29 And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. (Luke 7:29–30, NKJV)
Scripture says, “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mk. 1:4). Sinners justified God when John baptized them. Their submission to baptism showed God to be just (righteous) in demanding their repentance and baptism to remove their sins. By contrast, the Pharisees and lawyers “rejected the will of God for themselves” and were not baptized by John. Like those unbelievers, refusing to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus is a rejection of the will of God (Acts 10:48; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). John’s baptism required repentance as its prerequisite and prepared the people to believe in Christ Jesus who came after John (Jno. 3:22-36; Acts 19:4). God linked John’s baptism to remission of sins (Mk. 1:4). God also links Christ’s baptism to our remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Refusing baptism for the remission of sins is rejecting the will of God. Have you “justified God” by being baptized into Christ to be saved? Or, do you consider God unjust by commanding repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38)?
Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. (Acts 8:4, NKJV)
Acts 8 is a chapter about preaching the gospel. Those who preached in this chapter were the persecuted, scattered saints (8:4), Philip the evangelist (8:5, 35, 40), and the apostles Peter and John (8:25). The message they preached was “the word” (8:4), “Christ” (8:5), things concerning the kingdom, the name of Jesus Christ, and baptism (8:12), “the word of the Lord” (8:25), “the gospel” (8:25), and “Jesus” (8:35). The result of their preaching was the conversion and salvation of souls. People believed and were baptized, and by doing so, they “received the word of God” (8:12-14). A sinning Christian learned from hearing the apostle’s teaching that he needed to repent and pray for God’s forgiveness (8:18-24). A lost Ethiopian came to believe in Jesus Christ and was baptized, resulting in great joy (8:35-39). One cannot read Acts 8 without being impressed with gospel preaching’s central role in saving sinners. The Samaritans, Simon, and the Ethiopian eunuch were brought to faith, obedience, and salvation from sins through preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sinners cannot hear the word of God, believe it, call on the name of the Lord, and be saved without gospel preaching (Rom. 10:13-17). Why and what are you preaching, preacher? What kind of preaching do you want, Christian? Gospel preaching is not entertainment. It is not a psychology session. It is not the pleasing pabulum of positive platitudes. It is not a sharing session of opinions. It is the proclamation of the gospel, God’s power to save the lost (Rom. 1:16; Gal. 1:6-12; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). We need more gospel preaching, not less.
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:35–37, NASB95)
This passage resolves important questions about the salvation of sinners. 1) The lost need to hear the gospel to be saved. Faith comes from hearing the word of God (Rom. 1:16; 10:17). When Philip “preached Christ” in Samaria, it included things concerning the kingdom of God, the name of Jesus Christ, and baptism (Acts 8:5, 12). Philip preached the same gospel to the Ethiopian. We correctly conclude that infants do not need saving because they cannot hear and believe the gospel. 2) Preaching Jesus includes the evidence needed to believe He is the Christ, the Son of God. How else did the Ethiopian come to believe Jesus is God’s Son except by hearing the evidence (cf. Jno. 20:30-31; Acts 2:40-41)? 3) Preaching Jesus includes water baptism. The Ethiopian would have known nothing about water baptism without Philip explaining it to him. Undoubtedly, he explained it is for the remission of sins to be saved by Christ (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21). 4) Belief in Christ precedes water baptism. This is more evidence that babies are not proper candidates for baptism since they do not have the mental and moral capacity to believe. 5) Christ’s plan of salvation is belief plus baptism equals salvation (Mk. 16:16). It is not belief, salvation, and then baptism. Neither is it baptism, saved, and then believe.
“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” (John 17:4, NKJV)
Jesus finished His redemptive work (Sword Tips #2133). Yet, people have devised doctrines that effectively deny this truth. 1) Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets (Matt. 5:17). Yet some churches (like the Seventh-day Adventist Church) listen to Moses and the prophets for their faith practices instead of hearing Jesus. This is false (Matt. 17:5; Heb. 1:1-2). 2) Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10). Yet some churches (like the Baptist Church) reject His salvation by refusing the necessity of water baptism to be saved. This is false (Mk. 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). 3) Jesus came to give His life for all sinners (1 Tim. 2:6). Yet some churches (like the Reformed Church) teach limited atonement (Christ’s death only reaches those God elected for eternal life). This is false (Jno. 3:16; 1 Jno. 4:14). 4) Jesus came to preach the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23; Mk. 1:14-15). Yet some churches of Christ teach Jesus was only teaching Jews how to be good Jews. This is false (Matt. 9:35; Lk. 16:16; Matt. 5:31-32; 19:8-9). 5) Jesus came to be a king (Jno. 18:37). Yet many churches teach the premillennial doctrine that because the Jews rejected Jesus as their King, God withdrew the kingdom promise and substituted the church. They believe Jesus will return to earth in His kingdom in the future. This is false (Matt. 16:18-19; Mk. 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; Col. 1:13; 1 Cor. 15:23-24). One denies the truth that Jesus finished His work by accepting doctrines that contradict His work and word. Let us go back to the New Testament of Jesus, to a time before the doctrines and creeds of men corrupted the purposes and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and please God by remaining in its truth (Gal. 1:6-10).
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. (Hebrews 11:30, NKJV)
How much do you trust God? Do you trust Him enough to silently march around a hostile city once a day for six days, and on the seventh day do so seven times? Do you believe God enough to blow trumpets and shout after doing so because He said do it? These are among the things God told not one person, but about 600,000 soldiers of Israel to do because He had “given Jericho into your hands” (Josh. 6:2). Why did they have to do anything if God was giving them the city by His grace? Because grace comes “through faith” (see Eph. 2:8). Israel did not earn Jericho, they showed their faith in God’s promise to give them the city. When they obeyed His word (“after they were encircled for seven days”), the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. Now, why do so many people resist the words of Jesus when He said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16)? If the sinner does not faith enough to be baptized, will he or she be saved? The answer is clear, yet many are told to just believe God will save you, pray to Him asking Him to, and you are saved. No, that is not what Jesus said. When we learn about the faith that Israel had at Jericho, we also learn of the faith we must have to be saved.
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1–2, NKJV)
The “commandments and doctrines of men” abuse and distort the Christian’s relation to God’s grace (Col. 2:20-23; Gal. 1:6-7). For example, divine grace is not irresistible; if it were, everyone would be saved (Tit. 2:11; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; Matt. 7:21-23). Grace is available to every sinner, but not every sinner will accept it. Or again, Christians can fall from grace despite the false security of “once saved, always saved” (Gal. 5:4). God’s word of truth assures us that we have “access by faith into this grace in which we stand” through Christ (Rom. 5:2). Indeed, grace is greater than sin (Rom. 5:20-21). But that does not mean grace abounds if we choose to “continue in sin.” The gospel does not teach that we can live in sin, and God’s grace will save us anyway. We must not continue in sin to continue in grace (v. 1). We died to sin in our lives when we were baptized into Christ and into His death (Rom. 6:2-4). That is when we were “freed from sin” to live with Christ, not to continue living in sin (Rom. 6:5-8). God wants to save you, but you must make a decision of faith to die to sin and live with Christ. That begins by being baptized into Christ. Then, no longer live in sin, and the grace of God will abound in you.
8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ 10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8–10, NKJV)
Do you ever feel like you are beyond saving? Like your sins are so many, so frequent, so powerful over you that you say to yourself, “God could never forgive me!” If so, then listen to the parable of the lost coin very carefully. You are valuable to God! He is looking for you! He wants to find you! He is willing and able to forgive you from the storehouse of His mercy and compassion (see Lk. 15:1-7; Eph. 2:1-10). Image if you lost one-tenth of your money. Wouldn’t you look for it diligently and rejoice when you found it? God is like that. He values every sinner. He does not look for sinners so He can condemn us, but so He can save us. The real question is not whether God can save you; it is, “Do I want to be saved?” “Do I want to live differently?” “Do I want to have the sure hope of eternal life?” Earnest faith, repentance toward God from a contrite heart, baptism into the death of His Son, and a life devoted to following Jesus are what God wants from every sinner (Jno. 8:23-24; Acts 17:30; Rom. 6:3-4; Jno. 8:12). You are valuable to God. Value yourself, put your faith in Jesus Christ, and follow Him. He will save you.
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15–16, NKJV)
This passage is not difficult to understand. Yet, it undergoes no end of abuse at the hands of those who refuse its teaching on how the gospel saves sinners. Christ’s commission to the apostles is forthright: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (v. 15). The gospel is for all, and the apostles made known its power to save “to all nations” (Rom. 1:16; 16:25-26; Col. 1:23). Responses to the gospel and their corresponding results are stated candidly in verse 16. The person who believes the gospel and is baptized will be saved from sin, but the person who does not believe the gospel will be condemned in sin. Believing the gospel of Christ compels one to be baptized to be saved. Yet, controversy arises over whether water baptism is necessary for salvation. Jesus said it is. Why? Because “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” and cannot justify the sinner (Jas. 2:17, 24). Water baptism is faith at work as one submissively obeys Christ’s command (Acts 2:37-38; 10:34-35). Obedient faith does not earn salvation (Lk. 17:10). When the believer obeys the gospel, God frees that person from sin’s bondage to become a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). Belief and baptism are essential to be saved. Unbelief is condemned. Instead of arguing with Jesus, we plead with the lost to believe and be baptized to be saved.
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36–37, NKJV)
When convicted that Jesus is Lord and Christ, sinners were cut to the heart for their sins against Him. Their urgent question was, “What shall we do?” The answer Peter gave was clear: Repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). Today, people give different answers to the same question. Some say, “You can’t do anything – God must do everything for you to be saved.” That is not what Peter said. Some say, “Believe and pray the sinner’s prayer, and you will be saved.” That is not what Peter said. Some say, “God has already elected who will be saved and who will be lost, so whatever you do will not change your fate.” That is not what Peter said. Some say, “Plead for Holy Spirit baptism in addition to being baptized in water so you can be fully sanctified.” That is not what Peter said. Why not just do what Peter said? About three thousand believers were saved that day when they repented and were baptized (Acts 2:40-41). The way to be saved by Christ has not changed. The need for salvation is the same. The answer to the question, “What shall we do?” is the same. This is gospel salvation. Believe it. Obey it. Be saved by Christ.