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Scripture Reading: Acts 2:36-41
"What Must I Do To Be Saved?"
1. The Prince of Peace, by preaching the gospel of peace, brought great conflict into the world: Conflict between truth and error, light and darkness, sin and righteousness, Christ and Satan and their servants, Matt 10:34-39.
2. Therefore, it is no surprise that His servants face controversy when they preach the gospel of peace (Rom 10:15; Eph 6:15).
3. Among the earliest controversies among NT Christians: “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 15:1-2)
4. Controversy has raged through the centuries to this moment.
a. This age of unity in moral/doctrinal diversity minimizes the sin of compromise with error while maximizing tolerance with false teaching. So again, faithful Christians are called upon to earnestly contend for the faith, Jude 3.
b. This demands giving the Bible answer with “great plainness of speech” to convict the gainsayer and exhort the lost.
c. Important perspective: Divine truth is not devised and developed in the moment of controversy; Truth is clarified as it is declared and defended in the midst of controversy, 1 Tim 4:1; 2 Tim 1:13; 1 Pet 3:15.
5. The wrong answer to our question curses us and severs us from Christ (Gal 1:6-9; 5:4).
a. Some who once stood firmly on the ground of truth now reject the plan of salvation.
b. Do not say it cannot happen to us; we must stand fast and hold apostolic traditions (2 Ths 2:15).
I. THE NATURE OF THE QUESTION: WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
A. The Question is Conditional: What must be done to be saved, Acts 2:37 (16:30).
B. The Question Implies Mandatory Action: The answer is not a suggestion; it is necessary for salvation, cf. Matt 19:16-17; Acts 16:31.
C. The Question is Personal: Each person must apply God’s answer to be saved (Mk 16:15-16).
D. The Question Seeks to Obtain Salvation: What must be done before (not after) the lost is saved.
II. THE BIBLE ANSWERS THIS BIBLE QUESTION.
A. The General Answer is Stated in Romans 6:17-18.
1. Romans had been lost in sin (“slaves of sin”).
2. Romans did something (“obeyed from the heart” the gospel preached to them).
3. Romans were saved from their past sins (“and having been set free from sin”).
4. Romans had a new relationship with God in Christ (“you became servants of righteousness”).
B. The Philippian Jailer: When an Unbeliever Asked the Question He was Told to Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be Saved, Acts 16:30-34.
1. This answer is most general due to the condition of the person asking the question, 16:31.
2. The unbelieving sinner must hear the gospel and believe in Jesus Christ (Rom 10:13-14).
3. After giving a general answer, God’s word of preached (to produce faith, Rom 10:17).
a. Heard the gospel, 16:32 (Jno 6:44-45).
b. Believed, repented and was baptized immediately, 16:33 (Acts 8:35-38). [Confess as Lord, Rom 10:9.]
c. Rejoiced in their salvation, “having believed in God”, 16:34.
* 4. Unbeliever is saved by faith when his faith obeys the gospel, 1 Pet 1:22-23 (Matt 7:21).
C. The Day of Pentecost: When Convicted Believers Asked the Question they were told to Repent and Be Baptized, Acts 2:36-41.
1. Heard the gospel and were convicted of their sins, Acts 2:36 (Jno 16:8-9).
2. Question was asked; answer was given in harmony with the commission of Christ (Lk 24:47).
a. Remission (dismissal, release, forgiveness) of sins.
b. Gift of the Holy Spirit (seasons of refreshing, Acts 3:19; the promise of the Spirit, Gal 3:14).
3. Testified and exhorted to save themselves, Acts 2:40-41.
a. Heard the gospel and believed it.
b. Received the word (repented and were baptized).
c. Added together (saved, 2:40, 47).
* 4. Believers are saved when they repent and are baptized for remission of sins, cf. Mk 16:16.
D. Saul of Tarsus: What a Repentant Believer was told He Must Do, Acts 9:1-6 (22:10-16).
1. Persecutor now prayerful and repentant (fasting), Acts 9:9-11.
2. Three days later, he was told to wait no longer; “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
3. Saul was not saved from his sins at the point of…
a. His vision of Jesus and hearing His voice.
b. His faith on the road to Damascus.
c. His repentance (fasting) and prayer over the next three days.
d. Being told of the Lord’s purpose for him (apostle), Acts 26:16ff.
4. Saul was saved from his sins when they were washed away; they were washed away when he arose and was baptized! (Blood of Christ, Rom 6:3)
5. The repentant believer must arise and be baptized to be saved!
III. HISTORICAL CONTROVERSY.
A. Controversy Over Adding Circumcision and Keeping the Law of Moses, Acts 15:1-2 (7).
1. At stake: the salvation of souls / liberty in Christ from the bondage of sin and the Law / the truth of the gospel (Gal 2:5).
2. God’s answer to the question is a great light to those in darkness pointing the way to forgiveness and the eternal inheritance, Acts 26:18-19.
3. Controversy: Saved by the works of the law or by faith in Jesus Christ, Gal 2:11-16, 19-21. (Calvary + Mt. Sinai? Cross + Circumcision?)
a. Works of the Law could save no one, Rom 3:20, 23.
b. Apart from (the) Law the righteousness of God is revealed: through faith in Jesus Christ, Rom 3:21-24.
c. All attempts to be justified by the LOM are futile; only obeying the truth of the gospel frees the sinner from sin, Gal 5:1-7.
B. Controversy Over Whether Men are Capable of Asking, “What Must I Do to Be Saved?” (Total Hereditary Depravity and Unconditional Election)
1. Augustine (354-430) advanced the false doctrine that man is utterly corrupt in sin (“mess of sin”) and totally incapable of moving toward God to be saved.
2. Thus, false doctrines of election and reprobation took shape, forming the basis of Calvinism.
a. God elects some to be eternally saved and others to be eternally lost; unalterable by man.
b. The elect are predestined and saved by grace alone and all others are eternally damned.
3. Today, those who say the offer of salvation is open to everyone contradict a basic Reformation doctrine (Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, David W. Bercot, 70).
4. Refutation: Ezek 18:4; Jno 3:16; Acts 2:21; 10:34-35; 1 Tim 2:3-4; 2 Pet 3:9; Rev 22:17.
C. Controversy Over Salvation by Faith Only: Corrupting the Nature of Saving Faith (Eph 2:8-9).
1. Saving faith is an obedient faith, cf. Noah, Heb 11:7; Jas 2:24 (14-20).
2. Not earning salvation, but submission obedience to the Master, Luke 17:10.
D. Controversy Over whether Water Baptism is Essential for Salvation.
1. Element of baptism in the name of Jesus Christ: Water (Acts 2:38; 8:12, 16-17; 10:47-48).
2. Baptized into Christ, into His death and into death to sin, Rom 6:3-4.
3. To be born again (Jno 3:5); to be saved (Mk 16:16; 1 Pet 3:21); R of S (Ac 2:38); wash away your sins (Ac 22:16); put on Christ (Gal 3:27); etc.
E. Controversy Over Personal Salvation Experiences.
1. Reports of voices, visions and dreams, Holy Spirit experiences, etc. as “proof” of salvation.
2. Personal experiences are held in higher esteem that the revealed word of God (Heb 1:1-2); deny the gospel plan of salvation with its conditions that must be met to be saved.
3. Refutation: Strong delusions for those who do not love the truth that they might be saved…do not believe the truth (2 Ths 2:10-12).
4. One experiences salvation when he believes obeys the gospel (Acts 8:34-39).
IV. CONCERNS AMONG CHRISTIANS.
A. We Must Constantly be Reminded of the Gospel Plan of Salvation (2 Pet 1:12-13; Phil 3:1-2).
B. False Plans of Salvation we must Confront Today Include:
1. The emotional experience plan of salvation: “What must I feel to be saved?”
a. Some Christians are being made to doubt their salvation in Christ by being told they did not have some great emotional experience when they obeyed the gospel.
b. Others are incorporating clapping and shouting to “bring joy” to the moment. (Lk 15:7)
c. Salvation does not depend on an emotional experience, but on a faith experience!
2. The ecumenical plan of salvation: “There are saved people in the denominations even though they have not obeyed the gospel plan of salvation.”
a. Some saints have repudiated the plan of salvation; others doubt it; some actually say that people in denominations will go to heaven (saved).
b. People in the churches of men are lost because they are out of Christ! (Eph 2:13; Gal 3:27)
3. The positive plan of salvation: “We love you too much to say you are lost.”
a. The positive preaching mentality has borne the fruit of ambiguity and fear when teaching the lost.
b. We are told not to be too plain, too direct, or you will “run people off”.
c. Truly, gospel preaching must be balanced with reproof, rebuke and exhortation (2 Tim 4:2), and we must season our speech to know how to answer each one (Col 4:6).
d. It must also be sound and bold to that sinners know their spiritual condition and the way to be saved out of their sins! Acts 24:24-25
e. Those who would “eliminate the negative” from preaching have unwittingly conditioned a generation of Christians to have no stomach for the hard work of rebuking and reproving sin.
f. The gospel will “cut to the heart” – it will hurt – but it will heal the pain in those who believe and obey.
4. The personal plan of salvation: “My relationship is more important than my salvation.”
a. It is misplaced love to love men more that Jesus Christ, Matt 10:37.
b. Self-denial and love for Christ overcomes trusting in men more that God.
5. The silent plan of salvation: “No gospel invitation preaching.”
a. Alarming reports of little or no gospel invitations are increasing among us.
b. Cannot call on the Lord and be saved without first hearing how to be saved! (Rom 10:13-14)
c. The apostles invited and urged the lost to obey the gospel; so must we. Acts 2:40
d. “If you have a need” invitations do not answer the question: “what must I do to be saved?”
e. Assumptions of “if you have a need” invitations include:
· The lost person knows he has a need.
· The lost person knows what it is he needs.
· The lost person knows he needs to do something in order to meet his need.
· The lost person knows what he needs to do in order to meet his need.
· The lost person does not need to be told he has a need or what to do about his need.
· The lost person does not need to be persuaded to do what he should do to be saved.
· The preacher has no responsibility to tell the lost what he needs or to attempt to persuade him to act upon his need.
f. “If you have a need” invitations lack urgency: Gospel preaching takes nothing for granted as it urgently tries to persuade the lost to be saved (2 Cor 6:2).
1. “What must I do to be save?” is asked and answered in the NT.
2. Controversy will continue to swirl around it as it has since the first century: but the answer is not beyond our understanding and our complete obedience, Eph 5:17; Rom 10:6-8.
3. Ours is to humbly and fully obey the Lord’s plan of salvation to be saved “by grace, through faith” (Lk 17:10).
4. Men’s plans of salvation are futile and false; His plan alone will save you. (Acts 4:12; Heb 5:9).