Bible Class Curricula - First Principles - Lesson #5 - What Must I Do to Be Saved?


The Bible says that our Lord and Savior came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize that Jesus also came to seek and save each one of us. Scripture tells us that we "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23). God also tells us that our sins separate us from Him and bring about spiritual death or separation from our God (Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 6:23). The good news is that God does not want anyone to be lost, but desires that all be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Jesus Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice so that we all might be saved (Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:1-2). And, the Bible tells us that we can know the truth about salvation and be saved (John 8:32; 1 John 5:13). That being true, each of us has the privilege and obligation to ask ourselves the most important question, "What must I do to be saved?" (Luke 18:18; Acts 2:37; 9:6; 16:30). In this lesson, we are going to examine what the Bible teaches that one must do in order to be saved. Before undertaking this study, if you consider yourself a saved child of God, write down exactly what you remember you did in order to become a Christian. Do not say that you did not do anything, for even believing in Jesus is a work (John 6:28-29). Genuinely examine yourself and see if you have taken the necessary actions to be saved from your sins the way the Bible teaches (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Seeking Salvation

Without diligently seeking God, believing He exists and having an obedient faith in Him, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The kind of faith that pleases God "comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," (Romans 10:17). All members of the Ephesus church of Christ learned to trust Jesus and obey His gospel the same way; namely, they heard the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation (Ephesians 1:13). In the past, some have underemphasized the importance of hearing God’s word. Hearing God’s word does not mean you just accept anything someone says, even if they say it is from the Bible (1 John 4:1; Acts 17:11). We must give heed to God’s word and take heed how we hear it (Luke 8:18; Hebrews 2:1). What does it mean to really hear God’s word? Two very important principles need to be properly understood.

First, hearing God’s word means that we recognize its authority. God said on the Mount of Transfiguration, "This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear Him," (Mark 9:7). The Bible is the ultimate and final authority in all matters of religion (Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 3:17; John 12:48). In order to obtain the correct answer to a Bible question or know what we must do to be saved, we must search the voice of God contained in the Scriptures and accept it as the final authority (1 Peter 4:11). The question of Romans 5:4 should stand out in our minds: "What do the Scriptures say?" Too many souls are listening to the voices of men or commentaries or church manuals instead of the voice of God. When we decide to hear and obey God’s Word, we are saying we will let God have the final and only say in the matter.

Second, hearing God’s word means that we give a diligent effort to study, search, seek, and test. In the process of hearing, one must use the reasoning capabilities God has given one to discern truth from error (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We need to be good hearers like the noble Bereans who "received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the Scriptures daily whether these things were so," (Acts 17:11, ASV). Let us be careful and intelligent in how we hear (Luke 8:18), what we hear (Mark 4:24), and Whom we hear (Mark 9:7). To hear God’s word requires that we engage our ears and our mind and make an intellectual decision about what is said based on the Bible as our authority. The question we must answer is "whom have you been listening to on the matter of salvation?" Do we listen to God alone? Or, do we listen to God and someone else’s opinion or teaching? Remember, it is only the voice of God and His Word that will really matter on The Judgment Day (John 12:48).

Having Faith

Once we hear the word of God, the second action we must take to follow God’s will is believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus said, "If you do not believe that I am He, you will surely die in your sins," (John 8:24). Jesus taught the multitudes not to just call him “Lord” but to also do the things He said (Matthew 7:21; Romans 1:5; 16:26). Believing in Jesus means that we are willing to trust and follow Him with our whole heart (Luke 10:27). A beautiful example of this is seen in Acts 8. When Phillip the evangelist had just started teaching the Ethiopian nobleman the gospel plan of salvation, the Bible tells us that they came to a certain water and the nobleman wanted to be immersed. Phillip then told him, "if you believe with all your heart you may," (Acts 8:37). From this text, we learn that belief is a conviction that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of our lives. We also learn that we must be willing to do whatever Jesus says if we really believe in Him (Acts 8:38-39).

While we do not want to underemphasize the importance of belief, please understand that belief alone will never save anyone. In fact, the word belief never means “mental acceptance only” (James 2:19). True, biblical belief has always been an active, obedient faith in God (Galatians 5:6; Hebrews 4:2; Jms. 2:14-26; Galatians 5:6). You and I understand this in everyday life. For example, imagine I am out in the middle of the lake about to drown and a person comes along and throws me a life preserver. If I just believe that the life preserver will save me and never do anything to “be saved,” will I be saved (Acts 2:40)? Absolutely not! Just believing the life preserver would save me would not get me any closer to being saved. I must take steps of action such as reaching for the preserver, holding on, and helping pull myself into the boat. Likewise, there are steps of action associated with belief that one must take to be saved. It is so sad that there are thousands of denominational people who teach that all one must do to be saved is believe in Jesus and accept Him as one’s personal Savior. Nothing could be further from the truth. Did you know that the Bible never says faith only will save? In fact, James 2:24 is the only place in the Bible where belief/faith only is ever used – and is emphatically stated that one is not saved by faith alone! Isn’t it interesting that the religious world says, "faith only saves," but the Bible says the exact opposite? May we say with Paul, "Let God be true and every man a liar," (Romans 3:4).

Changing Your Life

The third action in God’s plan of salvation that we must take is to repent of our sins. Peter preached to the Jews that they needed to repent and be converted so that their sins might be blotted out (Acts 3:19). Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17:30 that "God commands all men everywhere to repent." Since repentance is such an important step in the plan of salvation, let’s examine what the Bible teaches about it.

Not Sorrow Alone. Many in our modern world equate repentance with sorrow and even tears. While such may lead a soul to repent, they are not repentance in and of themselves. For example, Paul stated that godly sorrow produces repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). Part of repentance may involve telling God how sorry we are for sinning, but it is godly sorrow based on the facts of the word of God that leads us to actual repentance.

A Changed Will. Repentance is best defined as a changed will that leads to a changed way. In Matthew 21:28-30, Jesus tells us of a man who had two sons. To each of his sons, the father makes the request that he comes and helps him work in the field. The first son said he would not, but then changed his mind and went and worked in the father’s field. The second son said he would but never did. Jesus then asked, "Which of these two did the will of the father?" They rightly said, "The first." What made these two sons different? One repented – that is, he changed his will which led to him changing his way! Joel encouraged the Israelites to mend their hearts and not just their garments (Joel 2:13). The point Joel was making is very clear. We must not just have an outward sign of repentance, but a changed heart. One translation renders Joel 2:13 as "tear your hearts not your garments." True repentance implies that I must first be willing to change the way I think.

A Changed Way. What must naturally follow true repentance is a changed life. John told the hypocritical Jews to "bring forth fruits worthy of repentance," (Matthew 3:8). Baptized believers are commanded to walk in a newness of life (Romans 6:4). Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians that they had once lived a sinful life but were not living that way anymore (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). To truly repent, one must change the way he thinks which then must correspond with the way he acts.

Confessing Jesus As Your Master

The fourth essential action in God’s plan of salvation is confession. The Apostle Paul reminded the Roman Christians that "with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation

(Romans 10:10; 1 Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 3:1). From this text, it is evident that confession is an important part in the plan of salvation. Let’s take just a moment to see exactly what confession is.

A Confession of Faith in Christ. When one confesses that Jesus is the Christ, he is confessing his faith that Jesus as the Son of God can erase all his sins through His blood. A true follower of Christ will not be ashamed to be called a Christian in any situation. Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ," (Romans 1:16). When I confess my faith in Christ, it is a faithfulness I will never deny even if my life is at stake (Revelation 2:10). During the first century, Christians often faced death by affirming their faith in Christ. One such story is that of Stephen. As the Jews were gnashing their teeth at this bold evangelist and preparing themselves to stone him to death, Stephen confessed his faith in Jesus as "the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God," (Acts 7:54-60). Oh, what faith! Oh, what conviction!

A Confession of Faithfulness to Christ. An individual’s confession of Christ also means that he is willing to faithfully follow the Lord every day of his life. Jesus said, "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven," (Matthew 10:32-33). The confession Jesus is speaking of here is not just simply naming the name of Christ. Jesus had already told many of these people that just simply saying "Lord" would not save anyone (Matthew 7:21). Jesus is here speaking of a confession of faith in Christ through one’s actions. When I confess Jesus as Lord, I am committing myself to Him as His slave and am promising that I will follow Him faithfully all the days of my life (Romans 10:10; 6:16-18). Confession is more than a one-time act; it is a continual walk in the steps of the Savior (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 1:7).

Spiritually Contacting The Blood Of Jesus

The final obedient act in God’s plan of salvation that is overlooked by so many is the act of baptism. When pressed, most in our modern religious world would agree that a person needs to believe, repent, and confess Jesus as Lord to be saved. However, they refuse to teach or believe that a person must be immersed into Christ to be saved. What does God say?

The mode of baptism is burial in water – not the sprinkling or pouring of water. The Bible teaches that true baptism can only be performed by full-body immersion (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:11-12; Hebrews 10:22). There are three arguments which confirm this truth.

First, the Greek word baptidzo (which we transliterate into English our word baptism) means to “immerse, submerge, dip” (see Thayer and other Greek dictionaries).

Second, Romans 6:1-6 makes it clear that baptism is an essential burial that gets one into Christ. In this context, baptism is likened to a burial. Stop and think back to the last time you went to a funeral. Do you remember what they did with the body after the services were over? Did they sprinkle a little dirt on the body? No. They buried the entire body under the ground, completely covering it on all sides. Likewise, the linking of baptism with the idea of a burial clearly shows that Paul, the inspired voice of God, recognized that baptism was by immersion. As Jesus’ body was fully covered at His death, so our old man of sin must be buried in order for us to be freed from the bondage of sin and washed through the blood of Jesus (Revelation 1:5). Otherwise, we are not put "into" Christ (compare Galatians 3:26-27).

Third, Colossians 2:11-12 makes it clear that we put off our body of sins by being buried with Christ in baptism. Our biblical faith in the spiritual circumcision of Christ is that we trust Jesus is cutting away our sins as we are buried and raised with Christ in much water (John 3:23).

So, why are we to be immersed? Jesus says, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned," (Mark 16:16). Jesus believed and taught that baptism was essential for one to be saved. A parallel to this language might be He who eats and digests his food will live. If a person eats his food but never is able to digest it, will he be able to live? No. The same is true for baptism. Unless a person is willing to do all that God says, he will not be saved.

The Holy Spirit also confirmed the essential nature of baptism when He said, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit," (Acts 2:38). This is one of the clearest verses on the importance and purpose of baptism. The people on Pentecost asked what they needed to do to be saved from their sins (Acts 2:37). Peter responded to their question by saying "repent and be baptized for the remission of sins,". The word for expresses purpose. The reason why a soul repents and is baptized is so that his sins will be remitted/forgiven (compare Matthew 26:28).

The gospel preacher Ananias commanded Saul of Tarsus, "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord," (Acts 22:16). From this text, we learn that the purpose of baptism is to wash away one’s sins (compare Revelation 1:5). If baptism is the point at which one’s sins have been washed away, then those who have not been baptized have not had their sins washed away. Also, we learn how a person calls on the Lord’s name. Like Paul, a person calls on the Lord’s name by being baptized into Christ (compare Genesis 4:25-26).

The Apostle Peter clearly stated baptism does now also save us (1 Peter 3:21). One of the key words here is the little word also – not alone or only. Combined with hearing God’s Word (Ephesians 1:13), believing in Jesus Christ (John 8:24), repenting of one’s past sins (Acts 17:30), and confessing Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:10), one is saved through immersion (John 3:5; Titus 3:5). Truly, as the final condition of salvation, baptism washes away one’s sins (through Jesus’ blood, Colossians 1:14). If the Apostle Peter said baptism saves us, how can anyone say baptism does not save us and claim to be a servant of the Lord (compare Genesis 3:2-4)?

Have you truly obeyed the gospel as revealed in God’s written word (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; 1 Peter 1:22)? It is our prayer that you study these very important matters and obey the will of God (Acts 2:40; Philippians 2:12).

Study Questions

  1. What are the effects of sin on mankind? Who needs to be saved?
  2. Can you know you are saved? How can you know you are saved?
  3. Does hearing the word of God mean you just accept whatever you hear as the gospel truth? List two things which describe what hearing really means?
  4. Does the phrase faith alone occur in the New Testament? How many times does it occur? Does this passage support or refute the idea of faith only for salvation?
  5. What passage teaches us that repentance is not sorrow only?
  6. Biblical repentance is defined as a changed will that leads to a changed way. List the verses offered to support this biblical definition.
  7. The fourth step in God’s plan of salvation is confession. Is this a confession of sin? What does confession mean?
  8. List and discuss the four verses offered to teach that baptism is full body immersion.
  9. What are the purposes of baptism? Can you think of any additional purposes of baptism mentioned in the New Testament?
  10. Does the Scripture say, "Baptism saves us"? What Scripture teaches this?
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