By Keith Pruitt
As our text, we read two verses from Acts. “When they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, shall we do?'” (Acts 2:37) “And when he heard these things, he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'” (Acts 16:30)
The world is confused over salvation. Foreign voices sound unfamiliar sounds. Yet the Bible furnishes the answer to this and other questions of eternal importance (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The occasions of the above references reveal the divine answer to the most important question frail tongue has ever asked. The purpose of this article is to examine and develop both the question and the divinely given answer.
In examining the question, three very important aspects become apparent. The question asks that which is necessary to be done for one’s salvation. These three key words relay very important understandings.
(1) What must I do to be saved? This question presupposes that there are necessary requirements. Jesus was asked what man must do to please God. He responded, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” Qn. 6:28). God has always required obedience of man since the beginning. Adam was punished for his failure to obey (Gen. 3). Sin left its ugly scars upon mankind, yet God still requires those who love him to follow (Rom. 16:26). The question of salvation acknowledges man’s need for obedience. Sin is caused by disobedience (1 Jn. 3:4). Righteousness is the following of God’s commands (Psa. 119:172).
Love for God demands our willful following of his every command. Friendship with Christ is based upon a trustful submission to his will (Jn. 14:15; 15:14). How could one claim love for one whose will is rejected? Christ declared, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord and do not the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46)
Christ came to save the lost (Lk. 19:10). His sacrifice was for all men (Heb. 9:28). Man must follow the trail of his saving blood for redemption.
Yet, to follow Christ based upon the teachings of men is folly. The question implies what God desires for us to do. Who should be concerned with the desires and wishes of men, for they are mere bags of dust? Man has not the ability to give eternal direction to a physical existence which is corrupt with sin. God’s ways are supreme (Isa. 55:8-9; Jer. 10:23; Prov. 14:12). The way you follow today, dear reader may not be the Highway of Holiness plotted by the eternal Father even though it seems right (Prov. 14:12; Isa. 35:8).
“What must . . . ” Rest assured. God has required something of you! Will you respond or bid doom be your eternal abode (2 Thess. 1:7-8)?
(2) What must I do to be saved? So often, today’s tele-evangelists invite their listeners to perform all sorts of acts promising salvation to “the faithful.” Among their pleadings, “Pray the sinner’s prayer” or “Put your hand on the radio dial.” Man’s commands nullify the blood of Christ and make void even the worship of those supposing to be the children of God (Matt. 15:9; 2 Jn. 9; Gal. 1:6 ff).
On the day of Pentecost and in a Philippian jail, those present desired to obey God. Salvation is by grace (God’s actions) through faith (man’s obedience) as Paul instructed in Ephesians 2:8. There is something man must do. Faith often expresses the essence of man’s actions because every attempt on man’s part to please God is based upon faith. Faith is the essential ingredient activating man’s responses to God. Why does one confess Jesus as the Son of God or repent of sins? What prompts one to be baptized in water?
Faith is the foundation stone upon which one’s religion is built. Without faith, one cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). The Christian walks according to faith in the revealed will of God (2 Cor. 5:7). This faith lives and thrives in the word delivered (Jas. 2:14 ff). It is established and supported by the command of Jesus (Rom. 10:17).
That something is required of man is surely demonstrated at Pentecost as Peter proclaims: “Save yourselves from this untoward generations” (Acts 2:40). Man must take steps toward God. The Unitarian believes in universal salvation based upon the atonement of Jesus. Were salvation wholly an act of God, then would not all be saved? God desires the salvation of a men (2 Pet. 3:9). But Jesus, Paul declares, is the savior to those who obey him (Heb. 5:8-9). One must call him “Lord” and follow his divine direction (Matt. 7:21-23).
(3) What must I do to be saved? Salvation is the need of every man because sin’s ways have overcome us all (Rom. 3:23). None can stand before God righteous of his own accord (Rom. 3:10). All would face the penalties of sin and death were it not for the atonement of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:15).
Sin separates one from God’s divine favor. As was Adam when driven from the garden, so are all men: tainted by the hideousness of sin (Gen. 3; Rom. 5:12). Man’s unwillingness to follow after truth causes continued enmity with God.
Thus far, we have defined the question as being that of understanding the will of God for man’s obedience relative to man’s need for forgiveness and eternal redemption. The gospel is that which furnishes the answer of good news: one can be saved. Here’s how!
On Pentecost, Peter told the Jews, “Repent, and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Faith, obviously manifest in the asking of the question, needed to exercise itself in a turn from sin. Repentance, while often neglected in today’s preaching, is required for one to become a Christian (Lk. 13:3,5).
Peter also commanded, in a manner of equal importance with repentance, and for the purpose of accomplishing the same result, that his listeners be baptized. One cannot deny successfully what God has required in regards to baptism. it is for salvation (1 Pet. 3:21). It is commanded (Acts 10:47-48). It washes away sin (Acts 22:16). Baptism puts one in Christ (Rom. 6:3-4). Since all spiritual blessings are in Christ (Eph. 1:3), to refuse to be baptized into Christ is to be void of the blessings that are spiritual
When man comes to a knowledge of sin and is touched by his need of a savior, he will ask what God expects of him. In doing so, he acknowledges that God has a plan that man must obey to enjoy the blessings of forgiveness and the hope of eternal life.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 4, pp. 110-111
February 15, 1990