SAVED FROM WHAT?
T. PIERCE BROWN
Yesterday as I was knocking on doors and studying the Bible with those who would, a man suggested that the Jailer of Acts 16 wanted to know what to do to be saved from the consequences of what had transpired. It was evident from his whole conversation that he was doing what a large number of persons do when they are faced with unanswerable arguments against their preconceived notions — he wanted to evade the issue of “What must I do to be saved?”
If he could have managed to get me to go into some lengthy discussion of the possibility of the question meaning “How can I be saved from a damaged reputation?” or “How can I be saved from the wrath of my superiors?” it would have suited his purposes perfectly.
For a person who is honestly sincere in raising the question of what the jailer meant, I have no objection to discussing, and think I could show with a reasonable degree of certainty that he did not need to be concerned with the consequences of the situation, for he could not be charged with causing the earthquake, nor with letting his prisoners escape, for they were all there. His reputation was in no danger, for he could show that in the face of great difficulty, he had done his duty.
But now, I want to suggest what I consider an important principle in dealing with many such things. If I had spent an hour convincing him that the question REALLY was dealing with “What must I do to be saved from my sins?” we probably would not have taken time to adequately discuss the answer, which is what really counts. So I just applied what I call “spiritual jujitsu” to him. I yielded his point, in theory, and said, “I think I can prove it was not what he was talking about, but let us assume it was. With what question did Paul deal? Regardless of what the jailer meant, was Paul talking about how to be saved from the wrath of a superior officer?” And then we got back at once to the question at hand and the complete answer to it.
The principle we wish to emphasize for those who try to study with others is: Try to make sure you do not get sidetracked by trivial or irrelevant matters, but stick to the things that make a difference. For example, when an unsaved person raises a question about what happened at the division of the Red Sea, or whether or not the whale could swallow Jonah, or vice versa, I try to follow the principle Paul applied in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Even if I convinced him that Jonah could have swallowed the whale if the Bible said so, he is still lost until I get him to Christ.
So I say something like this to him, “I will be happy to discuss that with you, but there is even a greater miracle than that recorded in the Bible that I want do discuss with you first. If you are convinced that IT happened and then want to discuss this one, I will do so.” By the time we have finished the story of the resurrection of Christ, he has either accepted or rejected that. If he accepts THAT, he will have no problem with Jonah, for Jesus confirmed that story in Matthew 12:40. If he rejects, it is wasting time to even discuss the story of Jonah, or any other, for one can get more proof of the resurrection of Christ than he can that Napoleon fought the battle of Waterloo, and if one is not willing to accept overwhelming historical evidence, no discussion of that are any other subject is of any value anyway.
My judgment is that we have often allowed others to get us involved in endless disputes about “questions which do gender strife” (1 Tim. 6:4l; Tit. 3:9; 2 Tim.2:23). Any such question, the answer of which (even if we could prove it) would not bring them one step closer to Christ, should be disregarded.