QUESTIONS OF SALVATION

Questions of Salvation

Different Questions—

Different Answers

What must I do to be saved?

Differences in the Great Commission

Are there contradictions in the Bible?

Maybe you have heard a sermon or radio talk with the title, “What must I do to be saved?”  The teacher, pastor, or evangelist proceeds to use a text in which the question is succinctly asked, “What must I do to be saved?,” or “What must I do to be forgiven?,” or “How can I have eternal life?”  The speaker may then answer the question from only one text, implying that this is all that the Bible has to say about the subject.  But is this all that there is to say about this all-important matter?  I wonder if you’ve noticed that there were several questions like these in the New Testament Scriptures and there were a wide range of answers given to those inquiries.

We Must Do Something

Let’s clear up a misunderstanding that can completely confuse this subject.  Some preachers may declare, “There is nothing you must do to be saved!  Salvation is all of God!  Man can do nothing to save himself!”  Probably the preacher who says this means that we can’t do anything meritorious to save ourselves.  Salvation is not based on our own efforts, works, or merit. 

It is true that our salvation from sin is not based on our merits, our works, and our performance.  Paul plainly said, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We are not forgiven because of our own righteousness, good deeds, or religious works (cf. Philippians 3:9; Titus 3:5; Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:27-28).  Instead, we are saved because Christ Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3-4; Romans 3:23-26; 5:6-11).  We are saved when we are united by faith to Christ, who is worthy in Himself and because of what He did for our salvation.  Salvation and life itself comes from the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10).

But some traditional, orthodox, or confessional Calvinists mean more than this.  They might say that we can’t do anything for salvation.  Our faith, our repentance, our calling—all of this is God’s work in us that initiates it all, thus He is responsible for anything that we do.  The Calvinist says, in effect, that God is the one who not only provides salvation but He also is responsible for our response to that salvation.  Some go so far as to say that God regenerates (gives the new spiritual birth to) the sinner so that he can believe and repent of his sins!  God does it all!  Regeneration (the new birth) is thought to precede our own faith and repentance.  Theologically, this is called monergism,

We can appreciate that some do want to safeguard this matter of salvation.  It is true that we must avoid thinking that we can live a life that will force God to save us or that will qualify us to be saved.  As Paul would say, we are saved, “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  It is also true that all of our life, including our responses, come from God working in us.  Paul says, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and do work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).  On the other hand, we must insist that there is something that man must do to be saved from sin and enter heaven.  Peter was the one who said, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!” (Acts 2:40).  Yes, be saved by God, but we also must save ourselves—by responding to Jesus Christ who is the One who saves!

What Must I Do to be Saved,

Forgiven, and Receive Eternal Life?

The point that we would like to explore for a few moments relates to the most important question that we can ask: What must I do to be saved?”  This is asked by a number of people in the New Testament and the answers are given.  The interesting thing is that each answer to the question is different from all of the others.  There is no uniform answer, but the answers vary.  We are not saying that there are contradictions in Scripture, for these differences can be easily explained—as we shall soon see.  For now, let’s examine the leading questions.

The Rich Young Ruler

The account of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus is found in all of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-27; Luke 18:18-27).  Notice the account in Matthew: “And behold, one came to Him and said, ‘Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (v. 16).  Both Mark and Luke have, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18).  Basically, the question is how this man can have eternal life in the kingdom of God.  Jesus responded, “Why are you asking Me about what is good?  There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).  This is a plain answer to a plain question.  The question: “What good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life.” The answer: “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

The rich man proceeded to claim that he had kept all of the commandments.  “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up” (Mark 10:20).  Notice now Jesus’ response: “And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack; go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’” (v. 21).  What must one do to “obtain eternal life” according to Jesus?  Keep the commandments of God.  But we know that no one has ever kept His commands perfectly and consistently; therefore, one cannot be saved on the basis of perfect obedience.  This is why our Lord’s further words are so important.  The rich man must renounce the idolatry of money, for “no man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).  There is only one God and idolatry (the worship and service of any so-called god other than the true God) has always been a chief sin of man.  Not only must this ruler turn from clinging to his wealth, but he must follow Jesus!  In this way, the man would have “treasure in heaven” and “obtain eternal life.”  Please put this in your mind as we proceed.

Nicodemus

Another Scriptural account of one who asked about salvation was Nicodemus.  This ruler of the Jews came to Jesus and said that he knew that the Lord had come from God (John 3:2).  This is true as far as it goes, but this is very limited.  Jesus responded, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [or born from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3).  Notice the answer that Nicodemus gave: “How can a man be born when he is old?” (v. 4a).  Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (v. 5).  The Lord continues to speak on this occasion and explains further what Nicodemus must do to be born again.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (v. 16; see also vv. 14-15, 17-21).

This account of a salvation question is not as clear as that posed by the rich man.  In this instance, Nicodemus thought he was already in a right relationship with God—but Jesus knew better.  He said that this ruler must experience a new spiritual birth, a birth of water and the Spirit.  As we continue to read the account, we notice that Jesus did make a veiled reference to His coming crucifixion (v. 14) and declared that one must believe in Him as the Son of God to receive eternal life and escape the judgment of God (vv. 14-18).  This answer is very different from the answer given to the rich man, but all of this helps to fill out our understanding of what we must do to be saved.  Put this answer in your mind as we continue to examine more Scripture.

Pentecostians

After Jesus died and rose again for our salvation, the Day of Pentecost came when God sent forth the Holy Spirit on the apostles (cf. Acts 2:4).  Peter took this occasion to proclaim the gospel of Christ to thousands gathered before him.  After pointing out to these sincere Jews that they had crucified the One whom God made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), the people were “pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” (v. 37).  Obviously, they were asking what they must “do” to be forgiven of this grievous sin of rejecting the Messiah of God.  The apostle answered how they might be forgiven of all of their sins: “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” (v. 38).

This shows another answer to the general question of how people may be forgiven of their sins and receive eternal life.  These devoted Jews who were guilty of rejecting the Son of God and crucifying Him, were told to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  This answer is quite clear—but it is also different from the answer given to the rich young ruler and the answer given to Nicodemus.  This is an answer that seldom is given in our day when one wants to know how he can be forgiven of his sins and receive God’s Holy Spirit.  However, this is God’s own answer in this particular occasion.  Take special note of this and let’s continue to examine Scripture for more evidence.

Paul the Apostle

Consider yet another question about salvation, although this one is not quite so clear.  The conversion of Saul, who became Paul the apostle, is described by Luke in Acts 9:1-19.  Paul himself tells how he was saved in Acts 22:1-16 when he spoke to the Jews while he was on the stairs leading to the Roman fortress.  Then Paul speaks of his conversion in Acts 26:12-23 when he made his defense before Agrippa in Caesarea. 

Let’s consider the second account.  Saul was a zealous Pharisee (Phil. 3:4-6) who was traveling to Damascus to persecute defenseless disciples of Christ, known as people belonging to the Way (22:4; 9:2).  When this persecutor approached the city, a light flashed around him, he fell to the ground, and he heard Jesus say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (v. 7).  Saul (Paul) answered, “Who are You, Lord?” The Lord replied, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting” (v. 8).  No doubt shocked at this revelation, Saul asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” (v. 10).  As in the other instances, Paul asks a question, one that must have related to his need of dealing with his horrible guilt of rejecting the Messiah and harming those who followed Him.

Jesus did not answer Paul’s question directly at this time but rather said, “Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do” (v. 10).  In Acts 9:6, we read that Jesus said, “. . . Get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”  Paul obeyed and spent three days without sight and refused to either eat or drink; his time was spent in prayer (9:8-11).  No doubt, Saul was waiting for Jesus to answer his sincere question, “What shall I do, Lord?”  Jesus sent Ananias to Paul with a message.  Paul would be a “witness” for Jesus of what he had seen and heard.  Ananias then said, “Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (22:16).  This answer is somewhat different from the others we have noticed thus far.  He was to get up (perhaps he was kneeling before Ananias).  He was to be baptized.  He was to wash away his sins (of which there were many), calling on the name of Jesus, the Savior and Lord.  Why do you think there is this variety?

The Philippian Jailer

A final question that we will notice is asked by the jailor in Philippi.  Paul and Silas had been beaten unlawfully and thrown into the inner prison where they would be secure.  Late at night, God sent an earthquake and opened the prison doors.  The jailor was about to take his life, probably thinking that the prisoners had escaped, but Paul told him that they were all there.  This pagan jailor then asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).  This is the kind of question that we have been noting in different places.  How did Paul answer this sincere inquiry?  He said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (v. 31).  Luke then explains, “And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.  And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.  And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household” (vv. 32-34).  

In this case, the God-given answer was to believe in the Lord Jesus.  In order for him to know whom he must believe, the jailer needed to hear “the word of the Lord” (see also Romans 10:17).  Without doubt, Paul explained something of the life of Christ, the identity of Christ, as well as the death and resurrection of Christ.  When the jailer washed the wounds of Paul, he manifested a repentant attitude.  Then this repentant believer was baptized, sometime after midnight (cf. v. 25).  Luke concludes the account with a reference to his joy and his belief in God (v. 34).  Again, this is quite different from the other accounts.  Which one shall we accept?  Which one shall we emphasize?

We have examined five different accounts of people who were interested in their spiritual condition and desired to have a right relationship with God.  This relationship is described in various ways: Receiving eternal life, being born again, receiving forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, washing away of sins, entering the kingdom of God, and being saved.  We must understand this variety to mean that God chose to use different terms to describe this spiritual transformation and reception of God’s gift of salvation because of the given circumstances and the unique needs of each person.  Notice this variation in the following chart.

 

Scripture

Account

Question

Answer

Result

Matt. 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-27; Luke 18:18-27

Rich man

What shall I do?

Keep the com-mandments, and follow Jesus

Obtain eternal life (and enter the kingdom of God)

John 3:1-21

Nicodemus

How can this be? Believe in Jesus as the Son of God

Born again or born from above, eternal life, enter the kingdom of God

Acts 2:1-41

Pentecost Jews

What shall we do?

Repent and be baptized

Forgiveness of sins, gift of the Holy Spirit

Acts 9:1-19; 22:1-16; 26:12-23

Saul/Paul

What shall I do, Lord?

Arise, be baptized, call on the name of Jesus Wash away sins

Acts 16:25-34

Jailer

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

Believe in the Lord Jesus

Saved

 

Similarities and Differences

We can see the similarities and differences in the accounts when we view them in this manner.  Let’s make a few observations in light of our discoveries. 

First, we can see that those who say that we don’t “do” anything are mistaken.  Believing in the Lord Jesus, calling on His name, repenting of sins, and being baptized are responses that the sinner “does” to receive the salvation blessings.  It is true that the person is enabled by God to make this kind of response, but there is something that he, personally, must do.

Second, the answers were given to the various individuals according to their varied needs and circumstances.  Notice this for a moment.  The rich ruler needed to see that he could not save himself by his commandment-keeping since everyone has broken the commands.  We might say that one cannot be saved by keeping the commands, but one is not saved unless his faith leads him to obey the Lord.  The ruler also needed to know that he must repent of worshiping money as his “god” then he must follow Jesus as Lord.  What about Nicodemus?  He needed to know that a relationship with God does not come through one’s relationship to Abraham or by means of relating to Jesus as a great Teacher.  No, he needed to experience a new, spiritual birth—a birth of water and the Spirit, and this is related to belief in Jesus as God’s Son.

Those devout Jews on Pentecost also needed to repent—of their rejection of Jesus, the Son of God, as well as their sins in general (since Peter made reference to forgiveness of their own sins).  They were then to be baptized “for the forgiveness of their sins” and God would give them the Holy Sprit as a gift.  Paul was an incessant persecutor of believers, thus he needed to be forgiven of his many sins—even those he had committed in a general way through his life.  Therefore, Ananias told him to be baptized so that he might have his sins “washed away” while he “called” on the name of the Lord Jesus.   Consider also the jailor.  He must have been a pagan idolater as others were in the city of Philippi.  Yet he may have heard something of Jesus, either in Paul’s earlier preaching or through the songs that Paul and Silas sung that night.  Regardless, the jailer was convinced that he needed to be “saved” and was aware that his prisoners had the answer to this need.  Because he needed to be saved by Christ, he was told to believe in Him.  The account also says that he “believed in God”—the true and living God, in contrast to the false gods he had known all of his life.

Third, we must ask, “Are there contradictions in Scripture?”  If one were to read these Scriptural accounts superficially, he might make that accusation.  But we can see that God tailored the answers to important questions in a way that He would speak to the real needs of those who were lost.  God doesn’t give a ready-made answer to all people, irrespective of their background and the context. 

Fourth, there is something that we can learn from all of these accounts of conversion.  Like the rich man, we must recognize that that we are to renounce our own “idols” in life, we must follow Jesus, and we must live a life of obedience.  Like Nicodemus, we must realize that a physical birth is insufficient and religion, as such, is insufficient; we must also be spiritually born again.  We must experience a birth of water and the Spirit and believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  Like those on Pentecost, we must repent of our sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  As in the case of Paul, we must be deeply repentant over our sins, be baptized, and call on the name of the Lord.  And like the jailer, we must believe in the Lord Jesus and God, as well as express a repentant attitude and be baptized—even if it is at an inconvenient hour.

Fifth, these accounts of conversion reveal the salvation blessings that come to one who responds to God through Christ just as these people did.  We must remember that “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” is “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).  What were some of these salvation blessings?  In our study above, we noticed the following blessings:

  • Eternal life
  •  Spiritual birth
  • Kingdom of God

  • Forgiveness of sins
  • Gift of the Holy Spirit
  • Washing away of sins
  • Salvation

What have we seen in this short study?  We can see that there are different questions asked by those who need a relationship with God.  They are worded differently, depending on the circumstances.  We have also seen that there are a variety of answers given to those questions.  Yet when we examine all of these accounts, we see a unified and comprehensive response that God wants of us.  Do not overlook this important point—for it pertains to you and me.

What State are You?

Let’s illustrate what we have seen in this study.  Suppose you are living in Texas and someone in Maine asks you, “Can you give me directions to travel to your state of Texas?”  You may say, “Drive to Portland on I-35 and board a plane that flies to Dallas.”  Another person who lives in Pennsylvania may ask the same question.  To this person, you may reply, “Drive on Route 76, the Pennsylvania turnpike, to Philadelphia, where you may 0board a train that will take you to Dallas, Texas.”  A third person who lives in Lebanon, Tennessee, may ask how to travel to Texas.  Your answer may be, “Drive to Nashville and there you may take a bus to Fort Worth, Texas.”  A fourth friend lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.  You might tell this person to take his car and drive to Texarkana and head directly to Dallas.

In all of these cases, your answer would be different.  But these differences would come, in part, from the fact that each of the four persons lived in different states and had different circumstances.  The friend in Maine didn’t have much time and needed to take a plane.  The friend from Pennsylvania wanted to see the scenery on his trip to Texas.  The friend from Tennessee wanted the most economical way, thus he took a bus.  The friend in Little Rock could take a simple trip by car and reach Dallas in a day.  Each of your answers was correct, depending on where the friend was located and what his circumstances were.

The Great Commission

Returning to the Scriptural study that we have made above, can you now see that all of the answers that were given to the questions on salvation were the truth?  They were different, yet they all can be understood harmoniously.  We can see how this is reflected in the Great Commission that Jesus our Lord gave to His disciples.  Notice the words of Christ in Matthew: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).  In this account, Jesus says that people from all nations are to become His disciples.  How?   By baptizing them and teaching them to obey His words.

Now look at Mark’s version.  Jesus said to His apostles: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (16:15-16).  Again, the Lord emphasized that the good news (gospel) must be preached to all the world, but in this case he says that those who believe this gospel and are baptized in response to it shall be saved.

Luke’s account is the third.  Jesus declared, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).  Christ once again emphasized that the apostles must go to all the nations with a message of repentance so that people may receive forgiveness of sins.

Is there a great contradiction in these three accounts?  Matthew mentions baptism and obedience.  Mark mentions faith and baptism.  Luke only mentions repentance.  As for the blessings, Matthew mentions entrance into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.  Mark mentions salvation and escape from condemnation.  Luke mentions forgiveness of sins. 

Combining the Accounts

Must we conclude that Jesus was mistaken or that He contradicted Himself?  By no means!  When we combine these accounts, we can see the following:

·         Jesus died and rose again for our salvation

·         The message of the gospel was to be proclaimed to all nations in the world

·         People must believe this message of salvation

·         People must repent of their sins

·         People must be baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit

·         Those who so respond must be taught to obey all of Christ’s words

·         These who respond will have a relationship with God, will be saved, and will receive forgiveness of sins.

We can place this in chart form:

 

Text

Mission

Message

Response

Result

Matthew

All nations

—-

Baptism, Obedience

Relationship with God,Christ,Spirit

Mark

All creation

Gospel

Belief and Baptism

Salvation, No Condemnation

Luke

All nations

Repentance

Repentance

Forgiveness

As you can see, Christ’s words in the commission are reflected in the answers to the five questions on salvation we noticed at the beginning.  It is true that there are variations between all of the answers just as there are variations in Christ’s commission, yet they are understandable and harmonious in the truths that they convey.

What can we learn from our study?  This should teach us that we can place absolute faith in the trustworthiness of Scripture.  Further, we must read verses in their original context and see why truths are presented as they are in that given context.  Finally, we must recognize that we, personally, are responsible to not only understand God’s Word, but we must also believe it, apply it, obey it, and then share it with others. 

Will you take God at His word and begin to do this today?  Will you determine to understand Scripture in its context and apply it honestly, as it was intended to be applied?  Will you purpose to obey the will of Christ and the Word of God yourself?  Take all of Scripture—all that applies to you personally.

Questions and Answers

As we have examined this interesting and important issue, no doubt many questions have come to your mind.  Let’s look at some common ones and try to offer a reasonable, Scriptural answer.

1.      Why would Christ give more than one “commission” to His disciples?

The commissions were given on more than one occasion.  We can assume that Jesus saw the need to express His will in more than one way, depending on the situation and the audience.  For instance, Matthew and Mark apparently describe Christ’s meeting with His disciples at a mountain in Galilee (cf. Matt. 28:16), while Luke describes His meeting with the apostles in Jerusalem before His ascension (cf. Luke 24:49-52).  Acts also speaks of this Jerusalem meeting—on the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:4-12).

2.      Why wouldn’t Jesus speak the identical words to the disciples on all occasions of the commission?  This could have prevented much confusion.

We may not know why Jesus chose to do what He did or say what He said.  It is enough for us to know that he did say different things on different occasions.  Throughout His personal ministry, Jesus also spoke many different things, along with alterations, depending on the persons to whom He was speaking.  For instance, sometimes Jesus healed a person because of their faith, while at other times he healed a person to produce faith.  Sometimes he was gentle and patient with a person, while at other times, he spoke with severity and anger.  Regarding His teaching about how to be saved, Jesus always spoke the truth, but He directed the truth to each individual as was appropriate.

3.      Isn’t it safe to just use one account of Christ’s commission and not mention or use the others?  We know that everything that Jesus said was the true!

Yes, Jesus did speak truth on every occasion, but He expects us to believe and accept all truth on every subject about which He spoke.  “The sum of Your word is truth” and “All Your commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119:160, 172).  It would be dishonest of us to only emphasize part of Christ’s words while overlooking or avoiding other teachings.

4.      I’ve heard preachers take a text of Scripture and expound on it without referring to other passages on the same subject.  Is this legitimate?

Although it may be proper to teach on a given passage of Scripture, a teacher should also share other scriptures if they help to explain the passage or add additional truth that would make the passage clearer.  Paul said that he refused to “adulterate” the word of God, but he determined to manifest the truth (2 Corinthians 4:2).  Every honest teacher and preacher should have this same commitment to truth.

5.      What shall we do when the Bible seems to present contradictory teachings regarding how to be saved?

Since the revelation of God in Scripture is true, we cannot believe that there are contradictions in the teachings of Jesus or the apostles.  If we think that there are contradictions, we either don’t understand what Jesus was saying, or don’t have all of the scripture on a given subject, or perhaps we are trying to harmonize what Jesus taught under the first covenant (with its Law of Moses), given to Israel, with what He taught under the second or new covenant, given to all believers today.

6.      It seems like what Jesus said was so different on some occasions, it is very difficult to harmonize the teachings.

Let’s look at an example.  Jesus told Nicodemus that those who believe in Jesus will receive eternal life (John 3:16-18).  He said on another occasion that those who do not repent will perish (Luke 13:3, 5).  Is this a contradiction?  One minority opinion today is that repentance was the condition of salvation to the Jews, while a bare faith is the means of salvation to all today—both Jews and Gentiles.  Instead, it is better to view both faith and repentance as the means of salvation for all people (see Acts 20:21; 26:20; Romans 2:4-5).

7.      How can a comparison of scriptures help us to avoid some of the false views and doctrines in our day?

Let’s consider the matter of how to be saved.  What shall we say to one who says that we are saved by baptism, as an infant?  This is a common view, held by a majority of professing Christians in the world (Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, etc.).  We can point out to them that the Bible says that we are to believe in the gospel of Christ and then (subsequent to genuine faith) be baptized, and this is something that little babies cannot do (Mark 16:16).  Neither can an infant repent of his sins (he has no personal sins), something that must precede baptism (Acts 2:38).  Many Bible verses would show this to be true (cf. Acts 8:12; 18:8; Gal. 3:26-27; Col. 2:12; etc.), including the ones we have examined in the forgoing study.

What shall we say to the person who says that we merely need to believe in Christ today and that repentance of sin is not required?  We can point out that Jesus not only says that we must believe to receive eternal life, but we also must repent to receive forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38).  Besides the ones we have noted in our study, there are other verses that would substantiate this (cf. Acts 17:30-31; 26:18, 20; 2 Peter 3:9; etc.).

Consider also the person who says that we only need to believe in Jesus as Savior to be saved (1 Timothy 1:15).  We can easily point out to him that Jesus is not only Savior, but He also is Lord, with all authority (Acts 2:37).  We must confess that He is “Lord” to be saved (Romans 10:9-10), and this means that we are to place ourselves under His authority (Matt. 28:18; Phil. 2:11).

Perhaps someone may say that we need only accept Jesus as the Son of God (John 3:16-17).  This is true, as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough.  Jesus is also Savior (Luke 2:11), Lord (Phil. 2:11), and even God (John 1:1; 20:28).  We must not rely on one text alone, but accept all that the Bible says about Jesus and His identity.

Many people say, “You must invite Jesus into your heart” and they rely on Revelation 3:20.  We can point out to them that this text applies to fallen Christians, not the unregenerate unbeliever (3:14).  Others say, “Simply confess your sins and God will forgive you,” and they rely on 1 John 1:9 to “prove” this claim. We can show them that this is given to the Christian to sins (v. 7), not to the unbeliever who wants to know how to be saved and forgiven.  After this, we can point them to the scriptures that do apply to the unsaved person who wants to be saved from sin, just as we have examined in this study.

A common issue today relates to baptism.  Many entirely eliminate this from any consideration on how to be saved from sin and become a Christian.  They relate it to “church life” that comes a day, a week, a month, a year, or longer after being saved.  We can point out to them that, according to our study above, those on Pentecost were to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:28); Paul was told to arise and be baptized so that his sins may be washed away (Acts 22:16); Jesus said in the great commission that people were to be baptized into the name of (into a relationship with) the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19); and Jesus said that those who would believe the gospel and be baptized will be saved (Mark 16:15-16).  We can see that taking all that Scripture says on a subject helps us to answer the objections or misunderstandings that are rampant in the religious world.

Another person may claim that a person is so depraved, that he must receive the Holy Spirit first so that he has the ability to believe the gospel of Christ.  We can point out to him that Scripture says that one must first repent and be baptized, then he will receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit”—and not before (Acts 2:37-39; cf. Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:13).

Learn Your Bible Well!

By now, it should be clear that it is helpful to know your Bible well.  So many professing Christians “pick and choose” Bible verses and base an entire position on only one or two well-chosen verses.  This study helps us to see the importance of taking all of Scripture on every subject.  It helps to know your Bible well, thus determine today to apply yourself to reading, study, learning, and applying the Word of God in your own life and in your teaching (cf. 1 Timothy 4:16).  Be willing to make a comprehensive study on a subject before you conclude what the truth of God is on that subject.

I hope that this study will help us to be able to show others the need to go beyond one or two favorite verses that pertain to salvation and coming to Christ for forgiveness.  Instead, we should use as much of Scripture as we need to in sharing a complete view of accepting Christ and His salvation.

May God help us to know His Word well, “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  Let us not “distort” or “twist” the Scriptures, as some do (2 Peter 3:16). We distort the Bible when we make it say what it really doesn’t teach, by only citing a verse or two and avoiding other passages on a topic.  Rather, let us know the truth, understand the truth, believe the truth, and proclaim the truth—the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

“No man has a right to say, as some are in the habit of saying, ‘The Spirit tells me that such or such is the meaning of such a passage.’ How is he assured that it is the Holy Spirit, and that it is not a spirit of delusion, except from the evidence that the interpretation is the legitimate meaning of the words.” –Alexander Carson

Richard Hollerman


 

Comments are closed.