Is household salvation biblical?
Household salvation is the idea that an entire family can receive salvation as the result of the salvation of the family leader. Scriptures often used as evidence for this belief include Acts 16:25-33, Acts 2:38-39, and 1 Corinthians 7:14. A close look at these passages reveals that household salvation is not an accurate conclusion but instead that salvation is personal and comes as result of an individual personally receiving salvation by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
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In Acts 16:25-33, Paul and Silas stopped a Philippian jailer from suicide after the jail was opened from an earthquake. At the man's home, they answered his question about salvation with the response, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31). The following verses share, "And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God" (Acts 16:32-34). It is clear in this passage that the gospel was shared with everyone in the household. His family believed and was baptized, rejoicing that the family had come to faith in Christ. The situation with Cornelius and his household in Acts 10—11 is similar.
In Acts 2:38-39, Peter taught, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." Those who accept household salvation as biblical often teach that a person who is saved as a family leader provides salvation for younger family members until they reach the age where they can believe for themselves. Yet this passage does not address this topic. Instead, the passage is a universal call to the audience to believe, repent, and be baptized. Salvation is available to all.
In 1 Corinthians 7:14, Paul speaks about the issue of marriage, teaching that a believing spouse should stay with an unbelieving spouse. Part of his explanation includes, "For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." This does not teach that children are saved because of the saved parent or that an unbelieving spouse is saved because of a believing spouse. Instead, the emphasis is on remaining with unbelieving family members in order to help them come to faith in Christ. Though unequally yoked, the marriage and the children are still legitimate in God's eyes. Paul clarifies that he was not implying household salvation when he writes, "For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?" (1 Corinthians 7:16).
In all three of these main passages used to support household salvation, not one offers a clear example of a parent becoming a Christian and providing salvation for a child or other family members. Instead, the influence of the Christian parent provides a means to better share the gospel with others in the family. In the case of the Philippian jailer, his entire family believed the same night he did. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul notes that no one knows if this approach will lead to the salvation of others in the family, but encourages believing parents and spouses to stay together and share the gospel as much as possible (1 Corinthians 7:15-16).
What is salvation?
Is baptism required for salvation?
Is there an age of accountability in the Bible? What happens to babies that die?
Are some children too young to ask for salvation? Can a 3 or 4 year old truly believe?
What is the key to evangelizing friends and family without offending them?
Truth about Salvation