What Must One Do to Be Saved?
The purpose of this article is to answer the question "What must one do to be saved?" Every thoughtful person who believes in God and accepts the Bible as the Word of God should have an intense interest in this question. It is an absolute impossibility to exaggerate the importance of this question, since the souls and destiny of men are at stake (Matt. 16:26). To answer the question wrongly is fatal.
The wisdom of man, unaided by divine revelation, could never answer the question. "For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God..." (1Cor. 1:21). However, God has spoken (Heb. 1:1), and has amply and clearly revealed what one must do to be saved. The answer to the question is to be found in the truth revealed by God (See Rom. 1:16, 17; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; Jas. 1:21; 2 Pet. 1:3,4).
Human testimony as to how certain ones may think they were saved is not trustworthy (Jer. 10:23). Rather than depend on human testimony, we must depend upon what God has said man must do (1 Pet. 4:11). The Son of God only has the words of eternal life (Jno. 6:68).
I am glad to say that since God has spoken, it is not even difficult to answer this all-important question. The way is so clear that "wayfaring men, yea fools" should not err therein (Isa. 35:8). This is not a profound subject, though it is profoundly important.
Something to "DO"
In speaking about salvation, men often talk about what one must "feel," "experience," or "get." But the Bible discusses what one must "do" in order to be saved.
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that DOETH the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). "But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth, but a DOER that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his DOINGS" (Jas. 1:25). Jesus shall only save those who obey him (Heb. 5:9).
Who Should Be Concerned?
Any person that has ever committed one sin should be interested in what one must do to be saved from the guilt and consequences of that sin. Infants and other irresponsible persons therefore are not bothered by this question. But of those accountable to God, not one is excused from the responsibility of seeking a scriptural solution to his spiritual bondage. Paul argues, through the first three chapters of Romans, that Jews and Gentiles are sinners. He concludes, "All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Further, "Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12). Now sin is a transgression of Gods law (1 Jno. 3:4). Hence, my friend, if you ever have violated one single law of God, you need to know what one must do to be saved.
Until men become convinced they are lost, they will not be concerned about being saved. None can be saved until he desires salvation (Acts 2:41). So long as men feel secure in unbelief, morality and denominationalism, the question before us will not receive the attention befitting its importance. Unbelief will bring damnation (Heb. 11:6; Jno. 3:18); morality alone cannot save (Acts 10:1-4; 11:14); and denominationalism will be rooted up, since God did not plant it (Matt. 15:13). Only revealed truth can lift man from his route to certain perdition.
The Question Asked
If you now are asking, "Well, what must one do to be saved?" you are not the first person so to ask. One can read in the Bible about several persons who asked this same question. In Acts 16, the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). On the day of Pentecost, when the very first gospel sermon w a s being preached, multitudes asked, "Brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Saul of Tarsus was a vicious persecutor of the church who later was known as the apostle Paul. When the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus, he asked, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6KVJ; Acts 22:10). The question, "What must one do to be saved?" is therefore a biblical question, to which a biblical answer can be given.
Let us now look at these who asked the question which we now are considering, and see what they were told to do.
The Jailer Acts 16
Paul and Silas were cast into prison because Paul cast an evil spirit out of a young maiden in the city of Philippi. Her masters had used her demonic possession as a means to make money. While in prison, about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. A great earthquake shook the prison, opening the doors and loosing the prisoners bonds. The jailer awakened, supposed his prisoners all had fled and that he would be put to death because he had permitted their escape, and was about to kill himself. But Paul stopped his suicidal hand.
The jailer, trembling for fear, fell down before Paul and Silas, and asked "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" The unbelieving jailer was told by Paul, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house" (Acts 16:31). Jesus had said, "Except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins" (Jno. 8:24).
However, a lot of people want to stop reading with verse 31. This man believed in the Lord Jesus, but he did more. The biblical record continues: "And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, immediately" (Acts 16:33). The washing of their stripes constituted "fruit worthy of repentance" (Matt. 3:8). His mind had been changed, which is the meaning of the word "repentance" (Matt. 21:28).
And the Bible says that he immediately was baptized. We can tell what the Philippian jailer had to do to be saved by observing what he did: He believed, repented, and was baptized.
The Pentecostians Acts 2
On the day of Pentecost, to a vast assemblage of Jews, Peter argued from the miracles of Christ, from prophecy, and from the testimony of both men and God that Jesus was both Lord and Christ. He even accused those in his audience of being responsible for his crucifixion (Acts 2:23). The "punch-line" of his sermon is recorded in verse 36: "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified." Can you imagine a more shocking charge or a greater crime than to be guilty of crucifying Gods only Son? No wonder they cried, "Brethren, what shall we do?"
Peter replied, "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Peter had convinced these Jews that the one whom they had crucified was the Christ. They were now believers in him. These believers then were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins.
The inspired record adds, "they that gladly received his word were baptized" (Acts 2:41KJV). Peter did not have to argue further with these people. Once he persuaded them that Jesus was the Christ, he only had to tell them that Jesus would have them to do, and they "gladly received his word."
There was not even any dispute about whether baptism was necessary unto salvation. They realized they must "repent AND be baptized" if they were to receive the remission of their sins. All believers who "gladly receive his word" today will, without any hesitation, repent and be baptized. What did the Pentecostians do? The divine requirement of them was identical with that made of the jailer: They believed, repented, and were baptized for the remission of their sins.
Saul of Tarsus Acts 9,22, 26
Pauls conversion is discussed in chapters 9, 22 and 26 of the book of Acts. Having already subjected the church in Jerusalem to abuse, Paul secured permission to go to Damascus that he might further persecute
Christs disciples. While on the road to Damascus, there appeared to him a light brighter than the noonday sun. Some would have concluded from this "experience" that Paul was saved. But Paul did not so mistake it. Instead, he asked, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
The Lord Jesus replied, "rise, and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do" (Acts 9:6). Note that what he was to be told was something that he "must" do. Blind Paul was led into the city, and for three days neither ate nor drank. He must have been grieving over the terrible mistake he had made in persecuting Christ (Acts 26:9) and his disciples. This change of mind, occasioned by his realization that Jesus truly is Lord, constituted repentance.
When Ananias, the God-sent preacher came, he found Paul praying. The preacher then told Paul what he "must" do: "arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16). Paul immediately obeyed the heaven-sent message. Paul, therefore, in order to be saved, believed, repented, and was baptized to have his sins washed away.
Harmony of the Answers
It is obvious that each of these persons asking, "what must I do?" received a slightly different answer. But the difference is only in appearance. The unbelieving jailer is told to believe, but he also repented and was baptized. The believing Jews on Pentecost are not told to believe, since they already had done so. Instead, they are commanded to repent and be baptized. Paul, who then both believed and was penitent, was told only, "arise and be baptized." The answer given to each inquirer was determined by his spiritual condition. But actually, all did the same things. They all believed, repented and were baptized.
Persons inquiring concerning the distance to a certain city from three different locations on the route to that city would expect different replies. These inquirers concerning salvation were at different stages on their route to salvation. Hence, different replies are given to their questions. But in the final analysis, each believed, repented and was baptized.
(FOR YOUR FURTHER STUDY)
THE PLAN OF SALVATION AS GIVEN IN THE BOOK OF ACTS
Hear + Belief + Repentance + Confession + Baptism = Salvation From Past Sins
(Summary of New Testament Teaching on the Plan of Salvation)
There are many cases of conversion recorded in the book of Acts. Not all of the details are recorded concerning all of these cases. But every detail recorded is in harmony with these three cases that we have observed. In order that you might more thoroughly study the cases of conversion recorded in the New Testament, I am including a summarizing chart for your assistance. Use it with your Bible.
You will note that there is no instance of an alien sinner being told that there is nothing he can do to be saved (Acts 2:40), as some human theories assert. Nor is any alien sinner ever told to "pray through" in order to be saved. Nor is anyone told to "relate an experience of grace," "raise your hand," "touch the radio," or "have the preacher to pray for you," as we often hear sinners instructed today.
There are certain definite divinely given requirements stated that the sinner must "do" in order to be saved. Every alien sinner saved in this dispensation must believe, repent and be baptized. If we found but one case of conversion with these details stipulated, we would know what is required of all, for God is no respecter of persons (Rom. 2:11). But these requirements are repeatedly stated in the scriptures.
Not all of the plan of salvation can be found in one verse. But remember that God never requires less of a sinner than any particular verse requires, though He may require more. We, therefore, have presented the total of what one must do in order to be saved in this article and in the appended chart.
If you are a penitent believer, you now are exhorted, "arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name." "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Rev. 22:14KJV).
Truth Magazine VIII: 5, pp. 2-5 February 1964