation, "faith in Jesus", has been established. (Note: This is where so many people miss salvation. They cannot grasp the fact that people are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Ill. Once, a missionary in Africa was attempting to translate the Gospel of John into the language of the natives. He became stuck on the word "believeth" in John 3:16. For weeks he tried to find a suitable word in the native tongue to translate that all important word. Then one day a young native man came running down the path that led to the missionary's house. He came up on the missionary's porch, out of breath and flopped himself down in a chair and said, in the native tongue, "It feels good to cast my whole weight upon this chair!" The missionary knew that he had found his word. Faith in Jesus means to "cast your whole weight upon Him.") (Ill. A man who lives in a second floor apartment keeps a rope ladder in his room in case there is a fire. He believes that the rope ladder is strong enough to support his weight and that the wooden rungs will allow him to reach the ground safely. He believes that in his head, but it is not until he actually throws that rope ladder out of the window and commits his whole weight to it that he will know for sure that it can support him. So it is with many people! They have an intellectual understanding of the truth and they believe it in their heads, but they never fully trust it by faith. Listen, if you are trusting Jesus plus anything else, you simply are not saved! He must be trusted exclusively!)

C. It Mentioned A Promise - "thou shalt be saved" - (Ill. The word "saved" is a glorious word! It means "to be rescued from all harm and danger, to keep safe and sound." I like being saved!) The promise is clear: believe on Jesus and you will be saved! That promise is still good today! No one who has trusted Jesus need ever fear being cast in to Hell. If your faith is in Him, you have His word on your security, John 6:37-40; John 10:28. However, you need to be sure that you are in Him! (Note: Are you sure that you are saved today?)

III. THE RESULTS OF THIS QUESTION

A. It Led To Salvation By The Lord - Verse 34 tells us that after he heard the Gospel, v. 32, he believed and was saved. Remember, that's how it works! You see, there is a difference between historical faith and saving faith. Historical faith believes the facts of the Bible, saving faith embraces the Christ of the Bible. (Ill. Think of it this way, when you are out driving and come to a bridge across a river, you just cross it. You don't know who build it, when it was built, what the weight limit is, what kinds or grade of materials were used in its construction or whether it will hold you up or not. You just go on across that bridge with all the faith in the world. But, when it comes to your soul, you will trust everything to save you but the one thing God said would do the job. Why is that? Every plan of salvation in the world has been tried and all have failed! The only one that works if salvation through grace by faith, Eph. 2:8-9. Have you trusted Jesus and Him alone for your soul's salvation?)

B. It Led To Service To The Lord - As soon as this man gets saved, a change becomes evident in his life. In verse 24, he dealt harshly with Paul and Silas. The word "thrust" means "to throw or cast a thing without caring about where it falls." Yet, in verses 33-34, he is seen washing their stripes, and feeding them from his own table. He is a new creature and He demonstrates this by being baptized and by serving the men of God. This is the experience fo every person who comes to Jesus by faith! They are forever changed by His power, 2 Cor. 5:17! There will a new desire to live for God and to be a vessel in His hand for His glory, Eph. 2:10; James 2:18. (Note: Have you been changed?)

C. It Led To Satisfaction In The Lord - The Bible says that this man "rejoiced". He is filled with happiness and praise to the Lord. I can hear him at the dinner table, "Paul, when I heard you and Silas singing at midnight, I thought you boys had lost your minds. Now, I know Who you were singing about!" Meeting Jesus makes all the difference in life! He transforms the dead into the living, the lost into the found, the miserable into the joyful, and the sinner into the saint. He fills the hearts of His children with peace, joy and permanent satisfaction! (Note: Do you know what I am talking about? Has Jesus lifted the curtain of gloom from your soul and given you His perfect, profound joy? There will be no doubt if He has!)

Conc: What is the main question that has your attention today? Are questions of war, the economy and the troubles of the world bringing you fear and confusion today? Let me encourage you to ask yourself the most important question of all, "What must I do to be saved?" Friend, how do you answer that question today? Eternity hinges on your answer!



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