The title of this chapter asks a good question. It was originally asked by a jailer at Philippi (Acts 16:30). Every professing Christian ought to be able to answer it clearly and concisely, but many cannot; and it raises doubts as to whether they will be in Heaven. Some respond by saying, “We must believe in God”; but even the demons do that (James 2:19). Some say, “Believe in Jesus,” but what are we to believe about Jesus? Some say, “Ask Jesus into your heart and you will be saved,” but no verse clearly teaches this, not even Revelation 3:20. The books of Romans and John, which are premier expositions on how to be saved, do not teach this.
We must begin with Christ as the foundation. His death and resurrection are essential elements of the gospel. The verses of Scripture that clearly teach the content of the gospel are found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. By hearing and believing this gospel we are saved and sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Thus we enter into a saving, personal relationship with God through Christ.
Let us briefly review the truth that leads us to salvation and how we need to respond:
1. We must realize that God does love us and gave His only begotten Son for us. “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). Do you realize the price God paid to show His love for you?
2. We must realize that the human problem is sin, which prohibits fellowship with a Holy God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “Your iniquities have separated you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). These words refer to our personal sins. Have you been convicted of them and been deeply concerned (Acts 2:37)? If you do not sense a need for His forgiveness, why would you come to the sinner’s Savior?
3. Sin has a penalty, a necessary punishment, which can be paid in only one way. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). Death is the only payment for sin accepted by God. Your sins are not forgiven just by asking for forgiveness, as so many believe. There is a penalty that must be paid. It calls for death, otherwise known as capital punishment. You may pay it, or another may pay it for you.
4. The penalty includes not only physical death but spiritual death, which is separation from God forever. “Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death and anyone not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15). Do you fear this (Matthew 10:28)? If not, why not?
5. Because God loved us, He sent the Lord Jesus to die in our place as a substitute to pay the penalty of death for us. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Do you realize that God took your place, was your substitute, to pay for your sins? It was the only way to save your soul. “He loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Revelation 1:5). Without this act of mercy we would all die in our sins (John 8:24).
6. You cannot pay for your sins or earn your way to Heaven by simply trying to be a good person. Good deeds are the fruit of a transformed life, not a way of earning salvation. “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 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). No person can claim to be righteous or good enough to be admitted to Heaven (Romans 3:10-12). Do you think you are an exception to this?
7. Although Christ has made our forgiveness possible by His sacrifice, we must respond to God in order to receive His salvation. True faith includes both repentance and yieldedness to God. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a turning to God’s right ways. Repentance is essential to be right with God. “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). What is repentance? It is a change of mind which will result in a change of life. “Let the wicked
forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him” (Isaiah 55:7). “Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21) are companion truths, not to be separated.
8. You must receive Jesus Christ (the Messiah) as Lord and Savior. “As many as
received Him [the Lord Jesus Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). “He who
has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). “If you
confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus [or Jesus as Lord],
and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). A marriage ceremony is an illustration of receiving Christ as your Lord and Savior (Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5:22-30). Two people mutually receive one another and commit themselves to a faithful relationship. So it is with receiving Christ.
Faith is the channel or condition of salvation. How does this faith become effectual? It requires more than saying a certain prayer, or asking forgiveness, or raising your hand, or mental agreement with Bible facts. It is something that involves mind, will and emotions (your total being) in a decisive, sincere, life-changing act. It is a personal, transforming entrance into a new life with the Lord Jesus Christ. Here are the steps stated in varied Scriptures:
—You hear the gospel message, believe it (depend, trust, rely on its truth) and God gives you the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13).
—You understand and are convinced that Jesus paid for your sins by His death on the cross, rose from the dead and is alive today to call you to Himself (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
—You abandon hope that your own “goodness,” or trying to keep the Ten Commandments, can put you into favor with God (Romans 4:4-5; Galatians 2:16). Thus you will not fall under a curse for trying to make yourself acceptable to God by your own efforts (Galatians 3:10). Christ alone is able to cleanse you. Salvation is the undeserved favor of God to sinners (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are unworthy of God’s acceptance and cannot earn His salvation.
—You enter the Door of eternal life which is Christ Himself (John 10:9), not by looking to the church, rituals or good deeds to open the way.
—You bow the knee to Jesus as Lord and Savior, without knowing all this may mean in the future, just as everyone must do eventually, including the doomed and damned (Philippians 2:10-11). You must be prepared to confess Jesus as Lord before others (Romans 10:9).
—You are born into a new spiritual life through the entrance of the Holy Spirit into your life (John 3:6-7). The Spirit is the one who enables you to live a changed life through God’s power. You become a new creation. Old things pass away (2 Corinthians 5:17). You have passed from death to life (John 5:24), from darkness to light (1 Peter 2:9; Colossians 1:13). You are not yet perfect in life on earth, but you begin a new life that will gradually change as you let Christ control your life and mold your character.
—You recognize that Christ has saved you for a purpose, that of living a life of following Him on earth. He is not just handing you a ticket to Heaven and then leaving you free to live as you please here. Jesus is now the Lord, not you. He is your new owner (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Review the following questions and think carefully about them.
1. Have you sensed your spiritual need, neglect of God and disobedience to Him? Do you want to take action? Many times people simply want to escape from current problems but they do not see their central problem, which is sin. They do not sense any need for God’s forgiveness.
2. Do you appreciate His great love for you in sending His beloved Son to this earth to save you, both for this life and the life to come? Are you grateful? The Lord said that the one who senses he or she is forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:47). Too few of those who make professions truly love the Lord for what He has done for them.
3. Do you want to be fully reconciled to God
and follow the Lord Jesus rather than your own plans and devices? Do you want His way of life? Salvation is much more than a ticket to Heaven. It is a coming together with Him, a union of life, affecting the way you live day by day. Are you
willing to turn from what you know to be wrong and submit to Jesus as both your Lord and Savior? It may seem impossible to do but you are not asked to make a promise or vow. You are asked to indicate your sincere intention. His power will enable you to live this new life. Are you ready to do this?
4. Have you sincerely and
without mental reservations, in humility and brokenness, cried out to the Lord Jesus to save you and take over your life? Are you holding on to any area which He should control? Commitment to Christ is more than a promise to “try to do better.”
If you have done this in all sincerity, then
hear these words:
Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13)
The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John 6:37)
He who hears my word and believes in Him who sent Me, has everlasting life and shall not come into judgment but has passed from death into life (John 5:24).
These things have I written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13). Consider the word
know. It is not just think, hope or imagine. Know means to know with certainty.
I have dealt with many people on the subject of salvation. God has graciously given me the privilege of leading a number to Christ. Their lives thereafter
proved the sincerity of their commitment. On the other hand, despite great care on my part, I have prayed with more than a few who obviously made false professions. They were a grief to me. I asked myself, “What could I have done better?” I have concluded that generally the fault was not mine. They often begged to pray or to decide immediately, even when I suggested they take a while to consider it carefully. What went wrong? Ultimately, they lied to the Holy Spirit and perjured themselves before God. They may have “believed” in some sense but it was not a belief that included repentance and yieldedness to Christ as Lord. They did not claim the provision of Christ as their only hope for salvation. Let us hope when you pray with people who say they want to be saved that they will have understanding and sincerity in their hearts. Then they will be prepared to meet their God (Amos 4:12).
Study Guide Lesson 3 What Must I Do To Be Saved?
1. If someone asked you, “What must I do to be saved?,” or “How can I be sure of going to Heaven?,” how would you answer? Briefly write the major steps you would outline and the Scriptures you would have them read after each point.
2. What, in your opinion, are the chief hindrances to understanding the way of salvation, especially to those who believe (falsely) that they are Christians? List at least three possible areas of confusion or misunderstanding.
3. List at least three questions you might ask to test the understanding and commitment of those professing to be Christians?
4. Write briefly at least one experience in which you sought either to lead someone to Christ or to challenge what you suspect may be a false assurance. What was the key issue or issues?