What Must I Do to be Saved?
During the first gospel sermon preached by Peter on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the people were deeply hurt by their actions in putting Jesus to death on the cross and they asked the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). These people were seeking a way to be saved from their sins. Romans 3:23 establishes the fact that each of us have sinned in our lives. That sin has separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2), it has caused spiritual death (Ephesians 2:5) for each us in the same way that Adam and Eve died in the day that they ate of the forbidden tree (Genesis 2:17; 3:3). This separation from God is what Jesus came and died on the cross to remove. He came to redeem us - return us to God from whom our sins took us away (John 14:6). Therefore, in order to be redeemed to our heavenly Father, each of us must also ask Him, "what shall I do?"
The answer to the question is not found in men's wisdom, instead, it is only found in God's word, the Bible. The Bible contains the eternal truth of God given to men by God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16-17). How does God's word answer this question?
We Must Become Disciples of Jesus
In order for a person to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, they must be willing to listen to Christ and do in their lives whatever He teaches (Matthew 10:24; John 8:31-32; Colossians 3:17). A disciple tries to perfectly imitate their teacher (Luke 6:38; 1 Corinthians 11:1). When a person has decided that they will listen and obey Jesus Christ in all things, they must ask, "What does Jesus say for them to do?"
Jesus made it clear in John 3:16 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Yet, belief is more than just agreeing that Jesus exists, it also requires trusting in what He says (Hebrews 11:6). It is this trust in what He says that pushes us forward to salvation. Belief must happen first in order for me to have the right to BECOME a child of God (John 1:12-13). When I believe what Jesus teaches, then I know that there is no salvation outside of Him and His teaching in the New Testament (John 14:16; John 15:1-10; Acts 4:12). Belief can never be disconnected from obedience to the teachings of Christ. According to John, the opposite of belief is to not obey (John 3:36). Therefore, obedience to the teachings of God in His word is required for one to believe unto eternal life. That being true, what must we obey in order to truly believe in Christ Jesus? What must we do to have eternal life in Him?
Jesus continuously preached that people were to "repent" (Matthew 4:17). He denounced those who would not repent (Matthew 11:20-24). Jesus clearly stated that those who do not repent will perish (Luke 13:2-5). Repentance is to change the way we think and act in order to think and act like our Lord Jesus Christ and not the sinful world around us (Romans 10:2). A person coming to Christ must be willing to give up everything for Christ in order to live for Him (Luke 14:26-27). If they are not willing, they cannot be His disciple. This decision to change one's actions to be obedient to Christ takes place within their hearts and is then expressed by actions demonstrating that decision (Matthew 3:8). What are the first of these actions?
At some point, a person must go from those decisions of the heart to overt actions of obedience that demonstrate decisions in a person's life. For example, the decision to love someone is made within the heart, but is only powerful when expressed in action. God loved us (John 3:16) and expressed that infinite love in the most powerful way that love has ever been expressed, by sending Jesus to die on the cross (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10). As a disciple of Jesus Christ, one must be a light to the world (Matthew 5:14-16). They cannot hide that light. Therefore, we must be willing to proclaim with our voice our belief that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:8-10; Matthew 16:16). It is upon this reality (rock) that Jesus built His church (Matthew 16:18). While we are called to make this verbal confession in our coming to Christ, it is also one that we continue to proclaim through our lives as disciples of Christ (Matthew 10:32-33). One must never be ashamed to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God and Lord and Savior of the world. Having confessed Him as Savior, how does He save us? It is through the removal of the sins in our lives that cause us to be lost and separated from God. Where does forgiveness first take place?
Return to Peter's first sermon that led those Jews to ask, "what shall we do?" What did Peter say in response to their question on that day? He told them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Peter commands them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ in order to ("for" in Acts 2:38) receive the forgiveness of sins. Peter would also write later in his life, "Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you - not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience - through the resurrection of Jesus Christ..." Peter is comparing baptism to how Noah and his family were saved by being lifted up in the Ark by water above the destruction of the sinful world during the global flood of Noah. In the same way, Peter says the waters of baptism now save us. He continues on to clarify that it was not about washing away physical dirt like the various types of ceremonial washing of the day. Instead, it is the means to have a clean conscience. A clean conscience is only found in forgiveness.
It was baptism according to the word of God that Jesus taught when He told Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). This "Water and the Spirit" refer to baptism and the truth provided by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13; Acts 2:4). Paul said it like this to the Ephesians, "Husbands, love your wives, just Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless" (Ephesians 4:25-27). Writing to Titus, Paul referred to baptism according to truth as "the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." Ananias referred to washing in regard to forgiveness of sins when he told Saul, "Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name" (Acts 22:16).
Baptism is in the likeness of our Lord's death, burial, and resurrection. Paul told the Romans, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin" (Romans 6:1-7). Paul makes it clear that we enter baptism with sin. It is in baptism that we die to sin and rise anew in Christ Jesus having been freed from the power of sin by His forgiveness. How beautiful is it to follow in the likeness of our Lord and Savior's death, burial, and resurrection? We can also see in this text that clearly baptism would be total immersion just as burial is to totally cover a person.
It must also be understood that there is nothing special about the water. People have been baptized in river water, dirty ponds, and baptistries of all kind. The power in baptism is and always will be God responding as He promised to our obedience to His will. When Naaman was cured of his leprosy in 2 Kings 5 by submerging in the Jordan River seven times. There was nothing special about the water that cured Naaman. It was God's promised response of power to Naaman's obedience that cured his leprosy. Colossians 2:12 states, "...having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." Paul again is speaking of baptism in relation to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He says that we are raised up through "faith". Faith comes by the truth of God's word (Romans 10:17). We have faith in the working of God in baptism to wash away our sins because He has promised to provide that if we have a living faith that is obedient to His will (James 2:20-25).
The last commands by Jesus Christ before He ascended to the Father were to preach the gospel, make disciples, and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:19-20).
Continue to Learn and Obey Jesus Christ
In Matthew 28:20, it is clear that there is still more to do. Jesus says to teach those that are baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27) to observe or obey all that He has commanded. One can fall from the grace that God has given them (Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 10:26-31; 2 Peter 3:20-22). A Christian must continue their entire life to grow in the knowledge of God and in their faithfulness to Him.
If you are asking "what shall I do?" We hope this has helped. If you have further questions, please contact us and let us help you by showing you what God has said in His word, the Bible. May God bless you as you seek to come to Him through His truth.