And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31
Household – In an age which emphasizes personal salvation and individual belief, we have a hard time understanding Paul’s statement. We re-read this to mean that each one of the people in the jailer’s house had to come to a personal saving faith in Jesus Christ. We are so conditioned by the Greek mindset of the individual that we forget that Paul is a Hebrew, and that the Hebrew point of view is about community. It would be perfectly natural for Paul, as a Hebrew, to speak to the jailer and the “house of you” (oikos sou) as a single community. Salvation – yasha (rescue) – visited them all at once. What the head of the household accepts alters the identity of the entire household.
Before you throw up your hands and groan, remember how long we have been taught to think as separate individuals. Did you know that the current stress on personal relationship with Christ came into existence with D. L. Moody and Billy Graham? Yes, we find personal relationship language throughout the Scriptures, but it is almost always set in the context of community. I am not an island in the Hebrew world. My sins affect everyone in the community. My faith affects everyone in the community. We function together, intimately woven into a fabric of God’s own making. I do not exist apart from you, able to carry on my own agendas without interaction and intervention. The house of God is a single entity, not a collection of multiple individuals. So, Paul simply speaks as a Hebrew, telling the jailer that his actions affect all under his authority. We would do well to give some serious consideration to this point of view.
If there is anything that the church needs today, it is the living reality of community. Our lives are full of fragmented existence; a piece for work, a piece for family, another piece for our friends, our church and our social commitments. By the time we try to balance it all, we’re overwhelmed and exhausted. This is the direct result of living as independent individuals. But it doesn’t work. The truth is that we are fighting the design of the universe in our attempts to remove dependencies. Everything in creation depends on everything else – and we are no different. Until dependence reigns supreme in the church, it will never be a living community of the Spirit. It will only be a conglomeration of individuals. It’s time to think in terms of the household. What happens to one happens to all. That’s the Hebrew way.
My guess is that underneath all the separateness of our lives, we actually long for true community. We know that independence doesn’t work, but the systems of this world all seem to push us toward this destructive end. We want to belong, to be known, to be loved, but everywhere we go we find more separateness. How can the true church, the ekklesia, have anything to offer a fragmented world if it continues on its path toward individualism? That’s just what the world preaches (and much more effectively). How can I really know and love hundreds or thousands of people in a Sunday service? It’s self-defeating. God is the God of the household. Until we understand what that really means, we will be nothing more than islands in the stream.