This question implies that man has something to do to be saved. It was raised by the people on the day of Pentecost, by Saul of Tarsus, and by the Philippian jailer. They doubtless understood that they should do something to be saved. The Bible clearly teaches that man must be a doer of the word, and not a hearer only.
Jesus said: “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 who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Paul reminded the Romans that they had obeyed from the heart that form of teaching delivered unto them, and in so doing had become servants of righteousness and were no longer servants of sin (Rom. 6:17). God “will render to every man according to his works” (Rom. 2:6).
This question has to do particularly with man’s obedience. It is understood that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit all have a part in the salvation of sinful mankind. But this question is not, “What must God or Christ or the Holy Spirit do that man might be saved?” but, “What must man do to be saved?”
In studying this question it is necessary that what a man may have already done be taken into consideration. If the man raising the question is an unbeliever, the answer to him is: “Believe on the Lord Jesus.” This was the answer Paul gave to the heathen jailer in Philippi (Acts 16:31). “Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him” (Heb. 11:6). Jesus said: “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). This is the first step in becoming a Christian. But faith alone will not save a man. “Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith” (James 2:24).
A believer in Christ also has something to do to be saved. “Even of the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is God” (John 12:42, 43). These people could not be saved by faith only, neither can a man today be saved by faith alone. What, then, must a believer in Christ do to be saved?
In Acts 2 believers in Christ asked the apostles: “What shall we do?” (Acts 2: 37).
It was the day of Pentecost. Peter had preached Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected. By that sermon he convicted thousands of the Jews of the sin of crucifying the Lord fifty days before. They then believed him to be an impostor. By Peter’s sermon they were convinced that he is the Christ, and with this faith in their hearts concerning him they “said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37, 38).
This is the answer of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guided Peter in giving this answer. It is, therefore, the right answer. It is the only correct answer to the question. Deny this, and the teaching of the Holy Spirit is denied; refuse to repent and be baptized unto the remission of your sins, and you refuse to obey the Lord Jesus.
But a man may say: “I believe, and I have repented of my sins; what must I do to be saved ? The answer is: Be baptized unto the remission of your sins. Paul is an example of just such a man. When Jesus appeared unto Paul on his way to Damascus, he said: ”What shall I do, Lord?” The Lord answered: “Go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do” (Acts 22:10). Paul went into the city, and was so deeply concerned about his salvation that he neither ate nor drank for three days (Acts 9:8, 9).
Certainly he was a penitent man. Finally, Ananias, a disciple of the Lord, came to Paul, and seeing that Paul was a penitent believer, did not command him to believe and repent of his sins. Paul already believed and had repented of his sins. So Ananias said: “Why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.” (Acts 22: 16).
This is the answer to the question: What must I do to be saved?
(1) If you are an unbeliever, you must believe, repent of your sins, and be baptized unto the remission of your sins;
(2) if you are a believer in Christ, you must repent and be baptized;
(3) if you are a penitent believer, you must “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.” This is what people were told to do by the apostles. This is the right answer.
No man knows that anything else is right. And the man that refuses to do any or all of these things, while he relies upon his own goodness and wisdom, has no promise of eternal life. It is deplorable that many preachers will not give the same answers the Bible gives to this tremendously important question.
Modern preachers tell sinners to pray for salvation, to experience salvation, to make a decision for Christ, to wait for the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, to come to the prayer altar or have a “better felt than told” experience of salvation. None of these answers can be found in the Bible, nor can the ideas they present be found. Sinners were never told to do any of these, but you know they were told as believers, to “repent and be baptized” for the remission of their sins.
Dear friend, don’t be deluded in the belief that there is nothing you can do to be saved. All of us must do God’s will, obey our Lord, or be lost eternally.