Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be someone you’re not? For the overweight fellow who can’t dribble and run at the same time, what would it be like to be a star basketball player? For the student who is challenged by simple math, what would it be like to be the go-to engineer who can figure complex problems? For the person who is standing before God guilty of sin, with no hope, what would it be like to be guiltless, with a hope of eternal life? Because the latter scenario has eternal consequences, it is obviously the most serious, and the one with which we can most easily fool ourselves.
Though we might imagine ourselves as something we are not, reality will catch up with us: the Day of Judgment will be a sobering wake-up for many, but it will be too late (Matthew 7:21-23). Now is an excellent time to see ourselves as we truly are and make the necessary changes to become what we can and ought to be.
One does not enter the world as a Christian, but that is not to say that one comes into the world as a sinner. No one is born separated from God by sin, but once God’s will is violated by sin, fellowship with God ends, (Isaiah 59:1-2). It is bad enough to live separated from God, but dying in that condition eternally separates one from God. Knowing that horrible reality ought to motivate all who have sinned to “become” something else.
How does one go from being lost in sin to being saved from sin? How can one become guiltless when guilty? These most important questions are answered for us in New Testament accounts of people realizing their guilt before God and learning what God commands them to do about their sin. From these stories we can learn what we need to do.
First, let’s note an important underlying fact. The God Who spoke into existence the universe and all that is in it (Psalm 33:9) is the same One Who gives the historical account of people being saved. His power and wisdom ought to give us confidence in His ability to tell us what we need to know in an understandable way. In His infinite wisdom He has chosen to tell us about conversion not in one story but in many. A good Bible student should consider all that God says in these accounts, being careful not to settle on just one passage to the exclusion of others.
An interesting statement is made in John 1:12: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name”. Notice that those who receive Him, who believe in him, are given “the right to become children of God”. Receiving Him doesn’t make one a child of God, but rather gives one “the right to become”. Receiving Him starts the process of “becoming”, but the conversion process is not completed until other changes take place.
After His resurrection, and prior to His ascension back into heaven, Jesus gave instruction to His apostles as to what they were to do: Matthew 28:18–20, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Mark 16:15–16, “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’” Luke 24:46–47, “Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’”
We find the inspired record of these men carrying out this commission given by Jesus in the book of Acts. Below are quoted verses in which we read what the lost were told to do. Please, take the time to read from your Bible the contexts for all these passages. Also be sure to note how the instructions from Jesus are fulfilled in their proper order in these passages.
The audience of Jews who heard the first gospel sermon was charged with killing Jesus the Lord and Christ. Those who believed the compelling evidence were convicted of their sin and they cried out to Peter and the rest of the apostles “What shall we do?” Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” We are told that on that day there were about three thousand souls who “gladly received his word” and “were baptized.” Acts 2:41
Peter tells the people in Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,”
We learn this from Acts 8:12–13, “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.”
The account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch is likewise easy to understand. Acts 8:35–37, “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” Upon that confession Acts 8:38–39 tells us, “So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.”
On the road to Damascus Jesus appears to Saul, who will later be called Paul, and tells him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:6). In the second of three accounts of this story we learn what Saul was told to do. Acts 22:16, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
In Acts 10 we have the account of the first Gentile to become a Christian. It took signs from God to convince the Jews that the Gentiles were also to enjoy salvation. Once these signs occurred and Peter and the other Jews realized these lost Gentiles were to have the opportunity to become Christians Peter said in Acts 10:47–48, “’Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.”
On Paul’s second missionary journey a woman named Lydia heard the gospel. “And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.’” (Acts 16:15)
In Acts 16:30 the Philippian jailer asked that all important question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” We read this in Acts 16:31–34, “So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”
We are told that the people of Berea were not only willing to listen to the preaching, but they also checked what they heard with what they knew to be true in the scriptures. As a result, “Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.” (Acts 17:12)
The gospel was preached in Corinth and as a result, Acts 18:8, “Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.”
When the gospel was taught in Ephesus, there was some confusion regarding the baptism of John and the baptism one must submit to in order to become a Christian. Once it was explained we read, “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:5)
Let’s refresh our minds as to what Jesus instructed His apostles to preach. They were to proclaim the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Their message was to be responded to by believing, repenting, and being baptized. When you read all the accounts of people becoming Christians you see all those elements present, don’t you? And they are in the order God expects – preaching of the gospel, believers being told to repent and be baptized so that their sins can be forgiven. None of the “steps” can be left out.
Believing and repenting are essential and has one moving the right direction. From Galatians 3:26-27 and Romans 6 we learn that it is at the point of baptism a person enters into Christ and begins a new life because all sins have been removed by the blood of Christ. In other words, it is at this point that one becomes a Christian.
In Romans 6:17-18 one learns that at the point of obedience in baptism that one becomes someone wonderfully different. Paul writes of those who had been baptized as having been “set free from sin”, (Romans 6:7, 18) and having become “slaves of righteousness” and “slaves of God” (Romans 6:18, 22). This is a far better situation than the other he writes about in the same chapter – being “a slave of sin” (Romans 6:20) with the end being eternal death (Romans 6:23).
Hopefully, you will do the same as those in the first century, who upon hearing the gospel and being convicted of sin, believed, repented, and were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. You don’t want to be like King Agrippa who said in Acts 26:28, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” Be persuaded and “become a Christian”.
If you have sin in your life, you are guilty before God and you will lose your soul. The only hope you have is found in Jesus, our Savior. The remedy for sin has not changed. Do as those did in the first century. Believe and obey the message they were taught. Then, and only then, will you become a Christian.
- More Than Forgiven
- Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?
- The Conversion Of Saul
- Acts 8: Simon The Sorcerer
- First Gospel Sermon
- The Most Important Question
Have questions? We’d love to hear from you.