Welcome to Lesson 7. After you finish reading the lesson, please scroll down to complete and submit the quiz. Your quiz will be graded by a member of the church who will then email the results to you. Thank you for allowing us to study the Bible with you.
Steps to Salvation
In the last two lessons we have seen the problem of sin separating man from God and Jesus paying the penalty for our sins with His death. By His grace, God offers us this free gift of salvation, but He gives us freewill to accept it or reject it. In this lesson, we will look at the different steps God tells us to take to partake of the free gift of salvation.
In Acts 16 the Bible tells of a man who was in fear for his life. His duty was to be a jailer and it was his job as the jailer to keep the jail secure. In the middle of the night there was an earthquake and the jail doors opened. If the prisoners were to escape, he would lose his job, and perhaps even lose his life. Fearing what would happen next, the man cried out, “What must I do to be saved?”
While he may have been asking about his physical life, two of the followers of Jesus, who had been thrown into this man’s prison, took that opportunity to answer his question. But, their concern was saving his soul.
We have seen in a past lesson on sin that when man sins and rebels against God’s commandments, the punishment is death, which means a separation from God. When man is separated from God, he is outside of God’s family and lost. In this lesson, we will see how man can be saved and return to the presence of God and His family.
Jesus: The Solution for Sin
And so now, back to the man and that prison. The jailer said, “What must I do to be saved?” And the two followers of Christ would tell him a truth far more important than just saving his life. They told him what he should do to save his soul, to be able to return to the presence and family of God. They told him about Jesus.
In our last lesson we looked at the idea of Jesus as the solution for man’s sin. But, did you know that even before Jesus lived on this earth, people knew that He would be the answer for the sin problem? He would be the one to bridge the gap between God and sinful man.
In the Bible we read about the story of the birth of Jesus. Before he was born, an angel came to his earthly father, Joseph, and told him what to name their child. The angel said to Joseph, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
And so you ask, how did He save his people from sin?
In the garden of Eden a perfect man died, and for thousands of years people would try, with the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. Only, the blood of bulls and goats are not equal to the blood of a man. And so it took a sacrifice of a man, but not just any man. It took the sacrifice of a perfect man.
And so, many years ago on a cross a perfect man, Jesus, died as the sin sacrifice. There He was suspended between heaven and earth, giving us a picture of a perfect man with one hand outstretched to Heaven and one hand outstretched to Earth. He filled the gap between a perfect God and sinful men.
But the question is still, “What must I do to be saved?” Yes, even though the sacrifice of Jesus was offered by the grace of God, there are still things we must do in order to accept that gift. God gave us freewill. We can use that freewill to disobey and sin, and we can use that freewill to accept the gift of the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. God will not force ANY man to be saved. There are some things we must do to accept this gift of salvation.
Steps to Salvation
Let’s look at the answer to this question by first imagining a story. Once the story is over, we should be able to draw a parallel between the story and what we must do to be saved.
There was a man standing on a stage giving a speech. He saw a young man in the audience. He said, “Young man, would you like this crisp, clean hundred-dollar-bill?” The young man, of course, badly wanted the money. So the man on stage said, “Young man, if you will walk down to this stage and climb these steps onto this stage, I will give you this hundred-dollar-bill.” The young man didn’t think twice. He stood up from his seat, walked to the front, climbed the steps onto that stage, stretched out his hand, and took the hundred-dollar-bill from the man’s hand. Believe it or not, the different things that need to be done in order to be saved can be seen in this story. Let’s now look at the different things the Bible tells us we need to do in order to be saved, keeping this story in mind so we can see the similarity.
First, we must hear. That is, we must hear and listen with the attitude of obeying. Many people sit in classrooms and “hear” what the teacher says, but many do not actually listen. They that hear with the intention of obeying what it is they are listening to, are the ones trying to do what is right.
In Acts 2, Peter and the apostles had preached a sermon, and the people listening heard what had been said. They realized that it was they who had taken Jesus and had wrongly murdered Him. “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) This was a group of people who heard what was being said, with the intent of doing what they needed to do to make things right.
And so the very first thing that we must do to be saved, is to hear, to listen, and to do so with the correct attitude that says, “I will do what God says in order to be saved.” Once we listen correctly to the words of God, we will gladly react in the way Christ would want us to, by obeying or doing what He has said in His Word.
The young man heard the man on stage offering him the money. He heard with an open mind and a good attitude.
Jesus makes it clear the next step to Heaven is belief. We must believe that Jesus is the son of God, that he is Deity, and that He is the only way to salvation. Jesus said, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” (John 8:24) (Remember, we looked at evidences that Jesus is deity in our last lesson.) Jesus says, I have told you that I am God, but if you do not believe that I am God, then you will die in your sins. See, if we do not believe in the first place, then we will not even worry about the other steps.
Just like the young man, if he did not believe that the speaker was going to give him the hundred dollars, he would not have even taken the first step to receive his reward.
And so, this step is crucial in answering “What is it that I must do to be saved?” I must believe that Jesus is the son of God, and that He died as the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins.
After hearing and believing that Jesus is the Son of God, we have now taken the first two steps. Now we must move, we must do something about our belief. The next step is called repentance.
Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change in action. In this case, we are talking about changing our minds to believe that sin and rebelling against God’s commandments is wrong, and then following that up with a change in action to quit sinning and begin obeying God.
Remember those men on the day of Pentecost? They had heard the sermon that Peter had taught, they believed it, and then based upon their belief, they said “Men and brethren what shall we do?” Peter was asked a question. These men had sinned, they realized it, they believed that Jesus was indeed the son of God, and they saw the trouble they were in because of their sins. In effect they said, “Yes, we believe what you are saying, now please tell us what to do.” Peter replied. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38) Peter had made it absolutely clear to them, and they understood it. They had taken the first step, they heard, they listened with the right attitude. They had taken the second step, they truly believed that Jesus was indeed God, and that it was only through Him that their sins could be forgiven. Now Peter says, “Based upon your belief, you need to repent.”
We must change our mind about living a life separated from God. Remember that sin is what separates us from God. So, if I plan on not living a life separated from God, then I need to change my mind about sin. If there are things in my life that I do that are sinful, I need to stop doing those things.
My heart needs to be such that I am sorry for my sin, and I am now determined not to sin anymore. If I am a thief, I must stop being a thief. If I am a drunk, I must stop the drinking. Whatever sin I am involved in, true repentance says that I change my mind about continuing in that sin any longer.
When the young man heard that he could get a hundred dollars by coming to the front of the stage, he changed his mind about staying seated and then changed his actions. He got up, went to the aisle, and walked down to the stage. He repented from staying seated to coming down to the stage.
In Acts 8 we are told of another man who was faced with the exact same dilemma. He was a eunuch who had been placed in charge of serving a very important lady from Ethiopia.
He was on his way back from Jerusalem and was reading from his Old Testament. Specifically, he was reading in the area we know as Isaiah 53, where it talks specifically about the suffering Savior, which is Jesus.
A preacher named Philip was sent to teach this Ethiopian man what he needed to do to be saved. The eunuch read about the Savior, and he heard the information Philip was telling him. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:35-37)
The eunuch took that first step, he heard. He had the proper attitude of heart about hearing. Then he took the second step and believed what he heard. He had the proper attitude about sin and about his life. He changed his heart, and did not want to live in sin anymore. He had taken that third step of repentance. And then he said something that is so important. He said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” He made a great confession. A confession, in this instance, means a statement of religious belief. In that confession he now has said, Jesus is the son of God.
Since He is the Son of God, and God himself, that means I am answerable to him. What he says I will do.
What a great confession! In fact, Paul writing, said, “That if you will confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:8-10)
Paul knew that belief leads to an action; it leads to other steps. One of those steps he says, is to confess your belief that Jesus is the Son of God.
Let us picture the young man. He is so excited as he walks down that aisle, and he is so happy to get this gift of a hundred dollars. He is showing everyone that he believes the speaker on stage. Perhaps he even confesses with his mouth, “I believe him and I want that hundred dollars!” He walks to the stage and starts climbing the steps. He is getting so close to that reward.
Remember those people on Pentecost? Remember, they had heard the sermon, and they believed that Jesus really was the Son of God. Then they said to Peter and the Apostles “What shall we do?” Do you remember what Peter told them? He said, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38) Not only were they told to repent, but they were told to be baptized.
The word “for” in Acts 2:38 is the Greek word “Eis” and it means “In order to.” Peter was saying, “Be baptized in order to have your sins washed away.” He said, you have climbed almost all the steps, but you haven’t reached the top step yet. So, here is what you need to do. After you have repented, you must also be baptized.
Do you want your sins to be washed away? Then you must be baptized, immersed, and buried under water.
There is another man in the Bible that we should learn about. His name was Nicodemus. He came to Jesus at night and he wanted Jesus to know that he believed that Jesus was indeed God. But Jesus told this man something very important. Jesus told him that he was not currently in a position to be saved. “Jesus answered and said to him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3-5)
Nicodemus then had a question. “Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4) Paul shows us how a person is born again when he is old. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death:” (Romans 6:1-4)
In order for something to be buried, it is to be dead. So, what has died? Well, Paul will tell us. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death:” (Romans 6:4) So, we are dead and buried.
But then he continues, “that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4) The “newness of life” that Paul is referring to is the rebirth. It is being born again. Something died, and now something else has been born.
But what died? “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:5-6) What died? The old man of sin. When did it die? It died at baptism as the old man goes under the water. The old man of sin is immersed in water, the old man dies, and a new person comes up out of the water and is born. That is the new birth! That is how a person is born again!
Just as Jesus was living, then He died, then he resurrected, Romans 6 tells us, that the old man of sin man is living, then he dies and is buried at baptism, and as he comes out of that watery grave, he is born again as a new creature. His sins are washed away in baptism, and he now lives a new life devoted to Jesus. A man named Ananias had told the sinner Saul, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)
After doing this, he is in fellowship again with God. The sins that had separated him from God are now washed away, and he now has done what God says to do to be back in fellowship with Him.
The young man reached out and took the hundred-dollar-bill from the man on stage. He heard the word, believed it, repented of staying seated, confessed to everyone that he believed, and then reached out and took the prize. The people on the Day of Pentecost did the same thing. They heard, believed, repented, confessed, and reached out and took the prize by being baptized and having their sins washed away. About 3,000 people did it! And now with their sins washed away, they were returned to the presence of God, no longer lost and separated from God’s family. They had achieved the ultimate prize of a promised eternal life in Heaven if they would remain faithful unto death.
Once we have done these things, if we will continue to obey Christ, we will continually have Christ cleansing us of our sins. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) We must live faithfully obeying Christ all the days of our lives.
Sinning After Salvation
But, now someone says, “I have heard, and I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and I repented of my sins, and I confessed, and then I was baptized. What if I do all of these steps, but, I still make mistakes and I still sin? Do I need to do all of these things again? Do I need to go through these steps every time I sin?” The answer to these questions is also found in God’s Word.
In Acts 8 there was a man named Simon, who was a magician in Samaria. He had been tricking the people and fooling them into giving him their money. But Philip went and preached to him, and to the people of Samaria. Simon heard what was said, he had a change of heart, he repented of his sinful lifestyle, and he was baptized. But then he made a mistake and he sinned. Peter, who had come down to Samaria, saw the whole thing.
Remember, Simon had already obeyed the steps of salvation. He had already taken the steps to be saved. And yet now, he finds himself in a situation where he has sinned. What does he need to do? Peter sees that Simon has sinned after his baptism, and Peter says, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” (Acts 8:22)
The truth is, once we have gone through the steps of salvation, we are in fellowship with God. But, we can still sin. So, what do we do when we sin afterwards? We do the same thing Peter told Simon. We repent (change our mind about living contrary to God) and we pray to God and ask for forgiveness. And once we do that, God forgives us of our sins. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) And as we live our lives in prayer, asking forgiveness when we do wrong, then we will receive the reward that God has promised us.
As Jesus was preparing his Apostles for his departing from this earth, they were saddened by the thought of Jesus leaving, but Jesus said to them, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)
Paul was nearing the end of his life and he said, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
If we will do these simple things, we will receive the same reward that Christ’s apostles received. If we will do these things, an eternal life in Heaven with God will be our reward.
If you live your life in fellowship with God, if you live your life as a member of God’s family, at the end of this life, He will gather all his family to be with Him in Heaven.
And so live, walking in the light by following the commands and example of Jesus, confessing sins in prayer to God, and spend your life obeying His Word, the Bible. And as you live and die faithful to God, know that God will be faithful to you, and that you will receive your reward.
It’s just like the young man in the story. He made it to the stage, he climbed to the top, he stretched out his hand, and he took the reward from the man on stage. He did not earn his reward, just as we do not earn eternal life in Heaven with God. Both the hundred-dollar-bill and eternal life in Heaven with God are gifts. But the young man did what the man on stage said to do in order to receive the gift. Rest assured that God waits with His hand outstretched, waiting for us to do what He asks in order to receive His gift. He has told us what to do to be saved, and He is holding our reward for us. Now, what are you waiting for? Take those steps, and when this life is over, receive that beautiful reward.
NOTE: This lesson was written and developed by Truth for the World and is used here by permission.