29. And calling for a light he sprang in, and, trembling, he fell down at the feet of Paul and Silas.30. And when he had brought them forth, he saith, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31. And they said, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy household.32. And they spake to him the word, and to all that were in his house.33. And taking them at the same hour of the night, he washed their stripes; and was himself baptized, and all his household, forthwith.34. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them; and he rejoiced that he and all his whole house believed in God.
29. Being astonished, he fell down. This keeper was no less brought under with fear to show obedience to God than with the miracle prepared. Hereby it appeareth what a good thing it is for men to be thrown down from their pride, that they may learn to submit themselves to God. He was hardened in his superstitions; therefore, he might with a lofty stomach have despised whatsoever Paul and Silas should have said, whom he had reproachfully thrust into the innermost part of the prison. Now, fear maketh him apt to be taught and gentle. Therefore, so often as the Lord shall strike us or cast us down, let us know that this is done that we may be brought in [to] order from our too much haughtiness.
But it is a wonder that he was not reproved for falling down at their feet. For why did Paul wink at that which (as Luke recordeth) Peter would not suffer in Cornelius? (Acts 10:26.) I answer, that Paul doth therefore bear with the keeper, because he knoweth that he was not moved with superstition, but with fear of God's judgment so to humble himself. It was a kind of worship common enough; but chiefly among the Romans it was a solemn thing when they would humbly crave any thing, or crave pardon, they fell down at their knees to whom they put their supplication. Therefore, there was no cause why Paul should be displeased with a man whom he saw simply humbled of God. For if there had been any thing committed contrary to the glory of God, he had not forgotten that zeal which he showed before among the men of Lycaonia. Therefore, by his silence, we gather that in this kind of worship there was nothing contrary to godliness or the glory of God.
30. Sirs, what must I do? He doth so ask counsel, that he showeth therewith that he will be obedient. By this we see that he was thoroughly touched, so that he was ready to do what they should command him, whom not many hours before he had bound uncourteously. The wicked oftentimes when they see wonders, though they tremble for a time, yet are they straightway made more obstinate, as it befell Pharaoh, (Exodus 8:8, 32;) at least they are not so tamed that they give over themselves to God. But in this place the keeper (acknowledging the power of God) was not only a little afraid, so that he returned straightway unto his former cruelty, but he showeth himself obedient to God, and desirous of sound and wholesome doctrine. He demandeth how he may obtain salvation; whereby it appeareth more plainly that he was not suddenly taken with some light fear of God only, but truly humbled to offer himself to be a scholar to his ministers. He knew that they were cast in prison for no other cause, save only because they did overthrow the common estate of religion. Now he is ready to hear their doctrine which he had before contemned.
31. Believe in the Lord Jesus. This is but a short, and, to look to, a cold and hungry definition of salvation, and yet it is perfect to believe in Christ. For Christ alone hath all the parts of blessedness and eternal life included in him, which he offereth to us by the gospel; and by faith we receive them, as I have declared, (Acts 15:9.) And here we must note two things; first, that Christ is the mark whereat faith must aim; and, therefore, men's minds do nothing else but wander when they turn aside from him. Therefore, no marvel if all the divinity of Popery be nothing else but an huge lump and horrible labyrinth; because, neglecting Christ, they flatter themselves in vain and frivolous speculations. Secondly, we must note, that after we have embraced Christ by faith, that alone is sufficient to salvation. But the latter member, which Luke addeth by and by, doth better express the nature of faith, Paul and Silas command the keeper of the prison to believe in the Son of God. Do they precisely stay in this voice [word] only? Yea, it followeth in Luke, in the text, [context,] that they preached the word of the Lord. Therefore, we see how the faith is not a light or dry opinion concerning unknown things, but a plain and distinct knowledge of Christ conceived out of the gospel. Again, if the preaching of the gospel be absent, there shall no faith remain any longer. To conclude, Luke coupleth faith with preaching and doctrine; and after that he hath briefly spoke of faith, he doth, by way of exposition, show the true and lawful way of believing. Therefore, instead of that invention of entangled faith, whereof the Papists babble, let us hold faith unfolded in the word of God, that it may unfold to us the power of Christ.
33. He was baptized, and all his household. Luke doth again commend the godly zeal of the keeper, that he did consecrate all his whole house to the Lord; wherein doth also appear the grace of God, in that he brought all his whole family unto a godly consent. And we must also note the notable exchange: he was of late about to murder himself, because he thought that Paul and the rest were escaped; but now laying aside all fear, he bringeth them home. So that we see how faith doth animate and encourage those to behave themselves stoutly who before had no heart. And surely, when we droop through fear and doubtfulness, there is no better matter of boldness than to be able to cast all our cares into God's bosom; that no danger may terrify us from doing our duty, whilst that we look for an end at God's hand, such as he shall see to be most profitable.
34. He rejoiceth that he believed. The external profession of faith was before commended in the jailer; now the inward fruit thereof is described. When he did lodge the apostles, and was not afraid of punishment, but did courteously entertain them in his own house, otherwise than he was enjoined by the magistrate, he did testify that his faith was not idle. And that joy whereof Luke speaketh in this place is a singular good thing, which every man hath from his faith. There is no great torment than an evil conscience; for the unbelievers, though the seek by all means to bring themselves into a certain amazedness, yet because they have no peace with God, they must needs quake and tremble. But admit they perceive not their present torments, yea, they rage and play the madmen through mad and unbridled licentiousness; yet are they never quiet, neither do they enjoy quiet joy. Therefore, sincere and quiet stable joy proceedeth from faith alone, when we perceive that God is merciful to us. In this respect, Zacharias saith, |Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Sion, behold, they King cometh.| Yea, this effect is everywhere in the Scripture attributed to faith, that it maketh the souls joyful. Therefore, let us know that faith is not a vain or dead imagination, but a lively sealing [sense] of the grace of God, which bringeth perfect joy by reason of the certainty of salvation, whereof it is meet that the wicked be void, who do both fly from the God of peace, and disturb all righteousness.