By Joe R. Barnett
Acts, chapter 2, tells of three thousand people following God's plan of salvation on Pentecost. On this occasion Simon Peter climaxed his sermon about the resurrected Jesus, saying, "God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
The words struck hard, and his convicted hearers asked, "What shall we do?" Peter answered, "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" (Acts 2:38).
When the chapter ends, three thousand persons have been baptized. This account shows that salvation is not a strange experience which just "takes people over" without any will of their own. These people had strong feelings about their change, but the process was basically a decision-making one. Their personal decision was a matter of accepting evidence and obeying God's commands. They knew what they did was right because they did what God told them, not just because they "felt" they were right.
ADDED TO THE CHURCH
Churches of Christ do not speak of membership in terms of a formula which must be followed for approved acceptance into the church. The New Testament gives certain steps which are to be taken to become a Christian. When a person takes these steps and becomes a Christian he, in the same action, becomes a member of the church. No further steps are required to qualify for church membership.
On the first day of the church's existence, as noted above, those who repented and were baptized were saved. From that day forward all who were saved were added to the church (Acts 2:47). According to this verse it was God who did the adding. Therefore, in seeking to follow this pattern, we neither vote people into the church nor force them through a required series of studies. We have no right to demand anything beyond their obedient submission to the Savior.
SALVATION BY GRACE…
Because of our sins it is not possible for us to achieve salvation on our own. Salvation comes by the grace of God. The apostle Paul wrote, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9).
… THROUGH FAITH
We are saved by grace… through faith. Grace is God's part. Faith is our part. It is very important to realize that the only kind of faith God recognizes is an active faith which involves obedience to his commands. We never earn salvation–it is God's gift. Yet, we cannot receive salvation without meeting the conditions upon which the gift is promised.
CONDITIONS OF SALVATION
These conditions of salvation which are taught in the New Testament are:
1) One must hear the gospel, for "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
2) One must believe, for "without faith it is impossible to please him" (Hebrews 11:6).
3) One must repent of past sins, for God "commandeth all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).
4) One must confess Jesus as Lord, for he said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32).
5) And one must be baptized for the remission of sins, for Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins…"
A SINGLE PROCESS
Each of these steps can be isolated and discussed, but we should be aware that spiritual rebirth is a single process involving the complete response of the individual to God's love.
Yes, there is a call to believe. But "faith only" isn't sufficient. Those who follow God's plan are not simply asked to change the ideas they believe to be true. Their entire lives are to affirm this change of conviction. Belief is an inner change, whereas repentance is an inner resolution which shows on the outside of one's life. Confession is a public commitment to that belief and determined change of lifestyle. And baptism is the decisive act in which the change is sealed and, by God's grace and the power of Christ's blood, one's sins are washed away (Acts 22:16).
EMPHASIS ON BAPTISM
Churches of Christ have a reputation for placing much emphasis on baptism. Such an emphasis is justified for there are more than one hundred passages in the New Testament which mention the word baptism in one of its forms.
The New Testament teaches baptism as an act which is essential to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). F.F. Bruce, the noted New Testament scholar, has observed that the idea of an unbaptized Christian is simply not entertained by the New Testament.
The New Testament sets forth the following purposes for baptism:
1) It is to enter the kingdom (John 3:5).
2) It is to contact Christ's blood (Romans 6:3,4).
3) It is to get into Christ (Galatians 3:27).
4) It is for salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
5) It is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
6) It is to wash away sins (Acts 22:16).
7) It is to get into the church (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:23).
SALVATION IS FOR ALL
Since Christ died for the sins of the whole world and the invitation to share in his saving grace is open to everyone (Acts 10:34,35; Revelation 22:17), we do not believe anyone is predestined for salvation or condemnation. Some will choose to come to Christ in faith and obedience and be saved. Others will reject his plea and be condemned (Mark 16:16). These will not be lost because they were marked for condemnation, but because that is the path they chose.
Your decision about Christ is the greatest decision of your life. To reject him is spiritually and eternally fatal. We urge you to accept the salvation offered by Christ. Submit to him in obedient faith and become a member of his church.
What did the people on Pentecost do to receive remission of their sins?
Is it proper to "vote" people into the church?
Does salvation by grace exempt man from all responsibility?
What are the conditions of salvation taught in the New Testament?
Can you list three passages which show the importance of baptism?
Have you obeyed all of God's conditions for your salvation?