Though men may ridicule, there are six necessary steps that a man or woman must take to make it to heaven in the end.
Let us notice:
In order to even begin in the right direction, one must hear what God has to say. The Bible says, “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” [(Romans 10:17) see also – Luke 8:11-12; John 5:45-47; 17:20; 20:30-31; Acts 17:11-12; 18:8; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10]. Moreover, we’re told that “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6).
One should be careful how he hears (Luke 8:18a). One should not listen just to pass time, or for entertainment (Ezekiel 33:30-33). He shouldn’t listen just out of habit. He shouldn’t listen merely to criticize such things as: the preacher’s grammar, how he pronounced a word, the number of times he said “a” or “and” and the like. He should not listen (or read) merely to justify a particular activity or doctrine he wishes to defend (1 Kings 22; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12; 2 Peter 3:16). One should listen desiring to know the truth of God’s will. One should listen to apply the word first and foremost to himself.
One should be careful what he hears (Mark 4:23-24a). He needs a discerning ear. What he hears from man should be compared to the scriptures (Acts 17:11). He’s to “prove all things; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thes.5:21). The Bible warns, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 John 4:1). If the message is proved to be God’s word, then it should be received as such (1 Thessalonians 2:13). “The simple believe every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going” (Proverbs 14:15).
Hearing is essential to salvation (1 Timothy 4:16); However, this is not to say that it is the only thing essential to salvation. The instruction is given, “be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). Jesus said, “Whosoever heareth these saying of mine and doeth the, I will liken unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock…” (Matthew 7:24-27).
We cry out as Jeremiah, “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord” (Jeremiah 22:29).
One needs to believe in God (Hebrews 11:6 cf. Psalm 14:1; 53:1).
Without such faith, it is “impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
One needs to believe in Jesus. Jesus said, “Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:23-24). Belief in Jesus is essential to salvation (John 3:16; 20:31). Failure to honor the Son is failure to honor the Father (John 5:23).
One should believe the things Jesus taught. It is by His words that man shall be judged (John 12:48). How can one truly say that he believes in Jesus, yet not accept what He says (Acts 8:5, 12 cf. Mark 16:15-16; Rom. 2:16 cf. John 16:13 cf. 2 Peter 3:15 cf. Galatians 2:9)?
Will mental belief alone save one? Consider the following points: (1) God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). The rest of the chapter tells what it means to diligently seek Him. The chapter does not contain one example of faith only. (2) The wording “faith only” appears just once in all of the New Testament. Man is justified “not by faith only” (James 2:24). (3) John 12:42-43 reads, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” They believed but wouldn’t confess due to cowardice, the desire to be popular, peer pressure. Question: Can one continue to be lacking in confession and be saved? Read Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:10.
Isn’t it true that there are passages which say that if one believes he’ll be saved? Yes, it is true (e.g. Acts 16:31). However, I could also show the same concerning hearing (1 Timothy 4:16), repentance (Acts 11:18), and baptism (1 Peter 3:21). Are all of the passages contradictory? No. All of these are examples of a figure of speech known as synecdoche. Sometimes the part is put for the whole. Hearing can be put for properly hearing, that is hearing, receiving, and doing what is instructed. Repentance can be put for the whole as well for if one truly changes his mind he will do all that he’s to do. Baptism is also put for the whole for it is the culminating point in which God washes away man’s sins; it follows hearing, believing and repentance. Even so, belief is put for the whole at times for one who truly believes will also repent and be baptized.
Do you believe Him enough to do what He says? Do you really believe in Him?
Many regard repentance as “God’s hardest command.” Such is my opinion, as well.
“Repent” means “to change one’s mind or purpose” (Vine’s). T.W. Brents has written, “When used in the New Testament as a command to the alien in order to the remission of sins, it always indicates such as a change of mind as produces a change or reformation of life under circumstances warranting the conclusion that sorrow for the past would or had preceded it. When so used it is invariably a translation of the Greek word metanoio; and when used to indicate sorrow or regret it is always from metamelomai – a different word, though improperly rendered the same in English… regret is a much more fitting representation of metaelomai… (The Gospel Plan of Salvation, p. 188-189).
Genuine repentance is absolutely essential to salvation (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 11:18, etc.). Changing one’s mind and purpose is difficult. It involves…
(1) Recognition of sin (Acts 2:36-38; 3:14-15, 19). Prior to Biblical repentance, the sinner had his sin(s) pointed out to him. A person cannot Biblically repent if he doesn’t understand that what he has done is wrong. One may change behavior for many reasons. However, Biblical repentance is preceded by a recognition of sin.
(2) Regret of remorse. “They were pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37-38). “Godly sorrow worketh repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10). People can change for many reasons; However, Biblical repentance involves a change from the conviction of sin, a broken and contrite spirit. It is not planned. Imagine a man who says, “I’ll rob 3 more banks. Then I’ll have enough. Then I will repent” (meaning stop). Repentance is not planned ahead like this. It flows from a broken heart.
(3) Resolve to change. This resolve is seen in the prodigal son (Luke 15:18). This resolve is seen in the king of Nineveh (Jonah 3:5-9 cf. Matthew 12:41).
(4) Reformation of behavior. Biblical repentance isn’t just sorrowing over sin, or resolving to do better. Biblical repentance involves a change of behavior (Matt. 21:28-30; Jonah 3:10 cf. Matthew 12:41). Repentance is a change of mind which leads to a change of behavior.
(5) Restitution when possible. Zacchaeus understood this (Luke 19). “The Golden Rule” demands it (Matthew 7:12). We should try to make things right so far as we possibly can.
The word ‘confess’ means “lit., to speak the same thing… to assent, accord, agree with… to confess, declare, admit” (Vine’s). When one confesses he admit’s the truth.
There is a confession that each needs to make. We are to confess “Jesus as Lord” (Romans 10:9 NASB), that He is “Christ… the Son of God” (Acts 8:37 cf. Matthew 16:16). It is to be verbally proclaimed out of genuine belief in the heart (Romans 10:9-10). It is to be proclaimed before witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12; Acts 8:36). “Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11).
Some courageously confessed. (1) An Ethiopian did so before Philip (Acts 8:26-27). (2) Jesus courageously did so (a) before the Jews (Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14:61-62). (b) before Pilate (1 Timothy 6:13 cf. John 18:37; Matthew 27:11). (3) Peter did so (Matt. 16:13-18).
Others lack the courage to do so (John 9:19-22; 12:42-43). Peter in a night of darkness denied Him thrice (Matthew 26:69-ff; Mark 14:66-ff; Luke 22:54-ff).
We need to remember: (1) If we deny Him, He will deny us (Matthew 10:32-33). (2) One day all will confess (Romans 14:11-12). It will be too late. (3) More than mere verbal confession is needed (Matthew 7:21-27; Luke 6:46-49). He wants more than mere lip service (cf. Matt. 21:28-30; 1 John 3:18; Hebrews 5:9).
What does the word baptism mean? Baptism consists of “the process of immersion, submersion, and emergence” (Vine’s). Caution: modern English dictionaries have the duty of defining words according to modern usage. Thus, they might include sprinkling and pouring as definitions of baptism. A good dictionary will give word origin. My Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary indicates that the word is from the Greek meaning “to dip.”
The Biblical description also helps us to understand. It is described as a burial and a resurrection (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-4). There was a going down into the water, and a coming up out of water (Acts 8:38-39 cf. Mark 1:10; Matthew 3:16). Such would seem unnecessary if baptism were sprinkling or pouring.
The Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX) uses the word pour (cheo), sprinkle (rhantizo), and dip (bapto) in one passage (Leviticus 14:15-16). They are three distinct actions.
What is the element of baptism? Some have suggested the Holy Ghost. However, Holy Ghost baptism was a promise (Luke 23:49; Acts 1:4-5), water baptism is a command [Acts 10:6 (11:14); 10:47-48]. Great commission baptism isn’t Holy Ghost baptism. This is evident by the principle of consistency of language (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 8:16; Acts 19:5-6; All lit. read “Into the name”). Man is sanctified and cleansed “with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26). Baptism is essential to salvation, and is connected with water by Peter (1 Peter 3:20-21).
Who is the proper subject of baptism? Before one is baptized he should: (1) hear. Before Philip baptized in the city of Samaria he taught then (a) “the things concerning the Kingdom of God”, that is the church, (b) “the name of Jesus Christ”, that is the authority of Christ (Acts 8:12). Too often folks are simply taught the necessity of baptism. This should not be. Moreover, one should understand the purpose of baptism prior to baptism (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 22:19). One needs to be baptized for the right reasons. (2) believe (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:35-38). Never does one see infants or little children being baptized in the New Testament. (3) repent. (Acts 2:38 cf. Matthew 3:7-8). New Testament preachers pointed out sins and called upon people to repent (Acts 2:36-38; Acts 3:14-15, 19). Only those with a mind truly ready to change should respond. (4) confess. One should be willing to make known his faith prior to baptism (Acts 8:35-38).
When should one be baptized? The answer is straightway or immediately (Acts 2:37-38, 41; 8:12; 8:27-39; 10:34-48; 16:19-34; 22:16). One has no assurance of tomorrow. He could die (Luke 12:19-20; James 4:13-14). The Lord could return (Matthew 24:36-39; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). Psalm 119:60 reads, “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.”
Why would such be required? The real issue is that God has required it. But, here are a few possible reasons: (1) It is a test of our faith cf. Naaman 2 Kings 5:10-14. We need to trust God and do what He says even when we have a hard time understanding. (2) It is symbolic of the flood. The waters of the flood removed external wickedness, “the filth of the flesh” from Noah (1 Peter 3:20-21 cf. Genesis 6:3, 12-13). The waters of baptism wash away internal wickedness, sin, and gives us a good conscience (Acts 2:38, 3:19; 22:16 cf. 1 Peter 3:20-21). (3) It is symbolic of the exodus. Moses, and the children of Israel were saved out of Egypt when they crossed the sea (Exodus 14:13-ff). This is called baptism (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). Just as they were saved by crossing the sea, we’re saved in baptism. (4) It is symbolic of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4). We must die to the love and life of sin, be buried in baptism, and be raised to walk in newness of life.
It is God who saves us through Jesus. He washes away our sins in the blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5; 7:13-14). This is possible by the resurrection of Christ (1 Peter 3:21). He washes away our sins in baptism (Acts 22:16). When we are baptized we’re baptized into His death (Romans 6:3-4). It is at that point God applies the blood to our lives. We do not meritoriously earn salvation. It is a gift of God, given when we comply with His conditions.
One’s sins are washed away in baptism; However, this is not an end, but a beginning. Just as the children of Israel were freed from Egypt by crossing the sea, but were not yet in the promised land (and many wouldn’t make it); Even so, we are freed from past sins at the point of baptism, but are not yet in the promised land (Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; book of Hebrews).
It is important that a new convert grow, and that all Christians continue to grow through the years (just as a mighty oak continues to grow). The Bible instructs “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We need to: (1) Continue to feed upon God’s word. The Bible says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:1-2). We should check everything by God’s word (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). We should want to grow so that we might discern right from wrong, good from evil (Heb. 5:14). We should want to grow so that we can teach others (Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 2:9; Jude 3). We should want to study so that we’ll remain strong in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:13 cf. Romans 10:17). (2) Continue in prayer (Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Luke 18:1). “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). He invites us to cast all our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). (3) Faithfully assemble with the saints (Hebrews 10:24-25). Strive to be there every time the doors open. (4) Be careful of who influences you. Try to avoid evil influences (1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20). Surround yourselves with good influences (Proverbs 27:17; Proverbs 13:20; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 3 John 9-12). (5) Seek to live a life which honors and glorifies Jehovah (Matthew 5:12-16; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Philippians 2:15-16).
What should we do when we sin? We as Christians should strive to be different from the world, holy before God. We should seek to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). We should seek to avoid persistence in sin. We should seek to avoid willful, high-minded (presumptuous) sin. However, when we do sin God has provided a remedy through the blood of Christ (1 John 2:1-2). Here’s what we’re to do: (1) We are to repent of our sins (Acts 8:4-22; Rev. 2:5 cf. Prov. 28:13). Remember this refers to a sincere, genuine change of mind which leads to a change of behavior. (2) We are to confess (acknowledge) our sins (1 John 1:8-9; cf. Proverbs 28:13). (a) Sin should be admitted before God (Psalm 51:1-3 Luke 15:17-21 cf. 1 John 1:8-9). Remember all sin is ultimately against Him. (b) Sin should be admitted before those we’ve wronged (Luke 17:3-4; James 5:16). A good way to look at it is that our sins should be confessed as public as the transgression is (Matt. 18:15-17).
Think of these passages:
1. “Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord… your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
2. “Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).
3. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2).
4. “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shown toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb. 6:10).
5. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).