After his death, burial, and resurrection, and before his ascension, Jesus gave the apostles the great commission as follows:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:19-20).
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).
“And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).
In the book of Acts, the apostles went to work under this great world-wide and age-lasting commission. They began in Jerusalem; they went; they preached the gospel; people heard the gospel, believed it, repented of their sins, confessed their faith in Jesus as the Son of God, and were baptized for the remission of their sins. (Please read: Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:36-37; 16:31; 18:8).
Those who did these things from the heart were added to the church Jesus built (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:41, 47). Later, those who made up the church Jesus built were called “Christians” (Acts 11:26). This is a name that denotes a personal relationship to Christ. Only those who became disciples were called Christians. Only those who had been added to the church Jesus built were disciples of Christ. So only members of the church Jesus built are Christians.
Study further just how these people, from all walks of life, became Christians. Since only those who were saved were added to the church by the Lord, only those who were saved were Christians. That hasn’t changed. Men have changed things but God’s word is the same now as it has ever been. The Lord has revealed only one way to become a Christian.
It must be understood by every rational being on earth that when God gives requirements for salvation those requirements must be met. Consider an example here.
An alien may become a citizen of this nation. In order to do so, that individual must comply with the laws of naturalization and immigration. Those laws are set down in this country by those with authority to make laws. Aliens cannot make their own laws. They must respect and obey the laws of this nation.
An alien sinner, one who is a stranger to God (Read Eph. 2:11-12) cannot be saved from sin in any other way than meeting God’s requirements for salvation. When that individual meets all the requirements, it is by the grace and mercy of God he becomes a citizen in Christ’s kingdom, the church (Read Col. 1:13-14, 18, 24). Salvation is possible only by God’s rich mercy and grace (Eph. 2:8-10). With the magnificent grace he offers, God has never promised to set aside his requirements for salvation.
Is it possible for sinners to become a Christian by prayer? What about a person’s moral goodness? Does being a morally good individual mean one is a Christian? One very popular belief about salvation is that the only requirement God has given is “faith only”. Will faith alone, without further acts of obedience, make a sinner into a Christian? The answer to all this, from the biblical information, is a resounding NO!
All Bible believers will agree that the cases of conversion listed in Acts of the Apostles resulted in sinners becoming Christians. Look at each of them carefully.
The Jews in Jerusalem on Pentecost.
They were convicted of sin (Acts 2:37). They were told to “repent and be baptized for remission of sins” (2:38). Their sins were forgiven.
They heard Philip preach (Acts 8:4, 12). They were baptized, “both men and women” (8:12).
Simon, the Sorcerer.
He also believed what Philip preached (8:13) He was baptized (8:13), thus saved (1 Pet. 3:21).
The chart presents a composite of all cases of conversion recorded in the book of Acts. In each case two things are always present:
1) Faith produced by Preaching (Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21);
2) Baptism for remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
All who were converted had the gospel preached to them, thus they all “heard.” All cases on record in Acts show all believers were baptized for the remission of sins, to wash away sins, and to obey the command of God.
None today has the divine right to claim to be a Christian who has not conformed to the pattern of conversion given by the Lord in his inspired word. Only those who, as penitent believers, confess faith in Christ and are baptized can legitimately be called Christians. We urge you to obey the same gospel Christ gave us. If you do, you know you will be what those in the first century were when they obeyed it. The one sure thing about this is that since those who became Christians in the first century followed the pattern of hearing the gospel, believing it, repenting of sins, confession of the lovely name of Jesus, and being baptized, it will surely be the same now.