HOW TO BE SAVED—ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE
There isn't a more critical question that anyone could ask than, "What must I do to be eternally saved?"
But to get the right answer to this crucial question, it's imperative that we go directly to the Source for our answers:
The Word of God itself.
And when we do, we must lay aside every preconceived notion, including, but not limited to:
our traditional views, our favorite church's views, our preferred preacher's views, family opinions, and the predetermined positions of our own minds.
We must sincerely allow God's Word to guide us in this journey, with "an honest and good heart." (Luke 8.15)
The path to salvation is not difficult to understand, but after virtually two millennia of Biblical modification, man has corrupted his understanding,
and popularized these corruptions.
Some are subtle, and some are pronounced, but none of this matters as long as we truly focus our search on the information
that God, through His Holy Spirit, has provided for us on this monumental question.
We should be as the Bereans, who were elevated by God as examples to follow because they
"searched the Scriptures daily" to see if what they had been told was actually true.
The good news: Grace
The grace of God is limitless ("grace" entails undeserved or unearned favors).
There is no sin (or sins) that God's grace is not capable of completely forgiving those who turn their lives over to
their "Lord"—Jesus Christ.
By the way, "sin" by Biblical definition means "lawlessness" (see 1 John 3.4; 1 Cor 9.21; Matt 7.21-23).
But this isn't referring to "lawlessness" against men's laws,
but against the "laws" of God/Christ (or "what God/Christ want"--see Jn 8.31; Rom 13.1-6).
In other words, when we fail to do God's will as found in the New Testament, we "sin."
But the good news is that our sins—no matter how great—can be completely forgiven.
David (who committed adultery and murder) said that God removes our sins from us "as far as the east is from the west"—but God's forgiveness
was, and is, available only "to those who keep His covenant and remember to do His commandments"...
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not…keep His anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him.
 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep His covenant and remember to do His commandments.
(Psalm 103:8-13, 17)
God's plan to take away our sins
God's plan to save us was to give His only begotten Son as a sacrifice, to take away our sins.
That sacrifice was as great as any sacrifice one could imagine.
That's because it involved not only giving up His Son, Whom He loved—but also turning Him over to be tortured by the hands of the most evil of our world.
Jesus did not die quickly and painlessly. He was crucified on the cross for our sins.
He suffered so much because He was dying for so much, and He loved so much.
The Bible says that...
...God so loved the world, that He gave His only [begotten] Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.
God and Jesus gave up everything to bring salvation to all people of the earth. Why? Because He "so loved the world"—in spite of the fact that we
were living in a continual state of sin by not fulfilling His purpose for creating us—by not "doing what He wants but what we want."
Furthermore, Jesus Christ is the only possible pathway to God, and to eternal life. The Bible says:
...there is salvation in no one else [than Jesus Christ], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
But God's abundant grace will be useless for us if we do not respond to His priceless gift. The Bible says...
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,
training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age...
Our path to eternal life will fail if we don't get rid of our sins.
Again, this is the very reason Jesus came to earth: to take away our sins.
In fact, the name "Jesus" means "He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1.21).
And during His ministry, Jesus repeated that He came to earth "...to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19.10).
This is extremely good news [the word "gospel" means "good news"]. The reason it's such good news is that the "wrath of God" will remain on anyone who does not
get rid of his sins. The Bible says...
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
That's why Peter so adamantly encouraged people to do the following:
Therefore repent and return [to God], so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of
refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord...
In a moment, we'll examine exactly what we must do to "return to God" so our sins can be wiped away...but first, let's look at
what happens to people who reject God's grace.
Flipside of grace—the wrath of God
In Romans 5, the apostle Paul reminded us of the "good news" of our salvation—and the "bad news" of rejecting it:
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by [Jesus'] blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.
Think of that statement, "saved from the wrath of God."
A lot of Christians today, it seems, don't understand why God should be so angry when Jesus returns.
What this means is that they really don't understand God. Because if they understood God, if they understood what pleases Him,
if they understood what He expects of us, if they understood how God deserves and expects to be respected and appreciated through
all He has done for us (we do this by worshiping Him, which He rightfully requires of us, and which we joyfully comply to)...
...If we don't understand these and other related facts, then we don't understand God. We don't really know God.
And that is tragic, because if we don't know God, we will be in serious trouble when Jesus returns. Here's why...
...the Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven with His mighty angels
in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might,
when he comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed...
(2 Thessalonians 1:8-10)
Please notice the two classes of people who will not be saved:
(1) Those who don't know God, and,
(2) Those who don't obey the "gospel," or "message" of Christ ("gospel" means "good news").
Therefore it's safe to say that we need to get busy...
(1) Getting to know God, and,
(2) Applying Christ's message to our lives.
When it comes to "getting to know God," please realize that almost everything we learn about God is found in the Old Testament.
And almost everything we learn about Jesus is found in the New Testament.
Flipside of grace—the wrath of God (audio)
If your sins remain, your separation from God also remains...
I hope you can see that a person will never properly understand and appreciate what God has done for him
if he doesn't understand why he needs God's grace—which is because without
God's grace and forgiveness from our sins, we are in a truly dangerous situation.
Therefore, it's plain to see that we must get rid of sin from our lives—both past and present.
And the person who thinks he's never sinned should think again, because, in God's eyes...
"...all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3.23)
And since all have sinned, all have been separated from God's grace. Here's how Isaiah described the effects of sin:
...the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that he does not hear.
Simply put: "disobeying God's will" (i.e. "sin")—is what separates people from God.
Therefore, it's imperative that we learn about how to get rid of our sins, so that we can return to a proper relationship with God.
Jesus described the danger of letting sin remain. He said:
...if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire...
There is nothing more tragic than one who fails to understand his spiritual danger and loses his eternal soul. Jesus said:
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
And finally, the Hebrew writer—who was writing to Christians who were threatening to leave Christ—said that
"...it is a fearful [φοβερος] thing to fall into
the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10.25).
[φοβος in Biblical Greek means "fear, dread, terror"; φοβερος is the adjective form].
The obvious conclusion is this: Don't die in your sins—get rid of them as soon as possible.
But what we must do—specifically—to get rid of our sins and be saved?
The first direct statement about how to become a "disciple of Christ" in His coming church was given by Jesus Christ, just before
His ascension, when He said this:
 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.
In this so-called "Great Commission," Jesus explained that the "making of a disciple" (or "follower") of Christ involved requiring believers to be baptized
(which in the original Greek means "immersed") and then to obey Christ's teachings.
Perhaps you remember that earlier in His ministry, Jesus said:
"...if you obey My teachings [not only His "commands"*] then you are TRULY my disciples."
He also taught elsewhere that people who did not follow His teachings [again, not just His "commands"] were
destined for eternal destruction [Matthew 7.24-27].
Therefore, to be a true follower of Christ—we must obviously be baptized and then follow His teachings.
But is there more?
How the first Christians were saved
About one week after Jesus gave His "Great Commission" and ascended to heaven (Acts 1.3), the day of Pentecost came (see Acts 2).
And at Pentecost, thousands of Jews from "every nation" had gathered in Jerusalem.
Peter explained to these "God-fearing Jews" that they had committed a terrible sin...
...They were responsible for the crucifixion of the very
Christ they were waiting for, the One that their prophets had for centuries prophesied would be coming, and the One Daniel [Daniel 9.24-27] had
indicated would be coming in their generation. They had crucified the sinless Son of God Himself.
And although Pilate wanted to release Him, by their inaction they allowed the Jewish leaders to free Barabbas [a murderer] instead, and have Jesus delivered for
crucifixion. In this they had greatly sinned.
Upon hearing Peter's message and believing that Jesus was the Christ, they were "cut to the heart" and asked Peter and the other apostles:
"What shall we do?"
Peter commanded them to...
Repent and be baptized [Greek: 'immersed'] every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of your sins...
And those who believed the message responded in great numbers. The Bible says that...
...those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Please notice that the inconvenience of their great numbers did not negate their need to be baptized, for—according to Peter's
plain message—baptism was the point at which God would take away their sins.
AND IT WAS BY THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS THEY WERE REQUIRED TO DO THIS ("in the name
of Jesus" means "by the authority of Jesus"). You may recall that Jesus had given that order just a few days prior in His "Great Commission."
Now, because of their obedience, they would no longer be responsible for their sin of crucifying Jesus.
And, as a result of their obedience, God "added those who were being saved to His church." (Acts 2.47)
This is the fullest description we have so far of how people got rid of their sins and became true followers.
Baptism was not optional
It's common these days for people to quickly discount the role of baptism in salvation.
But Peter did not present it as an option. He commanded the already-believing, God-fearing Jews who wanted to correct their mistake and turn to God:
"Repent and be baptized [Greek: 'immersed'] every one of you...for
the forgiveness of your sins..." (Acts 2.37-38)
Please pay attention to the phrase, "EVERY ONE OF YOU."
Baptism was not an option. Nor did he utter a "sinner's prayer" as an option for those who did not prefer baptism.
Instead, he simply commanded "every one of them" to be baptized.
Please notice also that although they believed what Peter was telling them about Jesus—their
faith alone was not enough. In addition to their faith, they were also commanded to "repent and be baptized."
Peter implored them to do this if they wanted to "save themselves from this crooked generation." (v. 40)
In other words...although comparatively tiny, everyone has a vital role in his / her own salvation.
God did His part in sending His Son to earth to die for our sins;
Jesus did His part by dying on the cross so we could have our sins forgiven;
Now, we must to do our small part and "save ourselves" from our evil generation.
But by pleading for them "save themselves," Peter in no way meant that they would be—by believing, repenting and being baptized—somehow
"earning their salvation," a ludicrous notion indeed.
On the other hand, when one obeys Christ's teachings, he will be blessed with the result of having his sins removed and becoming a true disciple of Christ.
He will have access to the grace of God.
So, what happened?
Those who accepted Peter's message were all baptized—"every one of them"—and then they immediately
"devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."
What about confessing Jesus?
Obviously, not everything Peter and the other apostles said (or did) is recorded in Acts 2.
In fact, the Bible specifically says that
"...with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them,
saying, 'Save yourselves from this crooked generation'" (Acts 2.40).
So, we can reasonably conclude that some things were said and done but not mentioned in this Biblical account.
For example, we can rightly assume that the apostles were baptizing "in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit"—although
it isn't specifically mentioned.
This is logical to conclude because Jesus had commanded them to do that just a few days earlier, when He told them to...
"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..."—Matthew 28.19-20.
Another thing we can logically conclude was their verbal confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. Although it is quite
clear they had accepted Jesus as Lord, the Bible states that confessing Christ is also part of the "initiation process" of salvation.
...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Furthermore, Jesus said:
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,
but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Since it can be logically concluded that the first Christians therefore made a public acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord and Christ, the question
remains: when would this have happened?
Certainly, it would be ridiculous to assume that one would do this before even believing in Jesus, and before having remorse for one's sins [repenting].
Therefore, it makes logical sense to conclude that their confession likely took place just prior to their baptism.
Putting it all together
So, putting it all together, to satisfy the initial requirements of our salvation we must:
- Believe in the Bible's message about Jesus Christ. (Acts 2.44)
- Repent of our past misdeeds against God. (Acts 2.38)
- Unashamedly Confess Jesus before men. (Romans 10.9-10; Matthew 10.32)
- Be Baptized (immersed) in water, trusting God who said that this is what takes away our past sins. (Acts 2.38; Matthew 28.19-20)
- Learn and then obey what the Bible teaches. (Matthew 28.19-20; Luke 6.45; John 8.31; Matthew 7.24-27). This is a life-long process
which results in our continual growth as a Christian. Failure to grow in our faith, and/or lukewarm service to Christ, is sin
Of course, taking those steps is just the beginning...from there we must continue to grow in our
faith (which comes by "hearing the Word of God"—Romans 10.17), our knowledge (2 Peter 3.18) and our obedience
to the will of God (Luke 6.46).
The first Christians provide an excellent model of how God wants us to grow and thrive as Christians. As soon as they were baptized...
...they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
How to become a New Creation
"But what if I sin after I'm baptized?"
The Bible is clear that God removes past sins through Biblical baptism.
But what about sins we commit after we've been saved?
In a nutshell, the Bible teaches that after learning that we've displeased our Lord, we must be remorseful for our wrongdoing,
commit to growing in Christ and not repeating our sin, and then pray to God through Christ that our sin be forgiven.
For a more detailed explanation, please visit the following article:
3 VITAL FACTS ABOUT OUR SINS.
Understanding the urgency of our salvation
In every detailed Biblical account of those who came to Christ, those who accepted the message of truth were always baptized
with no substantial delay—suggesting both the importance and urgency of baptism. Please notice carefully the following examples:
- Acts 2.41—Thousands of God-fearing Jews
were commanded to be baptized, and all who accepted Christ were baptized that same day, in spite of the inconvenience.
- Acts 8.12-13—Philip
went to Samaria to preach good news about Christ. After preaching to them, "they were baptized, both men and women."
There was no indication of delay.
- Acts 8.37-38—Philip encountered an Ethiopian eunuch
and taught him the truth about Jesus. And, "...as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said,
'See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?'" He immediately stopped the chariot,
"and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him."
- Acts 9.17-18—Saul, later renamed to Paul, had been blinded
on the road to Damascus. He was ordered to go to Damascus. There Ananias placed his hands on Saul and he regained his sight. The Bible
then records that, as soon as he received his sight ...he rose and was baptized..."
- Acts 22.16—Later, Paul provided more information
about his conversion. Ananias said to him:
"...now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name."
- Acts 10.47-48—Peter preached to Cornelius and his family. Then he said:
"'Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people?'...And [after they received the Holy Spirit] he commanded them to be baptized
in the name of Jesus Christ." Please notice again that they were baptized immediately.
- Acts 16.33—Paul and Silas had been
imprisoned in Philippi for preaching the Word, but the chains of the prisoners were loosed after a violent earthquake.
The jailer, who knew he would be executed if any prisoner escaped, was about to kill himself when Paul restrained him and ensured him no one had escaped. The jailer fell trembling at Paul's feet and asked:
"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
He was instructed to "believe in the Lord Jesus" along with his household.
"And [the jailer] took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once,
he and all his family.
- Acts 19.5—At Ephesus Paul met some of John's disciples and
discovered they had not been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. As a result, the Bible says that, as soon as they heard this
"...they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus."
Please notice the following facts from these descriptions of Christian conversion:
- There was NEVER ANY SUBSTANTIAL DELAY from the time they understood the truth and the time they were baptized.
- They NEVER WAITED for a few days to be baptized SO THEY COULD "TESTIFY ABOUT JESUS" TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY.
- They NEVER WAITED FOR THE NEXT LARGE GROUPING OF BAPTIZEES so it could all be done at the convenience of the preacher and those already saved.
- They NEVER WAITED TO BE BAPTIZED UNTIL THEY HAD CHOSEN A SPECIFIC CHURCH TO 'JOIN.'
- Again—in every instance—not only were they always baptized, but THEY WERE ALWAYS BAPTIZED AS SOON AS IT WAS REASONABLY POSSIBLE.
And the reasons for their urgency should not be surprising. They believed the truth that baptism would wash away their sins and put
them into a relationship with Christ. They did not want to risk dying after having bypassed several opportunities to obey their Lord.
And, as any good servant, they immediately obeyed the One they loved. After all, their Lord had said that
"if you love Me, you will obey what I command." (John 14.15)
They also understood that their initiation into Christ through baptism symbolized the most fundamental concepts of Christianity.
Paul described baptism (immersion) as representative of the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
In other words, our process of coming to Christ in baptism represents our death to sin (repentance),
burial of the old self (submersion in water), and resurrection of the new self (rising out of the water, forgiven of sins,
ready to live for Christ). These concepts are absolutely central to true Christianity, and must be understood from the
beginning of our Christian lives.
Finally, the importance of baptism was emphasized by multiple Bible writers.
Paul said that we become the "sons of God" through our faith, because those of us who are "baptized into Christ have put on Christ"
(Galatians 3.26-27). He later indicated that all the Colossians had been
"buried with [Christ] in baptism [and] raised with him through faith...[and therefore were forgiven of]
all [their] trespasses..." (Colossians 2.12-13).
Peter plainly taught that—just as Noah was saved from destruction by water—so also baptism
"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..." (1 Peter 3.21).
And finally, the Hebrew writer taught that baptism was a fundamental fact of the Christian faith
Should I be re-baptized?
Someone who is baptized wrongly or without properly understanding why he is being baptized needs to be
re-baptized according to the Bible.
An example of re-baptism is found in Acts 19:1-7. These believers in Christ actually had been baptized, but
under John's baptism.
The solution was simple: be re-baptized, this time for the right reasons and in the right way.
So they were.
And so should people do today who have been baptized for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way.
Need help with being baptized?
If so, please
contact us and we will try to direct you to someone in your area who can help.
May God bless you richly in making a life-saving choice to live for Christ.
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Flipside of grace—the wrath of God (audio)
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