The Missing Words of Acts 16:31

Ever since I was old enough to be paying attention, I heard over and over in many Christian contexts that you get saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 16:31 was always quoted, “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”

This is certainly true, there is no other way to be saved than by grace through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

But as I got older and began to read the Bible, I noticed that I was never told the whole verse. There are words missing from the version I heard over and over. And, no, it’s not because the King James is outdated, it’s in the King James, and it’s not a Greek textual difference either, it’s even in the Greek.

The full verse says, “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

The last three words get dropped routinely. I believe the main reason for this is that it draws up a context that will need to be explained, taking away the focus of getting our person saved that we just partially quoted our verse to.

No one wants to go through the details of who apostles were, why they were in prison, how an earthquake came and released the prisoners, how the prison guard wanted to kill himself, etc. I mean, just bring up the first two points and anyone you’ve been talking to has all sorts of questions and the Gospel presentation will be thwarted.

So, we drop the last three words to keep on point. Perhaps a smaller issue is that we don’t want to bother to explain to a person that even if you believe, your whole family still might not be. “But it says. . .” Yes, yes. Yes I know, but hey, how about that weather?”

So, as all Christians know, when you come across a particular passage of Scripture that is hard to explain or deal with, it is best to ignore it and perhaps it will go away.

It’s cold out and it has been snowing.

3 thoughts on “The Missing Words of Acts 16:31”

  1. I agree with this. We all do this and it should make us nervous.

    So, do you think those three words applied solely to the jailer and his family in that one context? Do you think that the jailer’s faith was sufficient to save his household, as the verse seems to suggest at face value? Or, as it a prophetic utterance indicating that, though perhaps they had not yet done so, the jailer’s family would also come to a saving faith as a result of his?

    Or, do you think that those three words have a more universally applicable context, as we believe the first part of the statement does? If so, how do we apply those three important words to our lives?

  2. No, no, no, you seem to have missed the point. These words should just be ignored, not thought about.

    In all honesty, I believe these were uttered prophetically in light of the jailer’s household. The events surrounding these words have a big part to do with the words themselves. If you came home from work and told your family about these events happening to you, how you were going to kill yourself and were literally scared to death, but that these guys and their God were responsible for it all and are here to talk to us, I think your household would wake up quick. Verse 34 indeed records that his whole house was saved, just as Paul said it would be.

    Another aspect of this is that verse 32 says the apostles went and spoke the word of the Lord to the household, it wasn’t just that this guy got saved and through him his family was. The apostles went to their house. I can’t imagine what risks this guy took to take prisoners to his house! Roman government would not look favorably on such things I’m guessing.

    I honestly believe the verse was spoken into a very limited context and I think it’s unfortunate we have grabbed on to a part of the verse and applied it universally, again though, not that people aren’t saved by faith, they are, I just wish we would use verses where you could use the whole thing to maintain integrity.

  3. If my memory serves me right, over the years I believe that I have heard people claim these words as a promise of salvation for their family. However in the last couple of years I read a comment from a well known Bible teacher who said that this was the wrong use of the verse and it must be read in context (i.e. the promise was just for the jailer). That was the first time I had heard the verse interpreted like that and I’m inclined to say I think I agree with that view now.

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