Gale L. Reeder
This is not a new question, neither is the answer to this question of recent origin. This question, or its equivalent, was asked in each of the following cases referred to. Notice that the question asked was not “What must I see? What must I feel? What must I experience? What must be done for me ?”; but rather, “What must I do to be saved?”
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto 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 Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received the word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:37-47).
Notice, it is first necessary to hear God’s word before one can know what to do. Peter, speaking by divine inspiration, had a specific answer to their question. They all heard the same instructions; they all understood the instruction alike; they all obeyed the instruction alike; the same promise was made to all who would obey. Those called were called by and through the preaching of the gospel, even as we are called today. “Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:14). All those who “gladly received the word” were baptized, and “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (teaching) and fellowship (the contribution) and in breaking of bread (communion service) and in prayers.” After they had asked the question, “What must we do?”, after they had been told what to do, after they had obeyed these commandments, then the Lord added those being saved to the church. None were saved before baptism; none were baptized after being saved; none but the saved were added to the church. The church to which they were added is the one Christ said He would build. “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). Those who still obey the same gospel, in the same way, are added today to the same church.
Saul of Tarsus
And Saul “trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ? And the Lord said unto him, Arise; and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6). (Read verses 9 through 18). When the disciple, Ananias, who was to tell Saul what he must do, found Saul, the latter was in prayer. Ananias did not tell him to pray on. Although Saul had “seen a great light,” and although he had been praying probably for three days, he was not yet saved. For Ananias told him, “And now why tarriest thou (what are you waiting for?), arise, and be baptized (what for?) and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
Notice that, as the Pentecostians, Saul had to hear God’s word before he could know what to do. Ananias, speaking by divine inspiration, had definite, specific instructions for Saul. After Saul was told what to do, after he had obeyed the instructions, after he had been baptized, then (and not before) were his sins “washed away.”
The Philippian Jailor
Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas. And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 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. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house (Acts 16:30-34).
Notice, the jailor was told if he would “believe” he would be saved. However as he did not yet know what to believe, “they spake unto him the word of the Lord.” After the jailor and his household had received definite instructions (there were no infants since all there were old enough to believe and to be baptized), after he had been baptized, after he and his household had manifested their belief by their obedience, then it was, as in the previous cases, that he could rejoice in salvation.
The commands issued in these three cases (which commands are either expressed or implied in each case of conversion in the book of Acts) were all given “in the name of Jesus Christ,” that is, by His authority. This was in accordance with the great commission he had given as recorded by Matthew:
And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:19-20).
Mark records the same instructions as, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).
God has not, and man cannot, repeal these commandments. Neither should man attempt to add to, take from, or in any way change them. For John declares,
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Rev. 22:18-19).
It is not enough to say, Lord, Lord, and not do what he commands, for Jesus said, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46.) We must do God’s will, for Christ also declared, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
To be eternally saved, man must continue faithfully carrying out all of the Lord’s commands as recorded in the New Testament, unto the end. “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (Heb. 3:14 [emph added], cf. 2 Pet. 1:1-11).