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?
22 Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did. 1 Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.” (Genesis 6:22–7:1, NKJV)
Noah was a righteous man. This does not mean Noah never sinned. This does not mean Noah earned his way onto the ark. It means God accounted Noah righteous when he did “according to all that God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22). Noah built the ark “by faith,” and in so doing he “became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:7). Thus, Noah “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). Noah was saved from the flood waters “by grace, through faith.” This is a perfect type of God’s salvation of sinners in Christ, the antitype of which “now saves us—baptism” (1 Pet. 3:20-21). Water baptism no more earns salvation than building the ark earned Noah’s salvation from the flood. Salvation is “by grace” and it is “through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Yet, the faith that saves is the faith that obeys. Is it essential to obey God’s command to be baptized in order to be saved? Yes. If you doubt it, just ask Noah.
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)
The gospel is the good news of salvation from sins through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Son of God sent His apostles into the world to preach the gospel. Those who do not believe the gospel are condemned, lost in their sins. Every person who believes the gospel and is baptized is saved from the condemnation of sin. The words of Jesus are unmistakable. One must believe and be baptized to be saved. Jesus did not say, “He who believes is saved, and will be baptized later”. Jesus did not say, “He who believes and prays the sinner’s prayer is saved”. Let us not twist and change the simple words of Jesus. Do you want to be saved from your sins? Believe the gospel and be baptized and you will be saved. Do you refuse to believe the gospel of Christ? If so, then you will be condemned because of your sins. Come to Jesus. Believe and be baptized, and He will save you.
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14, NKJV)
Being under the Law of Moses only magnified the guilt of Israel’s sin (Rom. 3:19-20). Without God’s grace, sin rules and produces spiritual death. God’s grace in Christ provides escape from sin’s dominion (Rom. 6:11-13). While today’s verse magnifies the superiority of grace over sin, but it does not teach that Christians are free from living under law. We cannot do as we please because we are “not under law but under grace”. If no divine law exists to which we are accountable, then sin itself does not exist, “for where there is no law there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15). Sin, by definition, is the transgression of the law of God (1 Jno. 3:4). Furthermore, it is notable that sinners are justified “by the law of faith” (Rom. 3:27). On another occasion, the apostle clearly said we are “under law to Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21). The truth is, grace does not ignore Christ’s law. We stand in grace when we live by faith, trusting and obeying the law of Christ (Rom. 5:2; Heb. 5:8-9).