What must we do to be saved?

People at Capernaum asked Jesus: “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” (John 6:28). A lawyer asked Him: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). A rich young ruler asked Him: “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). On Pentecost the people asked: “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). The Philippian jailor asked: “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

What answers did these people receive from Jesus and His apostles?

A popular answer today, given by evangelicals, is: You do not have to do anything! I found the following quotations on the Internet: (1) “Salvation does not depend on what you do or don’t do”; (2) “Your salvation does not depend on what you do.”

Did Jesus teach that one does not have to do anything to be saved?

Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).

Thus, to enter God’s kingdom we must do the will of the Father. We must do what Jesus says.

Evangelicals contradict Jesus when they claim that salvation is not dependent on what one does.

What answers were receive when people asked: “What must I do?”

At Capernaum people asked: “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” (John 6:28). Jesus replied: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29).

The first thing one must do to be saved is to believe in Christ. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Jesus then explains that believing or not-believing is related to what one does: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:19-21).

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Only through Christ can sinful man be saved: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). Christ “died for all” (2 Corinthians 5:15). He “gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6). “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

Through the sacrifice of his Son, God has made salvation available to everyone. Whether one is saved or not depends on how one responds to God’s offer of salvation.

The first reply to “What must we do” is “Believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29).

This faith must be confessed. Jesus said: “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32, 33).

And the lawyer then, what answer did he get when he asked Jesus: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). When Jesus asked him to answer his own question, he said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27). Jesus then said: “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live” (Luke 10:28). When the lawyer tried to excuse himself by asking, “And who is my neighbor?”, Jesus gave the example of the Good Samaritan and said, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:29-37).

What must we do to inherit eternal life? Faith is the first requirement, but faith without love is worthless: “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).

What did Jesus reply to the rich young ruler when he asked, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17).

First He said: “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). To be saved, we must keep God’s commandments. This was true under the Old Covenant, and this is true under the New Covenant.

Jesus said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21). “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10).

But keeping commandments is not enough. When the rich young ruler told Jesus he had kept the commandments, Jesus replied: “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22).

Although he kept the ten commandments, he lacked something. He had to repent and follow Jesus. Without repentance, no one can be saved.

Referring to people who had died because of their sins, Jesus said: “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2, 3). And referring to others who had died in an accident, He said: “Do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4, 5).

To be saved we must discard everything that separates us from God, and follow Christ. Jesus says: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

Is there something else that one must do? After Jesus died and rose, He told His followers: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15, 16).

In addition to faith, confession and repentance, one must also be baptized to be saved. That is what Jesus says.

Paul clarifies that baptism itself is a gift of God’s grace through which He gives us salvation. “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). Through what does God save us? “Through the washing of regeneration.”

There is something wrong with the faith of those who teach: “Your salvation does not depend on what you do or don’t do.” They reject God’s gift of saving grace in baptism. They are unbelievers in the sense that they do not believe what Jesus says about salvation. They claim one can be saved by faith only, whereas Jesus says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Nor do they believe the Holy Spirit speaking through James: “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20); “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). People who believe in salvation by faith only do not have a saving faith.

The apostles preached the same gospel Jesus preached.

When the Philippian jailor asked, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), he was told: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 15:31-34).

Paul wrote: “With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).

And what was Peter’s reply on the Day of Pentecost when the people asked, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

When the apostles were asked: “What must we do to be saved?” their reply was the same as that of Jesus. To be saved people must believe in Jesus, confess their faith, repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. To follow Christ they must deny themselves and learn to observe all things that He has commanded them (Matthew 28:20).

God loves you so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross to suffer the penalty for your sins. He offers you salvation as a free gift of His grace. Whether you are saved or not depends on your response. You can be saved if you believe in Christ, confess His name, repent of your sins and are baptized. This is the good news preached by Jesus and His apostles.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive