Introduction With sixty-six books, 1,189 chapters and nearly 800,000 words, the bible has a lot to say to us. Without a doubt, one of the most important messages that they bible conveys to us is that we are sinners in need of a savior. As we know, Jesus Christ died on the cross for us so that we may be forgiven of our sins, escape judgment, and ultimately spend eternity with Him. Jesus paid the price and endured the suffering of the cross so that we can be saved. While this is crystal clear to most bible-believing Christians, confusion arises when it comes to what our role is in the salvation plan. In Acts 2:40, the bible says, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” So then, what must we do?
We must do something In the 2nd chapter of Acts, Peter was asked this very question by those who had just heard him preach about the Lord Jesus. Peter’s reply was “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” (Acts 2:38). Repentance and water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ were preached as the salvation message -- and the only salvation message in the bible -- by the apostles in the book of Acts.
Regardless of what the bible says, many different Christian denominations have created other methods by which we are saved, such as church membership, attending masses, holding to creeds, and by trying to accumulate more good works than bad works. However, none are more harmful and demonic in origin than the sinner’s prayer, in which one can simply recite a pre-written prayer, believe that Jesus exists, and expect to be saved.
A popular version of the sinner’s prayer: "God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin. However, I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I believe that His death and resurrection provided for my forgiveness. I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord, for saving me and forgiving me! Amen!"
We are not born saved. In contrast, the bible tells us that we are born in sin and “shapen in iniquity” (Psalms 51:5). Even though Jesus paid the price -- a price we could never pay ourselves -- we must do something to be saved. Even those that would hold to the sinner’s prayer agree we must do something. To them, that something is reading the sinner’s prayer. But according to God’s Word, that something is obeying Acts 2:38.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.“ Matthew 7:21
Repentance To repent means to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s sin. It involves changing one’s mind and reconsidering his thoughts and actions. In other words, it means to stop sinning. Repentance is absolutely essential to becoming a child of God. We cannot continue in a life of sin and expect the gift of eternal life. Romans 6:1-2 says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.”
Christ died to free us from sins. His blood was shed to wash away our sins, not cover them over so that we may continue in them unnoticed. Murder, lying, stealing, witchcraft, adultery, idolatry, fornication, homosexuality, covetousness, blasphemy, dishonoring parents and other wickedness must be repented of and no longer exist in our lives. These sins can take place in various, subtle forms, including in the form of actions taken by our own hands, in our own hearts and minds, and through evil entertainment. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
Many people are under the assumption that recognizing sin and treating it as such is “judging,” and that Jesus would never judge anybody. Nothing could be further from the truth. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Most Christians are probably aware of Jesus’ words to the accusers of the woman caught in adultery: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” But fewer are aware of Jesus’ words directly to the woman: “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).
Argument: “You can’t earn your salvation. I don’t have to do anything to be saved.”
Hebrews 5:9: “And being made perfect, he [Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”
The Lord has an expectation for us to repent. From the beginning of His ministry on Earth, Jesus called sinners unto repentance (Mark 2:17), and preached “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). He didn’t call for sinners just to believe, since even the devils believe (James 2:19). He called them to repent, and if they didn’t, He let them know that they could expect to perish (Luke 13:5).
In light of all this, it is strange that repentance isn’t spoken more of in churches and by those reaching out to the lost. Instead, souls are asked to just believe some version of the gospel and maybe offered a free carwash or Thanksgiving turkey. But the gospel requires obedience. We are commanded to depart from sin and without obedience we don’t partake in the gospel’s salvation plan. 1 Peter 4:17 says, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”
Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ One of the more mysterious occurrences that has taken place over the past centuries is that baptism somehow has become separated from salvation and been made a “work” that Christians do to merely represent or symbolize their decision to walk with God. You won’t find any such idea in the bible. It is true that baptism is representative. It represents Christ’s burial. The bible says “We are buried with him by baptism into death” (Romans 6:4). It is because we are buried with Him in baptism that it is a component of salvation itself. We partake of His death in repentance and we partake of His burial in baptism. The blood of the lamb that was placed upon the doorposts in Egypt during the Passover was also representative, but failure to have taken action as the Lord commanded would have resulted in a visit from the death angel.
Repentance and baptism is how we act upon our decision to be children of God. Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” To separate baptism from salvation is preposterous. Jesus and his disciples baptized during His ministry on Earth, and before he left this earth, told his disciples to teach and baptize all nations. The bible tells us that Jesus and His disciples even baptized more than John the Baptist (John 4:1). When the Pharisees refused to be baptized, Jesus told them they were rejecting the counsel of God (Luke 7:30).
Argument: “Baptism is works, and you can’t be saved by works. We’re saved by faith.”
James 2:26: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Arguing that baptism is a work is like arguing that loving God is a work. The fact is, you need to do both. Once you’re saved, then you can do works, such as giving alms, serving one another, and many others. We are commanded to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:48). Repentance and being baptized is commanded of us in God’s Word and Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). We cannot claim to love Jesus and at the same time disregard what He has commanded us to do in His Word. In Mark 16:16 Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
“Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 3:20-21
Biblical baptism When Jesus (whose life should be an example to us) was baptized, the bible says that he came up out of the water (Matthew 3:16). Baptism involves being immersed in water. Just as we bury our dead by completely covering them with the earth, when we are baptized we are completely covered by water. And it is to be done in the name of Jesus Christ.
Most churches who observe baptism attempt to do so in the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, but they never actually use the name. The name is Jesus. How do we know this? Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” He then opened their understanding (Luke 24:45), and they began baptizing in the name of Jesus Christ. The name of our salvation is Jesus. We pray in the name of Jesus. We anoint with oil in the name of Jesus. We are baptized in the name of Jesus. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
By baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost without ever using the name would be like one of us signing a check “father, son, human being” on the signature line. It can’t ever be cashed unless we sign our actual name. The name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is Jesus. That’s why in Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 10, and Acts 19 the apostles baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Never was anyone anywhere in the bible baptized in the titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
To reject baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is to reject that great name, and the bible says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
Being filled with the Holy Ghost Jesus said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). Being born again isn’t just a catchphrase or some Christian lingo that people use once they become religious. It is an actual new birth experience during which we become endued with the power of God. We become new creatures and become the sons and daughters of God. We partake in the Lord’s death when we repent, we partake in the Lord’s burial when we are baptized, and when we are filled with the Holy Ghost we partake of the resurrection. In fact, the bible says that the same Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead is the Spirit that will dwell in us (Romans 8:11).
We are promised this Spirit when we obey Acts 2:38. It is promised to anyone who is willing to take up their cross, follow Jesus, and obey him. According to the Apostle Peter, it is the fulfillment of Joel 2:28: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.” It is also the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s prophecy: “I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Luke 3:16).
People are sometimes led to believe that as soon as we “accept Jesus as our personal savior” (another concept not found in the bible) we are automatically filled with the Holy Ghost. However, the bible clearly shows this is not the case. In the 8th chapter of Acts, there were some Samaritan believers who had already believed and were baptized in the name of Jesus, but weren’t yet filled with the Holy Ghost. Acts 8:15 says, “Who [the apostles], when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)” In Acts 19, it is only after the believers were correctly baptized in the name of Jesus and Paul laid his hands on them that they received the Holy Ghost.
The evidence of receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is speaking in tongues. Those that received the Holy Ghost in Acts 2 and Acts 19 spoke in tongues when the Holy Ghost was given. And in Acts 10, Peter knew that the Gentiles had received the Holy Ghost because he heard them speak in tongues: “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. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:45-46).
To have a part in the resurrection, we must be filled with the Holy Ghost. It gives us the power to be witnesses of Jesus and gives us the boldness and power we need to live a holy life. Without it, we do not belong to God. Romans 8:9 says, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
Argument: “My pastor doesn’t preach it that way.”
Galatians 1:9: “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
Conclusion The bible tells us that the way is narrow, and few there be that find it. Unfortunately, most will not accept God’s plan of salvation. I have carefully presented this plan to you as provided in the Word of God as preached by His apostles, supporting it with biblical text along the way. I encourage you to call upon the name of the Lord and receive His gospel. Don’t let anyone deceive you and don’t let your pride prevent you from receiving what God has for you.
The bible asks in Hebrews 2:3, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him?” The answer is that we cannot. No exception. God’s plan is great. Don’t accept any substitutes.
“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10