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What Must I do to be Saved? By Mark Dunagan

In light of the following facts, this is a very reasonable question:

  1. We all need saving. Only the most callous will argue that they are completely free from guilt. Our own moral shortcomings and failures are just too obvious (Romans 3:23). How many former teenagers tend to wince when reading Romans 1:29-32?
  2. The question "What must I do" also infers that we don't possess the answer to this question within ourselves. Such knowledge isn't instinctive and neither has God directly communicated the answer to each member of the human race (Jeremiah 10:23).
  3. The question is also legitimate, because the apostles never rebuked anyone for asking it: (Acts 2:37 "Brethren, what shall we do?"; Acts 16:30 "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?")
  4. "I": Infers that someone can't take my place or be saved for me. God hasn't allowed individuals to answer for the actions and attitudes of others. I am accountable to God. When I was younger my contemporaries would argue that there was nothing to that "God-stuff", or as I recently heard a popular radio talk show host telling someone who really confused about spiritual truths, "Ah, don't worry about it". But how could any human opinion every override the views of a all-knowing, eternal, all-powerful, holy and righteous God? (Romans 3:4)
  5. "Do": In earlier days I knew I had sinned, but I thought that God had taken care of everything. Jesus died for all men, therefore all men are forgiven-automatically. But the apostles never said, "Don't fret about it, there is nothing you can do." Obviously, the death of Jesus didn't unconditionally and automatically save anyone (2 Thess. 1:8 "dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel.."; Matthew 7:21).
  6. "Saved": The purpose of religion goes far deeper than stimulating the mind, humanitarian causes, or a massive self-improvement course. There exists a fate from which I need to be saved! Therefore, sin (and my sins) can never be downgraded into a mere personality disorder, problem, addiction, compulsive behaviour, disease or unconventional lifestyle. Sin is a violation of things which are eternality right and wrong (Galatians 5:21)
  7. The answer to the above question must be within the understanding of all, for all need to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). The answer or conditions for salvation must be something that all can give or do.
  8. Therefore we must reject all claims that the Bible has been corrupted, or that books have been removed or lost, or even, that it isn't complete or no longer relevant to our generation. To contend that the Bible is not an infallible and complete guide, is to contend that there exists no answer to the above question. And hence every person is consigned to die hopelessly unprepared (note Paul's reasoning in 1 Corinthians 15:17).

 How Would You Inform Mankind

Put The Answer In Many Places:

God can get our attention by simply repeating the same truths over and over again. In the gospels, the need to hear the word of God is stressed (Mark 16:15; John 6:44-45; Matthew 13:23). The importance of a faith that responds to whatever God requires (Luke 6:46), which is much more than mere mental acceptance (John 12:42-43), but is anchored in the conviction that Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:16). Repentance is stressed (Luke 24:47), as a condition which must be meet in order to obtain forgiveness (17:3-4). Jesus also talked about the need to make a confession of one's faith in Him as the Son of God (Matthew 10:32-33). In addition, the gospels do not neglect to add that one must be baptised to be saved (Mark 16:16). And this isn't some type of cultural fabric which can be discarded, rather it applies to all nations (Matthew 28:19). Some have tried to argue that Matthew 28:19 is teaching that one becomes a disciple prior to baptism. Actually, the passage is teaching that baptism is included in the process by which one is made a disciple. Mark 16:16 fully backs up this interpretation and so does Acts 2:38 and John 3:5. One can't enter the Kingdom of God until they are born of both water and the spirit. Baptism is part of the process of being born again. The gospels also emphasise that the person contemplating following Christ must be prepared to count the cost and place obedience to Jesus as the first priority (Matthew 10:34-39; Luke 14:25-35). Thus beware when someone tries to sell you on the idea of an easy and convenient relationship with God, avenue to heaven, or a way in which you can be saved and yet still live the life that you selfishly want to live. Be impressed that Jesus expected the same standard of dedication from all who would follow Him. Luke 14:26ff was addressed to the multitudes and not merely to the apostles. It seems that today some assume that one can be far less committed to Christ than the apostles or the early Christians and yet still end up saved.
All of the above truths are also found in the letters written to congregations and individual Christians: Hearing the gospel (Romans 1:16; 10:17). Just any message won't save you, even a very religious message, or a message which is kind of close to the truth (Galatians 1:6-9). A faith which is more than an intellectual response (Romans 4:18-22; James 2:19-26; Hebrews 10:38 "..My righteous one shall live by faith…"; 10:39 "..those who have faith to the preserving of the soul"). An honest person cannot read Hebrews chapter 11 and walk away thinking that the faith that saves is the mere mental acceptance that God exists or that Jesus is the Son of God. Repentance is mentioned (2 Corinthians 7:10-11), and so is confession (Romans 10:9-10). The necessity of
being baptised pops up over and over again:

  1. Baptism stands between one and the death of Jesus (Romans 6:3).
  2. Stands between one and newness of life (Romans 6:4).
  3. Stands between one and being a child of God (Galatians 3:26-27).
  4. Between one and being in Christ (Galatians 3:27).
  5. Between one and inheriting the promise made to Abraham (Galatians 3:28-29).
  6. Between one and spiritual life (Eph. 2:5).
  7. Between one and the grace of God (2:5).
  8. Between one and forgiveness (Colossians 2:12-13).
  9. Between one and being saved (1 Peter 3:21 "baptism now saves you").

Give A Clear Pattern To Follow:

In the book of Acts God has given us a record of what people did to become Christians. The cases of conversion which God wanted preserved include both Jews and Gentiles, groups and individuals, men and women, good moral people and notorious sinners. The educated and the ignorant, upper class, middle class and bargain basement. But all of the above people were told to do the same thing. One plan of salvation, one set of conditions apply to all. And these conditions were not changed or altered when the apostles and early Christian preachers encountered different cultures, social strata's or ethnic groups. Certain points need to be made before we examine the following examples:

  1. The same conditions required of them to be saved-are also required today. Time and culture do not change these conditions. Paul noted that the teaching on baptism is just as important as the teaching concerning faith, hope, Christ, the Church or God (Ephesians 4:4-6 "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, , one God and Father of all..").
  2. We can never accept the argument that people in fall off lands don't need to be baptised to be saved. Or, that a cultural equivalent can be substituted for baptism. Can a cultural equivalent be substituted for faith in Jesus as the Son of God? Or repentance?
  3. In all of these examples we never find anyone being told that one is saved at the point they mentally accept that Jesus is their Saviour. We also never find anyone being told that prayer is the final condition before salvation. We never find anyone being told that baptism is unnecessary or that one is saved prior to being baptised. We never find babies being baptised, or adults being baptised for other adults.
  4. It is never argued that Jesus may not be the only way to God (Acts 4:12). To argue that one can be saved without becoming a Christian, accuses God of:
  1. Causing needless division in the world. Being the cause for all the religious wars and strife.
  2. Having His Son die a cruel death when such was completely unnecessary.
  3. Having the apostles and early Christians sacrifice their lives in preaching a message that wasn't really that essential after all.

The Pattern

ACTS 2

They heard the gospel (2:37), believed what they heard ("brethren, what shall we do?"). They were not told: "There is nothing you can do, don't worry you are already saved, or pray the following prayer". They were told to repent. Notice that repentance is linked with being baptised and both are placed prior to the forgiveness of sins (2:38). To argue one can be saved prior to baptism, must also concede that one is saved prior to repentance. In fact, one would also have to argue that one is saved prior to faith (Mark 16:16). Baptism is not suggested, but is commanded. Neither are these people told to repent now and then be baptised at some time in the future. None are said to be saved-prior to baptism (2:40). Baptism is linked with accepting the message (i.e. faith) (Acts 2:41).

ACTS 8:12

The same pattern, hearing, faith and baptism.

ACTS 8:26-40

In order to believe in Jesus, one must hear what to believe (8:35). Which means that a corrupted gospel cannot save, even if one happens to be immersed. As someone noted you cannot be taught wrong and baptised right. Paul would agree (Galatians 1:6-9). Baptism is once again taught as an immediate necessity (8:36). One hasn't preached Jesus unless one preaches what Jesus taught, including baptism (8:35-36). An example of a confession in Christ is found prior to baptism (8:37). The baptism commanded is in water and it is immersion (8:38).

ACTS 10

Even religious, good moral people need to be saved (10:2; 11:13-14). Hearing the gospel (10:33); faith (10:43) are stressed. Baptism is once again commanded (10:47-48), and the baptism commanded is water baptism.

ACTS 16:14-15

Hearing, faith and baptism.

ACTS 16:30-34

Again, Paul never taught that salvation was unconditional, or that the grace of God automatically covers sin at the moment it is committed. There is something that we must do (16:30-31). Faith in Jesus is stressed (16:31), but the Jailer needed to hear what he must believe about Jesus (16:32). Baptism was immediate (16:33) and is an act of faith (16:34; Colossians 2:12 "..raised up with Him through faith in the working of God").

ACTS 9:1-19 and 22:16

Saul wasn't saved by an experience or even a personal encounter with God Himself (9:5-6). Neither was he saved at the point of extreme repentance (9:9) or sincere prayer (9:11). Here is a man who truly believed that Jesus was the Lord, he didn't know this by faith-he knew it by sight! And yet, his sins were not forgiven until he met all the conditions for salvation, including baptism (22:16).

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