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Pointers along the way #511

Family to be saved
- Jacob Ninan

Can our faith save our family members? Many people think it will. They quote Paul telling the Philippian jailor, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Ac.16:30,31), to prove their claim. Some people refer to Jesus healing the paralytic seeing the faith of his friends who brought him (Mt.9:2). Some who overemphasize election and predestination assume that if they are elected, their children also will be. The chances are that they will take the salvation of their children for granted, and not take much pains to pray for them, instruct them in the right way or correct them if they go astray. What if this happens in a church? It is a serious mistake.

Ezekiel 18 makes it absolutely clear that neither will a child be punished for his parents' sins nor will he be saved just because of his parents' faith. I suggest that you go through that portion of scripture to dispel all doubts in the areas of salvation of children, generational curses, punishment for the parents' sins, etc. God is a righteous God. He will count every man or woman responsible for their own life (v.20). Each of us will have to give an account of ourselves to God (Ro.14:12). When God asked Adam for his account he tried to divert God's attention to Eve's account, and so on. But this doesn't work. We can't blame anyone else or our circumstances for the life we lead. Nor can we assume that if our family has been 'Christian' for many generations, our parents were godly people, or we go to the 'best church in the world' that it would add any virtue to us in God's consideration. On the contrary, these may make us more responsible to God because he who has been given much, from him much will be required (Lk.12:48).

What then did Paul mean when he told the jailer that his family would be saved? To understand this we must recognise the fact that when the Bible quotes words from people those words may not always convey the full doctrinal declaration of the speaker, but only what they said in a certain context. In such cases it is wrong to attribute divine authority for every word they spoke. Check with the other words in the Bible. In this case, what I understand Paul is saying is that the way to be saved is to believe in (to put our trust in, rely on) the Lord Jesus, and it is the same for us as well as our family. Especially in view of Ez.18, we cannot interpret this verse to mean that if we believe, our family also will be saved automatically.

When Jesus saw faith in the case of the paralytic, we can't be sure from the context if 'they' included the paralytic also or only those who carried him. But if we bring in Ez.18, we can see immediately that for the paralytic's sins to be forgiven, he himself had to believe. We cannot be saved by someone else's faith nor punished for another's sins.


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