What Must I Do To Be Saved?

by Richard H. Snell

“Then he [the Philippian jailer] called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”
ACTS 16:29-34

This MOST IMPORTANT question was asked before, by others:

1. Let us REARRANGE the question: “To be saved, what must I do?” Now consider each part:

  1. “TO BE SAVED” --- This is every person’s GREATEST NEED!
  2. “What MUST” --- It is a necessity, not something optional!
  3. “I” --- I myself! Not What must somebody else do?
  4. “DO” --- There IS something to be done GOD must tell us! WHAT IS IT?

Read again ACTS 16:30-34. Paul dealt with this untaught pagan right where he was (considering his background and addressing his level of understanding), telling him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”(16:31)

What is it to BELIEVE on Christ?

To see that disobedience is unbelief, compare Hebrews 3:18-19, 4:1-3, 6, 11 (where God compares the Israelites moving through the wilderness toward the promised land to Christians moving through the wilderness of this world toward the Promised Land of Heaven):

“And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest [the promised land, see Deut. 12:9-10], but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”

(Here disobedience and unbelief are shown to be the same thing. And let us read on into chapter four):

“Therefore, since a promise remains [for Christians] of entering His [eternal] rest, let US fear lest any one of YOU should seem to have come short of it. For indeed the good news was preached to US as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit THEM, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For WE who have believed do enter that Rest, . . . . . . . ”

Now notice verse six:

“Since therefore IT REMAINS THAT SOME MUST ENTER IT, and those to whom it was FIRST preached did not enter because of disobedience , ...”

Okay, the word heard by those ancient Israelites in the wilderness was not mixed with FAITH in the hearers, and so they did not enter God’s rest, the promised land, because they DID NOT BELIEVE, being DISOBEDIENT. To be disobedient is to not believe! Now let’s drop down to verse eleven where God gives His conclusion:

“Let US therefore be diligent to enter that Rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”

Many other Scriptures bring out the fact that God equates UNBELIEF with DISOBEDIENCE, and therefore FAITH with OBEDIENCE. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is often called the “faith chapter”--but the fact is, the WHOLE BOOK of Hebrews is the “faith BOOK.” And all the way through, it shows the necessity of expressing FAITH in OBEDIENCE. So when the apostle Paul told the untaught jailer to believe in the Lord Jesus, this in no way ruled out the necessity of “the obedience of faith” (see Rom. 1:5; 16:26; 1 Pet. 1:2). Now let's consider the second point:

2. To be saved, every person must properly respond to what is taught in the GREAT COMMISSION:

The risen LORD said, “All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20 (ASV
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’”
Mark 16:15-16

A. This Great Commission was given to His disciples after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and just before He ascended into Heaven. Now let’s see how the Great Commission was IMPLEMENTED, or OBEYED, or CARRIED OUT. Christ had told the apostles to return to Jerusalem and await the coming of the Holy Spirit, and that at that time, when He came, they would BEGIN to preach repentance and remission of sins in His name (Luke 24:47-49). Read those verses. It is extremely important to mark WHERE and WHEN this would begin!

Earlier in Christ’s ministry, before He was crucified to reconcile us to God with His shed blood, He promised to give to Peter “the keys of the kingdom,” meaning that it would be Peter who would open the door of salvation to all us lost sinners. Look with me at Matthew 16:15-19, where Jesus asked,

“‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock” --and by “this rock” Jesus meant the truth Peter had just confessed, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God--“on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’”

So after Christ ascended, Peter and the other apostles obediently returned to Jerusalem and waited ten days. Then on the Day of Pentecost (Acts two) the promised Holy Spirit came, and on THAT DAY Peter was to bind on earth what God requires for salvation, and beginning on that day Peter was also to loose, or unbind, some things that had been (up until then, in the old covenant) binding on people. On that historic day Peter was to preach for the very first time the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was resurrected from the dead. On that day Peter must exactly follow what Christ said in the Great Commission. That was where and when forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name would begin to be preached.

B. So let’s go to Acts chapter two where Peter is preaching this good news! Peter has presented the evidence for his case, and now we discover what he said in his conclusion. Let’s “listen in” to what Peter says in Acts 2:36, and to what happened next:

“‘Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?'
verses 36-37

Before we see Peter’s binding answer in the next verse, let’s remember what Jesus had commanded in the Great Commission: Preach the gospel to all; those who believe and are baptized will be saved, Mark 16:15-16. Peter is now inspired by God, and when these people ask, “WHAT SHALL WE DO?,” Peter is directed by God to give the binding answer to their question. Look with me at verse 38:

“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

C. This is in perfect harmony with what Paul taught the Philippian jailer and his household.

D. Now let’s see just how the Great Commission was implemented, or carried out, in later instances:

  • In Acts chapter eight, we read in verse five that “…Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.” Now notice their response, in verse twelve:
    “…when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.”
    This is just what Paul had the jailer do.
  • In this same eighth chapter of Acts, we find Philip sharing Christ with the Ethiopian eunuch. Look at verses 35 through 38:
    “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.”
    After they came up out of the water, the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing (8:39). He was now a saved man!

It is clear that this is exactly the way the jailer was saved by faith.

3. God requires of us, in our response to the gospel: FAITH!

That is, belief of the gospel message, Mark 16:15-16, and trust in the OBJECT of that gospel message, in the PERSON, JESUS CHRIST!

CAUTIONARY NOTE: Let me mention to you something that the Bible says NOTHING about. I’m talking about “the sinner’s prayer,” the so-called “salvation prayer.” When sinners in the New Testament asked What must I do to be saved?, they were NEVER, EVER, NOT ONE TIME, told to ask Jesus to come into their heart. Preachers and others who today use “the sinner’s prayer” as the plan of salvation are opponents of the Bible doctrine of baptism in Jesus’ name for the forgiveness of sins. Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-7, 17-18; Galatians 3:26-27; 1 Peter 3:21-22. They are trying to “unbind” what God has BOUND on us.*

CONCLUSION: You want to know what to do to be saved? BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AS YOU REPENT OF ALL YOUR SINS, AND ARE BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST. If you sincerely WANT to be saved, we will assist you in BELIEVING on the Lord Jesus, becoming obedient to the faith. This will not make you a part of any denomination but simply (and wonderfully!) a member of the body of Christ. Please contact us for assistance.

* Some may say that the publican in Luke 18:10-14 is an example for conversion today, and is an example of “the sinner’s prayer.” In contrast with the proud and impenitent Pharisee, the guilt-stricken publican smote his breast and prayed to Jehovah, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (v. 13). However, this was before Christ died for our sins and rose again, before the Great Commission was given, before repentance and remission of sins in Jesus’ name began to be preached. This publican knew nothing of Christ or the gospel. Under the old covenant he was justified through his request because of his humility and his penitent heart, in contrast with the Pharisee who trusted in himself that he was righteous and held others in contempt. This penitent publican, justified under the old covenant, is no example of conversion under the new covenant. The timeless principle that DOES carry over and apply to all today is the necessity of the same attitude!

Others cite the robber on the cross, to whom Jesus promised, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). But again, this was when the old covenant was still in effect, before Christ died for our sins and rose again, before the Great Commission was given, before repentance and remission on sins in Jesus’ name began to be preached. Peter had not yet opened the door of salvation to men and had not yet begun to “bind” and “loose” (as per Matt. 16:15-19). Regarding the saved robber on the cross it is essential that we all understand Heb. 9:14-17, where the fact is presented that Christ, as mediator of the new covenant or testament, had to die before the testament or covenant with its provisions could come into effect. Now that that has happened, we must come to Christ by faith under the terms of the new covenant, starting in Acts two. The cases of conversion in the book of Acts show us how to respond to the Great Commission and be saved by faith.