Summary: What to believe about Jesus for salvation, versus a wrong kind of belief. What we are saved from, and what we are saved to.
WHAT MUST WE DO TO BE SAVED?
The Apostle Paul and his companion Silas had responded to the call of God to take the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to Macedonia. The first recorded convert to Christianity in Europe was a woman named Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened to give heed to what was said by Paul (Acts 16:14). How important it is for us to make a positive response to the Gospel!
However, after their initial success the devil raised up opposition, and Paul and Silas were wrongfully imprisoned. At midnight they prayed and sang praises to God, in keeping with Paul’s own teaching: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). The other prisoners listened.
Suddenly, there was an earth tremor, and the doors of the prison flew open. Their chains came lose, and the prisoners might have all walked free, but they did not. God the Holy Spirit restrained them from taking this opportunity to escape: He had a much more important work to do, right there in the prison!
You can imagine the fear of the jailer when he awoke finding that the doors were open, and thinking that the prisoners had all fled. Rather than face his superiors, he drew his sword and was on the verge of taking his life - a thing a person should never do - when Paul called out, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here” (Acts 16:28).
The jailer called for lights, and rushed in, trembling, falling at the feet of his Christian prisoners. That man asked the question which countless millions have asked ever since:
1) “WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?” (Acts 16:30)
It is amazing that we all have an inbuilt need to find the true God, and to be at peace with Him. We were all created in the image of God, and for fellowship with God. The entrance of sin into the world marred that image, and broke that fellowship.
The Bible teaches that it is impossible for us to attain heaven by our own efforts. The beauty of Christianity is God coming down to us, redeeming us by the sacrifice of His own Son; repairing the broken fellowship, and restoring the shattered image.
Paul’s response to the jailer, and to all who want to know how to get right with God, is, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31). Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to him, and to his household (Acts 16:32), and before the night was finished the jailer’s household were rejoicing that he had believed in God!
2) BELIEVE WHAT ABOUT HIM?
“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Christianity’s mission is to tell people everywhere about Jesus, praying that the day will come when the whole Earth will be filled with the knowledge of the true and living God through His Son Jesus Christ. Those who believe are accepted into fellowship with the Church on the basis of a public acknowledgement of some basic truths about God’s Son:
(i) That He is Lord; and
(ii) that God raised Him from the dead.
More importantly, they are received into fellowship with God Himself through an inner working of His Holy Spirit in their lives. It is God Himself who gives us the ability to confess His name, and a right apprehension of God within our hearts will lead to a public and honest profession of His Lordship over us.
3) SAVED FROM WHAT?
When mankind broke fellowship with God, we became subject to corruption in our nature, and a will which is naturally inclined to evil. The root of every sin found a home in our hearts. The world itself was subjected to decay.
The guilt of the first man’s sin has become the responsibility of us all, and we are each born into rebellion against God. Whether we come from Christian homes or not, we must each have an individual encounter with God through our Lord Jesus Christ before that can be put right. We must each experience death, which is the common judgment of man’s sin.
Worse still is to die without having made peace with God through the blood sacrifice of Jesus: a sacrifice we see to have been accepted through His resurrection from the dead. There is the fearful judgment of eternal separation from God for those who remain in their rebellion against God and will not accept the way of escape which He freely offers. It is from condemnation that believers are saved: “he who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already” (John 3:18).