GOD'S PLAN OF SALVATION
John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.
The world is filled with people that are spiritually lost. Their soul is doomed for eternal destruction. If questioned, many men and women would confess that they desire the hope of eternal salvation. Most people, however, will be eternally lost because they don't know how, or where, to find this hope. Maybe they are searching, but in the wrong places. Perhaps, they are looking for guidance, and placing their trust in others that have, themselves, been misled. Most are lost because they fail to search the Bible for answers. What a tragedy! Since ?God is the Author of salvation, shouldn't we look into His Holy Word? For instance, in order to believe in God's plan of salvation, one must believe the lesson text quoted above - to believe there is a God, and that all people of the earth are His creation; to believe that He made the earth, the heavens above the earth, both visible and invisible, and all things that inhabit, and exist on the earth and within its atmosphere. In other words, we must believe in the creation as recorded in God's inspire word - the Bible. It is necessary to believe that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1-1), and to accept the creation of all things as revealed in the first chapter of Genesis.
One must also believe that mankind was created in the likeness of God, and was given superiority, and dominion over all other things created by God. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them (Gen. 1:27). And, different from all other living things that were created, mankind was given a soul. Although the physical bodies of all living things will age and perish, the souls of men and women are eternal. And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Gen. 2:7). Each human being was given a living soul, whichis just as eternal as God, His Son, Jesus Christ, and heaven itself. As the lesson text indicates, God so loved (every soul born into) the world. His love for mankind was so abundant, and so great, that He sent His only begotten Son ...into the world ...that (every soul born into) the world, through Him might be saved.
One must also believe, as revealed in the third chapter of Genesis, that, through disobedience to the will of God, sin came into the world, which alienated, and separated mankind, as it did Adam and Eve, from the holy presence of God. The reason for this separation is because it is impossible for the holiness of God to abide with the sinfulness of mankind. Therefore, in order to return to God, reconciliation must take place between sinful man and our righteous Holy Father in heaven. Recognizing the existance of this enmity, God, through His longsuffering, ...not willing that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9b), set in motion His Plan of Salvation. God, in His omniscient wisdom, provided eternal salvation for mankind even before mankind was created. However, it remained a mystery until the kingdom of Christ, His body, His church, was established here on earth. This was confirmed by the apostle Paul when he wrote to the church at Ephesus, that ...all men (were to know) what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 3:9-11).
That one may have a hope of God's Plan of Salvation, it is necessary to know, accept, and perform the acts of obedience that God requires in order to attain it. To find, and know these obedient truths, the best place to start is when this necessary reconciliation to God had its beginning, as recorded in the New Testament. To introduce us to Jesus Christ, and the plan of salvation He brought into the world, consider a few quotations from the gospel of John. He opens his gospel record with reference to Jesus as the Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the Light of men (John 1:1-4). In the beginning of time, God, along with the Holy Spirit, and the Word, Jesus Christ, brought the temporary physical body of mankind into the world which He created. At the same time He gave mankind an eternal spiritual life - a soul that will live forever. In Him was life - all life. He was then, and remains for eternity, the source of both physical and spiritual life. If Christ Jesus is the source of eternal life in heaven, then it is essential that we search His teachings in order to find Him, and His pathway to heaven.
In the 1st chapter of John, and in verse 6 and following, the apostle John introduces another John - John, known as the Baptist. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light (Jesus Christ), that all men through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness to that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (Vss. 6-9).This same John the baptizer was revealed in the gospel according to Matthew: For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esias (Isaiah), saying, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight (Matt. 3:3), (also see John 1:23 & Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ; he was sent by God to introduce Jesus to the Jewish nation, and through these gospel messages, to the entire world.
The apostle John, in his gospel message, continues this introduction of Jesus through the John by writing, And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth. John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, this was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me; for He was before me (John 1:14-15). God chose John for this wonderful task, and also told him how he would recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Notice, as the apostle John cotinues his writing: The next day John (the Baptist) seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, after me cometh a Man which is preferred before me; for He was before me. And I knew Him not; but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaineth on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost (Vss. 29-33). Not only did John the baptizer identify Jesus as the Son of God, but God, Himself, spoke directly to those that witnessed the baptism of Jesus on that day. In the gospel revealed to Matthew, these words of God are written: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, this is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (See Matt. 3:16-17, also see Mark 1:10-11, and Luke 3:22).
Much could be written about Jesus' life on earth; His birth, childhood, adult life, and, in particular, His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension back into heaven. However, this lesson is directed toward God's Plan of Salvationthat is available to all mankind. As noted above, John the baptizer, and more importently, God, Himself, identified Jesus Christ as His Son. Here is the indisputable connection with Jesus and salvation. Speaking to the Jewish leaders, notice what the apostle Peter says about Jesus: Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the Stone, which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the Head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:10-12). Do we truly believe God's word? If so, then we must, without reservation, believe that eternal salvation is found only in Jesus Christ.
To the church at Colosse, Paul wrote this about Jesus: For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the Head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead; and in all things He might have preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven (Col. 1:16-20). If salvation is in Jesus Christ, where do we find Him today? We know that He ascended into heaven, but clearly, Paul gives us another answer. Today, Jesus is also, Head of the body, the church.
What is the importance of the church, the body of Christ, to God's Plan of Salvation? From the words of Christ, Himself, we know that the church had not been established during His lifetime on earth. We also know that the church belongs to Jesus. Of Jesus, Peter made this confession: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16a). Now notice what Jesus said regarding Peter's confession: ...upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Vs. 18b). Notice, also, one of Jesus' final instructions to His apostles while He was still here on earth, which is commonly known as "The Great Commission." Jesus said to them: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matt. 28:19-20).
Now look forward to the Day of Pentecost that followed the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus into heaven. In chapter two of the book of Acts of the Apostles, Luke records the Holy Spirit-inspired sermon that Peter, and all of the other apostles, delivered to those gathered on this Jewish holy day. In the closing verse we find this inspired statement that was made following the apostles' message: And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:47b).
Having been taught by the apostles' sermon that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, their Jewish audience, on the Day of Pentecost, asked this question of the apostles: Men and brethren, what shall we do (to be saved)?And this was the inspired answer of the apostles: Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Three thousand souls responded to this invitation, were baptized, and were, that same day ...added unto them (the church), (See Acts 2:36-41). From these few passages of God's Holy Word, we know assuredly that eternal salvation is found in Jesus Christ, and through obedience to His will, God adds the saved to the church, the body of Christ, over which He is Head. From this we know that those added to His church on that day were the same as those that were saved. From this we also know that baptism was the final act of obedience required before these faithful believers were added, by God, to the body of Christ, which was His church.
Salvation has been made available by God through His Son, Jesus Christ, and our obedience, or conversion, to His will is necessary in order to be added to His church, and attain the hope of eternal salvation. In order to completely understand this soul-saving process required by God, we need only to study the various instances found in the Holy Spirit-inspired New Testament records of the conversions of men and women, that through obedience to the gospel message of Christ and His apostles, were added to His church. The recording of these conversions were written for our learning - to teach us what God requires of us to become His children, to become His followers, to become Christians, and, one day, to enjoy a home in heaven with the saved of all ages. With full knowledge of these examples, we can truly know God's will. By submitting ourselves to the same obedient actions demonstratedby these first century Christians, we can be assured the same hope of salvation received by the three thousand souls on the Day of Pentecost - those that accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, were baptized for the remission of their sins, and were added, by God, to Christ's body, the church of Christ.
The first three thousand Christians converts on the Day of Pentecost (See Acts 2)
As the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles begins, it was the fiftieth day after the Jewish Passover, which was the Day of Pentecost. The twelve apostles, which now included Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot, were gathered together. (T)hey were all with one accord in one place (Vs. 1). The Holy Spirit descended on each of them, and filled them with the inspired word of God. Although they were Galileans (Vs. 7), they were given the ability to speak with other tongues (Vs. 4). That is, they were able to speak in all languages necessary to communicate the inspired message of God's Plan of Salvationto all that were gathered in Jerusalem on that day of celebration.Those present came out of every nation under heaven (Vs. 5). (E)very man heard them speak in his own language (Vs. 6). The miraculous nature of this event caused those gathered in Jerusalem from all nations of the world to ask, What meaneth this (Vs. 12)?Some even accused the apostles of being in a drunken state (Vs. 13)
Then Peter, standing up with the eleven (other apostles), began preaching the first gospel message of eternal life, which was planned by God from the beginning of time, and offered to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ. To all, on that special day, that were gathered before the apostles - to all those that knew not Jesus as the Messiah, to all thereafter, and to all skeptics even until today, that refuse to obey God's will and accept Jesus as their Savior, Peter began his sermon by saying, harken unto my words (Vs. 14). After proving that the apostles were not drunken, Peter quotes the prophet Joel (Vs. 16, See Joel 2:28-32), saying, and it shall come to pass in the last days (Vs. 17). It was in these last days, the period that followed the Patriarchal Age and the Jewish Dispensation, that God promised to reveal His plan of salvation. The writer of the Hebrew letter confirms this message delivered by the apostles with these words: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better that the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they (Heb. 1:1-4).
This was the theme as Peter began his sermon, as inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. He continued this same theme in his epistle to the Christians in Asia Minor, by writing: For as much as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who varily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God (1 Peter 1:18-21).
From the beginning of the apostles' sermon on the Day of Pentecost, from the epistle to the Hebrew Christians, and from Peter's writing to those in Asia Minor, we know these truths about God's Plan of Salvation. It was foreordained before the foundation of the world; it required the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a lamb without blemish and without spot; ...the precious blood of Christ was essential for it to become effective, purge our sins, and reconcile us to God; it requires one to believe in God, and that He raised Him (Jesus Christ) up from the dead, and gave Him glory, in order that your faith and hope might be in God. These thoughts are expressed again in Peter's epistle were he wrote: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and udefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).
Immediately prior to the sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was sent by God to pour out, upon the apostles, that is, to spiritually fill their minds with all knowledge necessary for them to teach and confirm God's message of salvation to the world. Not only were the apostles given the word of God, but, through the Holy Spirit, they were given miraculous powers to preach and confirm God's plan of salvation, and, by the laying on of their hands, impart the same powers to other devoted ministers of Christ in the first century. And this was the messsage each apostle delivered: Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21).
Does this passage that Peter quoted from the prophet Joel mean all that vocally call on God for salvation will, indeed, be saved for eternity? The answer is, No! Jesus, Himself told us this when He said: Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven (Matt. 7:21). The apostle Paul gives us the correct meaning to this statement. To Christians at Rome, and to all of us today, Paul tells us, For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed, and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher. (Rom. 10:13-14)? Before anyone can call on the name of the Lord for salvation, one must be able to search God's word for the tenets of salvation, or have a scripturally devoted preacher or teacher to explain it to their understanding. One must hear and understand God's word; one must believe it to the extent that it brings about obedience. As we shall discuss later, obedience involves a number of duties that must be carried out as God requires, before the hope of salvation is theirs.
Peter then continues by reminding the Jewish multitude of Jesus, whom they knew as a man of God, but not as the Messiah, the Savior of the world. He preached, Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know (Vs. 22). He continued to tell them that Jesus was, by wicked hands, ...crucified and slain, but was raised from the dead by the power of God, because it was not possible that He should be holden of it, that is, to be held captive by death. Death came to mankind because sin entered the world through the temptations of Satan. For the salvation of mankind to take place, the power of death had to be overcome. The writer of the Hebrew letter confirms this. He wrote of Jesus: that through death, He (Christ Jesus) might destroy him (Satan) that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Heb. 2:14b-15). The resurrection of Jesus Christ from death, once and for all time, set mankind free from the bondage of death. The physical body of all people will perish, but by the resurrection of Jesus from death, we know that our souls will also live forever.
As the sermon on the Day of Pentecost continues, Peter quotes the patriarch David's writing as it was recorded in Psalm 16:8-11. Although the quotation, found in Acts 2:25-28, is not word for word, it carries its complete meaning. By inspiration, David forsaw the coming of the Messiah - I forsaw the Lord always before my face, for He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved (Vs. 25). David did not fear death, rather it made his heart rejoice, and he was made glad.Even in death, he knew he would rest in hope. With the coming of the Son of God, David knew that Jesus Christ would conquer death, and would not leave (his) soul in hell. By inspiration, David was overjoyed because the ways of life, the eternal life of the soul was made known to me.
To the Jewish people assembled on the Day of Pentecost, the apostles reminded them of events in their history when they all had, probably, committed to memory the fact that the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day (Vs. 29). It was from the lineage of David that God promised that He would raise up Christ to sit on His throne (Vs. 30). It was this same Savior, Jesus Christ, that died, having been crucified on the cross of Calvary, was buried, and whom God (hath) raised up, whereof we are all witnesses (Vs. 32).
Peter quoted King David, the most revered person in the history of the Jewish nation, who confirmed the death, burial, and resurrection of the promised Seed of David, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Coming from His grave, Jesus assured the resurrection of the soul of mankind. No doubt this had a soul-saving effect on some in the audiences, as the apostles delivered God's message of salvation on the Day of Pentecost. The apostle's inspired sermon closed with this message to all present: Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ (Vs. 36).
The result of the apostles' preaching on the Day of Pentecost was that many in the audience were pricked in their heart, and asked this question: men and brethren, what shall I do (Vs. 37)? Peter, and the other apostles replied in this manner, which was a statement describing the concluding acts of obedience that give one the hope of salvation - it is the same statement of obedience that is delivered to every person having an open and receptive heart, who are sincerely searching for the Savior of mankind, Jesus Christ. The statement is, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Vs. 38).
Having heard and believed God's plan of salvation, through Christ Jesus, those seeking eternal life were told by the apostles to repent. The act of true repentance is the deep sorrow one has for all sins they have committed against God. And, along with it, the willingness to turn away from such acts in the future. One must recognize that God hates sin; that sinfulness separates one from God, and must be put away in true repentance, in order to be reconciled to God. True repentance goes beyond just hating the consequences of sin. True repentance requires one to hate sin to the extent that God hates sin; to turn from sin and to a life of righteousness. Genuine repentance cannot be in part, but must be in whole. It requires that we completely surrender our selfish, sinful will, and totally accept the charitable, holy will of God as our own.
In this particular portion of the apostles' sermon, all in attendance were told, not only to repent, but they were told to be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Baptism is then required for eternal salvation. Just as John, in the river Jordan, baptized Jesus; just as He went down into the water, was buried under the water, and then went up straightway out of the water (See Matt. 3:16), so it was required of those on the Day of Pentecost. This act fulfills Jesus' instruction to His apostles as recorded in Matthew 28:19-20, and Mark 16:15-16. Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Vs. 38), is the act that consecrates one to God and to the cause of Jesus Christ. This act is the public acknowledgement that professes Jesus Christ as one's personal Savior, the Son of God, sent to redeem mankind from their state of sinfulness. In order to obtain the hope of salvation, baptism is required by the gospel message of God, and by Jesus Christ. There is no individual tenet, creed, or "religious" order that can alter or remove the acts of repentance and baptism from God's Plan of Salvation. These acts are never to be denied from anyone seeking salvation in Christ Jesus.
Although the sermon on the Day of Pentecost contained many other words of testimony and exhortation, the Jewish audience was encouraged to save yourselves from this untoward generation (Vs. 40). The response was astounding. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:41-42). With these acts of obedience, whether specifically enumerated or implied, three thousand souls were added unto them. Reading further we understand "them" refers to the individuals that comprise the body of Christ, His church. Those that responded obediently to the invitation of the apostles' sermon on the Day of Pentecost, did not join the church of Jesus Christ, they were not voted into His church, nor were they ushered into it in any plan devised by mankind. Rather, they were added to the church of Christ in the way God planned from the beginning of the world. By submitting themselves to the order of obedience which God commanded, the Lord added to the church daily such as should saved (Vs. 47). This example of conversion truely establishes that God's way is the only way to the hope of eternal salvation. It is found only by repenting of one's past sins, being baptized for the remission of sins, and being added, by God, to the chruch of Christ. There is no other way!
From the teaching of the apostle Paul, we know that each and every person that, through obedience, becomes a Christian. However, the increase to the church of Christ comes from God and not from any earthly being, assembly, or man-made organization (See 1 Cor. 3:6-7). The duty of each preacher, teacher, and every Christian is to teach the word of God, as it was taught on the Day of Pentecost, and God will give the increase to Christ's church. This we know, that Christians today will be the result of the same pure message from God that was taught by the apostles of Christ on the day of Pentecost, in A.D. 33. Following the conversion of three thousand souls to Christ Jesus on that day, consider these additional conversions, from sinners to Christian saints that are also found in The Acts of the Apostles.
The conversation of Simon and other Samaritans (Acts 8:5-13)
Philip was one of the disciples chosen for special services by the apostles, and on whom they imparted spiritual blessings and powers (See Acts 6:1-7). God's word tells us that this same Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them (Vs. 1). The people there heard those things which Philip spake, and witnessed the miracles, which he did (Vs. 2). These miracles confirmed his teaching as being Holy Spirit-inspired, and coming from God. Verse 12 tells us that ...when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Continuing in verse 13, we find that ...Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs, which were done. Philip taught them all things that were necessary for them to become converted, that is to become Christians, and members of God's family. Some of the things - those acts of obedience necessary to become a Christian, are specifically mentioned here. They gave heed (Vs. 6), that is, they heard and understood the word of God which Philip preached unto them, and they believed the message. Following this, both men and women,were baptized and added to the body of Christ. In this conversion, we find that hearing God's word, believing it to be true, and being baptized for the remission of their sins, are all tenets found in God's Plan of Salvation.
The conversion of the Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40
God used an an angel to tell Philip to go toward the south ...down from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is the desert (Vs. 26). The reason for this godly mission was to meet with, and give spiritual guidance to a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians (Vs. 27). As Philip caught up with the eunuch, who was riding in a chariot, Philip heard him read the prophet Isaiah (Vs. 30). Unable to completely understand the meaning of what he was reading, the eunuch asked Philip to come up and sit with him (Vs. 31), and explain the meaning of the passage. The place of the scripture which he read was this (From Isaiah 53:7-8), He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened He not His mouth; in His humiliation, His judgment was taken away; and who shall declare His generation, for His life is taken from the earth (Acts 8:32-33).
It was about this passage that the eunuch asked Philip, of whom speaketh the prophet this (Vs. 34)?Knowing this to be Isaiah's prophesy of Jesus Christ giving Himself as the sacrificial lamb for the sins of the world, Philip began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.The actual words spoken by Philip, to teach the eunuch God's message of salvation, are not recorded. But this we know: it was complete and sufficient enough to teach him what God required of him to become a Christian, and enjoy the hope of salvation. We know that Philip's teaching included baptism because, after listening to Philip's message, and as they passed a certain water ...the eunuch said, see here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized (Vs. 36). We learn that something was still lacking in his obedience necessary for conversion to Christ. It was his believing confession that Jesus Christ was the promised Savior and the Son of God, to comfirm the eunuch's faith. When asked by Philip to make this confession, the eunuch affirmed it by stating that I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Vs. 37).
Upon that confession, they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. Thus, the preaching of the gospel of Christ, and the obedience to the will of God, resulted in another person finding the hope of salvation by being added to the body of Christ by the Lord. In this conversion, we find the obedient acts required to become a Christian included hearing God's message of salvation, believing it to be true, confessing Jesus to be the Son of God, and being baptized for the remission of sins. All were required in God's Plan of Salvation.
The conversation of Saul (Paul) (Acts 9:1-18)
In our study of God's Holy Word, we first find the young man Saul witnessing, and consenting to the stoning death of the disciple of Christ named Stephen. Saul was personally instrumental in a great persecution against the church, which was at Jerusalem. (H)e made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling (Christian) men and women, committed them to prison (See Acts 7:58-8:3).
Later, with letters of authority issued to him from the Jewish high priest, Saul was traveling on the road to Damascus to continue his persecution of the church of Christ. As he neared Damascus, there shined round about him a light from heaven (Acts 9:3). Realizing the light held a spiritual significance, Saul fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecuteat thou Me (Vs. 4)? When Saul questioned the speaker, the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (Vs. 5). Realizing he was in the presence of the Son of God, Saul, without hesitation asked, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? To which Jesus said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do (Vs. 6). Evidently blinded by the light from heaven, Saul arose from the earth and was led, by those accompanying him, into Damascus where he waited for three days, neither having anything to eat or to drink (Vss. 8-9).
Verses 10 through 18 tell of a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias, who was chosen by Jesus for a special purpose in the conversion of Saul. He was told by the Lord to go and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus. At the same time, while at this house, Saul was praying and saw in a vision a man named Ananias that was to come to him. After coming to Saul, Ananias put his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Having heard about the persecution of the church by Saul, Ananias was hesitant to go to him as instructed. But the Lord convinced Ananias to do so by telling him that Saul was a chosen vessel ...to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. Ananias then obeyed. He went to, and entered the house of Judas, put his hands on Saul, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately Saul received his sight, arose, and was baptized. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He was the Son of God (Vs. 20).
Yes, the hand of God, and our Lord, Jesus Christ, had a very significant part in the conversion of Saul. However, he followed the example of those converted on the Day of Pentecost. He, as did they, after hearing the gospel message of Christ, believed Jesus to be the promised Savior, and the Son of God, was baptized for the remission of his sins, and became a member of the body of Christ, His church. For some debatable reason, it was from that moment in his life that Saul renounced his given Jewish name and began to use, and was referred to, by his Roman name, Paul.
The conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10)
The conversion of Cornelius is extremely important to Christianity, because, prior to this time, the gospel of Christ had been preached exclusively to the Jewish nation. As far as we know, Cornelius became the first Gentile to be converted to Christianity. Both Jews and Gentiles were referred to by our Lord when He commissioned the apostles to go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15b). However, before doing so, they were to tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49b). We are assured that Cornelius and his family were selectively chosen by God to establish His will of including all (people of ) the world in His plan of salvation. Acts 11:1 tells us that the apostles and brethren that were in Judea, knew Cornelius and his family to be Gentiles.
The first two verses of this chaper describe Cornelius as a very godly, Gentile, family man. There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always (Acts 10:1-2). He and his family lived in Caesarea, a city built by Harod the Great along the coast of the Mediterranean (Great) Sea. It was the city of residence for the Herodian kings and other Roman officials. After the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, it was the city in which Philip came to reside. Cornelius was a centurion - a Roman army commander of one hundred soldiers, attached to an army unit known as the Italian band. With the exception of being a Gentile, no one within the first-century church of Christ could find fault with him. This made him and his family ideal candidates for confirming God's will to extend the hope of eternal salvation to all people of the world.
In a vision, Cornelius was instructed by God, through an angel, to send men to Joppa for Simon Peter and he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do (Vs. 6). The next day, as the men traveled toward Joppa, Peter also had a vision in which he fell into a trance, and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time (saying), what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice; and the vessel was received up again into heaven (Vss. 11-16).
In his mind, Peter was unable to interpret this vision immediately after it happened. As he thought on the vision, the (Holy) Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise, therefore, and get thee down (from the housetop) and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them (Vss. 19-20). Doing so, Peter met the men. He was told that Cornelius had sent them and, as instructed by an angel of God, to request Peter to come to him. Peter was told that Cornelius would hear words of thee (See Vss. 21-22). The next day, Peter and other brethren from Joppa departed, and came to Caesarea. On the day following, when they had met, Cornelius told Peter about the vision he had seen and the fact that he was told to send for Peter (Vss. 24-32). Finally, to Peter, Cornelius said, Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God (Vs. 33b).
Peter begins his message by saying, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him (Vs. 34b-35). Without a doubt, this was the message Peter gained from the vision he had seen as he prayed on the housetop. God perceives all people of the earth as equal, regardless of their race, color, sex, age, status of life, wealth, power, influence, or family. There is no distinction; all are equal in the eyes of God. The greatest blessing ever bestowed on mankind, that of the hope of eternal salvation, God offers to all. Specifically, Jewish heritage does not give assurance, nor does Gentile heritage deny, this blessing from God. The apostle Paul, the one specifically sent to bring the gospel of Christ to the Gentile world, confirms that God is no respecter of persons (See Rom. 2:11, Eph. 6:9, and Col. 3:25). Notice this very important Christian tenet - equality in the eyes of God does not mean salvation is assured to all, but is available to allthat accept it through obedience to His will. This is the meaning as Peter continued his message saying, in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is acceped with Him (Vs. 35).
Peter then recites in their hearing the life, death, burial, and resurrection of God's Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. This was the message Peter, and all other apostles, including the apostle Paul, was given by inspiration to preach to the world, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins (Vs. 43b). Forgiveness of sins is required for salvation, and this remission comes only to those that believe in Him, and by inference, only to those whose belief results in obedience to all of the acts, found in God's Holy Word, that reconcile sinful mankind with our righteous God, who, after baptism for the remission of sins, adds them to His church, the body of Christ.
The results of Peter's inspired message are found in the remaining verses of this chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. As the sermon closed, the Holy Spirit, as it had done with the apostles, miraculously descended upon those Gentiles enabling them to speak in tongues they had never before known. Thus, by this miracle, God confirmed the Gentiles as righteous candidates to be baptized for the remission of their sins, be added by God to His church, and become heirs of the kingdom of His dear Son, just as those converted to Christianity that were of Jewish heritage. This act, which was witnessed by the circumcision which believed (those converted Jews that had accompanied Peter on this mission), suggests that they were cleansed (made fit) by God, therefore no one could call them common (unfit). Peter then posed this rhetorical question: Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptised, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we (Vs. 47)? After this, Peter, being assured that this was the will of God, commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Vs. 48).
Peter then went to Jerusalem, met with the other apostles and brethren there, and explained the conversion of Cornelius to them (Acts 11:1-17). When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
A great number of others coverted at Antioch (Acts 11:19-21)
Other that the fact that this conversion took place, we know very little about this wonderful event in Antioch. We do know that the preaching of God's word was scattered abroad, because of the persecution of the church after the death of Stephen, as far as Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch. And when disciples of Christ came preaching the Lord Jesus, ...a great number believed, and turned to the Lord.
The conversion of Lydia and her household (Acts 16:11-15)
On his second missionary journey, Paul, accompanied by Silas, passed through many cities in the regions of Galatia and Asia Minor. In the area around Derbe and Lystra, they met a young disciple named Timothy, who also accompanied them in their mission (See Acts 16:1-3). Preaching the gospel of Christ in every city they entered, Luke records that churches (were) established in the faith, and increased in number daily (Vs. 5). While at Troas, Paul had a vision in which he saw a man of Macedonia ...saying, come over into Macedonia, and help us. From this Paul immediately knew that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them (See Vss. 9-10).
They left Troas and sailed past the island of Samothracia to the Macedonian city of Neapolis, and then on to Philippi, the chief city of that part of Macedonia (Vss. 11-12). In many cities, towns, and villages throughout areas in southeastern Europe and Asia Minor, where there was no place of worship, people would often gather in open areas of convenience to worship and pray to God. Such was the case in Philippi. On the Sabbath day, Paul came to an area by a riverside, were prayer was wont to be made, and spoke to women that had gathered there (Vs. 13). Among those present was Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira (of Asia Minor). With an open and receptive heart, she heard the things, which were spoken of Paul (Vs. 14). No doubt, Paul spoke about all the acts of obedience necessary to be added to the body of Christ, because at the conclusion of his sermon, Lydia, and her household obeyed God's will and were baptized for the remission of their sins, and were added, by God, to the church of Christ.
The conversion of the Philippian jailer and his household (Acts 16:25-34)
In Acts 16:19-24, we find Paul and Silas being arrested by the magistrates of Philippi, saying, these men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city. They were accused of teaching customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. The city rulers tore their clothes off, commanded to beat them, (and) cast them into prison. They were turned over to the jailer who imprisoned them and made their feet fast in the stocks.
At midnight, while in prison, Paul and Silas sang praises unto God (Vs. 25). Then suddenly an earthquake occurred that shook the foundations of the prison and caused all of the prison doors to open, and everyone's bands were loosed (Vs. 26). The jailer was so sure that the prisoners would escape, he drew out his sword, preparing to take his own life (Vs. 27). It is well documented that Roman law held jailers responsible for keeping prisoners secured, and their escape would subject the jailer to very severe punishment by the government authorities. In instances such as this, it was not uncommon for jailers to take their own lives.
The Philippian jailer would have probably taken his life had not Paul assured him that none of the prisoners had escaped. It is evident that the jailer was in awe, because the prisoners could have easily escaped. However, all remained and were accounted for. In spiritual reverence, the jailer fell down at the feet of Paul and Silas and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Their answer was, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house (Vs. 31). It was evident that simply telling someone to believe in Jesus Christ is not sufficient to bring salvation. Why? Because, Paul and Silas continued to speak unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. They were taught everything necessary to be saved - the complete will of God regarding salvation. Immediately the jailer, and his household were taken by Paul and Silas and were baptized for the remission of their sins, and added to thee body of Christ, His church. After baptism, and as they ate together, the jailer rejoiced, believing in God with all his house (Vs. 34).
The conversion of the twelve Ephesians (Acts 19:1-7)
It was Isaiah's prophesy that foretold the inspired mission of John the baptizer (Isa. 40:3). Both Matthew (Matt. 3) and Mark (Mark 1:1-12) tell of the fulfillment of this prophesy. However, Luke gives much a more detail account of the miraculous birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-80), and the fulfilling of his mission (Luke 3:1-22). Luke wrote this of John:And he came into all the country around Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Luke 3:3). Referring to the prophet, Isaiah, Luke said John's mission was to Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight (Vs. 4). Multitudes began coming to John to be baptized. When the people came, he preached to them that they should bring forth, therefore, fruits worthy of repentance (Vs. 8), and exhorted them to be charitable to those in need (Vs. 11). Publicans (tax collectors) also came, were baptized, and were told to exact (demand and collect) no more (taxes) than that which is appointed you (Vss. 12-13). Soldiers came to be baptized, and were told to do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. Many that came thought John was the Christ (Vs. 15). However, John denied this by saying: I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and will gather the wheat into His garner; but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable (Luke 3:16b-17).
No doubt there were multitudes of people that received John's baptism for the remission of sins, and also heard other specific exonerations. Many of these were found in the city of Ephesus that were either baptized by John, himself, or by his disciple, Apollos. They were unaware that Christ had come, of whom John had preached, in whose baptism one would be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul preached to them that Jesus Christ had indeed come, and that they should believe on Him which should come after him (John), that is, on Christ Jesus. Upon hearing and believing Paul's inspired message, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve (Acts 19:5b-7).
The recorded conversions to Christianity are completed
There are possibly other instances that could be cited that inferred conversions to Christianity had taken place. And no doubt on many other unrecorded occasions the word of God was preached by the apostles and other inspired disciples of Christ, which resulted in many believing in, and accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior, and were added, by God, to the church of Christ.
This we know for sure: our Creator, the God of heaven, as well as His Son, Jesus Christ, formed the plan of eternal salvation before mankind was ever created. In the Christian dispensation of time, that salvation had been revealed and made available to all that accep,t and obey, the acts ofobedience God requires to receive it. It is the will of God that all mankind be saved. These two scriptures assure us of this. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3-4). The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
The conclusion to inheriting God's Plan of Salvation
We know that it is God's will, as well as the will of Christ, that all men and women of the world would come to repentance and be saved eternally. What each of us needs to ask ourselves is the exact question asked by the Jews after hearing the sermon delivered by Peter and the other apostles on the Day of Pentecost: Men and brethren, what shall we do (Acts 2:37)? It was the same question the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas: what must I do to be saved (Acts 16:30b)? Rereading the examples of conversion noted above, we will observe that not all acts of obedience are recorded in every example of convesion. In some instances, certain acts were specifically mentioned while others were only implied. It seems that in each conversion, the message recorded, for our learning, began at the place that was appropriate for the one being converted. Some had already heard God's word being taught, therefore it was not necessary to mention it in every instance. As the various conversions were recorded, some had already heard and believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and had already confirmed that fact with their confession. This we know: those that were searching for God's promised pathway to eternal salvation, were guided by Holy Spirit-inspired men, and were told exactly what was lacking in their process of obedience to the will of God. As we refer back to those recorded conversions, the acts of obedience that were required by God are evident. From these inspired messages from God, He tells you and I, as well as the entire world, exactly what is necessary to be saved, and to be added to His church, the church of Christ.
The first thing we find that is necessary is to Hear the Word of God! Near the beginning of the apostles' sermon on the Day of Pentecost, they preached this message: all that seek the Lord shall be saved. In order to do that, the following verse indicated that they had not heard all that was needed to know about Jesus Christ as the promised Savior, because they taught, Ye men of Israel, hear these words... (From Acts 2:21-22). It was also evident that they had not heard God's word sufficiently to know how to respond to God's invitation to His plan of salvation. Notice what is recorded in Acts 2:37: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart. Although they had heard that salvation was through Jesus Christ, there were still other acts of obedience that were needed. We know this because they said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do (From Acts 2:37)? In Acts 4:4, we read that many of them, which heard the word believed. Notice the response to Paul's preaching at Ephesus: the result was that when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of Lord Jesus (Acts 19:5).
God's Holy Word contains all that is necessary for one to inherit eternal salvation. The apostle Paul told the young disciple, Timothy, that all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The fact that God's word is available is not sufficient for salvation. It must be heard, understood, believed, and obeyed. Notice the sequence of events necessary for salvation as recorded in Paul's letter to the Christians at Rome. To be saved, one must believe Jesus Christ; to believe, one must hear God's plan of salvation; to hear God's word, one must gain knowledge of God's will by being self-taught, or taught by someone with sufficient understanding to direct them. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not heard? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher (Rom. 10:13-14). To hear God's word is essential to salvation!
Secondly, it is necessary to Believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the World! Referring back to the conversions noted above, we find that the Samaritans, as well as one named Simon, believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ. Before being baptized into the body of Christ, the Ethiopian eunuch confessed to Philip, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Also,a great number at Antioch believed, and turned to the Lord. The Philippian jailer was told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. The twelve Ephesians believed on Him which should come after him (John), that is, on Christ Jesus.
Jesus, Himself, taught, That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not parish, but have everlasting life (John 3:15-16). To believe the will of God and believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and Savior of the world, is certainly necessary for eternal salvation.
Following hearing and believingGod to be the Author of eternal salvation that was brought into the world through His Son, Christ Jess, one must also Repent of all Sin! This act of obedience is necessary before one becomes a child of God and obtains the hope of eternal salvation. This is exactly what Peter, and the other apostles taught the Jewish multitudes on the Day of Pentecost. All were told to Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts2:38). The world is filled with sin. To become a child of God, one must turn from the worldliness of sin and walk in righteousness. Past sins must be acknowledged, repented of, and forgiven in order for sinful mankind to be reconciled to our righteous God. This reconciliation must take place before God will add you to the body of Christ, His church. On another occasion, Peter taught the Jewish multitudes, Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19). As Paul preached on Mars' Hill, he told the Athenians that God winked at man's ignorance in the past, but now commandeth all men every where to repent (Acts 17:30). Repentance is necessary for salvation!
Notice the importance Jesus placed on this required act of obedience - that of Confession. Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33). To the church at Rome, Paul cofirms this very important act of obedience. He said in his letter to them, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:9-10). Can anyone doubt the necessity of the confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world?
The last act of initial obedience required by God in order to obtain the hope of eternal salvation is that one must be Baptized for the remission of sins! Baptism is taught in numerous New Testament scriptures. Throughout the world, there are many individuals and religious organizations that deny baptism is necessary for salvation. However, it is extremely important, not only because it is required in the word of God, but also it is necessary because of what it represents. Paul tells us how baptism is significant in his letter to the Christians at Rome. Although a somewhat lengthy quotation, please consider its teaching. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead if freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:3-11). Baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Today, Jesus Christ is the head of the body, the church. He is also the firstborn from the dead (See Col. 1:18). We, too, must be born again by submitting to all the acts of obedience, which culminates with the act of baptism for the remission of sins, in order to be added, by God, to His body, the church of Christ. To Nicodemus, a man of the Pharisees, Jesus explained the necessity of being born again through baptism. Jesus told him, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (See John 3:1-7). Paul, in no uncertain terms, confirmed the necessity of baptism by referring to his own conversion when, in Damascus, Ananias told him to arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). This Paul obeyed when he arose and was baptized (Acts 9:18). Indeed, the act of baptism is essential in God's Plan of Salvation!
With assurance, we can safely say that, from the examples of conversion noted above, and from the New Testament scriptures, which confirm them, that all men and women seeking eternal salvation offer by God through His Son, Jesus Christ, accepted, believed, and obeyed these initial acts of obedience required by God: Hear the word of God, Believe the word of God which tells us that Jesus Christ is His Son, and the promised Savior of the world, Repent and turn away from all past sins, Confess Jesus as the Savior, the Son of God, and Be Baptized into the body of Christ for the remission of all sins.
If one sincerely commits to, and performs, these acts of obedience that we find in the Word of God, will they be assured of a home in heaven after life on earth is over? The answer is no, but they will be given The Hope of Eternal Salvation. Without submitting to these initial acts of obedience, there is no hope. Why? Because we find no example, in God's word, of salvation being extended to anyone outside the body of Christ since His church came into existance on the Day of Pentecost. That being true, and if one is a member of His church, is eternal life assured? Again, the answer is no. Why? It is because there is one other requirement for eternal salvation, according to God's word.
From this study of God's word, this we know for certain. All men and women of the world that are saved, that is, enjoy the hope of eternal salvation, have obeyed the acts necessary for salvation, and have been added to His church by God. When one becomes a Christian, the road to eternal salvation is just beginning. One must faithfully continue to travel along the road of obedience to God's will for the remaider of their life. And when there is sinful erring along the way, that is, if the temptations of sin causes one to stumble, it is necessary to earnestly, and prayerfully, seeks God's forgiveness, which is offered to each Christian through the soul-cleansing power of the blood that Christ Jesus shed on the cross of Calvary. We must, then, continue down the narrow pathway of life that eventually leads to eternal life in heaven. God requires faithfulness; He requires the Christian to continue to live a life of righteousness, laboring for Him, assuring Him of our love for Him by demonstrating our love for our fellow man through works of righteousness. God, in His revelation to the apostle John said, be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life (Rev. 2:10). Our faith in God cannot stop when one becomes a Christian. It must continue throughout one's life on earth; it must never become stagnant; it must be demonstrated by good works, for we know that faith without works is dead (James 2:20&26).
The apostle Paul sums up the entire process of man's life, death, and hope of eternal salvation in his letter to the Christians within the body of Christ in Corinth. He wrote: Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:50-57).
Here, Paul tells us that flesh and blood, that is to say, our physical bodies, which we wear here on earth, cannot inherit the kingdom of God (heaven). When the last ...trumpet shall sound, on Judgment Day, the bodies of those that are alive, as well as those deceased, will be changed. (I)n a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,(spontaneously, or immediately), the earthly body that is corruptible (subject to decay), will be changed into a body that is incorruptible and immortal - a body that will last for eternity - a body that will be suitable for eternal life in heaven. Heaven awaits those that, while on earth, find victory over the sins of this world. Victory over death, and the power of Satan, is available only through our Lord Jesus Christ. Victory is only available to Christians that make up the body of Christ, His church. However, Paul qualifies this hope of salvation by saying that we, as brethren in the body of Christ must be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (Vs. 58). It takes determined, unchangeable effort that is filled with a labor of love for God,, and which is demonstrated by our love for all of our fellow human beings. Continuing in verse 58, Paul writes that in doing so, ...ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. This is God's asssurance that eternal life in heaven awaits all faithful men and women that make up His faithful family - those that have been obedient to His will, and submitted to the commandments that He requires to be added to His church, the church of Christ.
Eternal salvation is reserved for all those that obey God's will; all that become a Christian and a follower of Christ Jesus; all that God has added to His church. From the examples of conversions to Christianity noted above, we know what God commands, and this we must do: 1. Hear the word of God, 2. Believe God's word and Jesus as His Son, 3. Repent of all past sins, 4. Confess Jesus to be the Son of God, and Savior of the world, 5. Be Baptized into the body of Christ for the remissions of all sins, and 6. Continue to live a faithful life, obedient to the will of God.
Having reviewed and studied all the conversions to Christ Jesus found in the Acts of the Apostles, and knowing that our hope of eternal life in heaven depends on our obedience to God's will, here is a question we should ask ourselves: Which of these acts of obedience would you feel comfortable in changing or leaving out? Will the faith that you demonstrate through belief in Christ Jesus be sufficient? Will the fact that you heard the gospel of Christ preached in your presence be enough? Will the remorse of sin that led you to godly sorrow insure salvation? Without the other acts of obedience, will your submission to baptism give you the assurance of a home in heaven? Having done all the acts of obedience required to become a Christian, will God claim you as His own on Judgment Day if you fail to continue a life of obedience to God's will, and allow your faith to be demonstrated in good works?
With the hope of eternal life in heaven hanging in balance, you can truthfully say every act of obedience found in this study is necessary. All are found in God's inspired word, and, by Him, all are required in order to inherit a home in heaven after life here on earth. These are the examples of conversion found in God's word. His word is sufficient; we are never to compromise it; we are commanded that no one must ever add to or take away from His Holy Word (See Rev. 22:18-19). It is by His word - by all of His commandments, that we will be judged.
This is God's Plan of Salvation!