Man needs God for salvation. Man is guilty of sin and doomed to the eternal punishment in hell. However, God acted in his grace and mercy toward mankind to save man from his sin. His grace is displayed in the gift of Jesus Christ who shed his precious blood on Calvary for the sins of the world (1 Jn 2:2). What must man do to be saved by the grace of God as manifested in Christ Jesus?
Salvation is either conditional or unconditional. In the event that salvation is unconditional, then salvation is universal. All men will be saved inasmuch as the grace of God has been manifested toward all men (Tit. 2:11). In that event, no one has any reason to fear eternal damnation for all will be saved; And if the grace of God is given unconditionally but is not universal, there is nothing one can do about his being saved or being lost because salvation occurs by the predetermined and unconditional act of the will of God.
The Scriptures teach that God’s grace is offered to every man (Tit. 2:11-14 ff; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; 1 John 2:1-2), but that it is received conditionally. There is something that man must do to be saved from the consequences of his sin.
This article will examine the conditions for salvation through the grace of God which is made available to us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
The Great Commission
When Jesus sent his apostles to preach the gospel to all the world, he told them what men must do to be saved by grace. There are three accounts given of the Great Commission in the gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke. By looking at the sum total of what each says, one can learn the conditions for salvation.
1. Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:18-20). This passage affirms that one must hear the gospel preached and be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in order to be saved from sin. When one does these things, he enters into a fellowship with Christ.
2. Mark 16:15-16. In Mark’s account of the Great Commission, Jesus said, “Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). These passages affirm that one must hear the gospel preached, believe it, and be baptized in order to saved from his sins.
3. Luke 24:46-47. Luke’s account contains these words from Jesus: “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved 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.” In this context, Jesus stated that one must hear the preaching of Christ and repent of his sins in order to receive the remission of his sins.
From the Great Commission, one can see what Jesus taught the Apostles to preach in order for man to be saved by the grace of God. God’s grace is manifested in the gift of Jesus Christ whose shed blood makes forgiveness available to every man. Those who hear the saving gospel, believe it with all of their heart, repent of their sins, and are baptized will be saved from their past sins by the grace of God.
The Cases of Conversion
A study of the cases of conversion in the book of Acts helps us to see how they understood the Great Commission and what man has to do to be saved by Christ. The cases of conversion recorded in the book of Acts are briefly discussed below:
The first gospel sermon was preached on the Day of Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ. (Acts 2) On that occasion, Peter preached the gospel that Jesus commissioned him to preach. His purpose was to tell those assembled to observe the Feast of Pentecost how they can be saved by calling upon the name of the Lord (2:21). Beginning at that point, Peter preached Jesus to the assembly (2:22-36). The conclusion of his sermon is stated in Acts 2:36 — “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Those in the audience who believed responded by saying, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter understood that they were asking what to do to be saved from sin. He replied, “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). The conditions for salvation are these: hear the gospel, believe it with all of one’s heart, repent of one’s sin, and be baptized in water.
The second case of conversion recorded in detail in Acts is that of the Samaritans, a mixed race of people who were half-Jew and half-Gentile (Acts 8:4-25). As a result of persecution, the disciples scattered from Jerusalem. An evangelist named Philip traveled to Samaria where he preached the saving gospel to the Samaritan race. The text says, “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done” (Acts 8:12-13). The conditions for salvation are these: hear the gospel, believe it with all of one’s heart, repent of one’s sins, and be baptized in water.
The Holy Spirit commanded Philip to leave Samaria to go elsewhere to preach the gospel (Acts 8:26-40). Philip left not knowing where he was going. As he traveled, he met an Ethiopian Jew who was returning from worshiping in Jerusalem. As he was traveling in his chariot, he was reading from Isaiah 53. The Holy Spirit instructed Philip to teach the man. After Philip was invited by the man to travel with him, Philip began from that Scripture (Isa. 53) to preach Jesus. The text reads: “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what hinders me to be baptized? And Philip said, If you believe with all thine heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him” (Acts 8:35-38). This man heard the gospel preached, believed it with all of his heart, confessed his faith in Christ, and was baptized in order to be saved by Jesus Christ. His “going down into” and “coming up out of” the water indicates that the baptism of the Great Commission is water baptism, an immersion in water. The Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing because he had received salvation through Christ (Acts 8:40).
The next case of conversion recorded in Acts is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the ringleader of Jewish persecution who became the well-known Apostle Paul following his conversion (Acts 9, 22, 26). The account is recorded three times in Acts, the first as told by Luke and the last two accounts as told by Paul himself. By combining these three accounts, here is what we learn that Saul did for salvation. Saul was persecuting Christians. He received authority to go from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest Christians in that city and bring them back to Jerusalem. On the way to Damascus, Jesus appeared to Saul in a vision. When Saul saw the man in the vision, he asked, “Who are you?” The man responded, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.” Saul asked what the Lord wanted him to do. The Lord did not immediately tell Saul what to do to be saved; instead, he told him to go to Damascus and there it would be told him what he must do (Acts 9:6). The vision left Saul blind. His traveling companions led him into the city where he did not eat or drink for three days; rather, he was giving himself to prayer (Acts 9:11). God sent an evangelist named Ananias to Saul. When he arrived, he told Saul that Jesus had sent him to Saul and healed Saul’s blindness, thus confirming that he was the one sent to Saul by God. But still Saul’s sins had not been washed away. Ananias said to Saul, “And now why do you wait? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Saul of Tarsus heard the gospel preached, believed it with all of his heart, and was baptized in order to have his sins washed away by the blood of Christ.
Cornelius was the first Gentile convert to the gospel (Acts 10-11). He was a morally upright man, being described by the Holy Spirit as follows: “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:1-2). Despite these moral attributes, Cornelius was still a lost man because he was a sinner. An angel appeared to him, giving him instruction to send to Joppa for Peter who “shall tell you words, whereby you and all your house shall be saved ” (Acts 11:14). When Peter arrived, he had learned that the same gospel that saves Jews and Samaritans is sent to Gentiles as well. He said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35). Cornelius had assembled his family and friends together to hear what Peter had to say. Peter preached Jesus to them. As he was preaching, the Holy Spirit fell on the house of Cornelius to convince the Jewish brethren who came with Peter that Gentiles could be saved through faith in Christ. When this happened, Peter said, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days” (Acts 10:47-48). Later when Jewish brethren challenged what Peter had done, he told them what had happened. They replied, “Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). The Gentiles heard the gospel preached, believed it (Acts 15:7), repented of their sins, and were baptized in water to be saved by the grace of God.
The first European convert recorded in Scripture is a woman named Lydia (Acts 16:14-15). The Scripture tells of her conversion at Philippi as follows: “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” This woman heard the gospel preached and was baptized.
Paul labored in Philippi for some time (Acts 16:25-34). After healing a demon-possessed woman, her masters had Paul and Silas thrown into jail. They were beaten and put in stocks. At midnight they were singing and praying to God when an earthquake came that loosed the bonds of the prisoners and opened the prison doors. The jailer ran out and, thinking that the prisoners for whom he was responsible with his life had escaped, he drew his sword to kill himself. Paul told him not to harm himself for all the prisoners were there. This man said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house” (Acts 16:31). Inasmuch as this jailer did not know Jesus, he took Paul and Silas into his house where they taught him the gospel. The Scripture continues, “And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:32-33). The jailer heard the gospel, believed it with all of his heart, and was baptized in water.
Later in Paul’s missionary journey, he preached in Corinth (Acts 18:8). The Scriptures simply say, “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). The Corinthians heard the gospel preached, believed it, and were baptized.
From these cases of conversion that are recorded in Acts, one can learn what he must do to be saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus. He must hear the gospel, believe it with all of his heart, confess his faith in Christ, repent of his sins, and be baptized (immersed) in water for the remission of his sins. These are the conditions for man to be saved from his sins by the blood of Christ.
Conclusion: If you have believed the gospel and resolved to turn away from your sins, one thing stands between you and salvation — water baptism for the remission of your sins. Have you obeyed the gospel? What good reason can you think of for postponing obedience to the gospel? The Philippian jailer was baptized the “same hour of the night” when he heard the gospel (Acts 16:33); the eunuch stopped the chariot as he and Philip traveled in order that he could be baptized immediately (Acts 8:38). Saul was so full of guilt for his sins that he neither ate a bite nor drank a drop between the time he learned what he needed to do to be saved and his obedience (Acts 9:9). These people saw their need to be baptized in water so that their souls could be saved from the punishment of sin.
One who has not obeyed the gospel to receive the forgiveness of his sins needs to do so immediately. Why stand in jeopardy every hour (1 Cor 15:30). Have you been baptized? If not, why not? Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2). Why not obey the gospel now?