There were two men in Mississippi who were traveling to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and they both stopped and asked for directions. One of the men was told to drive to Highway 82 and turn left. He was told this would lead him to Tuscaloosa. The other man was told to drive to Highway 82 and take a right. He too would be headed to Tuscaloosa. Now before you say one of the men was given false directions, think about it. They both were given accurate directions. The two men were on opposite sides of Highway 82, one traveling from the North and one from the South. This is a rather silly story that illustrates a very simple truth. The directions depend on where one is coming from initially.
This little exercise allows us to illustrate a spiritual idea with eternal consequences. In the Bible the question is asked many times, “What shall I do to be saved?” Rarely are the answers to this question the same. Let us consider two examples.
In Acts 16:30-31, in answer to the Philippian jailer’s question, Paul said “Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” But when we consider Acts 2:37-38, the answer is given to repent and be baptized. So is the answer to believe or is the answer to repent and be baptized?
In fact, as we consider what the Bible has to say about actions necessary for salvation we find many answers. Hebrews 11:6 tells me without faith it is impossible to please Him. Romans 10:17 tells me where that faith originates. Luke 13:3 says that repentance is necessary. Jesus said in Matthew 10:32 that we must confess Him before men. 1 Peter 3:21 states that baptism saves us because it is an antitype. This means it is a symbolic act representing the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And according to Revelation 2:10, we must live faithfully unto death.
So what am I to make of all these requirements? Well very simply put, just as our story illustrated, it depends on where I am spiritually when I ask the question. All the requirements are necessary but they may not all be given as a response in every case of the question being posed.
Why can there not be one single answer to the all important question? It is because it depends on the location spiritually of the querist. The answer to the question from one may be different than it is for another. NOT because of different standards but simply because of the present condition of the one asking the question. ALL are required to hear and believe the truth, to repent of their sinful lifestyles, to confess the name of the Savior, to submit to baptism as an act symbolizing the death, burial and resurrection of the LORD, and to then live faithfully for the LORD the remainder of life.
Let us consider the following scriptural scenarios when the one asking the question is:
1. An Unbeliever
3. A believer who must confess
4. Believer who is penitent (has repented)
5. A baptized believer
The Philippian jailer is an example of an unbeliever and the account is found in Acts 16. In verses 30-31, he was told to believe. It was not necessary for him to be told anything further until he believed. This was his first step. It was not the end of his directions. Continue reading through verse 33 to see that he and his household were baptized. Don’t miss the fact that this was after midnight when all of this occurred. If the rest of his directions after faith were unnecessary don’t you think it would have been convenient to wait at least until the light of day for the baptism? Why do you suppose he was not just told “all you have to do is believe on the LORD Jesus?”
Acts 2 is the account of the sermon on the first Pentecost following the ascension of Christ. The response in verses 37-38 is given to a group of hearers of that great sermon who had demonstrated they already believed. So then Peter’s answer was the next steps for them. Repentance and baptism were included in the progression. It is important to note that again belief was not enough. These hearers believed yet verse 40 makes it clear their salvation was still in the future. That salvation occurred in verse 41.
So where is an example of one making a confession? We find this by looking at the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. Beginning in verse 26, the scriptures tell us of his conversion. After Philip had preached Christ to him (verse 35), the eunuch expressed an interest in obeying the gospel. He expressed his confession in verse 37 prior to being immersed.
Saul in Acts 22 is a great example of a penitent believer. As a penitent believer, Saul clearly was a believer and he was ready to change his ways but yet Acts 22:16 notes he still had his sins. Saul later known as Paul was given an answer to his question in verse 16. This account is Paul remembering his conversion that actually occurred in chapter 9. Verse 6 of chapter 9 is where you will find Paul asking our question.
Acts 8 gives us an example of a baptized believer in Simon. Acts 8:13 tells us Simon was baptized. But reading the text on through verse 22 demonstrates that he still had heart issues. Peter tells him in verse 22 that he must repent. This is an example of sinning after conversion. Directions are given him to get back on track by repenting and praying.
We all must be interested in the question “What must I do to be saved?” The Bible gives us clear directions. Those directions depend on where we are as we seek the answer. But the directions will lead us to our destination. We will have all eternity to consider how we respond to the directions.