HOUSEHOLD SALVATION

Good Confession, CFP white covers, by Watchman Nee

 

 

The Promise of God

Most things have their basic unit and the unit for salvation is the household. We find in the Bible that God gives many promises in regard to His dealings with men. If we know these promises, we will be greatly benefited; otherwise, we will suffer loss. The promise which God gives concerning salvation takes a household, not an individual, as the basic unit. New believers should be reminded of this, for it will solve many problems and give them great benefit.

The Unit of Salvation

When the Bible speaks of eternal life, it always takes an individual as the unit; never does it take a household as the unit. But when it deals with salvation, it actually takes the household instead of the individual. We must see that the unit of salvation is the household while that of eternal life is the individual.

We wish to spend some time in searching a number of Scripture verses so as to convince ourselves of the fact that salvation is for the household. Then we will be able to come to God and plead for households according to His Word.

Our Course

We do hope that in the future we will not need to spend lots of time trying to save the children born in our midst, trying to bring our second generation back from the world. All who are born into our homes according to the flesh should also be born into our homes according to the Spirit. We should not lose them year after year and then have to save them back afterwards. It is not enough for us just to bring them into the world; we must also bring them to the Lord.

If brothers and sisters are convinced of this, we will have as many children saved as are born to us. The Lord has given them to us. How can we allow them to go away without being saved? Must we save them back from the world? We will waste a great deal of time if we let all these small fish go back to the sea and try to catch them afterwards. No, these small fish must stay with the larger ones. Whether or not the church has a second generation depends largely on whether or not our children belong to the Lord.

I do desire that brothers and sisters may see the significance of this matter. If we lose those born to us, very soon we will not have a second generation. But if generation after generation continues, along with new additions from outside, then the church will become exceedingly strong.

The basic principle of the Bible is that God’s salvation is for the household. Let us now examine the proofs in both the Old and New Testaments.

Old Testament Examples

1. THE WHOLE HOUSE ENTERED THE ARK

“And Jehovah said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark” (Gen. 7:1).

“While the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water” (1 Pet. 3:20b).

The ark was not for one person; it was for the whole house. The Bible affirms that the man Noah was righteous before God, but nowhere does it record that Noah’s sons and daughters-in-law were righteous. Noah alone was referred to as a righteous man. Yet when God prepared His salvation for Noah, He commanded all his house to enter into the ark. The ark used the household instead of an individual as its unit.

A new believer should bring all his house to the ark. You may pray: “Lord, I have trusted in You. Now I ask You to bring my whole house in because You have said that all my house may come in.” God will respect your faith and bring in your whole house.

2. A WHOLE HOUSE WAS CIRCUMCISED

“And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any foreigner that is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:12-13).

God called Abraham and covenanted with him to make him and his house His own people. The sign of the covenant was circumcision. All who were circumcised belonged to God; all who were not circumcised were not of God. God commanded Abraham to have his whole house circumcised—those who were born in his house as well as those who were bought with his money. So the promise regarding circumcision was not given to Abraham alone; it was given to the house of Abraham. Circumcision had the household as its unit of operation. God’s promise was for the whole house of Abraham, not just for Abraham himself.

3. A PASCHAL LAMB FOR EACH HOUSE

“Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household: . . . And they shall take of the blood, and put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel, upon the houses wherein they shall eat it” (Ex. 12:3, 7).

The paschal lamb was definitely for the household, not for an individual. Thus we are shown how important is the household in the sight of God. The lamb was slain not for one person but for the whole house, and its blood was put on the door that the household might be preserved. The angel, the destroyer, would pass over the house which had the blood on the door.

How marvelous that the salvation which the Lord Jesus Christ has prepared is like the paschal lamb for the whole house. It is for the household to eat the lamb and to apply the blood. The whole family together receives the salvation of the Lord.

4. THE PRIESTHOOD IS FOR THE HOUSEHOLD

The priesthood which God promised was also for the household. “And Jehovah said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy fathers’ house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary; and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood” (Num. 18:1).

“And this is thine: the heave-offering of their gift, even all the wave-offerings of the children of Israel; I have given them unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, as a portion for ever; every one that is clean in thy house shall eat thereof” (Num. 18:11). God gave all the wave-offerings of the people to the house of Aaron, not just to Aaron himself, for the whole household was accepted by God. The house of Aaron, not Aaron alone, was appointed to be priests. The priesthood was within the house.

5. A HOUSEHOLD SAVED UNDER A SCARLET CORD

 “And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we shall be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him” (Josh. 2:19).

“And the city shall be devoted, even it and all that is therein, to Jehovah: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent” (Josh. 6:17).

In the case of Rahab the harlot, the whole house was also saved. Why? Because she hid the messengers. God gave her a sign—she must bind the scarlet cord on her window; all who were in the house would then be spared from slaughter. The rest of the inhabitants of Jericho were all killed. Salvation was in the scarlet cord, but this salvation saved not only Rahab but also her house.

So the scope of salvation is pretty clear—it is the household. In chapter two of Joshua, we see the promise; in chapter six, the practice. As the promise was, so was the practice. The whole house of Rahab was therefore saved.

6. BLESSING UPON THE HOUSE

“And the ark of Jehovah remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months: and Jehovah blessed Obed-edom, and all his house” (2 Sam. 6:11).

The blessing of Jehovah in the Old Testament was also for the household. As the ark remained in the house of Obed-edom, the Lord blessed him and all his house. The unit for blessing is the house, not the individual.

I would like to use this opportunity to mention that not just in this matter of salvation, but in many things in both the Old and the New

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Testaments the household is taken as the basic unit. God’s children, especially the heads of families, should notice that God’s dealing with men is on the unit of the house. If you are ignorant of this principle, there is much that you will miss. As head of the family, you should lay hold of this principle and pray: “Lord, You have told me that You are not only dealing with me but with my house as well. Therefore, I ask You to save my household.”

Not only the head of the family can claim this promise; other members of the house can also lay hold of the father’s house and claim the promise. Rahab was not head of the family; yet it was she who laid hold of God and thus the whole house was saved through her. If you are the head of the family, good, because as head you can represent the family in claiming the promise. However, you who are not the head of the family can also rise up in faith and claim God’s promise, as Rahab did, for the whole house: “Lord, I pray that You will lead my whole house to Yourself that they may be blessed by You.”

7. REJOICE WITH THE HOUSEHOLD

“And there ye shall eat before Jehovah your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein Jehovah thy God hath blessed thee” (Deut. 12:7).

“And thou shalt bestow the money for whatsoever thy soul desireth, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul asketh of thee; and thou shalt eat there before Jehovah thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou and thy household” (Deut. 14:26).

Do you see how God told the Israelites they were to live before Him? Each household was to eat and drink and rejoice before God. In other words, the blessing is for the house, not for the individuals.  

You and your household should rejoice together in the blessing of the Lord.

New Testament Examples

1. THE HOUSE OF ZACCHAEUS

What about Zacchaeus? “And Jesus said unto him, Today is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham” (Lk. 19:9). How wonderful it is that the New Testament proclaims the same principle. We usually think of salvation as coming to the individual. Perhaps many have preached that way. But the Lord declares that “salvation has come to this house.”

When you go out to preach the gospel, you should pay attention to household salvation. Do not expect only individuals to be saved. If you really believe and truly expect more, your work will undergo a great change. We want whole houses to be converted. Much depends on your faith and expectation. Should you expect them to come one by one, they will come one by one. But if you believe in their coming house by house, you will get them house after house. The scope of God’s salvation is the house; let us not reduce that scope.

2. THE HOUSE OF THE NOBLEMAN

“So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house” (John 4:53). He who was healed was only one person, the nobleman’s son; but the Bible records that the nobleman and his whole house believed in the Lord. Although the son alone received grace directly, nonetheless, the whole house turned to the Lord. Let our request and expectation before God also produce such abundant fruit.

3. THE HOUSE OF CORNELIUS

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“A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2).

“Who shall speak unto thee words, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house” (Acts 11:14). Cornelius invited his relatives and friends to hear Peter.

As Peter spoke, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, and all who were gathered in his house were saved. This is a tremendous demonstration that God deals with households rather than just with individuals.

4. THE HOUSE OF LYDIA

“And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us” (Acts 16:15). The apostles preached the gospel to the household of Lydia and they believed and were baptized.

5. THE HOUSE OF THE PHILIPPIAN JAILOR

“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house” (Acts 16:31). This is one of the most famous Bible verses in Christianity.

Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, even you and your house. I do not think we can dispute this statement. God’s Word does not say, Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall have eternal life, you and your house. It says, Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your house.

In both the Old and the New Testaments, God deals with men by the household unit. This is the smallest unit; let us not further reduce  it. If anyone believes in the Lord Jesus, his whole house shall be saved. This, indeed, is marvelous. I do not know the reason, but that is what the Lord has said.

The church at Philippi began with this wonderful promise. “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house” (Acts 16:31). Was this promise fulfilled? “And he brought them up into his house, and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, with all his house, having believed in God” (16:34). How very beautiful is the picture! In the beginning the promise was given to the jailor and he alone heard it. But he brought his whole family over to hear Paul and so they all were baptized. Then he took Paul and Silas to his house and set food before them. He with all his house rejoiced greatly, for they all believed in God. So this promise of “believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house” is not difficult to fulfill after all. The apostles gave the jailor the promise; consequently the whole household was saved.

The apostles never told the jailor anything else. For example, they didn’t say, “You believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved. Then after a couple of days have gone by we will tell you some more. Now you just be at rest. Slowly you should testify to your house that they may gradually come to have faith and be saved. We can assure you that this household will doubtless sooner or later all be saved.”

Let me ask you: which is easier, to save individuals or to save households? Of course we do not mean that we should not seek souls one by one. But the apostles always took in households. Let us, then, not lose this privilege of bringing households to the Lord.

Let the household be the object of our labor. If we aim at the household, we shall gain the household; if we aim at individuals, we will gain only individuals. God will do things according to our faith.

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If we know God’s way of dealing with men, we shall not suffer loss. God takes the household as His unit of operation. In gaining one person, you gain the whole house irrespective of the size of the household. May our hearts be opened by God so that we may take this stand. Let us encourage brothers and sisters to lead whole households to the Lord.

6. THE HOUSE OF CRISPUS

“And Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue believed in the Lord with all his house; . . . and were baptized” (Acts 18:8).

We have instances in the Bible of the whole house believing in the Lord and instances of individuals believing in Him. But believing by the household in those days far exceeded what we see today. God’s grace can easily come to a whole household. Crispus and all his house believed in the Lord and were baptized.

7. THE PROMISE IS TO YOU AND TO YOUR CHILDREN

We have already seen how the door of the gospel was opened to the Gentiles in the salvation of the house of Cornelius. Now let us turn back to look again at the situation at Pentecost.

“For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto Him” (Acts 2:39).

The promise given at Pentecost is that man’s sin may be forgiven and he may receive the Holy Spirit. This promise is to your children as well as to you. It is therefore especially important for heads of families to lay hold of this promise, saying, “To us and to our children is this promise given. It is not for us exclusively, for our children may possess it together with us.”  

8. PEACE TO THE HOUSE

“And into whatsoever house ye shall enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if a son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him: but if not, it shall turn to you again” (Lk. 10:5-6).

When one is sent out to preach the gospel, he should enter into a house saying, “Peace be to this house.” If anyone in the house is worthy of peace, this blessing will be upon the whole house. Again, God’s peace is not just for an individual but for the house. May young believers seize upon this blessed promise. Thank God, peace also comes upon house after house.

9. THE HOUSE OF STEPHANAS

“And I baptized also the household of Stephanas” (1 Cor. 1:16). Paul baptized every member of the house of Stephanas for they all believed in the Lord.

10. THE HOUSE OF ONESIPHORUS

“Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the house of Onesiphorus” (2 Tim. 4:19).

“The Lord grant mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus: for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain” (2 Tim. 1:16).

This family took care of Paul and was not ashamed of his chain. You will notice that it was not just one member but the whole house that helped Paul.

I trust from the few chosen Scripture passages (I have not time to mention all the instances in the Old and New Testaments) we can at least be assured that the unit of God’s dealing is the house. Especially in the matter of salvation, God takes the house as the unit of His grace.

God’s Unit of Punishment

Here we will find some Bible verses which show that the unit of God’s punishment is also the household. As men rebelled against God, God reacted in wrath against their houses. Thus not only peace and joy and salvation are for the household, punishment is also for the household. As the blessing of God comes to the house, likewise does the punishment of God come to the house. If God can punish the house for the sake of one member, surely He can bless the house also for one person. As woe comes to the family through one man, so blessing and salvation come to the house by one member. In view of this, a new believer should learn to stand up for his house. “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15b).

1. THE HOUSE OF PHARAOH

“And Jehovah plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife” (Gen. 12:17). For the sin of one man, Pharaoh, the Lord plagued him and his house. If God’s woe comes to the household, may we not expect His blessing to come to the household too? We are not destined to be plagued; rather are we to be people of His grace.

2. THE HOUSE OF ABIMELECH

“For Jehovah had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife” (Gen. 20:18). All the wombs, not just one or two wombs of the house of Abimelech, were closed.

3. THE HOUSE OF DAVID

“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house, because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will raise up evil

 

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against thee out of thine own house; and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun” (2 Sam. 12:10-11).

After David had sinned, the chastisement of God came upon his house, even that the sword would not depart from his house. David alone sinned, but David’s house received God’s judgment. From God’s viewpoint, one’s house is closely related to one’s self and they become one unit. God divides the people on earth into houses, not into individuals. Therefore we must come to God by the household.

4. THE HOUSE OF JEROBOAM

“And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth” (1 Kings 13:34). As a result of his setting up idols, God cut off his whole house.

“Moreover Jehovah will raise him up a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam that day: but what? even now” (14:14). Why did God cut off the house of Jeroboam? We can only say that it was because the house is a unit before God.

5. THE HOUSE OF BAASHA

“Behold, I will utterly sweep away Baasha and his house; and I will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1 Kings 16:3). God cut off the house of Baasha in the same way as He cut off the house of Jeroboam, for the unit of God’s dealing is the house.

6. THE HOUSE OF AHAB

I think one of the most famous houses in the book of Kings is the house of Ahab. “And I will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and hast made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 21:22). Why did God deal with the house of Ahab? Because Ahab provoked God. Ahab was one of the worst kings in the Old Testament. He received the same treatment from God as the house of Jeroboam and the house of Baasha.

7. THE HOUSES OF DATHAN AND ABIRAM

“And what he did unto Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben; how the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and their tents, and every living thing that followed them, in the midst of all Israel” (Deut. 11:6). The word “household” in Hebrew is the same word for “house.” Dathan and Abiram sinned against God; the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up them and their households.

I am convinced that the Bible in both the Old and the New Testaments and both positively and negatively, affirms the house as the unit of God’s dealing. Brethren, do you think this is true? If so, let us live carefully before God because one person can affect the whole house.

Heads of the Families

I would like to speak specially to heads of families. To the children, our words must not be too weighty. But all the responsible ones in the Bible, with the probable exception of Lydia, are heads of houses. As heads of families, they are responsible before God in a special way. What is this special responsibility? It is that they bring their households to serve the Lord.

In the capacity of head of a household, I can claim God’s promise for the whole house. I may declare that my house will believe in the Lord. Whether the children have believed or not does not alter this decision, for I, not they, am responsible for the house. I should quote the words of Joshua before God and my house, “But as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah” (Josh. 24:15). I choose for the family. Hereafter the world has to acknowledge that this is a Christian family, a family which believes in the Lord.

Stand on this decision and speak in faith. Do not compromise your position. Bring your wife and your children to the same position. Lay hold of this: I am head of the family; my house shall believe in God; I have decided to have a worshipping house, a house that believes in the Lord. If you declare by faith and lead with authority, you will naturally bring your children in.

I think each and every head of the family ought to gather his children and dependents together and declare to them the words of Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah.” If you take this position of faith, all of your house will eventually come to the Lord, for they have no escape. This, indeed, is marvelous.

We have noticed now that household salvation is in the Bible, but our experience in this respect is not adequate. Thank God, when I was in England, I had the privilege of meeting a group of brothers who also believed in salvation for the household. I found in their midst family after family of Christians. I was deeply impressed. According to our faith, so shall God do to us. As I talked with them, I was really surprised. We have the knowledge, but they have the fact.

Once I visited George Cutting, the author of “Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment.” He was at that time already over eighty years of age. His hair and beard were all white He lay in bed, and his mind was somewhat dull. But when I visited him, he said to me, “Brother Nee, you know, we cannot do without Him and He cannot do without us.” He was in intimate communion with the Lord. As you know, aside from the Bible, this little booklet, “Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment,” has had the largest circulation. Thank the Lord, Mr. Cutting had a family of over eighty persons and all of them were saved. His sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, great-grandchildren were all saved. He believed in the word, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house”; so his whole house was saved.

I do hope that you are convinced of household salvation. New believers should gather their family members and declare to them that hereafter their houses belong to God. Whether they have truly believed or have not believed, whether they approve or oppose, the declaration must be made. As head of the family, you must take this position. You should hold the rein of your house that all will serve God. Let me tell you: if you take this stand by faith, it shall be done to you.

If all who have been saved had come by households instead of by individuals, what a difference it would have made. Brethren, never be negligent of the children in our homes. One of the great failures of the Protestant church is in the family. They give their next generation too much freedom. Look at the Roman Catholic Church. They need not preach the gospel, for all who are born into Catholic houses are reckoned as Catholics. You do not see them preaching on the streets like the Salvation Army, and yet generation after generation is propagated within the Catholic Church. They do not stress so much on adding from the outside as on being born within. Disregarding personal faith, all in Catholic families are included in the system. Today there are three times as many Catholics as Protestants in the world. We too should be careful not to let our children leak out into the world.

If we truly believe, the Lord will work. The way is clear: God will bless us by the household. Household salvation is a tremendous principle—one believes and the whole house shall be saved. So stand firm before God that your household may all be transformed.