There is only one way to salvation and that is through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation only comes through an individual believing in Christ. It is not something a father can do for his son or daughter. There is no guarantee that if one member of a family believes the rest will do so. Matthew 7:13-14; John 6:67-68; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8.
Jesus Himself indicates that the Gospel often divides families. Also, God elects individuals to salvation and the elect believe and are saved. This indicates that both ‘election and salvation’ are more individual in nature than corporate although God does have a family plan. Matthew 10:34-36; 24:24,31; Mark 13:20; Romans 9:16-18.
If salvation is an individual action, how are we to understand passages in the Bible that seem to promise of household salvation? Let us consider a few examples.
Acts 10: 33; 11: 14-18; Romans 1: 16
A promise was given to Cornelius that his household would be saved. This does not mean it applies universally to all households. It was a specific promise to a specific person at a specific time.
Cornelius and his household gathered to hear Peter commanded by the Lord speak. They were in a position to hear the Gospel which “is the power of God to salvation.”
Hearing Peter preach the Gospel Cornelius’s entire household believed and were baptized. So, they were saved was according to God’s plan of salvation, the preaching of the Gospel. They were saved because they believed not because Cornelius did.
The Philippian Jailer
The jailer asks “Sirs what must I do to be saved.” Paul and Silas responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Again this promise is given to a specific individual in specific context yet universal in nature unlike the promise to Cornelius. The promise is not one of household salvation but is entirely consistent with every other verse in the Bible that speaks of salvation – believe in the Lord Jesus “you shall be saved.”
Again we see that salvation came as the result of hearing the Word of God and responding in faith which is also consistent with every other verse in the Bible concerning salvation. They were not saved because they were part of the jailers household, instead they were saved because they believed the Gospel message and responded in faith. – Individual people hear the gospel, respond in faith and are saved.
However, God’s plan is also a family plan. All of the beautiful ties of home and family are meant to be eternal. We may not understand how God can accomplish a family relationship in heaven. His desire is that none should perish but all be saved. It is impossible to understand his methods. Romans 11:33
Rahab saved the spies who went into Jericho. The spies, inspired by God, said, asked Rahab, to bring her family here into the house and they would all be saved. Rahab did so and her family was saved. Joshua 6:17-25
God showed his keen interest in families by forming the home before he made the church. He wants that same wonderful unity, and recognition of himself, which people expect to feel in the church, to also be in the home.
Many Christians have been praying for the unsaved loved ones in their families. “Does this mean they are already ALL saved?” “No, God will not violate the free will, but it means that he is going to do everything necessary to bring people to the point where it will be easy for them to make the choice to serve him. And yet they could reject his offer.
If you have laid your loved ones before him in sincerity and in faith you can start praising God right now. He is on the job, and has released forces to bring about circumstances which would make it hard for these people to resist God. The Holy Spirit is preaching to them along with his angels on errands. God desires none to perish but all to be saved. He really loves people!