"What Must I do to be Saved?"
One of the greatest questions that has ever been asked by man regards his salvation. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" was the question asked by the jailer at Philippi (Acts 16: 30). His good question pertained to initial salvation or salvation in regards to the non-Christian. In the first place, consider the fact that this pagan knew there was something he had to do in order to be saved. Did he possess some heathen "salvation by works" concept of salvation; hence, the wording of his question? The fact that Paul and Silas did not rebuke him in view of the wording of his question but proceeded to answer him shows his question was legitimately worded (vs. 31 ff.). You see, God has provided the necessary grace and has made it available to all men, but God requires man to appropriate this grace to himself (Tit. 2: 11 ff.). This is what Peter meant when he urged, "Save yourselves from this untoward generation" (Acts 2: 40). There are no works man could possibly perform to earn his salvation (Tit. 3: 5). However, there are things man must do in order to be saved (matters involved in accepting God's grace, Tit. 3: 5). Alas, most will not make use of God's grace; therefore, only a few will be ultimately saved (Matt. 7: 13, 14).
What was the answer of Paul and Silas to the question "what must I do to be saved?" Belief is where it all begins (notice I said "begins," not "ends). Hence, we read: "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (vs. 31). Belief is initial and required to prompt other requisite acts of obedience required by God (Heb. 11: 6). A dead faith, though, never saved anyone (Jas. 2: 14 ff.). Even the demons believe and tremble (Jas. 2: 19). Since faith or belief comes by hearing the word of God, Paul and Silas had to present the word to the jailer (vs. 32). The fact the jailer "washed their stripes" was indicative of his repentance (vs. 33, see the necessity of repentance in Luke 13: 3, 5 and Acts 17: 30, 31). Repentance is a change of mind or will that is brought about by godly sorrow and leads to reformation of life (Matt. 21: 29; Rom. 2: 4; 2 Cor. 7: 10, 11). We are not expressly told that the jailer verbally confessed Christ's deity, however, we must infer that he did. We say this because such a confession was required of the non-Christian in order to be saved (Rom. 10: 9, 10, see exemplified in Acts 8: 37, KJV). After the jailer had believed (begun to believe), repented, confessed Jesus' deity, we read: "And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes: and was baptized, he and all his straightway" (vs. 33). We consistently read in the recorded cases of salvation that provide full detail that people were immediately baptized (they did not practice weekly or monthly baptism meetings). This immediacy of action in the case of baptism was because water baptism was (is) for the remission of sins and to place one in Christ where salvation is experienced (Acts 2: 38, 22: 16; Gal. 3: 26, 27, I Cor. 12: 13). After the jailer rendered primary obedience, we read "And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house" (vs. 34). The jailer's question was not only answered, but the jailer (and his family) has now done what he was told to do to be saved. Thus, the jailer is saved at the point of verse thirty-four. Therefore, he "rejoiced, believing in God."
A look at other recorded instances of salvation. The book of Acts is the history book of the New Testament. As such, it records how people became Christians or were saved. These examples are for our following and duplication today. If we are to enjoy the same salvation, we are to be saved in the same way the people of the First Century were. To simplify our study, we shall supply the text that records the salvation example. We shall then briefly notice what was done by considering the "subject," "what they did," and the "results." We shall begin with Acts 2: 22-41.
" 22: Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. 25: For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: 26: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: 27: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 28: Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. 29: Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30: Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31: He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32: This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33: Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 34: For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35: Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36: Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39: For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40: And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41: Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2).
The subjects: The Jews of every nation (vs. 9-11). What they did: They heard the faith producing word, believed, repented, confessed (inferred, Rom. 10: 1-10), and were baptized (2: 37; vs. 36; vs. 38-41). The results: They were saved from their sins (Mk. 16: 15, 16).
Here is another recorded example (Acts 8: 5-13):"5: Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 6: And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7: For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8: And there was great joy in that city. 9: But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11: And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12: But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13: Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done" (Acts 8).
Notice the breakdown. The subjects: The Samaritans. What they did: They heard the gospel, believed, repented (inferred based on Acts 17: 30, 31), confessed (inferred based on Rom. 10: 1-10), and were baptized (Acts 8: 6; vs. 12; vs.12). The results: They were saved (cp. Mk.16: 15, 16).
Please consider the example of the man from Ethiopia (Acts 8: 26-39)."26: And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. 27: And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28: Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29: Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30: And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31: And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32: The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34: And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35: Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36: And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" 37: And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38: And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 39: And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8).
The subject: The man from Ethiopia. What he did: He heard, believed, repented (necessarily inferred, Rom. 10: 1-10), confessed Christ's deity, and was baptized (vs. 35; vs. 37, KJV; vs. 37; vs. 38). The results: He was saved (vs. Mk. 16: 15, 16, Acts 8: 39).
Let us briefly examine the case of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 22: 3-16)."3: I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. 4: And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. 5: As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. 6: And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. 7: And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 8: And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. 9: And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. 10: And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. 11: And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. 12: And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, 13: Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14: And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. 15: For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. 16: And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22).
Consider our analysis. The subject: Saul. What he did: He heard, believed, repented (necessarily inferred, Acts 17: 30, 31), confessed (necessarily inferred, Rom. 10: 1-10); and was baptized (22: 7, 13-16; vs.10; vs. 16). The results: Saul was saved (Mk. 16: 15, 16).
Please view the case of Cornelius (Acts 10: 33-48)."33: Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. 34: Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. 36: The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) 37: That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; 38: How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. 39: And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: 40: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; 41: Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. 42: And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. 43: To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. 44: While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45: And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46: For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47: Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48: And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days" (Acts 10).
The subjects: Cornelius and his household. What they did: They heard, believed, repented, confessed (necessarily inferred, Rom. 10: 1-10), and were baptized (vs. 33; vs. 43; vs. 11: 18; vs. 10: 48). The results: They were saved (Mk. 16: 15, 16, Acts 11: 18).
Lydia and her household (Acts 16: 13-15)."13: And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. 14: And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. 15: And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us" (Acts 16).
The subjects: Lydia and her household. What they did: heard, believed, repented (necessarily inferred, Acts 17: 30, 31), confessed (necessarily inferred, Rom. 10: 1-10), and were baptized (vs. 13; vs. 14; vs. 15). The results: They were saved (Mk. 16: 15, 16).
Let us notice one more example from the book of Acts (Acts 18: 8)."8: And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized" (Acts 18).
The subjects: The Corinthians. What they did: They heard, believed, repented (necessarily inferred, Acts 17: 30, 31), confessed (Rom. 10: 1-10), and were baptized (vs. 8; vs. 8; vs. 8). The results: They were saved from their sins (Mk. 16: 15, 16).
The findings and conclusions of our composites. In the foregoing seven examples of salvation, we saw that each pertained to the non-Christian becoming a Christian. We observed that there were three items that were specifically mentioned in all seven cases of salvation: hearing the word, belief (click on, "Saving Faith" to learn more), and water baptism (Click on "Baptism, How, Who, When, and How" to learn more about water baptism). In view of the teaching of Acts 17: 30, 31 that all men must repent and Romans 10: 1-10 that confession of Christ's deity is required for primary salvation, we necessarily inferred that these acts were performed in all seven cases (only specifically mentioned in two and one, respectively, click on "Biblical Repentance" and "The Act of Confession" to make your study of salvation complete). Since Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," we conclude that the people of all seven cases were indeed saved (repentance and confession are necessarily inferred in Jesus' statement, cp. Lk. 24: 47, Rom. 10: 1-10). Hence, belief, repentance, confession of Christ's deity, and water baptism were required in the First Century (and today) in order to be saved.
There were some incidentals to salvation mentioned in the seven cases. The performance of miracles (the Samaritans, performed by the apostles), Saul saw a light and the Lord to qualify him for the apostleship, Cornelius experienced the baptism of the Spirit, for instance. These were incidentals because they were not required to the salvation enjoyed.
What are the practical lessons to be drawn from our study? If we are to be New Testament Christians (there really is not any other "type" Christian), we must do what people did in the First Century in order to become Christians. Once again: They believed, repented, confessed Jesus' deity, and were baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Such action placed them in Christ (his spiritual body, the church, Gal. 3: 26, 27, Eph. 1: 22, 23, I Cor. 12: 13). They (we today) were to grow and exercise the responsibilities God enjoined on them as Christians (Col. 1: 10, 2 Pet. 1: 5-11). (For related studies, click on "Salvation," "Case Study of Salvation," "God's Eternal Plan of Salvation," "Save Yourselves," and "God's Grace.")