By Randy Harshbarger
Many people in the religious world subscribe to the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. It is sometimes expressed thusly: “Just accept Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Savior; at the point of faith you enter a saved relationship with the Lord.” A passage often used to justify such a notion is Acts 16:31. “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house.” From a study of this chapter, clearly, Paul and Silas told the Philippian jailor to believe. Did they mean that was all he had to do in this obedience to the Lord? Many are quick to say yes! But, consider another passage that will help us better understand this matter.
In Matthew 7:7 Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened. unto you.” Jesus said ask and then it will be given; seek and then you will find; knock and then it will be opened to you. Can we not see that the giving, the finding, arid the opening are all predicated upon asking, seeking, and knocking? In other words, Jesus is stating the conditions that must be met before one is blessed as per this verse.
James 1:5-6 says, “But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who givetb to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed.” James says we must ask in faith nothing doubting. Other passages shed light on our asking. For example, we must ask but also keep the commandments of the Lord (1 Jn, 3:22). Do we see that a failure to do so hinders our receiving? Also, we must ask according to the Lord’s will (1 Jn. 5:14-15); we must ask in recognition of what the Lord’s will is for us. We might ask about something in prayer that we have no business asking or we might ask in a way that is contrary to truth. James 4:2 says: “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war; ye have not, because ye ask not.” James speaks to the attitude of one’s heart. When men are consumed with devouring each other their prayers are going to be hindered. The conditions of acceptable prayer must be met. If we do not meet these conditions we cannot expect our prayers to be heard or answered, we may reason otherwise but do so in conflict with the word of God.
Paul told the jailor to believe. Other verses such as 14ank. 1:14-15, Luke 13:3 and Acts 17:30 speak about the need to repent. Romans 10:9-10 speaks about confession. Are repentance and confession necessary? Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and he that disbelieveth shall be condemned” (Mk. 16:15-16). Can a person be saved without baptism? Not if the Lord knew what he was talking about! Is obedience necessary (1 Pet. 1:22)? Some say that if you have to do anything regarding your salvation then you are working arid salvation then is no longer a matter of grace.
Which is it? Ask and receive or do not ask and you will receive anyway? Believe to be saved or believe, repent, confess and be baptized to be saved? Yes, the Lord knew what he was saying in each passage, Do we believe it and will we accept it?
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 24, p. 745
December 17, 1992