And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And 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 wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.
There is perhaps no question more important than this one:
“What must I do to be saved?”
Many are too busy with life to consider this question. Many go blindly through life avoiding this question. Many are unwilling to consider that they may be lost.
“What must I do to be saved?”
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved...” (from Acts 16:30-31)
Just “believe”? What does “believe” mean?
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! (James 2:19)
The demons also know that Jesus is the Christ (Luke 4:41), so a saving belief is clearly more than just an intellectual agreement with truth.
How did Paul clarify “belief” and salvation to the jailer when “they spoke the word of the Lord to him”? (Acts 16:32). Near the end of Paul’s travelling ministry, in the book of Acts, Paul summarizes the message which he preached:
“I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:20-21)
I challenge you to consider that this is the essence of saving belief. Two things are both necessary and sufficient:
1. Repentance toward God
2. Faith in our Lord Jesus.
Repentance speaks of a change in thinking; a change from unbelief to belief; a change in the direction of your life. Acknowledge that you have sinned, and turn to God for forgiveness of sins and for deliverance from the power of sin. Choose to follow God rather than continuing to follow after sinful desires. The call to repent applies to everyone:
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30 NIV)
Faith in Jesus is necessary because we, by ourselves, are not able to do things God’s way. We must be “born again” and empowered by God’s Holy Spirit before we can live a righteous life (John 3:1-21). This only happens through faith in Jesus: Acknowledge that he is the promised Messiah (the Christ), the only Son of God, Lord of all; that he died for your sins and the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2), and that he rose from the dead. (See chapter 35 for more about faith.)
Some people appear to come to saving faith and repentance quickly, primarily as a single event. For others, it appears to happen as a series of more minor steps spread out over time.
I believe that if you truly turn to God in repentance and truly have faith in Jesus, then you will find that you are given power to live a righteous life. If you don’t do these two things, you will find yourself to still be dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Don’t wait until you are “good enough” to come to God… it will never happen. You will become righteous only after you turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. There is no other way to be saved.
What about you? Have you turned to God in repentance? Do you have faith in our Lord Jesus?
If not, why not do so today? “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2Corinthians 6:2). You can pray to God for salvation alone by yourself, or in the presence of others. Here are some guidelines:
Turn to God in repentance:
- Admit to God that you have sinned against him. Be as specific as you feel is appropriate.
- Admit to God that you need a savior; that you can’t save yourself. You can’t fix or undo your own sins.
- Declare to God that you are choosing to follow him; that you will no longer do things your own way. Acknowledge that you need his help to do so, that you can’t do it by your own strength.
- Renounce all commitments and allegiances you have made which are contrary to following God.
Have faith in our Lord Jesus:
- Acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the only Son of God, Lord of all. Declare that Jesus is now your Lord.
- Acknowledge that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead.
- Receive God’s forgiveness.
Thank God for his mercy and grace in saving you.
Ask God to fill you with his Spirit, so that you can live a life pleasing to him.
Baptism: As you have opportunity, get baptized by another follower of Jesus (see chapter 17 “Be Baptized”).
For Further Reflection
Ezekiel 18:30-32: A call for repentance.
Matthew 3:1-2, Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3: Summaries of John the Baptist’s teaching.
Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15: Summaries of Jesus’ teaching.
Matthew 11: 20-24: Jesus on repentance.
Mark 6:12: A summary of the 12 disciples’ preaching.
Luke 13: 1-5: Jesus emphasizing the need for repentance.
Luke 15:1-7: Jesus teaching about the lost sheep.
Luke 15:8-10: Jesus teaching about the lost coin.
Acts 2:38, 3:19, 5:31: Peter on repentance.
Acts 17:29-31, 20:18-21, 26:19-21: Paul on repentance.
Ephesians 4:20-24: How we came to know Christ.
2Peter 3:9: God wants none to perish; wants all to repent.
Revelation 2:5, 2:14-16, 3:1-3, 3:19-20: Jesus’ messages to the churches regarding repentance.
Revelation 9:20-21, 16:9-11: Refusal to repent.
REGARDING FAITH IN JESUS:
John 3:16-18: Whoever believes in Jesus.
John 7:37-39: Whoever believes in Jesus.
Romans 1:17, 3:19-31: Righteous by faith.
Galatians 2:15-16: Justified by faith.
Ephesians 2:8-9: Saved by grace through faith.
Philippians 3:8-9: Righteousness from God.
Hebrews 11:1-40: The “Faith Chapter.”
James 2:14-26: Faith without deeds.
Book Reference: “The Way to God” by D. L. Moody. Available free on the internet.
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