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What Must I do to be Saved?

"He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."

Mark 16:16


Bible Basics


What must I do to be saved?

THE TITLE OF this article is a direct quotation from the book of Acts. [Acts 16:30] Paul and Silas were in prison at Philippi, having experienced a mockery of a trial. They were beaten and then after receiving many lashes were thrown into prison. The jailor was commanded to keep them safely and not let them escape. Because of this, the jailor threw Paul and Silas into an inner prison and put their feet into stocks. The jailor obviously felt confident that he had done all that he could - all that was humanly possible in order to prevent them from escaping.

At midnight, we read that Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God, loud enough for the other prisoners to hear them also. Suddenly there was a great earthquake which caused the foundations of the prison to shake, with the result that all the prison doors were opened and every prisoner's stocks and chains came undone. The jailor, as we can imagine, was very frightened. An earthquake is indeed a very terrifying experience and men and women are helpless in such a situation.

The jailor's immediate reaction when he saw that the doors were opened and the prisoners freed, was to kill himself. Under Roman law, if a prisoner was to escape whilst under a jailor's care, he would be held responsible, with death as a punishment. So the jailor's intention was to kill himself, until Paul shouted: `Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.' [Acts 16.28] The jailor, on hearing this brought in a light quickly and trembling said `...what must I do to be saved?' [Acts 16.30]

Before we consider the answer to this question, we should perhaps ask another question first. What did the Philippian jailor need to be saved from? Was it from the Roman authorities or was it from the consequences of his own actions? Both of these would result in his death, so was he asking to be saved from death? This could not be so, for Paul could not actually save the jailor from death. The Bible teaches that death is the cessation of life and is our common lot because of sin. God has placed a curse upon mankind because of the sin of the first man Adam. Paul expressed this very clearly when he wrote to the Corinthians `For as in Adam all die.' [1 Corinthians 15.22]

This statement is amplified in Paul's letter to the Romans:

`Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.' [Romans 5.12]

However, Paul and Silas were able to say to the jailor `...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved...' [Acts 16.31] The record in Acts goes on to tell us that Paul and Silas `...spake unto him the word of the Lord...' [Acts 16.32] This tells us that the apostles expounded to the jailor the scriptures and explained how God had provided a way of salvation from death through the work of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.


In order to understand God's plan of salvation we have to go back to the beginning. The clue to this is given in those words of Paul already referred to: `... as in Adam all die' [1 Corinthians 15.22] - Adam and Eve were our first parents and after God had created them, He pronounced that they, together with all His Creation were `very good' [Genesis 1.31] and their surroundings were also very good. Now God imposed only one condition on our first parents after He had placed them in the Garden of Eden - they must not eat of a certain tree - `the tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. God also told them ` the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.' [Genesis 2.17 NKJV]

Unfortunately, the temptation was too great for them. Eve, taken in by the subtle words of the serpent, looked upon the tree and saw that the fruit on it was very pleasing to the eye; she was persuaded that if she did eat of the fruit, she wouldn't die as God had said, but that she would have her eyes opened and would be ` God, knowing good and evil.' [Genesis 3.5 NKJV]

So Eve took the fruit of that tree and did eat and she gave also to Adam to eat. Immediately they realised that they were naked and feeling ashamed they sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. God then cursed the serpent for his part in the temptation. God said:

`...Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.' [Genesis 3.14]

God also said to Eve:

`...I (God) will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.' [Genesis 3.16]

Finally, God said to Adam:

`...cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.' [Genesis 3.17-19]

Adam and Eve were then banished from the Garden of Eden:

`And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.' [Genesis 3.22-24]


In Genesis chapter 3, we are also told that God made coats of skins to clothe Adam and Eve. [Genesis 3.21] By this act, animals were not only killed in order to provide the covering for their bodies, but also to provide a symbolic covering for the sin which they had committed. This established a Divine principle that later was confirmed in the daily sacrifices made by the Israelites in obedience to God's law given through Moses. Paul refers to this in the letter to the Hebrews where we read `And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission (of sins).' [Hebrews 9.22]

So the slaying of an animal to provide a covering for sin became an integral part of the law of Moses. But what we must remember is that the sacrifice of an animal only, was a covering for sin and not any animal was allowed to be used as this sacrifice; it had to be a perfect specimen without blemish. [Leviticus 6.6]


Now God in His wisdom, provided His only begotten Son who was the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. John's Gospel record tells us how John the Baptist recognised this when he saw Jesus:

`The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."' [John 1.29]

So Jesus was sacrificed for the sins of the world. As the sacrifices under the law had to be without spot and blemish, so therefore Jesus fulfilled this role perfectly. [1 Peter 1.18,19] The Apostle Peter again reminds us of Christ's perfect character in these words: `Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.' [1 Peter 2.22]

It was necessary for Christ to die, because he was mortal, having been born of Mary. [Galatians 4.4] He overcame sin in the flesh and therefore in his death he nailed it to his cross. By his act of obedience to his Father, in laying down his life, he fulfilled a Divine promise which was made in Eden. God said to the serpent:

`And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.' [Genesis 3.15]

The meaning of this promise is clear. Christ bruised sin in the head, a fatal wound; but sin only bruised Christ in the heel, a minor wound. Because Christ was sinless, he was not worthy of the curse of death and God therefore did not let his soul see corruption but raised him from the dead on that third day, a glorious resurrection. [Acts 2.22-28] In the letter to the Hebrews we are reminded of the great contrast between the sacrifices under Moses' law and the sacrifice of Christ:

`...not that He should offer himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with the blood of another...but now, once at the end of the ages, he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.' [Hebrews 9.25,26 NKJV]

By the shedding of his blood Jesus has made a way possible for us to be forgiven our sins. We are all sinners, for we are descended from Adam and still the same principle applies, as the prophet Ezekiel put it so plainly `the soul that sinneth, it shall die.' [Ezekiel 18.4]. What did the jailor have to do to be saved? Paul and Silas said to him: `...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.' [Acts 16.31] There was no hesitation on the part of the Jailor for `...he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized...' [Acts 16.33].

So we see that in order to have a hope of salvation, a hope of being saved from eternal death, we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptized.

The command of Jesus to all who wish to follow him is this:

`He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.' [Mark 16:16]


Paul explained the meaning of baptism in these words:

`Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.' [Romans 6:3,4]

In order to be completely buried as Christ was, we need to be totally immersed in water for this to symbolise his death. Examples of how baptism was carried out, can be found elsewhere in the Bible. In the book of Acts we read about an Ethiopian eunuch who had been to Jerusalem and was returning home. Philip was sent to him and found him sitting in a chariot reading a passage of scripture from Isaiah. Philip asked him whether he understood what he was reading. [Acts 8:27-30] The eunuch replied that he could not unless someone explained it to him. Philip did just this, and explained the meaning of the passage which was a prophecy concerning the crucifixion of Christ. We are told that `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.' [Acts 8:32]

After the eunuch had understood the teaching of the Old Testament scriptures concerning the work of Christ, they both came to some water and the eunuch asked `...what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, `If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest...and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.' [Acts 8:36-38] After his baptism, we are told that the eunuch `...went on his way rejoicing.' [Acts 8:39]


So we have learnt that both the Philippian jailor and the Ethiopian eunuch were baptised into Jesus' saving name and now rest in the certain hope of eternal life and will have a part in the resurrection. We read of this in Paul's letters:

`For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.' [1 Thessalonians 4:16]

`For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.' [1 Corinthians 15:21,22]

When Christ returns to the earth, he shall raise those who are `in Christ' and he shall judge both the living and the dead. Those who are found worthy will then receive God's gracious gift - eternal life in his kingdom - what a wonderful prospect!

What must you do to be saved?

There are three essential things - believe the Gospel - be baptised - then walk in faith along the path marked out for you, so that when Christ comes, in God's mercy you will be judged worthy to have a place in his glorious kingdom.


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