H. Osby Weaver
No more important question could be framed in human language and uttered by the tongue of men than the question, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer thereto transcends the elements of time and determines the eternal destiny of men’s souls.
This question might be asked by those occupying different relationships to God. The answer to this question when asked by the faithful child of God is, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Emphasis here must be placed upon the word faithful with all that it involves. This question might also be asked by the erring child of God; one who has departed from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1) and made shipwreck of it (1 Tim. 1:9). The answer comes back, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent” (Rev. 2:5). “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:22). This question might be raised by the alien sinner; one who has never been born again into the family of God; who has never been saved from his sins. This is the one with whom we are primarily concerned in this discussion.
The salvation mentioned in this question might be discussed from different points of view. It might have reference to salvation in heaven or eternal life. Eternal salvation is not enjoyed in this life except in hope and promise. This salvation is said to be “reserved in heaven…ready to be revealed in the last time,” regarding which salvation Christians have been begotten again “Unto a lively hope” (1 Pet. 1:3-5). This salvation is received in the world to come (Mark 10:30).
Next, the salvation mentioned in our question might have reference to past sins. The forgiveness which one enjoys in being translated out of the power of darkness and into the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13); the salvation which is necessary in becoming a child of God. Of course, eternal salvation could never be enjoyed in the world to come unless one first received remission of sins in this world. Hence, we are discussing the question on behalf of one who has never received remission of sins and is not, therefore, a child of God. What must that one do to be saved from his sins and become a child of God?
Many need to ask this question who do not realize their need. They do not know they are lost. They think they are saved, because they have followed some plan given by man and just supposed that it was from God when the truth of the matter is, God never even heard about it!
In Mark 16:15, 16 the Lord laid down the terms of salvation for the alien sinner. To the apostles he said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth (the Gospel) and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not (the Gospel) shall be damned.” In the book of Acts we have a number of examples in which these terms of salvation were met. In Acts 2:37 after hearing the gospel preached by the apostle Peter and being convicted of its truthfulness, the multitude expressed their belief in asking, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” In answer, Peter told them what to do to obtain remission of sins. At the time this question was asked by the multitude, they were believers. Unbelievers would not be cut to the heart by Gospel preaching and be led to ask, “What must we do?” and still be unbelievers. As believers, they were not saved the moment they believed. Peter told them what to do in order to receive remission of sins, after they became believers.
Whatever Peter said in response to that question then, is the same answer to that same question today. Remember, Peter was guided by the Spirit. Whatever Peter told them to do, then, is God’s answer to that question. What did he tell those believers to do in order that they might be saved? The answer is so simple that one wonders why there should ever have been any argument about it. Yet there are a great many preachers today who will not tell an audience to do what Peter told those people to do. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). This then is the order: (1) Peter preached the gospel. (2) They heard. (3) As a result of hearing, they believed. (4) They were then told to repent and (5) be baptized (6) for, or in order to obtain, the remission of sins.
This then is the answer to the sinner’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” Are you saved? You are not unless you have done what these did. This is God’s answer to this important question and apart from it one can never become a child of God and can never be saved either in this world or the one to come! Why must one repent? For the remission of sins. Why must one be baptized? For the remission of sins. Whatever repentance is for in this passage, baptism is for the same thing. If these were saved before they were baptized, then they were also saved before they repented. And if they were saved before repentance and baptism, then they were saved before they obtained remission of sins, for that is why they were to repent and be baptized—for remission of sins.
This was to be done in the “name of Christ,” that is, by his authority. Jesus authorized repentance and baptism in order that the believer might receive remission of sins. If you have been baptized for any other reason, then you have done so without the authority of Christ. Therefore, you did not receive remission of sins. Some people are taught to be baptized because they are told they are already saved. If one is baptized while believing he is already saved, then it stands to reason that he was not baptized for remission of sins, and if he were not baptized for remission of sins, then his baptism was not authorized by Christ, and he is still unsaved.
Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Men have turned that around and said, “He that believeth is saved and shall be baptized.” Jesus said, “Shall be saved.” Man says, “Shall be baptized.” Man has changed the tense of both the verbs of Mark 16:16 and inverted the passage. That is too much change for anyone who respects the word of God. Any change at all would be too much!
Jesus said, “He shall be saved.” He who? He that believeth? No. He that is baptized? No. Well, what he? The he that believeth and is baptized, that is the he that shall be saved and no one else. And is a copulative conjunction connecting words, phrases, or sentences of equal rank. Baptism is of equal rank with faith in saving one. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” In the light of the simplicity of these answers, there is absolutely no excuse for one not knowing what to do to be saved from sin, or for being carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error.