Summary: Too many people try to add to God's simple plan of salvation. Paul said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

What Must I Not Do To Be Saved?

Acts 16:25-34

In this chapter of Acts, we see the Apostle Paul, the great evangelist, and Silas, his co-labourer, preaching and teaching in Philippi. Paul was preaching in the streets and the bible says, a “certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination.” Occultism was very prominent in Roman colonies in the first and second centuries and it was not unusual for people to practice witchcraft and other such horrendous things.

Well, it seems that this “damsel” was the property of some of the rich folk around town. The bible says she had a “spirit of divination,” meaning she could tell the future. These folks were using this slave girl to line their pockets by telling fortunes. She was following Paul and Silas wherever they went telling the people, “These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” Now the things she said were absolutely true, so you ask, “Why was Paul so troubled?” The fact of the matter is that the Gospel would be damaged if it was associated with a demon possessed slave girl. So Paul, fed up by the constant badgering, cast the demon out by saying, “I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And the bible says the demon “came out the same hour.”

Well, this didn’t set too well with the owners of the slave girl. They saw that they had lost a good source of income, and they were pretty upset about it. As a matter of fact, they were so upset that they went to the Roman magistrates to plead their case. They took for granted that Paul and Silas were Jews and never bothered to question them about Roman citizenship. They told the magistrates that Paul and Silas were preaching a religion not approved by the Roman government. Well, as a result, Paul and Silas were stripped of their clothing, beaten and cast into prison.

How many of us, under the same circumstances, would act the way Paul and Silas acted? I mean they could have had themselves a real “pity party” if they had so desired. They could have said, “Hey, this isn’t fair. I am being so mistreated. I want a lawyer!” But they didn’t. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, what did they do? They started singing praises to God Himself. Paul had told the Philippians in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” A little further on, in verse 13, he states, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me.” As Christians, we remember verse 13 very well. “Oh yes. I believe that with God’s help, we can do anything so long as it’s in His will.” That’s very true. But we tend to forget about verse 11 because if things don’t go exactly the way we want them to, we are not content and never will be.

Paul and Silas were singing their hearts out. Praising God and thankful that they were suffering for the cause of Christ. What an honor that was to them. The bible says the other prisoners heard them. Can you imagine what the other prisoners were thinking? “What’s with the two weirdo’s in that cell? Are they crazy? What’s going on in there?” What a testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ they were right at that moment! Not only did they get the attention of the other prisoners, they got the attention of God Himself. It says in verse 26, “And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.” Psalm 98 and verse 4 says, “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” Well, Paul and Silas did just that and God rewarded them for what they did. Maybe God was tapping His foot to the beat of the music and caused the earthquake. No, not really! God was pleased with what they did and it was all in His plan to begin with. God said, “There’s no jail strong enough to hold my people if I don’t want them held.” And here came the earthquake and opened the doors of the prison, released the shackles from Paul and Silas, and even woke the guard up!

When the guard saw that all the cell doors were open, he assumed that all the prisoners had escaped. That was a capital offense for any guard. If a prisoner escaped, the guard was put to death. This guard saw the doors open, and was about to take his own life, but Paul said to him, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” He was giving the guard assurance that no prisoner had escaped. What would you have done? Hid? Escaped? Run? Paul knew that the doors opened for a reason and he was not afraid to stand his ground. He told the jailer to do no harm to himself, for they were all there. The jailer, amazed at what he would probably have called a “stroke of luck” must have thought to himself, “What is it about these two guys that brings about this turn of events here at the prison?” And it is then, and only then, that he realizes that God Himself must have done these things. Not wanting to be left out, he asks Paul and Silas the million dollar question; the question above all other questions. He said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

I think it’s important to note here what Paul said. But it is doubly important to also note what Paul didn’t say. First of all, in order to be saved, Paul didn’t say:

I. Become a Member of a Church and You’ll Be Saved

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that every saved person claiming the name of Jesus Christ ought to be in church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and every Wednesday evening (or whatever night their prayer meeting is). We are encouraged and commanded to “assemble” ourselves. In Hebrews 10:25, the bible says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” I truly believe that we need to be in church to be fed God’s wonderful Word. But there is a problem when people feel that their name on a church roll somewhere is going to get them into heaven.

Many times I have asked someone, “Are you saved?” One of the most common answers I get to that question is, “Oh, yes! Why, I belong to such and such a church down the street. My mother and father were members of that church for many years also.”

The Apostle Paul talked a great deal about the New Testament church, but never one time did he teach that we needed to be church members to be saved. He exhorted the churches to “assemble themselves,” but in no way, shape or form did he ever say that church membership will save us.

The problem lies with the fascination of the church as a denominational aspect. Many churches today think that they have a lock on heaven, and if you don’t belong to this church or that church, then there is no hope for you.

There are so many people today who are searching. They are searching for the church that has all the answers to all their questions. Every time I go out to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, I always take note of the number of churches that have been put there. In the little town of Pine Ridge itself, with a population of around 3,300 people, there are countless numbers of churches spread out through the town. But not one of them has a full house on Sunday morning, and very few even have services on Sunday night. People are looking for answers and they can’t find it in the church. The answer to their problems is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

A church membership will not save you. But a church is where you can get saved, if it is a bible believing, bible preaching church.

The Philippian jailer asked, “sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The second thing Paul did not say was:

II. Get Baptized and You’ll Be Saved

Well, Brother Dale, don’t you think it’s important to be baptized? Indeed I do! I think it is the second most important thing that a person can do, right after getting saved. The problem is that too many churches are putting the emphasis on baptism which results in salvation and that’s just not true. Water baptism is an Ordinance of the church, and you are not a member of the church until you’re saved, and then you get baptized.

Many times people have argued with me about this. I’ll go and visit a new couple and ask them about their salvation experience, and at least half the time, they’ll pull out their baptism certificate and say, “See Brother Dale? I told you I was saved!” When that happens, I try to explain to them that being “sprinkled” is not biblical baptism, and that baptism in the bible has always come after the salvation experience. “Well, my priest said…” or “Well, my mama said…..” I always say, “Well, let’s see what the bible says.”

Titus 3:5 says that such acts of righteousness do not save us:

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."

Baptism is certainly a good work, but Ephesians 2:8,9 likewise says plainly that salvation is altogether a matter of God's mercy and not of our works :

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast."

Salvation is a gift of God which is not deserved, is not bought, and cannot be paid for. No church nor preacher nor the individual saved has any right to claim credit when a soul is saved.

In fact, we are told again and again in the Bible that the man who trusts in Christ has everlasting life immediately. John 3:36 says:

"He that believeth on the Son HATH everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

"Hath" means has, present tense, in modern English. Likewise, John 5:24 says:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, HATH everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation: but IS PASSED from death unto life."

The same teaching is given in John 6:47:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me HATH everlasting life."

In the Bible, we find it clear that people believed first and then were baptized. According to these statements from God's Word, they were already saved before they were baptized and any other man who trusts in Christ is saved that second, before he could possibly get to the baptismal waters. It does not take baptism to save anyone.

The Philippian jailer asked, “sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The third thing Paul did not say was:

III. Just Be a Good Person and You’ll Be Saved

Unfortunately, hell is going to be overflowing with “good” people. People who, perhaps lived a more moral, upstanding and honorable life than most Christians do. How many times have we heard someone say, “Well, if so-and-so goes to that church, I know I’m OK because I know what kind of life they live.”? It’s a sad testimony indeed for a Christian to live the kind of life that would cause someone to not want to go to church, simply because they are living a life of sin.

There are televangelists all over the airways telling folks that they are “Ok” and not to worry. One such person said on national television, “I don’t preach on sin because I don’t want my people to feel bad about themselves.” The bible is very clear my friends, in Romans 3:10, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” It doesn’t make any difference how good a life you live, you will never live up to God’s standards. We keep comparing ourselves to man’s standards, and they are much, much lower than God’s. The bible also says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” What that means is, that you will never be good enough to get into the Kingdom of God on your own merits. There is nothing you can do on your own that will justify your deeds here on this earth, short of receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

There are people who think that they are “righteous” enough on their own and that will suffice to get them into heaven. But God says “our righteousness is as filthy rags.” There is absolutely nothing about us that impresses God in the least. Being a good person will not get you into heaven.

I’m sure that some day, when we are standing in front of God Almighty, we’re going to see someone say, like Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” There is a warning here for professing church members -- in fact, for all believers. J. Vernon McGee said, “The name of Christ is on the lips of many people who are leaders of cults and "isms." Just to use the name of Christ and the Bible is not proof that a system is genuine. It is not the outward profession but the inward relationship to a crucified but living Savior that is all-important. (J. Vernon McGee's Thru The Bible).

The Philippian jailer asked, “sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul responded with the million dollar answer to the million dollar question. He said: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

Tell the story of Noah, a man in my church. Said he was going to hell and there was nothing anyone could do about it, etc.

Noah was changed. The Philippian jailer was changed. He put the stripes on their back that day, and the same night, he cleaned them off. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

It’s not rocket science, my friends. It’s not complicated. Simply believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.