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What Must I Do to Be Saved?

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This question or similar questions indicating a desire to have salvation appear several times in the Bible. Men today still generally desire salvation, so the answer to this question is just as important today as it was when asked in the New Testament. Let's analyze the question to see what is indicated by the very words of the question. The word "WHAT" suggests something is required in the process of obtaining salvation. The word "MUST" indicates we have no choice in the things done in obtaining salvation, they are specified and are an absolute necessity. The word "I" reveals individual responsibility is involved in salvation. God has done His part, it is now the individual's responsibility to take advantage of what God has done for them. The word "DO" suggest there must be activity on man's part in being saved. The words "TO BE SAVED" show a state of being, that is the object sought, the saving is done by another.

How shall we answer this question? We can't answer it from the feelings and opinions of men, because they vary with different individuals. It is evident from the religious confusion and division so prevalent today, that men give different answers to this question. There is no real source of answers except the Bible, the word of God. So, as we answer this question we will go to the word of God and find the answer as it was given to those who ask it.


This question was first asked in Mark 10:17. This man came running to Jesus and asked, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Jesus told this man to "keep the commandments." After being informed by the ruler that he had kept the commandments from his youth, Jesus told him to sell his goods and give to the poor and come and follow him. The Law of Moses was still in effect at this time. Therefore, this question could not be answered in the same way today because we are living under a different law from the one this man lived under (Heb 9:15-17).


This question was asked on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus, at which time the Law of Christ went into effect. The Jews on that occasion asked: "Men and brethren what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Peter answered in verse 38: "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 Ghost." Some have argued that the phrase "for the remission of sins" means "because of the remission of sins." However, if this is the case then Christ shed His blood, because of the remission of sins, since the same Greek word is used in Matt 26:28, where the text says Christ shed His blood for the remission of sins. And we know that Christ did not shed His blood because of the remission of sins, but in order that we might have the remission of sins.

This question was asked when the Lord appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. Saul asked: "Lord what wilt thou have me to do?" The answer that Jesus gave was: "Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." Acts 9:6. Some contend Saul was saved on the road to Damascus, however, this is not true. If Saul was saved there on the road to Damascus, he was saved in his sins. In Paul's account of his conversion in Acts 22:16 he relates Ananias saying to him: "And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and WASH AWAY THY SINS, calling on the name of the Lord." This shows very clearly that Saul still had sins after the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus. This passage also tells us what Saul was told to do after he came into the city, as the Lord had instructed him. Ananias was sent by God to tell Saul what he must do, and he told him to: "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling of the name of the Lord." Jesus' appearing to Saul was not to save him but to qualify him as an apostle Acts 26:16; 1Cor 15:8. Saul had to do the same thing all others have to do to have salvation.

In Acts 16:30 the Philippian jailer ask Paul and Silas, "Sirs what must I do to be saved." Paul said in verse 31 "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house." Then in verse 32, in order that faith might be produced, they; "Spake unto him the word of the Lord and to all that were in his house." Rom 10:17 says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. The actions of the jailer, in taking care of the wounds where Paul and Silas had been beaten, indicate his repentance . After he repented he was baptized, "he and all his, straightway" (immediately).

We have noticed three different answers to the same basic question. Is there a contradiction in the word of God? Certainly not. Notice each account again and the condition of the person's life at the time the question was answered. The jailer was an unbeliever, so he was told to believe, after which Paul and Silas preached to him to develop faith (Rom 10:17). He then repented and was baptized. The people on Pentecost were already believers when the question was answered for them. It is evident that they were believers, for had they not believed what Peter had said about Christ, they would not have been "pricked in their hearts" (Acts 2:37). Since they were already believers, they were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). Saul was a believing penitent man. He had already demonstrated his faith in Christ on the road to Damascus and when he came into the city he demonstrated his repentance by fasting and praying instead of doing what he came to Damascus to do. Ananias then told Saul to be baptized for the remission of his sins (Acts 22:16). In each case a different answer was given. But as we have noticed, each one had progressed to a different point in their search for salvation. A person on a journey of a hundred miles who has already traveled fifty miles of that journey is not told they still have to travel a hundred miles to complete their journey. Likewise it was not necessary to tell one who was already a believer to believe on Jesus Christ, or to tell one that had believed and repented to believe and repent. If one had completed these requirements then all that was needed was to be immersed in water for the remission of sins.

At what point are you in your search for salvation? If you feel that you have salvation already and have not completed these requirements, then you really have not yet found salvation. If you believe Jesus to be the Son of God and are willing to repent of your sins and acknowledge your faith in Christ by confessing it publicly as Jesus said in Matt 10:32, then all that is lacking is your being baptized into Christ and thereby putting on Christ (Gal 3:27). The answer to this question then depends on how far along you are on the road to salvation. Wherever you find yourself there is an answer for you. Won't you seek the answer that applies to you and be saved from you past sins and then have hope of eternal salvation in heaven. The Christians who make up the Northside church of Christ are ready to assist you any way they can in your study of God's word as well as assist you in your obedience to the Gospel of Christ.


What It Means To Receive The Word

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The Scripture says in John 1:14 that the Word was made flesh. Certainly in the light of the first part of that chapter we recognize that this verse is talking about Jesus Christ. Acts 2:41 says "they that gladly received his word were baptized." Of course, we understand this to be the word spoken by Peter. However, these words were not Peter's own, but those inspired by the Holy Spirit, according to the first part of chapter two. Also, in John 14:26; 16:13 Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth and bring all things to their remembrance. So, we conclude that the word which Peter spoke on Pentecost was the word of God, that which God would have them speak. Therefore, when we talk about them receiving "his" word we are in effect saying that they received "the" Word or that they received Christ.

Today we hear people talking about "receiving the word" or "receiving Christ," who have an entirely different concept of what that involves than what the Scriptures indicate is involved in receiving the word.


What was involved in "receiving the word" on the day of Pentecost? They first heard the word as Peter preached to them. When they heard what Peter said it is obvious that they believed those words because they were "pricked" in their hearts, that is, the word had an effect on them and as a result of this effect, they wanted to know what to do to be saved. In response to this request, Peter said to them "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins....." Then they that "gladly received" his word were baptized. Involved in receiving the word then, is obedience to the commands contained in the word. In the Greek the words "gladly received" are actually one word and it means to accept without reservation. This is certainly what these people did. When one receives the word without reservation they receive ALL of it. If you receive the passive part of the word (faith) and yet reject the active part (works) you haven't really received it because James says that faith without works is dead Jas 2:20. These Pentecostians not only received the passive part of the word (which is really not passive at all in its fullest sense because Jesus says that believing is a work of God Jhn 6:29) they also acted on the commands. They repented and were baptized. As a result then, of this obedience they were added to the church Acts 2:47.


When one receives the word it necessitates their giving up error. These people on Pentecost had to give up their former beliefs, because they were the ones guilty of having Jesus crucified. Peter said "that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." They believed this truth, hence the phrase "pricked in their hearts". Jesus tells us in Jhn 17:17 that the word is truth. Therefore, they could not retain their error and receive the word at the same time. When Paul received Christ (the Word) he gave up his previous beliefs. In Phil 3:4-7 Paul lists his credentials but he says those things that were gain to him he counted as lost for Christ. Receiving the word necessitates giving up everything that is contrary to Christ, the word which is truth Jhn 17:17.

Some who say they want to receive the word really don't, because the cost is more than they are willing to pay. There is an example of such a one in Matt 19:16-22. When this man heard the cost involved in following (receiving) Christ he went away sorrowful because he was not willing to pay the price.

For individuals to be eternally saved they must "receive the word" in the same way these people on Pentecost did. They must not only hear the word, but also understand and act upon what is heard. This is what is referred to as obedience to the Gospel or obeying from the heart that form of doctrine and being made free from sin Rom 6:16-18. But, of course, this is not the end of our obedience; it is just the beginning. The word receivers on Pentecost continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine Acts 2:42. The Corinthians had received the Gospel and were standing in it 1Cor 15:1,2 and Paul admonishes them to be steadfast 1Cor 15:58. We must continue to work for the Lord, to be faithful to the end Rev 2:10.

When a person receives the word they accept without reservation and act accordingly, giving up all that is contrary to the word. In light of what it means to receive the word, ask yourself this question: HAVE I RECEIVED THE WORD



Is Your Religion in the Bible?

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The Bible, the Word of God, is the source of true religion. It sets forth God's will thoroughly, completely and perfectly. The apostle Paul said in 2Timothy 3:16,17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. And in 2Peter 1:3 Peter records these words: According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. These two passages make it very clear that everything we need to be acceptable to God is found in the inspired Scriptures, the word of God, the Bible. The logical conclusion from this fact is that the religious faith and practice based upon what the Bible actually says, is the only one that is unquestionably right in the sight of God.

The important question, then, is whether your religion is really in the Bible. Is it? This is not to ask whether your religion contains some Bible principles, most religions do contain some Bible principles. Neither is the question whether or not in your religion you practice some truth, because most religions do practice some truth. Here is the question we are asking and one you need to answer: "Is your religion from its center to its circumference and in its entirety, actually found in the Bible?"


Are you willing to subject your faith and practice to a Bible test in order to be sure they are actually found therein? I believe I can give Bible authority for every thing I teach and practice religiously, can you? Where does the Bible tell you how to become a member of the church of which you are presently a member? If you are a Baptist, where does the Bible tell you how to become a Baptist? If you are a Methodist, where does the Bible tell you how to become a Methodist? Does the Bible ever tell anyone to be a Catholic, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian or anything else other than a Christian? We are not being "self-righteous", because Jesus condemned that kind of attitude in the Pharisees; nor are we just picking on various religious denominations. We simply want you to examine, by the word of God, what you are and what you practice religiously. We even hear people who are asked what they are religiously, say: "oh, I'm a church of Christ." The Bible nowhere tells anyone to become a church of Christ. In fact, an individual cannot "be" a church of Christ, because the church, (the body of Christ Colossians 1:18), is not one member but many according to what Paul said in 1Corinthians 12:14. Therefore, one person cannot be a church. The word that is translated "church" is also translated "assembly". In fact, the Greek word that is translated "church" means a "called out assembly" and obviously one person cannot be an assembly. As Paul said, it takes more than one member to be a church. One person, if they have fulfilled God's requirements, is a "member" of the Lord's church and no other.


Yes, the Bible tells an individual how to become a member of the Lord's church, (the one which He died to purchase and build Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28), Acts 2:37-41 and that if one is not a member of that church for which Jesus died they cannot be saved, because all the saved are added to the church Acts 2:47 "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." and Jesus is the Saviour of the body Ephesians 5:23 "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body." But nowhere does the Bible tell anyone how to be anything except a Christian, the name by which the disciples were called Acts 11:26 "And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." Agrippa was not almost persuaded to be called by some man made name, but he was almost persuaded to be a Christian, Acts 26:28 "Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."

Well, you say, "I am a Christian." Then if you are a Christian, you should be able to explain from the Scriptures what you did to become a Christian. Also, if you are a Christian, why do you call yourself by some man made name? If you are a Christian you should be able to give Bible authority, that is book chapter and verse, for everything you practice in religion. Remember Jesus said in John 8:31 "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed:" This phrase implies that there are some who are not "indeed" that is, in fact, or in reality, His disciples, even though they claim to be,. Why not just obey the simple plan of salvation revealed in the New Testament and the Lord will add you to His church (Acts 2:47). Then you will continue to learn and practice that which the Scriptures teach and that only. 2Peter 3:8 says: "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever." You will be a member of the Lord's church, the church which belongs to Christ (the church which is OF Christ, hence the church of Christ) and not some human denomination.

We want each individual to honestly face this fundamental question. If the Bible is the truth, the word of God, (which we believe it to be) then an individual must be able to prove his religious practices by the Bible, or else his religion is vain. (Matthew 15:9 "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.") All Christians (that is, those who are "disciples indeed") will continually be examining themselves, their doctrine and practice by the Bible the word of God. Paul, in 2Corinthians 13:5 says: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates." Are you willing to examine yourself in the light of God's word?


The True Vine

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Jesus, in John 15:1-7 teaches a great lesson about fruit bearing and the necessity of abiding in Him. In verse one and two Jesus says: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." God, in the beginning created plant life and decreed the law of reproduction. "And God said, let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so." (Genesis 1:11) We understand that the "seed" bears within itself the germ of life and that every plant reproduces after its own kind. Therefore, a person selects the seed according to the desired fruit. This principle never varies; bean seed produces beans and watermelon seed produces watermelons. Have you seen anywhere in nature a vine, plant or tree that produces various kinds of fruits? Never do you find, in nature, a tree producing both apples and peaches, because it is contrary to the natural laws that God instituted in the beginning.


At various times, in discussing religious division, which it seems, continues to get worse almost on a daily basis, members of different religious groups have used the above passages to try to justify such division. They have argued that the various denominations in existence today are simply branches of the vine. However, it is very easy to see this is not the application Jesus is making. Jesus is not saying that "churches" are the branches, but rather, He is saying individuals are the branches. Notice in John 15:5 Jesus uses the personal pronoun "'he' that abideth in me, and I in him....". So, it is obvious that Jesus is talking about individuals as the branches. However, just for arguments sake, let's assume that Jesus is talking about different "churches" being the branches. You will remember Jesus condemned division. In John 17:20, 21 he said: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." How can the denominations existing today, teaching different doctrines fulfill this prayer of Jesus. The answer is: they cannot! The word "denominate" or "denomination" itself implies division, because it means to name so as to differentiate between or to make apparent differences that exist. Denominational writers admit change from the original ideal has occurred. Edward T. Hiscox wrote, "It is most likely that in the Apostolic age, when there was but 'one Lord, one faith, one baptism,' and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, 'baptism was the door into the church.' Now it is different..." (Hiscox Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, 1890, p. 22). It is recognized by such authors that there were no denominations in the beginning of the church. Remember, Jesus said: "I will build MY church, singular, just one Matthew 16:18. If it is now different, then these religious denominations teaching and practicing things not found in the doctrine of Christ do not have God, according to 2John 1:9,10. Therefore, we must conclude that denominations existing today, teaching different doctrines, are not the branches that Jesus was talking about in John 15:1-7. It takes different doctrines "seeds" to produce denomination, therefore they cannot be of the same vine. Jesus says this does not happen in the realm of nature and certainly it does not happen in the spiritual realm.


What, then, is the lesson Jesus taught in John 15:1-7? As already shown above, Jesus said individuals are the branches of the vine. We understand from nature as decreed by God in Genesis 1:11 that "seed" produces new plants of its own kind. Jesus said: "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." Matthew 15:13. In explaining the parable of the sower Jesus said: "The seed is the word of God." Luke 8:11 As Jesus continued explaining this parable in verse fifteen He said: "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it and bring forth fruit with patience." So, in order to become a branch in the vine, that is, to be a part of the body of Jesus, which Paul said in Colossians 1:18 is the church, one must receive the word of God into their heart and allow it to change their lives and then the Lord will add them to HIS church. This is exactly what happened in Acts 2:37-41. After Peter preached to them about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, they gladly received his word. We understand that "gladly receiving His word" involves believing or having faith, which is evidenced by the fact that these people were "pricked in their hearts" by what Peter had preached to them about Jesus. This faith caused them to ask: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" They were then told to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins and they would receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

We are forced, then, to conclude from these scriptures and many more that could be used, that Jesus is the true vine as stated in John 15:1 and all those who respond in obedience to His word are the branches. This figure which Jesus uses here illustrates the church which belongs to Him. It is the one he promised in Matthew 16:18 to build; the one which he purchased with His own blood Acts 20:28. There were churches, or bodies of God's people, that were established by the preaching of the gospel in various cities where the apostles and other inspired men went. An illustration of such are the seven churches of Asia to whom John was directed to write Revelation 1:4. All of these churches taught and practiced the same thing. In fact Paul told Timothy to: "...charge some that they teach no other doctrine," 1Timothy 1:3. And in Galatians 1:6-9 Paul said that anyone, even and angel from heaven that would teach anything other than what had been taught was teaching a perverted gospel and would be accursed. Paul said he preached the same thing in every church 1Timothy 4:17.

The church Jesus built will wear His name, teach and practice His doctrine. His church, the one He purchased with His own blood is the only one he is going to present to His Father in heaven 1Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 5:27. Are you a branch in the true vine; a part of the church Jesus built or a part of a false vine; a man-made church?


Overcoming Obstacles

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In Joshua chapter three, the children of Israel, God's chosen people, were marching toward the promised land and had now come to a situation that looked impossible. They had come to the Jordan river and it was now at flood stage. In the Israelites' crossing of the Jordan river there are a number of lessons to be learned. We, as God's people today, are marching toward the promised land, heaven, and we too find obstacles that look impossible for us to cross or overcome. As we look at Israel's crossing of the flooded Jordan river, maybe we can learn some lessons that will help us in overcoming the problems which come up in our life.

As Israel waded out into this flooded river, it is evident that they had a lot of faith in God's word. God had said, when the priests stepped out in the Jordan the waters would part so that they could walk across on dry land. This was the only way possible for them to cross, because, remember, the river was at flood stage and the number of the Israelites with women and children was somewhere between two and three million, because the number of men was six hundred thousand. For this great number of people along with all their belongings and their flocks and herds to attempt such a crossing would require a great deal of faith. However, they did just what God said and they were able to overcome this seemingly impossible situation.


Yes, they had faith, but this was not a blind faith. It was based upon a command from God. So, we not only learn a lesson about faith but also one about obedience to God's word. The book of James teachers us that faith and obedience are inseparable (James 2:26). For us to expect God's help in overcoming problems in our lives we must be obedient to God's word. If the faith of these Israelites had not lead them to obey they would never have been able to cross the Jordan. So, must our faith lead us to obey God's word. Remember, Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all that obey him (Heb 5:9).


Also, involved in this account is a lesson on the influence that we can have over others for good. The priests had a great influence on the Israelites. The people followed their leadership. The demonstration of the faith which the priests had in wading out in the Jordan river at the command of God was a strengthening influence on the people. Also, the people had a good influence on each other, because they all left their tents and followed. Had either the priest refused to go or the people refused to follow they would not have crossed over into the promised land. The Lord made provisions in His body today for leadership. This leadership (elders) is a tremendous help in overcoming many problems which we face today as we strive to reach the promised land. However, for elders to lead, people must follow and for people to follow, elders must lead. So, you see, as we demonstrate our faith by our obedience, we have a good influence over others, just as these Israelites, in helping to overcome obstacles.

But let's notice also a lesson from this account concerning the truthfulness and power of God's word. God made a promise to Israel that when the priests' feet were in the water the Jordan would cease to flow (Josh 3:13). It happened just like God said it would. When God speaks, His word is true and powerful (Jhn 17:17; Heb 4:12). All of God's promises will come true. God has promised us salvation, the promised land, just as He did to the Israelites at the Jordan. However, like the promise to Israel, this promise is conditional. We must believe in the promise strong enough to "wade out into the Jordan," that is, to do what God says. In our obedience to the Gospel we do exactly what God says: Believe in Christ (Heb 11:6); Repent of our sins (Lk 13:3); Confess Jesus as the Christ (Rom 10:10); and we are Baptized for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38). Then we must live faithful to the Lord in worshipping and serving Him for the rest of our life. If one becomes unfaithful to Him, the Scripture teaches repentance and prayer in order that the person might be forgiven (Acts 8:22), thereby re-establishing the fellowship which was broken. You see, the only way God will help us in overcoming obstacles is for us to render faithful obedience to Him. (JLH)


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