25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer  called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:25-34 (ESV)
“And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” The conversion of the jailer is a beloved story, but as it goes with beloved stories, is not often given the attention it deserves. This story is told in a way that emphasizes the incredible link between baptism and faith, faith and baptism. It is one that stresses the importance of baptism. Again, you have a jailer who has his whole household baptized, and immediately. There is an urgency to the whole thing. It isn’t something he wants to put off and mull over. Instead he wakes up his whole household in the middle of the night, and has them all baptized, wife, slaves, children, all of them.
But let’s rehash this story a bit. Paul and Silas are in prison, in stocks, bound hand and foot, sore from their wounds. As exhausted as they must be they are having trouble sleeping in the uncomfortable position, so the begin to sing hymns and pray to God. The prisoners are all listening, intently. The prisoners themselves are being converted. And this to the point that when a particularly heavy earthquake hits, in this region famous for earthquakes, and all the bonds are broken, and the door swung open, the prisoners would rather sit and listen to Paul than make an escape. When the jailer checks on the prison and sees that it has been breached he is sure everyone has escaped. The only honorable thing to do would be for him to kill himself, rather than let the magistrates do it for him. It had to have been quite the turn in emotions when Paul lets him know they are all still there. Obviously, the jailer is going to ask questions and want to know why. He now owes his life to Paul’s preaching. He is indebted to it. So he takes Paul home with him to have him preach to his family.
Now the jailer wants to know what needs to be done in order for him to be saved. Paul says you have to believe, and so the man is baptized, and afterwards the family rejoices that he has believed. So intimate is the relationship between the two that you really can’t have one without the other. A person who refuses to be baptized or doesn’t want to be baptized should not fool themselves into thinking that they believe in Jesus. Jesus attaches the gift of faith to baptism, he attaches salvation to baptism, and one who believes in Jesus, will believe Jesus when he does this. This isn’t to say that one could not be saved without baptism if for some reason they heard a sermon and came to faith but had not yet a chance to be baptized. And it is still possible to have been baptized and reject the faith and salvation that comes with baptism and not be saved. Yet, if you believe you will be baptized. And parents don’t have to question whether or not this child believes, they can rest in that the Holy Spirit brings faith with him in baptism. Jesus himself is pretty adamant that the little ones believe in him. Teaching them to reject baptism is not good, it is in fact a sin worthy of a millstone. But teach them to trust the words of Jesus and you give them a gift to be cherished for all eternity, because then you raise them in the joy of salvation. It is one thing I know I thank my parents for. Evangelism, it starts at home, baptize your kids.