The Protestant overview of salvation as described in Acts 16:29-34 is that this particular incident does not promote belief in universal “household salvation” simply because the head of the house has come to saving faith in Christ Jesus.
In Acts 16 the Philippian jailer asks Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
This promise is given to a specific individual in a specific context, namely that he and his household will be saved. The promise is universal in the sense that when a person believes in the Lord Jesus they “will be saved.” In this instance, salvation came to the jailer’s household as the result of their hearing the Word of God and individually responding in faith.
Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house... he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family” (Acts 16:32).
The whole family heard the gospel. They were all saved, just as God had promised, but their salvation was not due to their being a part of the jailer’s household; they were saved because they believed the gospel for themselves. The principle of salvation is summed up concisely in the words of the Apostle Peter who said:
All the prophets testify about him [Jesus] that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:43).
To be saved, a person has to believe in Christ Jesus. Salvation is individual, not collective. Adults are responsible for either accepting or rejecting Christ Jesus. That is why belonging to a particular religious denomination does not save a person either. The Protestant view is that “household salvation” is not a universal promise to any and all families where the head of the house is a saved Christian. Salvation comes only to people who acknowledge they are sinners, who repent and place their faith in what God, in Jesus, has done to save us from the consequences of our sin.
Charles Spurgeon made this observation: “Though grace does not run in the blood, and regeneration is not of blood nor of birth, yet doth it very frequently . . . happen that God, by means of one of a household, draws the rest to himself. He calls an individual, and then uses him to be a sort of spiritual decoy to bring the rest of the family into the gospel net.”
In the instance of the jailer, he and his family believed in Jesus after hearing the gospel message, and were immediately baptised. In other situations, the head of a family may be used by God to help bring unbelievers within his household to saving faith. But there is no “blanket cover” for household salvation – salvation is personal, it is individual and it is the gift of God.