Reflections on the Cross – Part 4. “What Must I Do To Be Saved?”

In Part 3 when I asked the question concerning whether God would make provision for the salvation of the men responsible for Jesus’ actual crucifixion I did not answer it. In short I believe the answer to be yes. But there was a problem which Paul raises in Romans (appropriately enough) chapter 10 verses 14 and 15a:- “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how hear unless they are sent without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” But the early church in Jerusalem made no attempt to evangelise the Roman Army which occupied their land. They only started to evangelise the Samaritans when persecution forced many of the believers to take shelter among their neighbours whom they normally despised. No doubt they shared their faith as much as to explain why they were being persecuted rather than out of compassion for the lost souls of the Samaritans. The Jerusalem Church was forced to admit that Jesus had died for the Samaritans too. Cornelius was an officer who was already seeking God, but it needed a vision from God before Peter thought that the Gentiles were worth the Gospel preaching to.But reaching lowly legionaries was not something high on the list of the average Jewish believer. But are we any better as Christians when expect unsaved people to turn up at our churches?
A Roman soldier enlisted for 25 years and those men who found them selves in an execution squad would not have been raw recruits, especially its most senior member who was probably the one whose spear had pierced the Lord’s side. When his term of enlistment came to an end where would he retire to? If he was fearing retribution from the relatives and companions of the Jewish zealots he had executed over the years then he would likely to choose somewhere where there was little or no Jewish presence. How about the Roman colony of Philippi? Far-fetched? Considering that Paul’s missionary journeys took place a couple of decades or so after the crucifixion it would certainly fit into a reasonable timescale. According to the Book of Acts it had no synagogue. Though there were some Jewish women (but no men) who met for prayer down by the river. With the exception of Lydia, who was a wealthy businesswoman, these women were more than likely the partners of former Roman soldiers. Technically the Roman Army did not legally allow men below the rank of centurion to marry so that the Empire would not be liable for widow’s pensions, so these women would have been doubly condemned by their fellow Jews, being dubbed not only traitors but immoral. Philippi was different in a number of respects from most of the places where Paul founded churches, his usual method was to start at the local synagogue and persuade those who were morally respectable and use these first converts as elders for the new church. Also he had not planned to evangelise there, it was only after the vision of the “man of Macedonia” that he crossed over from Asia Minor to Europe, having been blocked from going elsewhere by the Holy Spirit. One can imagine then that he was disappointed to be sharing the gospel with women rather than debating with the learned elders of a synagogue. The church Paul founded stayed loyal to him even when all the other deserted him at the end of his life. Why did they feel they owed him more than the other churches? Could it be that within its membership there were those who had been forgiven for their part in Christ’s crucifixion? Paul’s stay in Philippi was cut short when he was thrown into jail. This led to the conversion of the jailer who asked “What must I do to be saved?” Note that the jailer did not ask not enquire as to what god Paul and Silas worshipped, this might indicate that he had previously served in the Holy Land and was familiar with the Jewish religion. Come to think of it, if you had been involved in crime and punishment in the Army what better job would be better suited for but the jailer of a Roman colony? Could his reaction to the earthquake in Acts be because it reminded him of the earthquake reported at the time of Jesus’ death? Did he think Paul and Silas were zealots out for revenge that he was prepared to kill himself? Of course if he was one of the execution squad Luke would have needed to protect his identity from those who were not so forgiving. But how else would such a man be reached?
David G.Rose, 2012

About davidgrose

I am a Bible believing Christian, brought up in the Brethren Movement, and now find myself associating with charismatics even though I do not always agree with them. I am in full-time employment. I have interests in history and photography amongst others.
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