On the other hand, God, by His very nature, wanted men to live eternally with Him. How could sinful man live eternally with a sinless God? It was God who provided the answer through the cross. Paul said, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). God was willing to allow His Son to take the punishment for man's sins. His sinless Son was "becoming sin" (taking our sins) so that we might "become righteous" (or be counted as righteous in the sight of God).
The question asked over and again in scripture- -"What must I do to be saved" -- suggests that salvation is conditional. If not, then the answer to the question would always be "Nothing"
A rich man once asked Jesus, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life" (Mark 10:17)
When Peter preached on the first Pentecost after the resurrection, the Jews present asked the question, "Brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). This indicates that something had to be done.
Some time later, the Lord spoke from heaven to Saul of Tarsus, and Saul responded with the question, "What shall I do, Lord?" (Acts 22: 10).
Still again, a Philippian jail keeper, convicted of the reality of Christianity, once asked the question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). All of these questions are saying the same thing -- "Salvation is conditional.
In reference to His divinity, Jesus put it this way: "for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins" (John 8:24). He further said, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16).
Can we stop here? Can we say simply, "That's it; just believe and you will be forgiven of your sins and go to heaven when you die." Hardly! James said, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe and shudder" (James 2:19). Then he added, "But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?" (James 2:20). Indeed, faith is essential, but it can never stand alone. Faith and obedience are always coupled in scripture.
Peter once told a group of people who were convicted of their sins, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..." (Acts 2:38). If an individual is not sorry for the sins of his life, then why even try to be a follower of Christ?
Jesus once said, "Every one therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32).
The Bible teaches that baptism is "for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 2:38). It is a part of the salvation process.
Peter makes the statement that "baptism now saves you" (I Peter 3:21). He is saying that just as Noah and his family were saved when God brought them "safely through the water," even so we are saved by the water of baptism.
Furthermore, Paul says: "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:27). The whole process is one of faith and obedience.
(c) 1997 The Fishinger & Kenny Roads Church of Christ,
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.
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