The Way of Salvation Part I: The Meaning of Salvation -- By: James I. Packer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 129:515 (Jul 1972)
Article: The Way of Salvation Part I: The Meaning of Salvation
Author: James I. Packer

The Way of Salvation
Part I:
The Meaning of Salvation

James I. Packer

[James I. Packer, Associate Principal, Trinity College, Bristol, England.]

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles entitled “The Way of Salvation,” which were the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectures given by Dr. James I. Packer at Dallas Theological Seminary on April 11–14, 1972. Scripture passages are translated and/or paraphrased by the author.]

To introduce the subject for these lectures I would begin from the sixteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles that tells us how after Paul and Silas, Timothy and Luke had come to Europe. Following their opening of the European mission in Philippi, Paul and Silas soon found themselves in jail. They exorcised a girl who then would have been called a pythoness and who we would call a medium with a control. As a result of the row that developed after the control had been exorcised, Paul and Silas were incarcerated in the jail. They sang praises to God and prayed aloud as the night went on. In the middle of the night there was an earthquake. The jailer supposed that the prisoners would all have taken occasion from the earthquake and the consequent loosing of their bonds to escape and he was about to kill himself. Paul took charge of the situation and told him to hold his hand. The prisoners were all safe. He called for a light and then came and fell down before Paul and Silas and asked them that memorable momentous question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” F. F. Bruce states that it is difficult to say how much he meant by this expression but one supposes that he knew the story of how Paul and Silas had been followed by the medium girl crying out “these men are the servants of the most High God who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”1 One supposes that

he saw the earthquake as vindicating these men in their character. Hence his question. But however that may be, there is certainly no doubt as to what Paul and Silas took the question to mean and what they meant by the answer they gave.

They understood the jailer as inviting them to speak to him what verse 32 calls the Word of the Lord and what Acts 13:26 calls the Word of this salvation. They preached to him Jesus. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” they said, “and you shall be saved, you and your house.”

Now it is not too much to say that the whole New Testament is an answer to the jailer’s question. I owe to Gustaf Wingren, the Lutheran, the remark that whereas...

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