“What must I do to be saved?” As most of you know, I’m not the first to ask this question. Remember the Corinthian jailer asked this question in Acts 16:30...and Paul’s response..”believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”. Then again the Lord’s disciples inquiring about salvation in Luke chapter 18..”Lord, who then can be saved?”....in response to Christ’s statement that 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. What did Jesus tell them about who can be saved? “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Job was a rich man. What was his conclusion? “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him”. (Job 13:15) Abraham was a very rich man. How was this rich man saved? Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (Gen 15:6 & Rom 4:3)
There are two concepts that are scripturally true regarding salvation that can be deduced from the Bible. The first is that salvation IS of the Lord. Man in all his effort is unable to to please God. There are none righteous...not one. Rom 3:10 Every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is only evil continually. Gen 6:5 The heart is deceitful & wicked. Jer 17:9 There is none that seeketh God. Rom 3:11 & Ps 14:1-3 Man’s condition is clearly delineated. There are no seekers. Is it any wonder the disciples would ask, “Lord, who then can be saved?”...and Jesus’ response..”impossible with men...possible with God”. Jesus says, “you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you...” Jo 15:16 How could we possibly choose God if we are not righteous, not seeking, but with evil and deceitful hearts? Impossible! But not with God! He has chosen us, he has blessed us, he has predestinated us, he made us acceptable, he has redeemed us, he has forgiven us, and he has given us all Godly wisdom and intellectual insight. Why? Because it is according to his will and purposes. (my paraphrase of Eph 1:3-10) That old hymn says it so well, “it was not I that found, O Savior true; no, I was found of thee”. Our preaching and worship services should be designed to please “The Seeker”....so that “...the He may come to seek and to save”. Luke 19:10
The second concept is, “you must be born again”. What?...born again? Is that still a valid theological term in this day and age? I’ve heard that trite, hackneyed phrase all my life. Have you been born again? Are you saved? What does it mean and how can I become born again? Now, I have heard evangelicals all my life spell out the seven steps or the five procedures or the road to follow to become born again. Just do this, and this, and this and you will be born again. Do this, and this, and this and you will stay born again. Jesus said to Nicodemus in John chapter 3...”you must be born again” and it is true ..you must be born again.....BUT you cannot effect this new birth. You can’t do it! How much input did God require of you for the first birth? That’s right, as my teenage daughter said defiantly years ago...”I didn’t ask to be born!” (now, her teenage daughter is saying it)...and you weren’t consulted either. You just showed up! The theological term is “regeneration”. It is the sole prerogative of the Holy Spirit of God to whom and when and where regeneration is applied and accomplished. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Only God’s Spirit gives new life. The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going.” John 3:8 (CEV) The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it this way:
All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by his almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.
1. Acts 13:48; Rom. 4:28, 30; 11:7; Eph. 1:5, 11; II Tim. 1:9-10 2. II Thess. 2:13-14; James 1:18; II Cor. 3:3, 6; I Cor. 2:12 3. II Tim. 1:9-10; I Peter 2:9; Rom 8:2; Eph. 2:1-10 4. Acts 26:18; I Cor. 2:10, 12; Eph. 1:17-18; II Cor. 4:6 5. Ezek. 36:26 6. Ezek. 11:19; 36:27; Deut. 30:6; John 3:5; Titus 3:5; I Peter 1:23 7. John 6:44-45; Acts 16:14 8. Psa. 110:3; John 6:37; Matt. 11:28; Rev. 22:17; Rom. 6:16-18; Eph. 2:8; Phil 1:29
Salvation is truly of the Lord. If this is the case (and it is) what is one to do? Jesus gives a parable in Luke chapter 18 that will answer this question: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. (Luke 18:10-13)
Both concepts above are equally true. Salvation is of the Lord....and you must be born again. It is all of God. But...one more thing is also true. Jesus said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37) God accomplishes his salvation most generally in this manner: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1Co 1:21) (KJV)