1. One of the interesting features of the great book of Acts is its record of times when entire families turned to the Lord.
a. Each family member responded to the Lord personally.
b. But they all did it together; they turned to him at the same time.
2. That catches our attention because of our own interest in whole-household faith.
a. Who wouldn’t want to have the most meaningful and urgent convictions of life in common with his or her partner?
b. The moral and spiritual well-being of our children and grandchildren also matters to all of us.
c. Of all the places where we would like to be one in the Lord, to have it happen in your own household would surely be most like a dream come true.
3. What we wonder about that happens. How is whole-household faith developed?
1. Three Case Studies
a. The household of Cornelius
i. Acts 10:1-2, 24, 33, 44, 48
ii. Acts 11:13-14
b. Lydia’s household
i. Acts 16:11-15
ii. Acts 16:40
c. The household of the jailer at Philippi
i. Acts 16:23-24, 27
ii. Acts 16:30-34
2. Diverse Characters and Circumstances
a. Cornelius was a centurion at Caesarea who was a devout, generous and prayerful man.
i. He was in the lead of 100 Roman soldiers, making his living in the military occupation of someone else’s country.
ii. But what Luke keeps coming back to in describing Cornelius’ actions is his godly fear (10:2, 4, 22, 25).
iii. Though he was an outsider, Cornelius was willing to be instructed, guided in the Lord’s way.
b. Lydia was a business woman from Thyatira who, while living at Philippi, gathered with other women at a place of prayer on the Sabbath day.
i. Paul had been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia (16:6), but when he went into Macedonia his first convert was from the Roman province of Asia!
ii. The purple goods she marketed were purchased by the more wealthy, and she was well-off herself enough that her household could accommodate at least four visitors for some time.
iii. We’re not told exactly of whom her household consisted; we don’t know if she was married or had children, or if some of the other women at the place of prayer were her household.
iv. Since Luke calls her “a worshiper of God,” she was probably a proselyte.
c. The Philippian jailer, unnamed but well-known, was a man who was accustomed to dealing with hardened people in a tough setting, and doing so in a responsible way.
i. Since Philippi was a Roman colony (16:12), many think he was a retired soldier or army veteran.
ii. He would have been a subordinate official in mundane government service, a member of the respectable middle class.
iii. There is no evidence he had any religious background beyond the prayers and hymns he had heard from Paul and Silas that night at the prison, but he was obviously needing to know that life is about something.
3. Common Themes that may contribute to whole-household faith even when outward circumstances are very different are identifiable in these episodes.
a. Adults, those who are the responsible family guardians, are thoughtful enough about life issues to make interest in spiritual things a priority.
i. They realize that a whole human being has the healthy balance of the intellectual, the physical, the social and the spiritual (cf. Lk. 2:52).
ii. In each of the cases we’re considering, the more mature persons recognized the importance of that last issue – the God relationship.
iii. For Cornelius, prayer meant more than power. For Lydia, worship meant more than business. For the jailer, being saved meant more than what was customary.
b. In each case, there are things they intentionally do as a family to put themselves in a situation where they come under the Lord’s influence.
i. Cornelius prayed continually, sent for Peter, and called his family together to hear. Lydia took her household to where worshipers of God came together to pray. The jailer took some kind of extraordinary step to bring his family in contact with Paul and Silas.
ii. We can’t make every member or the household turn to the Lord, nor can we guarantee that they will, but we can, on purpose, put ourselves in situations where we will all have the opportunity to come under the Lord’s influence.
iii. That may mean putting ourselves around people who believe, or participating in activities that build faith, or developing customs that help.
c. Individuals who are capable of hearing the Lord’s word, understanding it, and choosing their response to it, are present in each of these accounts.
i. These are not cases where a dad or a mom heard, then the little ones were baptized.
ii. If they were small children, they didn’t need to be because they were not lost (Ezek. 18:20; Mk. 10:14), and they could not have been because they were not capable of believing and repenting and making the good confession.
iii. The “households” we’ve been reading about were able to respond personally to the teaching about Jesus.
d. There are life circumstances which were used providentially to enable hearts to be open to the Lord’s word when these individuals heard it.
i. In their cases we’re allowed to see the hand of God working up to situations that made their interest urgent.
ii. Now the things that open our hearts may be things like changes in status (marriage or the arrival of children), changes in location or vocation (a move or a new job), or changes in our assumptions about our own mortality (an illness or a loss).
iii. A man told me this week that his interest in the Lord’s way changed when he and his wife started their family.
e. Personal eagerness to obey what the Lord wanted them to do, genuine joy over having done so, and pure delight in being of service afterward is also a common element in these households.
i. The household had believed in God; the household rejoiced and became a blessing to others.
ii. It would take a whole household to extend the kind of hospitality they showed.
iii. If “faith works through love” in an individual’s life (Gal. 5:6), it will in a household, too.
1. The life story of a congregation, sometimes even of a community, may be told by the story of a family where whole-household faith is a way of life. But the story of a household may be told by faith of one individual who believed and influenced the other members of the family.
2. Acts 18:8 summarizes the most important thing all these households have in common.