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.
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23–26, NKJV)
It is not riches that will keep a person out of heaven, but how one views and uses his wealth. Just before Jesus said these words, a rich young man had turned away from following Him after Jesus told him to sell all he had and give to the poor (Matt. 19:21-22). His love of money prevented him from following Jesus. When we love money and material things more than putting Jesus first and obeying Him, then we will not be saved (1 Tim. 6:10). You had just as soon try to pass a camel through a needle’s eye, as try to get to heaven serving riches. God has and will save rich people (Abraham, for example, Gen. 24:35). Jesus is not saying wealth is evil. But, it is evil to love money more than God. Godliness with contentment is the lesson we must all learn and live, whether we are rich or poor (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
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)
11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11–13, NKJV)
Jesus came to the Jewish people, and they rejected Him as the Messiah. But, their refusal to receive Him did not prevent God from declaring Jesus to be Lord and Christ (Psa. 2:1-7; Acts 2:33-37). Now, everyone who receives Him has been given the right to become a child of God. It is precisely those who “believe in His name” that have the right to be born of God to become His child. Some have this verse 12 all wrong. They think it says, “receive + believe = become.” They use this verse to say you should pray for salvation, but nothing is said of prayer here. The verse actually says, “received Him (believed) = right to become” children of God. If you receive Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God (that is, you believe it), then you have the right to become a child of God. That truth is embedded perfectly into the call of the gospel at the Great Commission: “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” (Mk. 16:15-16). You have the right to become a child of God when you receive (believe) He is the Christ, the Son of God. But, without faith you cannot be saved (Jno. 8:23-24).
12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. (Acts 8:12–13, NKJV)
Was Simon really saved? If not, neither were the Samaritans we read about in this passage. He heard the same preaching they heard. He believed the same word about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ they believed. Were they saved when they believed and were baptized? According to Mark 16:16, yes, for there Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” The Samaritans were saved when they believed and were baptized, and so was Simon. Any attempt to cast doubt upon the credibility of Simon’s conversion throws the same shadow of doubt upon all the Samaritans. There is great assurance and abiding joy that when sinners hear the word of Christ, believe it and are baptized, they are saved (Acts 8:5-8). Take heed to the plan of salvation Jesus preached in Mark 16:16, and that saved the Samaritans and Simon in Acts 8:12-13. Otherwise, you will find yourself fighting against God.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),… (Ephesians 2:4–5, NKJV)
The mercy of God distinguishes Him from all that are called gods. He is enormously wealthy in mercy, and His love is utterly remarkable – another defining trait of the true and living God. God’s abundant love for us sinners activated His rich mercy toward us, and He mercifully gives us life in His Son (1 Jno. 5:11). Notice it is God who made us alive; we did not save ourselves by any power or any righteousness of our own making (Titus 3:5). God took the initiative when we were dead in sin, “without strength” to save ourselves (Rom. 5:6). God sent His Son to save us and His gospel to call us to His salvation (1 Jno. 4:9-10; Mk. 16:15-16). Let us be clear: God’s grace does not save a sinner unless and until it is accessed by the sinner’s faith (“For by grace you have been saved through faith,” Eph. 2:8; Rom. 5:1-2). Such faith is produced by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Dear Christian, take time today to thank and praise God for His great love and boundless mercy. His grace has saved you from sin’s death and made you “alive together with Christ.”
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, NKJV)
There is a danger in allowing the Bible to explain itself. The danger is not against the truth or those who believe it and obey it. No, the danger is to false teaching and to those who cling to error instead of surrendering it for the sake of truth. That is dangerous to the soul. This verse well illustrates our point. The preacher Ananias plainly explained to Saul what he had to do in order to be saved. He had to “arise and be baptized, and wash away (his) sins.” The blood of Christ was applied to his sins when he was “baptized into His death” (Rom. 6:3). This is “the washing of regeneration” by which God saves us (Titus 3:5). Calling on the name of the Lord, according to this Scripture, involves being baptized in order to “wash away your sins.” That is dangerous to the false doctrine of salvation before and without water baptism. No amount of appeals to Greek grammar or rationalizations will change the clear force of this verse. Baptism that washes away your sins is commanded by the Lord. The danger comes when one refuses to believe and obey this verse, and instead cling to a doctrine that disregards the word of God. Why are you waiting to believe and obey this divine directive?