I. GOD'S PROMISE OF SALVATION
BEING TO THE HOUSEHOLD
Now we come to the subject of the unit of salvation. Everything is measured by units. The unit of salvation is the household.
According to the Bible, in God's dealings and communications with man, He has given man many promises. If we know these promises, we will reap great benefit for ourselves. If we do not know them, we will suffer great loss.
God's promise of salvation takes the household as a unit, not the individual as a unit. If a newly saved person sees this from the very beginning, he will be spared many headaches, and he will gain much benefit for himself. When God saves man, He takes the whole family, rather than an individual, as a unit.
Concerning eternal life, the Bible takes an individual, not a household, as the unit. However, concerning salvation, it shows that men are saved household by household. The unit of salvation is the household. We want to spend a little time to consider several portions of the Word. This will show us clearly that salvation is for the whole household. We can inquire of God according to these words. We can deal with Him not only for ourselves individually but also for our whole family.
We hope that all the children who are born among us will not need our extra effort in the future to bring them to salvation and to rescue them out of the world. Some have already been born into our fleshly family. We should make sure that they are born into our spiritual family also. We cannot afford to lose them year by year and then fight to rescue them back year by year. We cannot just beget them into the world; we still must bring them to the Lord.
If all the brothers and sisters agree that this is the way we should take, we will have at least as many saved ones as the number of children in our midst. The Lord has placed them in our hands. We should not let them go; we must make sure that they are saved. Otherwise, it will take considerable effort to bring them back from the world. All the little fishes born of our big fishes should be on our side; we should not let them go back into the sea and then struggle to catch them again. Whether or not the church will continue
with its second generation depends on whether our children belong to the Lord.
I hope that the brothers and sisters will see the importance of this matter. Whether or not the church will go on in the next generation, whether or not those after us will go on, depends on whether we can bring our own children to the Lord. If we lose as many as are born to us, our second generation will be gone. If generation after generation all those who are born into our midst stand fast and if we also have some increase from the outside, the church will be strong and its number will increase. We must never give birth
to a child only to lose it later; Instead, those who are born to us must be regenerated.
II. EXAMPLES FROM THE BIBLE
The Bible reveals the basic principle that God saves men household by household. How can we prove this? Let us examine various portions of the Word.
A. In the Old Testament
1. The Whole House Entering the Ark
Genesis 7:1 says, "And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thous and all thy house into the ark," and 1 Peter 3:20 says, "A few, that is, eight souls, were brought safely through by water."
The ark was not for an individual; it was for the whole house. In Genesis 6 we see a man who was righteous before God -- Noah. The Bible does not say that the sons and daughters-in-law of Noah were righteous. The Bible only says that Noah was a righteous man before God. However, when God prepared a way of salvation for Noah, He commanded Noah's whole house to enter the ark. Therefore, the household, not an individual, entered the ark.
A new believer should bring every member of his household into the ark. You can say to the Lord, "I have believed in You. You have said that my whole household can enter into the ark. Lord, please bring my whole household into the ark now." God will honor your faith.
2. The Whole House Being Circumcised
Genesis 17:12-13 says, "Every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which 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."
God called Abraham and made a covenant with him, saying, "I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee" (v.7). The sign of the covenant between God and Abraham was circumcision. All who were circumcised belonged to God, and all who were not circumcised were not of God. God also told Abraham that his whole household needed to be circumcised, including those who were born in his house and those who were bought with his money. Therefore, the promise of circumcision was not given to Abraham alone but to his
whole household. Circumcision takes the household as a unit. God's promise came to Abraham's house, not to him alone.
3. A Passover Lamb for Each Household
Exodus 12:3-7 says, "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 the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house...and they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper doorpost of the houses, wherein they shall eat it."
The Passover lamb was clearly given to a household, not to an individual. Again we see the importance of a household before God. The Passover lamb had to do with a household, it was not an individual matter. A lamb was not prepared for each person, but for each household. The blood struck on the doorpost and side posts was to protect the whole household. The angel of destruction would pass over a whole household.
It is marvelous to see that the salvation prepared by the Lord Jesus Christ is not for an individual alone but for the whole household, just like the Passover lamb. If one man eats the lamb, it means that only he is being saved. But if the whole household eats the lamb, it means that the whole household is being saved. Salvation is for the whole household. The whole household eats the lamb, and similarly the whole household strikes the blood. The whole household enjoys these things together. May God open our eyes to see that salvation is a matter of the whole household, not individuals.
4. The Priesthood Being for the Household
God's promise of the priesthood was also for a whole house. It was not for one or two individuals. Numbers 18:1 says, "And Jehovah said to Aaron, You and your sons and your father's house with you shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary."
Verse 11 says, "This also is yours, the heave offering of their gift, all the wave offerings of the sons of Israel; I have given them to you, and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual due; every one who is clean in your house may eat of it." God gave all the sacrifices and offerings to the house of Aaron. The sacrifices were for the house of Aaron, not for Aaron alone. This is because God accepts the house as a whole. Please remember that the priesthood was for Aaron's house, not for Aaron alone. The priesthood took the
household as a unit.
5. Household Salvation
Joshua 2:19 says, "Anyone who goes forth from the doors of your house into the street, his blood will be upon his own head, and we will be innocent. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood will be upon our heads if a hand should come upon him." Joshua 6:17 says, "And the city shall be devoted to Jehovah for destruction, it and all that is in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in her house, because she hid the messengers we sent."
Here we see Rahab the harlot and her household being saved. What did she do? She received the spies. When she received the spies, God gave her a sign. She was to tie a line of scarlet thread in the window. All who were in the house which had the scarlet thread were spared, while the rest of the inhabitants of Jericho were killed. The scarlet thread signifies salvation. The scarlet-thread salvation saved Rahab's household; it did not save just her.
We need to be very clear about the scope of salvation. Chapter two of Joshua gives the promise, and chapter six gives the actual execution. Both the promise in chapter two and the execution in chapter six show us that Rahab's whole household was saved. All who were in the house which had the scarlet thread were saved. God's salvation is for the whole household, not for individuals.
6. The Household Being Blessed
Second Samuel 6:11 says, "And the ark of Jehovah remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months; and Jehovah blessed Obed-edom and all his household."
Jehovah's blessing in the Old Testament was to the household. While the ark remained in the house of Obed-edom, Jehovah blessed the whole household. The unit of the blessing is the household, not the individual.
Earlier we spoke of the matter of salvation. We will see that this principle is not just confined to salvation. It governs many matters in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The house is considered one unit. God's children, especially those who are the head of their house, should realize that God deals with man according to household. If you are ignorant of this fact, you will miss much. If you are the head of a family, you need to lay hold of this fact. You need to say, "Lord, You have told me that You are dealing with my household, not with just myself alone. Therefore, I ask You to save my whole household."
Not only does the head of a household need to lay hold of this fact, but other members of the household also need to inquire of the Lord concerning their father's house. Rahab was not the head of her house; she had a father. But Rahab held to God, and her household was blessed and saved. It is very good if you are the head of your household because you can speak for your household. But even if you are not the head of your household, you can still speak in faith as Rahab, saying, "Lord, turn my household to You to receive Your graceand blessing."
7. Rejoicing with the Household
Deuteronomy 12:7 says, "There you shall eat before Jehovah your God, and you and your households shall rejoice in all your undertakings, in which Jehovah your God has blessed you." You and your household receive the blessing of God and rejoice therein.
Deuteronomy 14:26 says, "You shall exchange the money for anything that your soul desires, for oxen, for sheep, for wine, for strong drink, or for anything that your soul would like; and you and your household shall eat there before Jehovah your God and rejoice."
Have you seen this? God promised the Israelites that they would eat, drink and rejoice before God on that day household by household. In other words, blessing is for the household, not for the individual.
B. In the New Testament
What about the New Testament? In the Old Testament, God gained men household by household, and the same is true in the New Testament.
1. The House of Zaccheus
Luke 19:9 says, "Jesus said to him, Today salvation has come to this house." This is wonderful. The New Testament declares the same principle. I am afraid that many people have been preaching for over twenty years about personal salvation only. However, the Lord tells us that "salvation has come to this house."
When you preach the gospel, you must pay attention to household salvation. You must not look merely for individual salvation. If you truly believe and expect this, your work will undergo a great change. This depends entirely on your faith and expectation. If you expect others to come to the Lord one by one, they will come one by one. If you believe that they will come household by household, they will come household by household. The scope of God's salvation is the household. You must not make this scope smaller than it should
2. The Household of a Nobleman
John 4:53 says, "Then the father knew that it was in that hour in which Jesus said to him, Your son lives; and he believed, he and his whole house." Here only one person was healed -- the son. However, the Bible says that "he believed, he and his whole household." You can lay hold of this fact before the Lord. Although the son was the one who directly received His grace, the whole household turned and believed. Our hope and expectation is that we would bear fruit in such a prevailing way.
3. The Household of Cornelius
Acts 10:2 says that Cornelius was "devout and one who feared God with all his household, giving many alms to the people and beseeching God continually," and 11:14 says, "...who will speak words to you by which you shall be saved, you and all your house."
Cornelius's entire household was saved; it was not just one person who was saved. Cornelius invited his relatives and close friends to hear the worlds of Peter. While Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were in Cornelius's house, and all of them received salvation.
4. The Household of Lydia
Acts 16:15 says, "She was baptized, as well as her household." The apostle preached the gospel to Lydia's household, and the whole household believed and was baptized.
5. The Household of the Jailer
Acts 16:31 says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." This is one of the most outstanding verses in Christianity. Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household. God's Word does not say that if you believe on the Lord Jesus, you and your household shall receive eternal life. It says that if you believe on the Lord Jesus, you and your household will be saved.
Throughout the entire Old Testament, God dealt with man by households. Likewise in the New Testament, He deals with man by households. This is the smallest unit; one cannot reduce it to a smaller one. If anyone believes in the Lord Jesus, his whole household shall be saved. This is indeed a wonderful thing. I do not know why this is so, but the Lord's Word says it is so. The Old Testament and the New Testament are consistent; both recognize the same unit.
The church in Philippi started with a jailer. Paul said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." Verse 34 says, "And he brought them up into his house and set a table before them; and he exulted because he had believed in God with all his household." Here we see a wonderful picture. In the beginning the promise was given to the jailer; no one else heard it. "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." Later, the jailer brought his household to Paul. After Paul spoke to them, they were baptized. Then the jailer brought them into his house and set a table before them; and he exulted, having believed in God. "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household' -- this is not something difficult to achieve. The apostle gave the jailer a promise, and his whole household was saved. Everyone listened, everyone was baptized, and everyone exulted.
Suppose the apostle told the jailer, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved." If this was the case, we would have to wait a few days after a person was saved, teach him something, and hope that he would understand. Then he might gradually testify to his family, and his family might eventually believe and be saved. If this had been the case, how long would it have taken for the jailer's household to be saved? The apostle did not preach the gospel this way. He did not deal with individuals one by one, instead, he
addressed the whole household. He said, "You and your household" shall be saved. You need to see this: The salvation of a household is no different and certainly no more difficult than the salvation of one person. You should never forfeit the privilege of saving the whole household. If you bring the whole household along, the whole household will be saved.
I hope that when the church preaches the gospel five or ten years form now, household after household will be turning to the Lord. From now on, the goal of our workers in evangelism should be whole households. If our goal is a household, we will gain a household. If our goal is only an individual, we will gain only an individual. God does things according to our faith.
If we are clear about God's way with men, we will not suffer unnecessary loss. God takes a household as a unit. If God gains a person, He should gain his whole family as well, regardless of how many persons there are in that family. I hope you will tell the brothers to rise up household by house hold. Those who are the head of a family have the ground to bring their whole household to the Lord, and they should help their families be saved.
Household salvation means household rejoicing. This is a great matter! If we see that God's dealing with man is by households, we will experience much blessing. We must learn to lay hold of this promise of God.
6. The Household of Crispus
Acts 18:8 says, "Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with his whole household...and were baptized."
In the Bible there are individuals who believed in the Lord and there are households which believed in the Lord. Notice how easy it is for God's grace to come to a household. The whole household of Crispus believed and was baptized.
7. The Promise of Pentecost
Being Given to You and Your Children
Let us consider the condition at Pentecost. Acts 2:39 says, "For to you is the promise and to your children, and to all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God calls to Himself."
The promise of Pentecost includes the forgiveness of sins and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. It was given "to you" and "to your children"; it was not merely given "to you." Those who are heads of the family in particular should lay hold of this promise and say, "Lord, Your promise is for me and also for my children. It cannot be mine without my children also being included. I want it for myself, and I want it also for my children."
8. Peace to a House
Luke 10:5-6 says, "Into whatever house you enter, first say, Peace to this house. And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon it; but if not, it shall return upon you."
The Lord says that when a person sets out to preach the gospel, he should say as he enters into a house, "Peace to this house." It is not just given to individuals, but to households. If anyone is worthy of peace n a house, peace will come to his entire household. This verse is clear enough. God deals with man by households Thank God, peace comes to man household by household.
9. The Household of Stephanas
First Corinthians 1:16 says, "I did baptize the household of Stephanas also." Here Paul said that he baptized every member of the household of Stephanas. Like the jailer and the house of Lydia, Stephanas's whole household believed and was baptized.
10. The Household of Onesiphorus
Second Timothy 4:19 says, "Greet Prisca and Aquila and the house of Onesiphorus," and 1:16 says, "May the Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chain." Here was a family that took care of Paul, a household that was not ashamed of his chain. Notice again that it was not an individual matter but something to do with a household.
These numerous cases provide ample proof in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that God deals with man by households. This is particularly true in the case of salvation; God takes the household as a unit.
III. THE HOUSEHOLD BEING ALSO THE UNIT
OF GOD'S PUNISHMENT
We need to see some verses which show that the unit of God's punishment is also the household. When man rebelled against God, God was provoked and He judged man. In judging man He took the household as a unit. God's judgment comes through one man to the entire household, just as God's blessing comes through one man to the netire household. Once we see this, we will take a stand for our household and declare that our household is for the Lord.
A. Pharaoh and His House
Genesis 12:17 says, "The Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues, because of Sarai, Abram's wife." The sin of Pharaoh brought God's plague to his whole household. God punished his whole household. If God's judgment comes to a household, we should expect that His blessing also will come to a household. We are not those under condemnation but those under His blessing.
B. The House of Abimelech
Genesis 20:18 says, "For the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah, Abraham's wife." God closed up all the wombs of the women of the house of Abimelech. His whole household was punished, not just one or two men.
C. The House of David
Second Samuel 12:10-11 says, "Now therefore the sword will not depart from your house forever because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says Jehovah, I will now raise up trouble against you from within your house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and will give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in the sight of
After David sinned, God did not rebuke and punish him individually. He said, "Now therefore the sword will not depart from your house." This is very clear. David sinned individually, but the result was that his whole household was judged by God. In God's eyes the people of this world are divided into households, not individuals. We need to come to God household by household.
D. The House of Jeroboam
First Kings 13:34 says, "This matter became a sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as even to cut it off and destroy it from the face of the earth." Jeroboam was the one who set up the idols, but God judged his house and destroyed it from the face of the earth.
First Kings 14:14 says, "Jehovah will raise up for Himself a king over Israel who will cut off the house of Jeroboam this day and even now." Jeroboam worshiped idols, but God cut off his house. I do not know why God did this. I can only say that in God's eyes a household is a unit. This is too clear. Unless we purposely ignore this fact, we have no choice but to acknowledge it.
E. The House of Baasha
First Kings 16:3 says, "I am now sweeping up after Baasha and after his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat." Because of the sin of one man, Baasha, God took away the posterity of Baasha and his house, in the same way that he cut off the house of Jeroboam. God deals with man by households.
F. The House of Ahab
I think one of the most well-known houses in the book of 1 Kings is the house of Ahab. First Kings 211:22 says, "I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha the son Ahijam because of the provocation by which you have provoked Me to anger and caused Israel to sin." Why did God deal with the house of Ahab? Because Ahab provoked God. Ahab was an evil king in the Old Testament. God said that He would deal with his house as He dealt with the house of Jeroboam and the house of Baasha.
The entire house would be cut off. The unit of God's dealing is the household. This is more than clear and obvious.
G. The Households of Dathan and Abiram
We will consider one last portion which illustrates our point quite clearly. Deuteronomy 11:6 says, "And what He did to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben, when the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up and their households and their tents and all their substance that went with them, from the midst of all Israel." When Dathan and Abiram sinned, God opened the earth and swallowed not only Dathan and Abiram, but also their households.
In the Bible, both on the positive side and on the negative side and both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, all records show clearly that God deals with man by households. Brothers, we need to take care of how we live before God, because what we do individually can affect our whole household.
IV. THE NEED FOR THE HEAD OF THE HOUSEHOLD
TO MAKE A DECLARATION
I would like to speak specifically to the heads of households. In the Bible most of those who bore some responsibility were the heads of households. The head of a family has the special responsibility before God for bringing his whole household to the Lord and to His service. You need to take your stand as the head of your family to declare that your household will believe in the Lord and that you will not tolerate anyone who will not believe. The head of the household can decide for his entire household. Even if the little children do not believe, you can still say that your household will believe in the Lord, because this household is yours and not your children's. You are responsible for your household, not your children. You can declare Joshua 24:15 before the Lord and before your whole family: "As for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah." You have to acknowledge that your family is a believer's family. You need to declare this by faith, and you need to put your wife and children on this ground. Always lay hold of this fact: I am the head of my family, and my family will believe in God. My household will not believe in the devil. I have decided that this family will be a family that worships God. I have decided that this family will be a family that believes in the Lord. If you declare this with faith, and if you exercise your authority to take the lead, your children will go along.
I believe the head of every household should make the declaration of Joshua 24:15. You should gather your children and dependents together and tell them, "As for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah." Then as long as you are in the household, your household will serve the Lord. The household is yours, and you have the power to decide whether this house will serve the Lord. When you take this stand, everyone who is under you will come to the Lord; they will have no other way to take. This is marvelous!
V. EXAMPLES IN ENGLAND
I read about this in the Bible in my earlier days, but I did not have much experience of it then. Thank the Lord, when I was in England, He provided me the opportunity to meet brothers who also believed in household salvation. I found dozens of families here and there where whole households were Christians. This gave me a very deep impression. God works according to the way man believes. Among them almost every household experienced household salvation. "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." There were very few exceptions among them. They were all saved by households -- father, mother, wife, children, and all. I was very amazed as I spoke to them one by one.
Once I visited Mr. George Cutting, the author of the famous booklet "Safety, Certainty, and Enjoyment." The best-selling book in the world is the Bible. The second best-selling book is this booklet. Although it is small, it is one of the most widely circulated books in the world. When I met Mr. Cutting, he was over eighty years old. His hair and beard were all white. He was in bed all the time, and his mind was not very clear. When I met him, he said, "Brother Nee, I cannot live without Him, and He cannot live without me." He had such a deep fellowship with the Lord. Thank the Lord, there were over eighty members in his household. All of them were saved. Every one of his sons, daughters-in-law, grandsons, granddaughters, nephews, nieces, great-grandchildren, old or young, male or female, were saved. George Cutting himself believed in the word: "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." His whole household was saved.
George Cutting was very serious about this matter. He paid much attention to household salvation, not just individual salvation. He had at least eighty to ninety people in his household. All of them were saved. Thank the Lord, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." Faithful is the word.
VI. THE NEED TO BRING
THE WHOLE HOUSEHOLD TO THE LORD
I hope that the newly saved brothers and sisters will pay attention to this matter. Once you are saved, you should gather your family members together and declare to them, "From this day forward, my household belongs to God." You need to declare this whether or not they belong to the Lord and whether or not they agree. You are the head of the house and you should do this. You should take the matter into your own hands. You should declare that your household will serve the Lord. When you exercise your faith to stand firm this way, you will prevail.
If those who are saved through us are saved household by household instead of one by one, what a difference it will make! Brothers and sisters, do not be too loose with your children at home. One of the greatest failures of the Protestants is that they are too loose with their next generation; they allow their next generation to have the freedom to choose their own faith. The Catholics do not have to preach the gospel. Their increase through natural birth alone is greater than the increase the Protestants have in a lifetime; Have you seen Catholics preaching the gospel on street corners like the Salvation Army? No. They just propagate through natural birth, generation after generation. Two become four, and four become eight. Every Roman Catholic child automatically becomes a Roman Catholic. The Catholics do not pay much attention to increase from the outside. As long as a person is born into Catholicism, he is dragged into the religion whether or not he eventually becomes a true believer. It is no wonder that the Catholic population exceeds
the Protestant population by more than three times. Do not be nonchalant in this matter, and do not allow your own children to drift away.
Let me repeat: A new believer needs to declare right from the start that his household belongs to the Lord. Not only must he be the Lord's individually; he also must declare that his household is the Lord's. Take full control of this matter, and it will be done for you. You have to declare again and again at home, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. All who live in this house should decide to serve the Lord." You should bring your family to the Lord. You should not make any excuse. Do not allow anyone to drift
Household salvation is one of the greatest principles in the Bible. Once you are saved, your whole household should be saved. As an individual you must first stand firm for the Lord, and then your household will change. I hope that you will pay attention to this matter. This is a great blessing; If you do this, you will bring more people to the Lord.