Peter’s sermon at Pentecost professes a concept of saving one’s self from damnation. Peter said, “… Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Obviously, there is some sense in which people can save themselves.
Yet, we know mankind can’t merit salvation by good deeds. Some folks seem to have the idea that if they are morally upright, God will save them by virtue of their goodness by which they determine. Others seem to think that righteous acts will somehow compensate for their wrongs, and God will reward them. To all such people, obedience to the gospel is viewed as needless.
Paul said, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5). Paul reminded Timothy that God “Has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:9, 10). Salvation is God’s free gift, not something that man earns by their own works of which one can boast . (Eph 2:8,9)
However, some say he can do nothing to save himself. There are religious people who teach that there is no way whatever in which man can save himself. They want us to believe that God predestined certain individuals to life and certain others to death, and that this choice was made arbitrarily before to the foundation of the world, therefore man is powerless to do anything in any sense to save himself.
The Bible affirms that there are certain things that man can do, and must do to be saved. God does for man what man cannot do for himself, but what man can do for himself God requires. To say that man can do absolutely nothing would make God directly responsible for every soul that is lost!
To save ones self a person must study and apply God’s word. (2 Tim 2:15) This is what Peter was talking about in Acts 2:40. He had just preached to his hearers about Jesus being both Lord and Christ. “What shall we do?” was their question now that they realized their lost condition. Peter never said, “Don’t worry, do nothing for you are already saved.” No! Peter said to them “…Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Note that they were told to repent. This was something required. They were told to be baptized. This also was set before them as a requirement for salvation. Then came the exhortation, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation.” By repenting of their sins and being baptized for the remission of their sins they would be saved from the eternal damnation. Verse 41 says, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized . . .” Every sinner can and must believe and apply the gospel to himself, and for himself, in order to be saved.
To save ones self a person must give attention to steadfastness. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Compare this with the statement of Phil. 1:27 in which he told them to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Paul was writing to people who had already obeyed the gospel, but their eternal security depended on their continuing to stand fast in the faith. We work out our own salvation by holding to the faith through which God preserves us (1 Pet. 1:5).
To save ones self a person must take heed. Timothy was instructed, “Take heed unto yourself, and unto the doctrine: continue in them: for in doing this you shall both save yourself, and them that hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16). As Jesus said, “If you continue in my word then are you my disciples indeed.” (Jn 8:31) The child of God must take heed to his life in order to be saved (I Cor. 10:12; Heb.2:1; 3:12).
Conclusion: An individual can’t save himself by following the path of man’s doctrines, man’s philosophy, or by moral deeds (no matter how great they might be). NO! Man can only save himself by obeying the will of God. (Mt 7:21) God gave us his only begotten Son. (Jn 3:16) His Son died for our sins upon the cross. (Acts 20:28) His death, burial and resurrection is the gospel. (1 Cor 15:1-4) All must believe this gospel and confess such before men. (Rom 10:9,10) Then one must repent of their sins and have them washed away by baptism. (Acts 2:38) Finally, one must remain faithful to the doctrine of Christ and his apostles. (Acts 2:42 f; 2 Jn 9) Truly, no one can be saved separate and apart from the gift of God and Christ. However, we must accept this unspeakable gift by obeying the gospel of Christ, which was commanded to all the world. (Mt 28:19,20 f; Mk 16:15,16) This is the strait and narrow path which leads to life eternal. (Mt 7:13,14) The gift of eternal life was promised before the world began and it was given at Calvary, but until you take it by obeying the gospel, it was all in vain. Save yourself today by obeying the gospel of Christ and remaining faithful to it! (Tit 1:2 ff; 2 Cor 6:2)