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What must I do to be saved? The question is simple and so is the answer. However, perverse men have manipulated an answer to suit their desires. This is noted to indicate the necessity of the individual to search the scriptures and find the answer for themselves. Anytime one relies on someone else for guidance, it is important for the one to keep their eyes open to the scriptures. In speaking about the misdirection of the Pharisees, Jesus said: “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14 (KJV)
Whether someone leads others astray intentionally or unintentionally, it is still a wrong direction. Another reason for consulting the scriptures for guidance is because even Satan can quote scripture. His great talent is to add words to the scripture to direct someone away from the truth. This is why it is written, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
Paul noted to the church at Corinth that Satan himself can appear to be an
angel of light: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed
into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also
be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according
to their works.”
(2 Corinthians 11:14-15 (KJV)
As one last note, the brethren in Thessalonica were warned about believing
a lie over the truth: “For the mystery of iniquity doth already
work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And
then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit
of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him,
whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying
wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish;
because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And
for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe
a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure
(2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 (KJV)
The warning being, there are false teachers in the world that have the appearance of men and women of God. However, it is only an appearance. Everyone must search the scriptures to verify if the speaker is speaking the words of life. The passage must be used in its proper text and with the context of the Bible.
To answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved,” one will need to search the scriptures and find the truth because only the truth will set one free from sin (John 8:32). Also, the answer is not one verse, but the culmination of passages that all deal with one’s salvation. To find the truth on any Bible subject, one needs to read all the Bible has on the subject to find the truth.
Consider King David. If all one knew about King David was his sin with Bathsheba, they would believe that David was a cruel and heartless man who would stop at nothing for what he desired. In Second Samuel, chapter eleven, we find King David lusting after a woman, taking her and committing adultery with her. When she is found with child, David brings her husband, Uriah, in from the battle. David speaks to him and sends him to his house in hopes that he will be with his wife, making the child to look legitimate. However, Uriah will not enter his house because of his noble ways. The next night, David gets Uriah drunk, but Uriah still refused to be with his wife. David then sends Uriah back to the battle sending with him a letter to the captain of the army, Joab, instructing Joab how to get Uriah killed. Joab obeys David and Uriah is killed. When Joab sends a note back to David telling him Uriah was dead. David replies, “Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him.” (2 Samuel 11:25 (KJV)
David allows Bathsheba the proper time to grieve for her husband and then takes her to be his wife. If this was all one knew about David, they would think evil of David. However, if they were to read the entire account of David’s life, they find a completely different picture and come to the knowledge that David is man and mankind is given to sin. When David was confronted with his sin, he repented and was grieved he had transgressed the law of God. David wrote Psalm fifty-one in his grief for his sin. Please take time to read the books of first and second Samuel to come to know King David.
This is why one must learn all the Bible says about man’s salvation to come to know how to be saved.
What must I do to be saved?
One point that many miss is there are two parts to man’s salvation: What God has done and what man must do. Without God’s love and grace man would be eternally lost. Man cannot merit salvation. Since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23) all men need God’s grace. Paul notes this in his letter to the Ephesians: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephes. 2:1-10 (KJV)
Where many men fall short is, they teach that man is saved by God’s grace alone. This is not what is written. Some teach that baptism is a work and since one cannot merit salvation, baptism is not essential to salvation. The Bible never defines baptism as a work. Be warned: belief in Jesus is defined as a work: “When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:24-29 (KJV)
Usually, when the Bible is disputing ‘works,’ it is disputing the works of the Old Law. This comes in two areas:
1. The Jews expected to be justified by the works of the Law. This would only be natural since the Law was such a great part of their daily life. Paul dealt with this in Romans, chapter four and in the book of Galatians.
2. The first century Jewish converts wanted to carry circumcision over into Christianity. They wanted Gentile converts to first be circumcised as a part of becoming a Christian. Acts, chapter fifteen, verses one through thirty-one deal with this problem.
What we will see is salvation is conditional. There are things man must do to be saved. Those who teach a faith and confession only type doctrine are putting conditions on man’s salvation. Baptism is simply a condition.
Note: In the topics to follow, there are other passages that could also be quoted. However, for space only a few pertinent scriptures are used.
Hearing the word of God
One must first hear the word of God. In every conversion in the New Testament, the individual converted to Christ first heard the word of God. As an example, on the day of Pentecost, in Acts, chapter two, the people from various nations heard the gospel preached by Peter and came to the knowledge they needed to be saved. In Acts chapter ten, Cornelius heard the gospel prior to his conversion. The Ethiopian Eunuch, in Acts 8:26-40, first heard the gospel preached. In every conversion, people first heard the word of God.
Paul noted the importance of first hearing the gospel, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:9-17 (KJV)
People must first hear the word to be saved.
Believe: have Faith
As noted above, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. One should be impressed with the phrase, “…and hearing by the word of God.” Some men have added and taken away from the New Testament to make a plan of salvation that fits their desires. Note the instructions from Jude, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3 (KJV)
One should not heed the words of men if they do not correspond with the word of God. It is unfortunate that some have devised a “faith only” doctrine when it comes to their explanation of the plan of salvation. Faith is important. The Hebrew writer notes: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 (KJV)
Jesus said that faith is a must: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16 (KJV)
The scriptures note in three separate passages that the just shall live by faith:
Romans 1:16-17 (KJV)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Galatians 3:11 (KJV)
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
Hebrews 10:38 (KJV)
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
The New Testament defines faith and the result of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11:1-3 (KJV)
One must have faith to be saved.
One must repent of their ways and walk the path of Christ. After hearing the gospel, one considers their faith in God and decides that whatever God commands, that is what they will do. Repentance is commanded. In Acts, chapter two, after hearing Peter’s sermon the Bible records the reaction of the people and the instructions of Peter, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, 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 2:37-38 (KJV)
Repentance is both a change of mind and a change of direction (actions). Note what God did when he looked upon the sinful old world: “And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:6-7 (KJV)
God was sorrowful of his creation. If one remembers the words recorded in the book of Genesis, concerning God’s attitude towards his creation, they would remember the comments were, “…that it was good.” (See Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25)
In looking back at all he had created the scriptures record: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31 (KJV)
However, in Noah’s time God repented, that is, he thought differently about his creation and decided to take action against sinful man by putting an end to him.
Consider when God repented at the destruction of the city of Nineveh. He sent Jonah to prophesy against the city for God was going to destroy it because of its wickedness. However, when the inhabitants repented, God did likewise: “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (Jonah 3:1-10 (KJV)
The inhabitants of Nineveh repented of their evil ways and God repented of his actions. According to the Bible, repentance is not just a change of heart, but a change of direction. When one repents of their sins, they no longer think of sinful deeds nor do the commit them. They follow the example of Christ in abstaining from sin.
Note the thought concerning one who obeys the gospel, but returns to sin: “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:20-22 (KJV)
Peter gave us a picture of what it is like if one obeys the gospel, only to return again to sin.
Jesus taught of the importance of confession: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33 (KJV)
Paul also taught of the importance of confession: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13 (KJV)
It is evident that confessing the name of Christ before men is essential.
Baptism is the one step in the plan of Salvation that is debated by men. The underlying reason probably comes from people wanting those who were not baptized to be saved. Therefore, some teach that baptism is not essential to salvation. This is where the ideas of men conflict with the word of God. One must choose to obey men or obey God. Note what the word of God says about baptism: Jesus speaking, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16 (KJV)
Peter speaking, “Then Peter said unto them, 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 (KJV)
Note what the people did in reaction to Peter’s command, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41 (KJV)
Note Ananias’s intructions to Saul (who later was called Paul), “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16 (KJV)
Paul notes that one who is baptized is baptized into Christ, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4 (KJV)
Paul notes that one who is baptized has put on Christ, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:27-29 (KJV)
Paul wrote to those in Colossee noting we are buried with Christ in baptism: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;” (Colossians 2:6-13 (KJV)
These are only a few of the passages that teach baptism is essential to Salvation. Baptism is the only operation of faith that removes sins from the alien sinner. The question is, what does one accept, the word of God that teaches baptism is essential or man’s ideas?
Consider the time in the church in Galatia when some were teaching one must first be circumcised to become a Christian. Paul wrote saying, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9 (KJV)
Upon hearing, believing, repenting, confessing and being baptized, the individual is freed from their sins, added to the church and has a home in heaven. There is a final note that obtaining salvation is not a one time thing. One must continue in the doctrine of Christ, being an obedient Christian to have a home in heaven.
To have a home in heaven, one is to continue in Christ (Acts 2:46), cease from sin (Romans 6), grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18), and to do good works (Matthew 5:16, Ephesians 2:10).
How does one arrive at these particualr events for Salvation to be obtained? Early in this study the point was made, “Also, the answer is not one verse, but the culmination of passages that all deal with one’s salvation. To find the truth on any Bible subject, one needs to read all the Bible has on the subject to find the truth.” Note some of the passages mentioned and how they are inter-connected:
The passage used from Romans 10:9-17, connects hearing the word of God, belief (or faith) and confession.
In Mark 16:16, faith and baptism is connected.
In Acts 2:38, repentance and baptism is connected.
In Romans 6:3-4, being baptized and walking in newness of life, an indication of repentance, is connected.
In Colossians 2:5-13, being baptized and having our sins forgiven are connected.
It is the culmination of scriptures that tell us what we must do to be saved. Without reading the scriptures, that is all of the scriptures, our knowledge is lacking and we do not know the truth. Is half the truth all the truth? No. This is why man must search the scriptures to find the steps to salvation. Jesus said that only the truth sets man free, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32 (KJV)
What is seen is a puzzle put together with interlocking pieces. Each part of the plan of Salvation is essential. One obtains salvation when their sins are removed. It is essential that one continues in the doctrine of Christ or they can fall from God’s grace and be eternally lost. The Hebrew writer noted this, “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:38-39 (KJV)
Douglas R. Clark
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