13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ (Acts 11:13–14, NKJV)
Many well-meaning people have been deceived to believe their salvation depends on a supernatural experience – perhaps it’s speaking in tongues, perhaps it’s a vision, perhaps it’s a warm burning inside they interpret as the Holy Spirit confirming the truth of their conversion – none of which are taught in the New Testament as the means or the basis of one’s salvation. Peter’s rehearsal of the events at the house of Cornelius helps us understand the way God saves the lost. Cornelius was a moral, religious, charitable man of good reputation, yet lost (Acts 10:10:1-2, 22; 11:14). An angel visited him, instructing him to send for Peter to hear words from him, which he did (Acts 10:3-6, 22, 32-33). While doing so, the Holy Spirit miraculously confirmed that Gentiles can be saved just like Jews (Acts 10:34-43, 44-47; 11:15-17). With that, Peter “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48). This convinced the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem that “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Acts 11:18; 15:7-11). It ought to convince us, too. God’s way to salvation is hearing and believing the gospel, confessing faith, repenting of sins, and being baptized to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38, 41).
9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. (Acts 9:9–11, NKJV)
An important question arises from the aftermath of Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-8). Saul asked, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” and was told to “go into the city, and you will be told what you must do,” to which he complied (Acts 9:6-8). Here is the question: If Saul was saved when Jesus appeared to him on the road, why did Ananias ask him, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord?” (Acts 22:16) The answer is obvious. After three days of blindness, fasting, and praying, Saul was still in need of his sins being cleansed. Although fasting, Saul’s repentance was not all he needed to be forgiven. Although praying, Saul’s prayers did not constitute “calling on the name of the Lord” to be saved. However, when his faith compelled Saul to arise and be baptized, his sins were washed away by the blood of Jesus (Rom. 6:3). This is how sinners are saved today. Not by miracles. Not by faith alone, repentance alone, prayer alone, or baptism alone. Do you have the faith to do all Jesus commands so your sins will be washed away?
And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:21, NKJV)
Peter quoted and applied the prophecy of Joel to the things that began to happen on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-21). The preaching by the apostles in different languages on that day was an identifying mark of “the last days” (Acts 2:16-17; Hebrews 1:1-2). Today’s verse declares the apostolic gospel offers salvation to “whosoever calls on the name of the Lord.” To call on the name of the Lord means to invoke His power for salvation. How does the sinner call on the name of the Lord to be saved? Many say this is accomplished by praying the sinner’s prayer. But, on that day, sinners were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). About 3,000 called on God’s power to save them by obeying this commandment and being baptized (Acts 2:39-41). Calling on the name of the Lord is not praying for salvation. After Saul had prayed and fasted for three days he was told to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). If you want to be saved, then call on the name of the Lord the same way sinners did so in the New Testament – repent of your sins and be baptized. God is calling you to salvation through the gospel of His Son. When you will call on His name in the Bible way, you will be saved.
38 Then Peter said to them, “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. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38–39, NKJV)
The Bible records many promises of God, but, three He made to Abram are especially profound. God promised a nation, a land and a seed to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 22:18). The Bible is a record of God keeping these promises. The nation promise was fulfilled when Israel became a nation after being delivered from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 19:5-6). God kept the land promise to Israel when they invaded Canaan and “took possession of it and dwelt in it” (Joshua 21:43; 23:14; Nehemiah 9:7-8, 24). The promise that “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” was restated to king David and fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 13:22-26; Galatians 3:15-16). Thus, God’s promise to bless the whole world (Jews and Gentiles) is fulfilled Jesus, the Savior of the world (Acts 13:23, 32-34). As Paul preached, “Let it be known to you, brethren, that through is Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:38). The “blessing of Abraham” is salvation in Christ, spiritual relief and life from sin’s bondage and death (Acts 3:19; Galatians 3:14). Those who repent and are baptized for the remission of sins have the promise (Galatians 3:22, 26-29). They are saved! Let us thank and praise God for keeping His promises.
13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us. (Acts 16:13–15, NKJV)
Paul and his companions looked for an opportunity to teach the gospel, and a group of women were found by the riverside. Among them was Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened “to heed the things spoken by Paul.” How and why did the Lord open Lydia’s heart? Does He still open hearts? First, Lydia was not shown preferential treatment over the other women. God opened her heart the way He does today, by the power of the gospel she heard. God’s saving word addresses the heart, convicting and converting the lost (John 16:8-13; Romans 1:16). Lydia’s heart was opened “to heed” the things Paul said (to give close attention to and respond). The gospel prompted her to answer God’s call to believe and be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:15-16). Her actions were deemed “faithful to the Lord” inasmuch as Paul and his companions lodged at her house. Lydia chose to heed the gospel and by doing so, she was faithful to the Lord.
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:16, NKJV)
The Spirit bears testimony concerning who is a child of God by means of the truth He revealed and inspired. We have that testimony today in the form of the Holy Scriptures. Our spirit agrees with the Spirit’s testimony when we believe and conform to the truth of the gospel He gave us. For an example of this, see Acts 19:1-5, where some disciples of John did not know of the baptism of Jesus. They had received John’s baptism, but they were not yet followers of Jesus. Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit, taught them of Jesus Christ. “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). Now, the Spirit’s testimony agreed with their testimony that they were children of God. Before they heard the Spirit’s testimony, believed it and were baptized, although they thought they were saved, the Spirit said otherwise. To be sure you are a child of God, your belief and obedience must agree with what the Spirit says about becoming a child of God. Listen to what the Spirit has said: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). Are you a child of God? The Spirit bears witness that you are, when you have believed and been baptized into Christ.
4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:4–6, NKJV)
The appearance of Jesus to Saul the persecutor of Christ brought this violent unbeliever to faith that Jesus was alive. Saul, who had been “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” now yields his will completely to the will of Jesus: “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Saul would be told what to do in the city of Damascus. After three days of prayer and fasting, Jesus sent the preacher Ananias to him, who told him what to do: “And now, why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The vision did not wash away his sins. Three days of prayer and fasting did not wash away his sins (Acts 9:9, 11). Water baptism washed away his sins (because the sinner is baptized into Christ’s death, where His saving blood is applied to sins, Romans 6:3). Do not kick against the goads, and refuse water baptism to wash away your sins. It is what Jesus says you must do, too (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21).
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8–10, NKJV)
The “word of faith” was preached by the apostles. It produces faith in the good and honest heart (Romans 10:17; Luke 8:15). It produces belief in the heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and that Jesus is Lord. A verbal confession of one’s faith that Jesus is Lord (Ruler, Master), and that He was raised from the dead, is necessary to be saved. Confessing one’s belief that Jesus is the risen Lord is not the only thing essential to be saved. The command to repent of sins must be obeyed, or we will perish (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30). Water baptism is also commanded to be saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:47-48; 1 Peter 3:21). The “word of faith” contains all these essential actions of faith to be saved by grace. The gospel plan of salvation is for the lost to hear the gospel, to believe in Jesus, the resurrected Lord (the Son of God), to confess Jesus as Lord, to repent of your sins, and to be baptized into Christ. God will save you by His grace, when you do the things God wants you to do.
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?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “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 2:37–38, NKJV)
In answer to the question posed by the murderers of Jesus (Acts 2:36), Peter did not tell them to “just accept Jesus as your personal Savior, and you will be saved.” (They evidently already believed Jesus to be “both Lord and Christ,” because they are convicted of their sin against Him. You cannot be convicted about something you do not believe.) Peter did not tell them to “pray the sinner’s prayer” to be saved. (Yet, that is what many tell sinners to do about their sins.) Peter did not tell them, “There is nothing you can do to save yourselves. God has done everything.” (But, many tell sinners they are completely passive in their salvation.) Peter did tell them to repent. These believers were not yet saved; they needed to repent, or they would not be saved. Peter also told them to be baptized “for the remission of sins.” Just as one must believe and repent to be saved, one must also be baptized to be saved. Instead of accepting doctrines that deny and oppose this simple passage about how to be saved, why not believe it, obey it, and be saved? When you believe, repent and are baptized, God will remove your sins, just like He did theirs.
12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12–13, NKJV)
The Gentiles were not in a covenant relationship with God through the Law of Moses. Only Israel was under that law, and were the people of the covenant (Deut. 5:2-3). That is why Paul speaks of the Gentiles as “having no hope and without God in the world” (v. 12). This is an apt description of the spiritual status of all who are lost in sin: Aliens, without God, without hope, and without an inheritance (see Eph. 2:1-3). But, “in Christ Jesus” all that changes. In Christ, one has a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). In Christ, the sinner is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Through faith in Christ Jesus, lost sinners are saved, and become children of God (Gal. 3:26; 4:5-7). The alien sinner comes into a saved relationship with God by putting on Christ, which occurs when the sinner is “baptized into Christ” (Gal. 3:27). The blood of Christ – His death for our sins – makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God (Eph. 2:16). It washes away our sins when we are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Acts 22:16). No longer live without God and without hope. By faith, be baptized into Christ and be saved. “Why are you waiting?” (Acts 22:16)