On his second missionary journey, Paul visited the city of Philippi. He and his co-worker Silas preached the gospel. But a young slave woman possessed by a spirit hindered their preaching.
She made quite a lot of money for her owners. The spirit gave her the power to predict the future. The spirit also compelled her to follow Paul and Silas around for days. She proclaimed,
These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation (Acts 16:17).
Exasperated by the circumstances, Paul cast out the demon. But in doing so, he made the young woman of less financial benefit to her owners. So they accused Silas and Paul of preaching an illegal religion. The local magistrates flogged the two Christians and threw them in prison.
Late in the night, an angel opened the prison doors. When the guard discovered the doors opened, he knew his life was over. So he drew his sword to commit suicide.
Paul called [to him] with a loud voice, saying, Do yourself no harm, for we are all here” (Acts 16:28).
Relieved, the man fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. He asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas responded,
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)
What Must I Do to Be Saved? Believe in Jesus Christ
Jesus told Nicodemus,
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
God demonstrated His love by sending Jesus to die for a world lost in sin. However, God’s love has limits. He loved sinners enough to send Jesus to die for us. But He will only save us from hell if we believe.
Believe in the Death and Resurrection
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4,
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ form the core of the gospel. Without them, the good news of salvation lacks meaning. God requires us to believe Jesus died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose from the dead.
Believe Jesus is the Son of God
The apostle John asks,
Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:5).
The Holy Spirit miraculously conceived Jesus in the womb of a virgin making Him the Son of Man and the Son of God.
To obtain salvation and thereby overcome the world, we must believe:
- Jesus is the Son of God
- He died for our sins
- He was raised from the dead.
But faith, by itself, is not enough.
What Must I Do to Be Saved? Confess My Belief
Paul says in Romans 10:9-10,
…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
As Paul indicates and other Scriptures confirm, faith begins in the heart. But outward signs must accompany our faith. Paul says we must confess our belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Confessing our faith leads to salvation.
Confess we believe Jesus is the Son of God
1 John 4:15 says,
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
If we want to overcome the world, we must believe Jesus is the Son of God. When we confess that faith with our mouths, we show everyone God lives in us and dwells in us.
Our confession also expresses our allegiance to God. I tell others that I live in Him.
God expects me to confess my faith in the death and resurrection of the Son of God. But again, faith and confession are only two parts of the complete answer.
What Must I Do to be Saved? God Saves Those Who Repent
To repent means turning away from sin toward God. Peter says in Acts 3:19-20,
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before.
Converting to Jesus, according to Peter, requires one to repent. And when we repent, our sins will “be blotted out.” True conversion, and salvation, depend on more than just faith in Jesus Christ. When He shows mercy, He expects us to turn away from sin.
Turn from Darkness Toward Light
A few years after Paul’s conversion, Jesus appeared to the apostle. Jesus sent him to the Gentiles,
…to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 26:17-18).
Darkness represents sin; light represents righteousness. To receive forgiveness, Jesus said Gentiles must turn from sin toward God. They needed to repent.
Paul obeyed the command of Jesus. He preached “that [the Gentiles] should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). Full repentance means we must change how we act.
Repent or Perish
A true conversion from darkness to light requires repentance. It’s why Jesus sets two options before us in Luke 13:3. Either we repent, or we will perish. One cannot be saved without repentance.
What Must I Do to Be Saved? Be Baptized in the Name of Jesus
Jesus commanded His apostles,
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:15-16).
Jesus charged the apostles with preaching a message to the whole world. He sent this simple message to Jews AND Gentiles: believe in Him and be baptized to be saved.
True faith requires action. Baptism, when administered to someone who believes, is a saving act of vital importance.
Peter Says “Baptism Now Saves Us”
Peter, who heard the command from Jesus, says in his first epistle,
Baptism…now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:21)
The apostle contrasts baptism with the ceremonial cleansings commanded by the Old Law. Those rituals only washed off the body. Baptism appeals to God for internal cleansing. In baptism, God washes away the guilt of sin from our conscience. Peter, echoing the words of Jesus, unequivocally states that baptism saves us.
So what must we do to be saved? We must:
- Confess our belief
- Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Underneath all of these answers is a final requirement for salvation.
What Must I Do to Be Saved? Obey the Commands of God
Jesus told the apostles in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” It’s easy to say, “I love you, Jesus.” It’s more difficult to show our love by obeying Him.
Sometimes, God’s commands challenge us. They force us to go against what we would prefer to do. But we fully express our love by submission.
Belief without Obedience
Jesus wonders why people say they believe in Him but do not obey Him:
…why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)
If we say, “I believe in you Jesus,” but go on to do what we want to do, what do those words mean? Faith, like love, requires submission.
Our Salvation Depends on our Obedience
Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns,
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Like Luke 6:46, Jesus talks about a group of people who say, “Lord, Lord.” These people believe in Jesus and do incredible things for Him. Their lives are filled with good works. But Jesus says they will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Why would Jesus condemn people who believe in Him and do good works?
Repentance Requires Submission
Because they failed to do “the will of My Father in heaven.” They “practiced lawlessness,” Jesus says, living a sinful lifestyle. They believed and did good works. But they never fully repented, they never fully turned from sin toward God.
Like faith and love, repentance requires submission. Obeying God matters. Consistently and persistently living in sin cancels out a lifetime of faith and good works.
“What Must I Do to be Saved?”
Thinking back to the Philippian jailer, how did he respond to Silas and Paul’s command, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31)? After Paul and Silas
spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house…immediately he and all his family were baptized(Acts 16:32-33).
He knew what he needed to do to be saved, so he did it without hesitation or delay. I hope you will too.
What must I do to be saved? God requires us to believe in Jesus, confess, repent, be baptized, and obey His commands.