On the day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed, “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40). Obviously, there were some things which God, Christ and the Holy Spirit left in the hands of man. So, what can one do to save himself?
First of all, he cannot devise a plan of his own. We know this because man is not allowed to go beyond that which was written (1 Cor 4:6). We know this because man was commanded to speak the very words of God (1 Pet 4:11). Therefore, whatever saves man is contained within the pages of the new testament.
Man cannot merit salvation by good deeds. Our goodness will not save us. The New Testament verily 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, nor 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 has abolished death, and has 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 or deserves.
Some say man can do nothing to be saved. These 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. This is totally false doctrine.
The Bible proclaims that there are certain things that man can do and must do to be saved. God did for man what man could not do for himself. He gave mankind his only son to die for their sins (Jn 3:16). Jesus verily died for his church (Acts 20:28).
Therefore, to save yourself, you can apply God’s word. This is what Peter was talking about in Acts 2:40. Peter declared, “…repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Note that they were told to repent. This was something required to be saved (Acts 17:30). They were commanded to be baptized. This, too, was set before them as a gospel requirement. Then came the exhortation, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Jesus after his resurrection ordered his apostles to preach the gospel to every person. He that believed and was baptized was saved (Mk 16:15,16). Those who believed not were lost. This simply means that unless we react to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the gospel, we will be lost. This reaction is not of our own imagination, but from the very words of Christ and his apostles.
We can save our self by our own steadfastness to the doctrine of Christ (2 Jn 9). Paul told them to be “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). 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 (Phil 2:12 f; 1 Pet. 1:5). 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). Paul instructed a young Timothy to read and study God’s Word to be approved of God, rightly dividing the Word of truth (1 Tim 4:13 f; 2 Tim 2:15). The child of God must take heed to his life to be saved in heaven (I Cor. 10:12; Heb.2:1; 3:12).
Conclusion: Despite the great sacrifice of God and Christ, this alone cannot save you if you do not react to it. Truly man cannot save himself separate and apart from God and his Word. He cannot be saved separate and apart from the gospel. He cannot be saved separate and apart from the doctrine of Christ. God acts upon us through the gospel, and we must act in response in order to be saved. God gave his Son. His Son died for us. God raised Him from the dead. If we believe this and confess such; If we repent and are baptized; If we remain faithful to the doctrine of Christ unto death; Then, and only then can we be saved!