What Must I Do To Be Saved?
The Bible warns us that when we break God’s commands we are guilty of sin and die spiritually. That results in separation from God. If we die physically in that condition our separation from God will be eternal and involve a spiritual suffering of the most intense kind, with absolutely no relief for evermore. That is what God will save our souls from if we will accept His offer of grace through faithful obedience of His word. God’s message of salvation is revealed in the New Testament Scriptures. A study of the subject shows a number of things are stated as essential to receiving forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Even though no single passage lists all of these requirements consecutively, by having a clear understanding of each one we can see a natural progression in them. This gives us confidence of exactly what we need to do each step of the way in God’s process of rescuing us out of the darkness of sin and saving us in the kingdom of His beloved Son.
First, we must listen to God and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word gospel means good news. The good news of the Bible is that Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross for the sins of all mankind. Every person that has sinned needs to know what Christ did and what they need to do to benefit from it. That is the essence of the gospel. If we will hear it and listen with a proper attitude and understand it, we can know how to access God’s saving power. That is what Paul is referring to in Romans 1:16 which says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” And in Romans 10:17 he wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
We then need to believe the gospel message that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. It is not enough for us to just hear the truth, we must also believe it. We must accept God’s word and trust that He will keep His promises to us as we demonstrate our faith in Him and His Son through our obedience.
During His ministry there were many of the Jews who refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God. He sternly rebuked them for not accepting Him to be the Christ. Here is what He told them in John 8:24 “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He you will die in your sins.” We have already talked about the fact that if we die in our sins we will be eternally lost. So Jesus made it clear that in order to have eternal life a person must believe in Him, that He was all that He claimed to be.
Many years later the writer of the book of Hebrews would also speak of the importance of believing in God, and of course to truly believe in God would necessitate believing in Christ. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” From this passage we see that we cannot please God without faith. It also shows us that a person who has faith is a person who comes to God and trusts God to reward Him for seeking God. As we stated before a saving faith is an active, obedient faith and one that includes trust.
Once we truly believe in Christ, that should lead us to repentance. On another occasion when Christ was preaching to His fellow Jews, he demanded their repentance. He had been talking to them about some Galileans that had died at the hands of Pilate. He asked them if they thought those Galileans were more sinful than all other Galileans because they had been put to death. He then answered His own question in Luke 13:3 where He said, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” His message to them was simple. Repent or you will perish.
Here is where it would be good to define the word repent. In its most basic form the Greek word that we get repent from meant to change your mind. However, in the apostle Paul’s discussion of the subject in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 we can see a good working definition of repentance to be a change of mind, brought about by godly sorrow, resulting in a change of life. In other words, when a person heard and believed the gospel it would bring about a change of mind because they were sorry to God for their sins and they would change their lives accordingly.
The fact that we all need to repent if we want to be saved is stated by Paul in Acts 17:30 where he said, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.” Man has always had law from God, but when God gave the Law of Moses exclusively to the Jews, He did not expect the other nations to keep specific laws He had not given them and of which they were unaware. However, since Jesus has fulfilled the Law of Moses and established His church, all of mankind now needs to repent of their sins and serve God through Christ.
At this point we should be ready to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. After believing in Christ and coming to a new understanding of our responsibility to make changes in our thinking and the way we live, confession is the next step we need to take. In this case we are not talking about confessing our sins, that would have been part of our repentance. This confession would be making known what we have come to believe in our heart, that Jesus was not just a man, but also the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Christ told His disciples that confessing Him before men was essential to their salvation. In Matthew 10:32-33 we read, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” If we want Jesus to confess us to be His disciples to the Father in heaven then we must confess Him before men now while we are here on the earth.
Paul talks about confession as part of what Timothy did when he was called to eternal life (saved by becoming a Christian) in 1 Timothy 6:12-13, which says, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate.” In each of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we can see where Christ made the confession before Pilate that He was the King of the Jews. Pilate of course did not understand that as such, Jesus was saying that He was the Christ, the Son of God. So just as Timothy confessed Jesus to be the Christ in front of others as part of what he did to become a Christian, so must we.
Finally, we must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Christ told the apostles how critical baptism was in Mark 16:15-16, “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.’”
So when Peter preached the first gospel sermon that resulted in the establishment of the church, he told his audience that they needed to be baptized in order to be saved, just as Christ had commanded him to do. Acts 2:38 says, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
Saul, who would become the apostle Paul, is another good example of the necessity of baptism. After the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus and told him to go into the city and wait for further instruction, Saul was a believer. His repentance was demonstrated by how he stopped persecuting Christians and started obeying the Lord. And it is hard to believe that he would not have confessed his new found faith in Jesus to those with whom he came in contact. However, he still had his sins, so he had not yet been saved. Now listen to what he was told in Acts 22:16, “’Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’” In spite of all that Saul had done, he was still guilty of his past sins, which separated him from God, until he was baptized.
The last passage we will reference concerning baptism shows that when people learned the gospel of Christ and obeyed it, they were baptized in water. After Philip taught the Ethiopian eunuch about Jesus we read this in Acts 8:38, “And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.”
When we are buried in the waters of baptism, it is at that very moment that our souls are cleansed by the blood of Christ. As we come up from that watery grave we are raised to newness of life because God has forgiven our sins and we have been born again in Christ.
In conclusion: If we want to be saved we must hear the gospel, believe in Christ, repent of our sins, confess Jesus to be the Son of God and then be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins. Then, having been born again, we are a new creature in Christ. Of course this is only the beginning and God wants us to serve him faithfully as Christians for the rest of our lives.