III. A Biblical Household and Baptism
Finally then, we want to consider a biblical household and baptism. The majority of the baptisms in the NT in which an individual is named, include the baptism of his or her whole household as well. It is not the case that those who were baptized believed and therefore they were baptized—in some cases that was surely the case—but that is not at all said to be the case with every person baptized. Rather the reason given in Scripture is that members of the household were baptized because they were members of the household of a new believer.
A. The Philippian Jailer
A clear understanding of this text has been hindered by some unclear translation. Some translations read that the jailer rejoiced, having believed in God with his whole household. The implication of that translation is that his whole household believed as well. But that is not what the Greek says or implies. Rather the Greek is clear and precise here, and the ESV has gotten it right saying, And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
You see the jailer was called to believe for the saving of him and his household. He believed, and therefore he and his whole household were baptized. And at that moment this Greek Oikos Household became a Covenant Home. Every member of that household became a member of the Church—the Body of Christ—no matter whether there were wives or children, infants or little ones, slaves or servants in the household, they were baptized into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and now considered to be part of the Household of God.
In fact there is a parallel to the Philippian Jailer’s belief and baptism that is cited numerous times throughout the NT. The early, post-Apostolic Fathers recognized this parallel, among many, and saw a typological reference to households and NT baptism in the OT account of Noah and the flood. Clearly, they did not make this up, but were led to think this way from the Bible itself.
In 2 Peter 2:5, we read concerning God that, …if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; then He can surely rescue the righteous today and condemn the ungodly. Again referencing Noah, we read in Hebrews 11:7,
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
The terminology and concepts here, are almost identical to that of the account that we are considering of the Philippian jailer: There is the faith of the head of the home and because of his faith, the saving of his household.
In fact all of this is clarified even further, and the connection between Noah believing and saving his household through the ark with the believing heads of households and the saving of their families through baptism in the NT, is cemented when Peter says in 1 Peter 3:20-21
…God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Noah and his faith and his bringing his household into the ark and thereby bringing salvation to that home, is a parallel to Christian baptism and the head of the household’s faith and the whole household being baptized because of the head’s faith.