By Wilson Adams
It is a good question. No, it’s the greatest question anyone could ever ask. The jailer asked it in Acts 16. The penitent of Pentecost asked it in Acts 2. The Ethiopian nobleman asked it in the form of a negative inquiry, “What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Jesus read the question in the heart of Nicodemus before it could ever be voiced by his lips (John 3:1-3). And the rich, young ruler asked it. Sort of. He asked it thinking he already knew the answer.
What Must I Do To Be Saved?
There cannot be a more important question that anyone could ever ask. And the answer? Oh, how quick and simple we make it. We must (1) hear, (2) believe, (3) repent, (4) confess, (5) and be baptized. And you know what? We must! Fact is, I would affirm without fear of successful refutation that each of those is absolutely required by God before anyone can be saved. Anyone. There is ample scriptural command and instruction behind each of those five responsibilities in the converting process. And none of those five things denies salvation by faith but rather they are all a part of salvation by faith. Likewise, none of those five things denies salvation by the grace of God for even when one has done everything required of him by his Creator, he still doesn’t place God in his debt. When all is said and done, we are saved by his mercy and loving kindness.
But is that it? Hear — Believe — Repent — Confess — Be Baptized — is that all God asks of us? Hardly. I suggest that one can comply with each of those requirements and still fail to see heaven. I say again each of those is absolutely essential and I do not and will not belittle God’s commandments nor condone anyone who does. But there is more. And sometimes we fail to see the “more.”
Consider five other responsibilities we must meet in order to be saved.
1. I must forgive my brother. Jesus said plainly, “If you do not forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matt. 6:15). Wasn’t that the point of the story of the unmerciful slave (Matt. 18)? “So shall my heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (v.35). And John adds that anyone who claims Christ but hates his brother “is a liar” (1 John 4:20) and “walks in the darkness” (1 John 2:11). People whom God will not forgive, people who are liars, and people who walk in “darkness” will not be saved.
That makes me think. A lot. Sometimes I’m tempted to go pretty easy on myself while coming down harder on others. Sometimes I can think smugly. Sometimes I’m tempted to hold a grudge and count offenses. My guess is that I’m not alone. I bet you struggle, too. But it’s something we must face and conquer if we want to go to heaven. You can’t be saved and fail to forgive your brother. It is essential to salvation.
2. I must do good unto all men. Galatians 6:10 is written in the context of eternal life. “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:9-10). Galatians 6:10 is a passage perverted by our institutional brethren who misuse it to justify the church involvement in private enterprise. The church, it is argued, has a right to fund private businesses and to underwrite education, health care, etc. because Galatians 6:10 says to do good unto all men. Careful students of the Word have correctly countered that the context of Galatians 6:1-10 is a discussion of the responsibilities of individual Christians and not the church as a collectivity.
But may I voice a concern? How many of us live in violation of the very argument we make? Yes, “doing good unto all men” is an individual responsibility but how many individuals take that seriously? Do you? For example, are you involved in any kind of charity work? Do you devote any time to the needs of others? Do you help financially with someone you learn is struggling? There are many different ways that we as individuals can sow good deeds unto all men. But we must sow if we expect to reap.
3. I must bear fruit. “I am the vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away . . .” (John 15:1-2a). God requires that we bear fruit and fruit-bearing occurs in two ways. First, we bear fruit by leading others to the source of light. As Andrew brought his brother (John 1:40-41), as Phillip brought Nathanael (John 1:45-46), and as the Samaritan woman brought her friends (John 4:28-30), so must we invite, encourage, and lead others to Jesus to the best of our opportunity and ability. That is fruit-bearing.
Second, we bear fruit by adorning ourselves with the characteristics of the one we follow. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .” (Gal. 5:22-23). Truly if we belong to Christ then we will strive to bear the fruit of a Spirit-led life. It’s a must.
4. I must bring Jesus home. Matthew met Jesus at work (Matt. 9:9). One moment he’s sitting in his office and the next moment he’s invited Jesus into his home to eat at his table. And Jesus came. And Jesus will come home with you, too. Has he been invited?
Peter says that a husband must treat his wife with honor and if he doesn’t his prayers won’t make it past the ceiling (1 Pet. 3:7). And Paul said that a man who doesn’t provide for his own “has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” He may claim to be a Christian. He may teach a Bible class or be a deacon, preacher or elder . . . but if he doesn’t live as a Christian at home, he will not be saved. And wouldn’t the same be true for the wife (Tit. 2:3-5)?
Contrary to popular belief, Jesus doesn’t live at the church building. He lives in us. So do as Matthew did: invite him to come home with you and see what a difference he will make.
5. I must study my Bible. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 4:15). Yes, I know that Timothy was a preacher but doesn’t God expect all of us to study his word (Acts 17:11)? From this passage I learn that God approves of those who read and study his word and disapproves those who do not. Can a person be saved who is disapproved by God?
Do you breathe every day? Do you eat and drink every day? Do you read your Bible every day? There are some things we just do every day and reading the word should be one of them. I am convinced the reason many Christians aren’t as strong spiritually as they should be is because they don’t take in enough “milk of the word” (1 Pet. 2:2). It is the best preventative against spiritual osteoporosis. Heaven approves of those who live not by bread alone, “but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4b).
There are specific acts of faith with which one must comply in order to be saved. We must give ear to the good news of Christ, we must believe it, repent of our sins, confess Jesus as the Son of God, and be baptized for the remission of our sins. But that is only the beginning. The true servant of the Savior seeks to adhere to all that is taught. And he continues to grow. And learn. And each day brings him one step closer to home.