What must I do to be saved?

  1. Let’s consider some preliminary observations:-
  • Most bible students would agree that unless one believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, one cannot be saved. Jesus said: “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (‭John‬ ‭8‬:‭24‬ NKJV). Believing in Jesus is definitely & undoubtedly a necessary condition or requirement for one to be saved. The question is whether “believing in Jesus” is a sufficient condition for salvation without anything more that one needs to do?
  • Most bible students would also agree that one is saved by the grace of God. For if Jesus did not offer Himself as a sacrifice or propitiation for our sins, none of us could be saved. The bible says : “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),…For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭4-5, 8-9‬ NKJV). “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (‭I John‬ ‭2‬:‭2‬ NKJV)
  • Most bible students would also agree that one is justified by the blood of Christ. The bible says: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (‭Romans‬ ‭5‬:‭8-9‬ NKJV)
  • Most bible students would also agree that no one can be justified by “good works”. The bible says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them”. (Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭8-10‬ NKJV). Hence, one is not justified by “works of righteousness” for the bible says: “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit”, (‭Titus‬ ‭3‬:‭5‬ NKJV) . Neither is one justified by the works of the law: “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight…” (‭Romans‬ ‭3‬:‭20‬ NKJV).
  • On the other hand, few bible students would conclude that just because we are saved by the grace of God as stated in Eph 2:5 & through the blood of Christ as stated in Rom 5:9, that one does not need to do anything at all because God has done it all for us. In other words, no need to even believe because that would be a work! Believing in Jesus is a work that one does when one seeks to do the works of God: “Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (‭John‬ ‭6‬:‭28-29‬ NKJV).
  • In fact, although Eph 2:5 states “by grace you have been saved”, it does not say that we are saved by “grace alone” or “grace only”. It does not imply the exclusion of the need for one to do something more in order to be saved. This understanding is clarified in the subsequent verse 8 wherein is stated “For by grace you have been saved through faith“.  So one learns that when the bible does not say “grace only” is sufficient for one to be saved then one ought also not to conclude that “believe only” or “faith only” is sufficient for one to be saved. In fact the only time or place where the phrase “faith only” appears in the Bible, it clearly says that “faith only” is insufficient to justify anyone: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. “(‭James‬ ‭2‬:‭24‬ NKJV). “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also“. (‭James‬ ‭2‬:‭26‬ NKJV)
  1. Let’s consider the immediate context of the statement of Acts 16:30-31 to see whether the apostle Paul meant that all the Philippian jailor needed to do was to “believe only”, without needing to do anything else.
  • Let’s consider the verses subsequent to v 30-31, viz: “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household”. (‭Acts‬ ‭16‬:‭32-34‬ NKJV)
  • Let’s observe what the Apostle Paul & Silas did: ‘they spoke the word of The Lord to him & all his family”. It was necessary that the word of God, the gospel, be preached to them because faith comes by hearing God’s Word and the gospel is the power of God unto salvation: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (‭Romans‬ ‭10‬:‭17‬ NKJV) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭16‬ NKJV). So, while Paul told the Philippian jailor to believe in order to be saved, that did not exclude the need for him to first hear the gospel, the Word of God so that he & his family can believe in Jesus.
  • What else did the Philippian Jailor & his family do? “And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.”(Acts 16:33).  The bible tells us that it was “midnight” (Acts 16:25) when the incident occurred. After hearing the gospel preached by the apostle Paul, “he and all his family were baptized”. So, whilst Paul & Silas called on them to believe in Jesus, they did not mean that that was all they needed to do. Else, why the urgency & immediacy that they be baptized at the “very same hour of the night”? Paul knew its importance as he himself had been told to do the same after he had met the Lord:  “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 NKJV). Even though Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, his sins were not forgiven as yet – and Ananias was sent by God to instruct him to be baptized so that his sins may be forgiven. This is consistent with the command of Jesus as stated in Mark 16:16: “And He said to them, “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 NKJV)
  • After they had been baptized, how did the bible describe what they had done? “Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced,having believed in God with all his household.” (‭Acts‬ ‭16‬:‭34‬ NKJV). They were described as “having believed in God” and that phrase included the fact that they had all been baptized; the use of the word “believed” does not necessarily excludes the requirement to be baptized. A believer needs to do more than just believe if he desires to have his sins forgiven. To those who believed in Him, Jesus exhorted them to continue in His a Word if they desire to be His disciples: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (‭John‬ ‭8‬:‭31-32‬ NKJV). It was necessary for them to believe but not sufficient for them to merely believe.
  • When the bible says that one is justified by faith, it does not refer to merely believing in Jesus, it refers to the entire system of faith. This is clarified in Gal 3:26, where the bible said that we are all children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. It then went on to clarify that the process of becoming children of God involved the process of having been baptized into Christ: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (‭Galatians‬ ‭3‬:‭26-27‬ NKJV) it is not possible to be saved outside of Christ. The Bible says that baptism is the process of putting us “into Christ”. “In Christ”, we have the following:

* We have newness of life: “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (‭Romans‬ ‭6‬:‭4‬ NKJV)

* There’s no condemnation: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. “(‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭1‬ NKJV)

* We are new creatures: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”. (‭II Corinthians‬ ‭5‬:‭17‬ NKJV)

* We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭7‬ NKJV)

* We have the inheritance: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭11‬ NKJV)

Without being baptized, one would not have put on Christ and one is not in Christ as yet. So, no wonder the bible says that baptism saves us ( “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (‭I Peter‬ ‭3‬:‭21‬ NKJV)) Note that it did not say that baptism alone saves us but that baptism is an essential process for salvation after one has believed – just as repentance from our sins and confession of Jesus as Lord are also essential requirements for salvation – as taught in the following passages:-

* “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (‭Luke‬ ‭13‬:‭3‬ NKJV). “Then Peter said to them, “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 NKJV)

* “that 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.” (‭Romans‬ ‭10‬:‭9-10‬ NKJV)

  • Baptism is the culmination of the process of one becoming a child of God. It starts necessarily with the need for one to believe in Jesus as the Son of God which then leads one to repent of one’s sins, and then to confess Jesus as Lord, ending with one being baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and putting on Christ, so as to be raised to walk in newness of life.
  1. God gave many examples in the book of Acts of what’s required in order to be saved.  They are all consistent with what the Lord said in Mark 16:15-16: “And He said to them, “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 NKJV)

Let’s consider one such example in Acts 8:26-39. In the afore-stated account, God had sent Philip to preach to the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip preached unto him, Jesus. The bible then tells us that later on while Philip was preaching Jesus to him, the eunuch saw some water and he enquired about baptism. Philip replied that if he believed that Jesus was the Son of God, then he may be baptized. The eunuch then confessed his faith in Jesus. Based on that confession, Philip baptized him. Then an amazing thing happened. Immediately after the eunuch was baptized, the Spirit caught away Philip – and the eunuch went on is way rejoicing. Notice that the Spirit did not take away Philip until after the eunuch had been baptized. But once the eunuch had put on Christ in baptism, the Spirit took Philip away because the eunuch is now saved & he can go on his way rejoicing. This is a very clear example of what one needs to do in order to be saved.  Both belief in Jesus and baptism for the forgiveness of sins are necessary in order to be saved – consistent with what Jesus said in Mark 16:16.

The above discussion highlights that the Phlippian Jailor obeyed the gospel by believing in Jesus and being baptized urgently “at the same hour of the night”, and thereafter the bible said that he rejoiced, “having believed in God”.  The Ethiopian eunuch did the same – he was baptized on the road to Gaza, a desert place : “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. (‭Acts‬ ‭8‬:‭26‬ NKJV). After his baptism, the Spirit took away Philip, and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing. The bible is clear & consistent in its teaching concerning what one needs to do in order to be saved. It clearly includes faith in Christ & baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Baptism is not a “meritorious work”; it is an act of obedience to the command of the Lord.