Many people have asked, “What must I do to be saved?” That’s a good question. It is the same question that many asked in scripture (see Acts 2:37 and Acts 16:30). The answer is important because it determines where you will spend eternity. Someone has said, “Only a fool would be unprepared for what we all know is inevitable: death. The most recent statistics show that mortality rates in the world are 100 percent!”
To help you understand, I would like to break the answer down in a way that allows you to see some of the major concepts involved in the answer. While Biblical understandings of subjects such as the effect of the fall, grace and Jesus’ sacrifice for us are extremely important, this article focuses on your part – your response to what God has done for you. It is fitting to do this since the teachings of scripture on these topics are covered elsewhere on our website. God has done his part. What do you need to do?
Your response must begin with faith:
Faith is where our response to God must begin. The Bible says that, “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). When asked the question, “What must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30), Paul’s response was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Biblical faith is that, without having seen him, you believe that God exists and that his son, Jesus Christ, came to earth, lived a sinless life, died on the cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God.
Faith or belief, both words are used interchangeably in the scriptures, is where we must begin, but did you know that not all faith is acceptable to God? James says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder” (James 2:19). You can believe in God and it will get you nowhere unless you put that faith into action. In recounting his own conversion experience, the apostle Paul tells of how he met Jesus and became a believer on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:6-11; 26:12-18). In Damascus, Ananias the evangelist preached to this new believer (Acts 22:12-16). When told what to do, Paul describes his response as, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). Faith leads one to action!
Faith leads to repentance:
In Luke 13:3 and 5 Jesus tells the crowds, “Unless you repent, you will likewise perish.” In Acts 17:30 we are warned that, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” At least a dozen times in the book of Revelation the Bible instructs us to repent. What is that?
Repentance is the Bible’s word to describe the process of changing your mind. Before faith, one is usually on a road of self-satisfaction, that is doing what he/she thinks is right – doing what she/he wants to do. Once faith enters the picture a change of mind needs to take place. One might call it a U-turn because the goal changes 180 degrees. The goal is no longer a question of, “What do I want to do?” or “What’s best for me?” but rather, “What does God want of me?” The answer to that question becomes a controlling factor in the way one lives life. Repentance is an intentional decision to change one’s life based upon what God wants. The center is no longer “Me.” It is “God.”
In many ways repentance is the hardest command. Repentance requires making choices on a daily basis to live the way God wants you to live. Once the decision is made to repent, it is a forgone conclusion as to what you will choose when it comes to “My way or God’s way?” The important question becomes, “What can I do to please God?
If you believe, you should confess it:
Jesus said, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9). The apostle John wrote, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23).
A part of becoming a Christian is to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This confession was made by the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:37 after he had seen water and wanted to be baptized, “Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” Timothy was reminded of “the good confession” that he had made “in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).
While the words “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” are formally confessed at the time of baptism they are continuously confessed by the life of one who is a follower of Jesus Christ. The Bible admonishes in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” This is the confession on which Jesus stood, even though it cost him his life, “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:13-14).
While one is free to choose whether or not they will confess Jesus as the Son of God while on this earth, there will come a time when everyone will. Paul says regarding Jesus, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
One must be Baptized:
When Jesus gave his Great Commission to the apostles he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). There are several considerations that the scriptures tie to baptism.
The scriptures are clear that it is at the point of baptism (and not before) that sins are forgiven. When the ones guilty of killing Jesus believed in him and were convicted of their sins, they asked Peter and the other apostles what they should do, Peter’s response was, “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” (Acts 2:37-38). Paul believed in Jesus Christ after meeting him on the road to Damascus. Yet he was told by Ananias, the preacher, “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). In 1 Peter 3:21 the Bible says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Because there is forgiveness of sins in baptism those who became believers in the New Testament were immediately baptized (Acts 2:41; 8:38; 16:33; 22:16).
The form of baptism is also very clear in the scriptures. It was an immersion in water. Actually, the very word “baptism” means to submerge, plunge under or dip in water. This is seen throughout the scriptures but is especially evident in Romans 6:3-4 when Paul reminds the Christians in Rome, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Colossians 2:12 says, “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” When we are baptized, we go through a process of symbolizing Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. We die to sin, are buried with Christ in baptism where we receive forgiveness of sins and then we rise to a new life of being in Christ and living for him (Romans 6:5-14).
So what is the value of a believer being baptized by immersion as the scriptures require? First of all, we have obeyed exactly what Christ has told us to do. This is as the Christian hymn writer, John Sammis wrote in 1887, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”
A second value is that we receive forgiveness of sins. Each of us carries our load of sin. We can remove that burden by being baptized.
Another value of being baptized is that God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). Some of the blessings are:
There are only two scriptures that tell us how to get “into Christ.” They are:
The way we get into Christ where all spiritual blessings are found is by being baptized into Christ.
Does one earn salvation by having faith and responding through repentance, confession and baptism? Not at all! Salvation is a free gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” It is a free gift because Jesus paid the price and all we can do is obediently respond to his requests and say “thank you” for doing what it would be impossible for us to do on our own. Our response should be the same as the Ethiopian eunuch who “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39). We can sing that famous hymn written by Elvina M. Hall in 1865:
“Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.”
One of the verses to the song proclaims:
“For nothing good have I,
Whereby Thy grace to claim;
I’ll wash my garments white,
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.”
“Remain faithful unto death”
What has been described above is a good beginning to the Christian life. However, John quotes Jesus as saying, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). In 1 Peter 2:21 the Bible says, “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” At the end of his life the apostle Paul could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
So how should the question, “What must I do to be saved?” be answered? If you want your sins forgiven and to be where the blessings of Christ are found then the way to begin is by becoming a person of faith. This should lead you to repenting of your former life of sin and making the U-turn back toward God. This will lead you to confessing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and being buried with him in baptism so that you can rise to walk in a new life in Christ with all the blessings the scriptures describe. If we can help you in this process or you have questions/concerns about what we have said, please feel free to contact us at Instructor@GetToKnowTheBible.com
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