Household Salvation

Q – Hi pastor Jim.

I am (name) from India. I thank God for your site which is helpful to me. I want to know about the salvation in the household. As it is said in the bible that if you are saved your whole household will be saved. I got saved 2 years back but my family members are not saved. They got separated from me. Though I stay with them, no one speaks to me. I really wonder at times about their salvation.

Please tell me about household salvation.

Jim – Hello my distant brother,

My heart goes out to you in your struggle with your family. But, let me answer your questions as directly and biblically as I possibly can.

The notion of “household salvation” stems from a couple of passages in the 16th chapter of the book of Acts, which say that entire households embraced the Christian faith and were baptized.

Particularly, we read of the household of Lydia and of the Philippian jailer. Here are those two passages:

“And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” (Acts 16:14-15)

“And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” (Acts 16:27-34)

Now, let’s think about what those two passages do and do not say. Luke (the author of Acts) was specific to tell us that God opened Lydia’s heart so that she attended to the things that Paul taught. Consequently, she was baptized. Her household was also baptized. So, we have to conclude that God also opened their hearts to believe Paul’s gospel.

In the same way, God miraculously produced an earthquake to open the prison doors, despite the fact that Paul and his companions did not attempt to escape. That led to the jailer asking Paul what he would have to do to be saved and Paul preached Christ to him. Consequently, the jailer took Paul and his troop to his house, cleaned them up, and Paul apparently taught the household, leading to their baptism.

In each of these instances, we must conclude that it was God who orchestrated the events which led to the conversion of each individual in the household. But, the question we must answer is: Is this always the case? Does one believing person in a household guarantee the conversion and salvation of an entire household.

I would answer that this is not always the case and that the Bible gives us plenty of contrary passages leading us to our conclusion.

For instance, when Jesus spoke of the conflict that would arise as a direct result of faith in Him, he said —

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” (Matt 10:34-38)

Clearly, it was not Christ’s expectation that every believer would secure his entire household. Rather, a man’s household may ultimately become his enemies because of his faith in Christ. And we certainly see examples of this outcome to this very day.

Likewise, the apostle Paul wrote of married couples who would contend, or even separate, because one partner embraced Christ —

“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (1 Cor. 7:10-16)

Certainly, if “household salvation” were universally true, then this warning from Jesus and the instructions from Paul are meaningless and useless. Rather, both the Scripture and the consistent testimony of 2,000 years of Christianity is that God elects individuals and brings them to faith in His Son. But, God is under no obligation to save relatives and family members of those individuals He chose.

The Christian faith can be a hard road. To continue in the faith, even in the face of danger and being ostracized by loved one, requires a God-given strength that only the Holy Spirit can maintain. But, I also know that every true Christian would also testify that faith in Christ is worth the pain and struggles we encounter in this world.

I am convinced, as was the Apostle Paul, that the trials of this life are nothing when compared to the glory that shall be found in us when Christ appears. And I pray that His appearance is soon.

My friend, I can only imagine the pain that you endure for the sake of Christ. I can feel the anguish that you have over your lost loved ones. And I wish that I could assure you Scripturally that your household was safe as a result of your faith. But, the electing grace of God works in accordance with His will and good pleasure. And none of us can direct His hand.

However, the same grace that overwhelmed you is sufficient for every sinner. So, I would continue praying fervently that God will move on your family’s heart, just as He moved on Lydia’s. And we will join you in that prayer. Our God reigns. He is merciful. And He is gracious.

Yours for His sake,

Jim Mc.