By S. Leonard Tyler
This is a penetrating, demanding and heart-rending question. One can not over emphasize its importance for the right answer leads to life but the wrong answer leads to death. Notwithstanding, for one to feel the soul-searching impact, he must accept some inevitable facts respecting man.
We are living in a material-oriented world where man is relegated to, at best, only a species of highly developed animal with no more hope of life after death than a pig. Therefore, many people are robbed of the very basic essentials for a true understanding of man’s worth. Let us consider some of these facts.
Fact Number 1: Man is an immortal being.
Man is a physical-spiritual being, in his earthly relationship (Gen. 1:27; 2:7; Eccl. 12:7; 1 Cor. 15:16-20; 2 Cor. 5:3-4). The physical body returns to dust and the spirit returns to God after death (Jas. 2:26). The spiritual man shall live somewhere in the eternal realm after death (Matt. 25:46). The mortal body is an “earthly house” and shall be dissolved but the spiritual is accountable to God (2 Cor. 5:1, 10; 1 Cor. 15:53-58). “It is appointed unto man once to die; then the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). If and when one comes to understand that he is an immortal being, the after-death life becomes a reality and takes precedence over all the physical, perishable possessions – even aver one’s own body (Matt. 6:25; 10:28, 37-39; 16:26).
Job asked, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14). Jesus answers, “I am the resurrection, and life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). The purpose for the Inspired Word of God is to give hope and direct one in preparation for the life after death (2 Cor. 5:1-10; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:16-20). There is – in reality – a resurrection or there is no purpose for the gospel of Christ (1Cor. 15:53-58).
Fact Number 2: Man is a free moral agent.
Man is a free moral agent, capable, accountable, and responsible for his own life (Rom. 1:5-11; Rom. 6:16). Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. . .” (Gal. 6:7-8). One has a choice to make, as Joshua called upon Israel, “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve. . .” (Josh. 24:15). Elijah also asked, “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him, but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 19:21). Moses explained to Israel, that God “set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deut. 30:19).
Free will is the capability and responsibility of self-determination, considering and choosing between motives, for the life one lives. In our study, the choice is: the broad way to destruction, or the strait and narrow way to life (Matt. 7:13-14).
Fact Number 3: One must be conscious that he is lost and why.
One must be conscious that he is lost, to be concerned with being saved. If one feels that he is pleasing to God, he will be content. A false feeling is very deceitful (Rom. 7:7-13). But when one comes face to face with the fact that he is lost, he will want to know, “Why?”
Is the “why” important? Think! If one believes that he is born guilty of the “Adamic sin,” that he is depraved and evil because of sin inherited at birth, and that he can think or do nothing good or bad to effect his own eternal destiny, within his own thinking he is a victim of Divine Providence. Such understanding will destroy every ounce of interest in, “What must I do to be saved?”
One is lost because he sins and he is responsible for it (Rom. 3:10, 23; 6:16; 1 John 3:7-8). “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The son shall not inherit the sin of the father, neither shall the father inherit the sin of the son. Each bears the responsibility for his own life (Ezek. 18:20).
Sin is rebellion against God, whether through omission or commission. “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). When one commits sin through lust or fails to obey God’s instructions, he is guilty (Jas. 1:13-15; 4:17). The guilt of sin brings condemnation (Matt. 7:23; 2 Thess. 1:7-8). “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:2). Since one is lost because he commits sin through lust, he can be saved through faith by turning from sin and obeying God’s will (Rom. 1:5; 16:26; Heb. 5:9).
Fact Number 4: God would have all men to be saved.
“God, our Savior. . . would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Thus God gave His only begotten Son, in a sacrificial death, to procure the way of salvation – for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (John 3:16-17; Rom. 5:8; Heb. 9:22). Jesus was born of woman, lived a perfect life, and yielded Himself unto death that He might accomplish the Father’s will for man’s salvation, without violating His Divine Justice. Truly, it was “the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18; Gal. 1:4). This culminated in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ (Acts 2:29-36; 1 Pet. 2:24-25). Paul wrote, “Which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. . .,” and proclaims these facts basic to the gospel of Christ (Eph. 1:20-23; 1 Cor. 15:1-4).
Jesus, the Son of God, has all authority and speaks for His Father (Matt. 2:18; Heb. 1:1-2). He is the Savior and only Mediator between God and man (Acts 2:36; 1 Tim. 2:3-6; 4:10; Heb. 9:15; 12:24). In fact, He is “the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).
In Christ, one is reconciled to God, a partaker of the divine nature, and has access to all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3, 7; 2:13-16; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). Today, man is invited to enjoy all of these blessings in Christ, “Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. . .” (2 Tim. 2:8-11). He is indeed, “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
“What Must I Do To Be Saved?”
If one honestly seeks the answer to this inquiry, his greatest problem is solved. He, like the Philippian jailer, can find the answer. The gospel of Christ was preached and written for that purpose (Mk. 16:15-16; John 20:30-31; 1 John 1-2:1-6).
The question is composed of two major clauses: (1) “What must I do?” demanding personal action, obedience. (2) “That I may be saved” is passive with two concerns: (a) from what? (b) by whom? These two fundamental principles are involved in every person’s salvation. There is something one “must do to. . .” and as a consequence he will . . . “be saved.”
Odd as it is, many religious teachers, when they come to the word “do, “cover it with, “I feel, I think, I dreamed, I experienced, etc.” Notwithstanding, the “do” is still there and means whatever “do” means – “to perform (an action, etc.); carry out, as to do a deed” (Webster’s New World Dictionary). The jailer’s purpose for asking his question was to learn “what act or deeds” he must perform. He was seeking to learn “what he had to do” Paul taught him; he and all his house were baptized (Acts 16:30-34).
“From what” must an alien sinner be saved? We have learned that sin separates one from God. Therefore, man must be saved from the guilt of past sins that he committed (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 6:17-18; Acts 2:37-42).
“By whom” must one go to be saved? Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of Christians and “chief of sinners,” found his answer in Christ (Rom. 7:24; 8:1-4; 1 Tim. 1:15). Luke tells us, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10). Christ is “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9). Jesus “hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68-69). If one refuses to obey Him, “To whom shall we go?” (Heb. 6:4-6; John 5:22-29).
Fact Number 5: One must choose to be saved.
“No man can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24). Man must choose which Master he will serve – God or Satan? If one follows the desires of the flesh to fulfill the lusts and serve Satan, he will be a sinner. If one chooses to live by faith and serve God, he will be a Christian. Yes, my friend, you have a choice to make and you are responsible to both God and man for your choice (2 Thess. 1:7-9; 2 Cor. 5:10).
One can not save himself apart from the Lord (Jer. 10:23; Prov. 14:12). He cannot, of himself, even know what to do? That is why the jailer asked, “What must I do?” (2 Cor. 3:4-5; 10:5). Neither can man merit or earn salvation by doing his own thing, boastful works and his own righteousness (Tit. 3:5; Eph. 2:9). One cannot even demand that God save him in a special way; God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35; Matt. 7:21). Man cannot go to other men for salvation since they are humans and have the same needs he has. They differ in doctrine, ways, churches, and even gods, all of which are vain in God’s sight (Matt. 15:8-9, 14; Col. 2:8; 1 Pet. 2:1-3; Acts 17:22-31). Man has a definite and deciding part in his own salvation. He must accept God’s grace-provided provisions by faith (Acts 2:40; Phil. 2:12). In this way, he can be saved “by grace-through faith” (Eph. 2:8).
Jesus has the only positive and definite answer, with firm proof and assurance, to our question. He promised, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). He is risen and invites all: “Come unto me and I will give you rest” (1 Cor. 15:20; Matt. 11:28). Thus Jesus gives the conditions upon which He will save. He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). Are you willing to accept Jesus’ conditions? You can, if your faith is sufficient to trust and obey Him (Luke 6:46).
What Must One Do?
The New Testament answers this inquiry so plainly that one can easily list the acts leading to Jesus in order (John 1:12). These are not just cold, formal demands but rather provisions, privileges, and opportunities afforded by the grace of God for man’s salvation. Let us examine these acts or steps one by one.
Step Number 1: One must hear (come to an understanding of) the word.
The Inspired Word gives the evidence, substance, and assurance by which faith is produced and sustained in God, in Christ, in the Holy Spirit, in man’s needs, as well as in God’s grace and provisions for man’s salvation (Heb. 11:1; Jude 3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4).
Christ commissioned His apostles to go into all the world and preach, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:15-16). Also, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you… and lo, I am with you alway?” (Matt. 28:20). Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. . .” (Rom. 1:16). “. . . the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). Thus the exhortation, “receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas. 1:21-25). Notice the essentiality of being “doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
The Word Gives The Reasons For Believing
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). The Holy Spirit revealed God’s way and provisions for man’s salvation through inspired men “for the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5; 16:26; 1 Cor. 2:10-13). John declares this to be the purpose of the written word, “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31; Jude 3). The only thing that keeps one from being saved is his lack of faith sufficient to move him to submit himself in humble obedience to the Lord (Heb. 4:2; Acts 2:41; 8:12-13; 35-38; 16:31-34).
Step Number 2. One must believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
Paul’s answer to the Philippian jailer was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved, and thy house.” This is not “faith only.” It is faith, the essential reason and motivating power, that moves one to accept Jesus as both Lord and Christ and to obey Him (John 1:12; 1 John 5:4-5). “But without faith it is impossible to please him . . . .” Jesus said, “For if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24; Heb. 11:6). He also said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:15-16). James plainly states, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” and adds, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:17, 20, 24). Surely, it is “faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). If one truly believes, he will seek to know, trust, and obey Jesus (Acts 2:41-42; 18:8; Rom. 6:16-18). Saving faith is not saving oneself by his own works or righteousness, but rather, submitting himself completely to the Lord to do His will (Phil. 3:8-11; Gal. 2:20).
Step Number 3: Jesus commands all men to repent (Acts 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:9).
Repentance is the turning point, changing of one’s mind from his own thinking and ways to accept God’s thinking and ways (Isa. 55:6-9). One must have sufficient faith to convict him of wrong and convince him of what is right. This induces “godly sorrow (which) worketh repentance unto salvation,” or which leads one to repent (2 Cor. 7:10). Jesus said, “I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Repentance is an act of faith, the changing of one’s mind or will from wrong to right, from Satan to God.
Jesus gave a good illustration in the parable of the man who had two sons “and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.” He said, “I will not: but afterward he repented, and went” (Matt. 21:28-29). The “and went” was an action after the repentance. Repentance was the changing of mind, the result was “and went,” with the idea to work understood. Peter said, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). Repentance, then, is the making up, settling down, establishing one’s own mind in true conviction of what is the right life to life. True repentance encompasses the determination to live for Christ.
Step Number 4: With the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:10).
Faith is an absolute essential every step of the way to Jesus (Heb. 10:39). The confession is a public acknowledgement of one’s faith in Jesus without reservation. Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shalt confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). This is the good confession Philip called upon the Eunuch to make that he might be baptized .into Jesus Christ (Acts 8:35-39).
Step Number 5: One must be baptized into Christ for remission of sins.
Why be baptized? (1) Not because water saves; (2) not because he can save himself without the Lord; and (3) not because she can do enough good works to earn salvation. There is no power in the water. One can not save himself; man does not even know what to do, much less can he do enough to earn salvation. One must commit himself to the, Lord for salvation (2 Tim. 1:12-13). He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). He commissioned His apostles to go into all the world and preacher the gospel: “make disciples. . . baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always. . .” (Matt. 28:19-20).
Peter preacher the first sermon ever preached after the commission was given. Those who heard were pricked in their heart and asked, “What shall we do?” Peter answered, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Their repentance and baptism was for the same purpose, “unto remission of sins.” If baptism was because of salvation, then repentance was also because of salvation. Each (baptism and repentance) is an act of faith in order to the forgiveness of sins. These are commands to be obeyed. The result which is promised is remission sins.
Why be baptized? (1) To obey Christ’s teaching (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:16). Those who rejected John’s baptism rejected the counsel of God (Luke 7:30); much more, those who reject Christ’s baptism reject the counsel of God (Acts 19:1-5). (2) To follow the Spirit’s teaching (1 Cor. 12:13); and (3) to obey the apostles teaching (Acts 2:38; 10:48; 18.-8; 19.-1-5; Rom. 6.-3-4; Gal. 3:27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
The New Testament’s purpose for baptism is explained in the following words: (1) “born of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5); (2) to be “saved” (Mark 16:16); (3) “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38); (4) to “wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16); (5) “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:4); (6) “the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5); and Peter plainly states, (7) “Baptism doth also now save us” (1 Pet. 3:21). Baptism is emphasized by Noah’s salvation from the old world to the new. Water was a means God used to save Noah and family. Baptism is a means, an act of faith in obedience to Jesus’ command and in acceptance of the promise to save. He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Do you believe Him (Luke 6:46)?
If you need more information, read the stories relating the conversions: (1) The Samaritans and Simon the Sorcerer. They heard, believed, and were baptized (Acts 8:12-13); (2) The Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:30-39); (3) Cornelius and his house (Acts 10:34-35, 47-48); (4) Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:6, 18; 22:16); (5) Lydia and her house and (6) the Philippian jailer and his house. They heard the word, believed, and were baptized (Acts 16:14-15, 25-34). What more does one need to continue serving the Lord? Faith to continue trusting and obeying Jesus our Lord and Savior (Heb. 5:8-9; 2 Thess. 1:7-9). Jesus said, “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 which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21, 24-27). There is no other way. Will you accept the Lord’s way?
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 6, pp. 161, 182-184
March 17, 1983