Does God save families? Yes, but each person must repent and believe for him or herself. God still has no nieces, nephews, or grandchildren. When Paul and Silas told the repentant jailer in Philippi that “you will be saved, you and your household,” they weren’t thinking of God’s saving families (Acts 16:31). Each person in that house heard “the word of the Lord” and was “baptized” (16:32-33). They had to repent and believe just like the jailer.
Paul and Silas weren’t the first ones to promise salvation to a whole family. Twenty-five hundred years earlier, God told Noah to “come into the ark, you and all your household” (Genesis 7:1). So he, his wife, his three sons, and their wives entered the ark and were saved from the flood (7:7, 13). Since Noah alone was called “righteous” and Ham was later cursed for his wickedness, this means that God saves families, right (7:1, 9:22-27)? Wrong. If Noah had any siblings, then they died in the flood. Yet his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law chose to enter the ark and be saved when they could have chosen death and destruction.
Noah’s righteousness also created an umbrella of salvation over his family – a spiritual “hedge” of protection (Job 1:10). As long as Noah’s family remained with him, they were safe. If they left, then they had to answer to God for themselves; Noah’s righteousness couldn’t save them anymore. For example, Ham’s true nature wasn’t revealed until after he left the ark. Once he was cursed and left Noah’s protection, Ham went on a downward spiral. His descendants’ most celebrated failure was the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).
This same spiritual umbrella occurred in the life of Joseph. God made him prosper in Egypt, so that Potiphar made Joseph “overseer of his house” (Genesis 39:4-5). From this moment, “the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake, and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field” (39:5). However, after Joseph was wrongly accused and taken to prison, God removed his blessing and protection from Potiphar.
The most famous illustration of this truth occurred during the first Passover in Egypt. The head of each Israelite family had to cover the lintel and doorposts of his house with blood from the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:7, 21-22). God said that when he saw the blood, he would “pass over” the house so that his destroying Angel couldn’t harm its inhabitants (12:12-13, 23). People and their livestock were protected only if they remained in the house; the firstborn of anyone who left would die (12:29).
Paul explained these truths in his first letter to the church in Corinth. He told them that unbelieving spouses who remain with believing husbands and wives are “sanctified” by them (1 Corinthians 7:14). As long as they remain, their children are “holy” (7:14). If the unbelieving spouse leaves the umbrella of protection, however, then the children are “unclean” (7:14).
We wonder today why so many young people fall away once they enter college. Do they learn “facts” about creation, evolution, and the Bible? No. These people just choose to reject truth and believe lies. One reason for this sad state of affairs is the spiritual umbrella. Unbelieving children are safe as long as they remain with a believing parent. If they leave for work or school, then they must answer to God for themselves. Another reason is the restraining influence of spiritual salt both at home and at church, even though most youth groups have little substance or depth. After people leave the protection of home and church, their true natures are revealed.
Only a spiritual umbrella or hedge of protection keeps destruction at bay. God won’t punish sinners who deserve his righteous wrath as long as a saint lives in the house. Once he or she leaves, destruction is imminent. For example, after righteous Lot left Sodom, God rained “brimstone and fire” on the city (Genesis 19:23-25, 2 Peter 2:6-8). Likewise, after the church is raptured, a wicked world lulled to sleep by sin will be destroyed (Revelation 6:16-17).
When Jesus Christ returns for his bride, will we rely on our parents’ faith or repent and believe for ourselves? The choice is ours.
 New King James Version (NKJV), unless otherwise noted