Ezekiel — Lesson 1
INTRODUCTION TO EZEKIEL
1) Ezekiel: the Man.
a) His family.
i) He was a priest, the son of Buzi. His father was (probably) of the line of Zadok (1;3; 40:46; 44:15), which had taken the place of the house of Abiathar (1 Kings 2:26-27, 35).
ii) He was married. His wife died at the time of Jerusalem’s fall. (24:16-18.)
b) His history and character.
i) He may have had some wealth and was a man of influence because the elders of the exiles met in his home and consulted him. (3:24; 8:1; 14:1; 20:1.)
ii) He was taken captive in 597 BC when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, captured Jerusalem after a brief siege.
(1) He was exiled to Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar, along with King Jehoiachin and the upper classes of Jerusalem (10,000 captives went into exile. 2 Ki. 24:14).
(2) These 10,000 were regarded as the “good figs”; Zedekiah, King of Judah, his princes, the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt are “bad figs” (Jeremiah 24; 29).
iii) Nothing is known of his life except what is revealed in his book. Unlike other prophets, there is no Jewish tradition to tell us how or when he died.
iv) In response to some critics accusations that Ezekiel is hard of heart and/or mentally defective is various ways, it may be observed:
(1) Abnormality of some sort is the rule and not the exception with Old Testament prophets. Beyond that, however, one dare not go. It ill becomes critics, most without any professional training to do so, to diagnose mental illness centuries after Ezekiel lived and wrote.
(2) His sensitivity can be judged from the brief description of his feelings for his wife (24:15-18), by his earnest plea that God will spare His people and not destroy them completely (9:8; 11:13), and by the tenderness of his description of God as the Shepherd of His sheep (34:11-16).
v) One cannot study Ezekiel’s prophecy without realizing that he possessed the priest’s sense of the holiness of God, the prophet’s sense of the message that had been entrusted to him, and the preacher’s sense of responsibility for his people.
2) Ezekiel: the Ministry.
a) Ezekiel was 30 years old when God called him to be a prophet (1:1).
i) His home was Tel-abib, the primary location of the exiles, on the river Chebar, generally identified with the Grand Canal southeast of Babylon.
ii) His mission was to be God’s spokesman and watchman to the exiles. (chs. 2, 3.)
iii) His ministry lasted from the 5th year of Jehoiachin’s exile (592 B.C.) to the 27th year (570 B.C.). (1:2; 29:17.)
b) Ezekiel had a tough message, made the more difficult because he loved his people.
i) Before the fall of Jerusalem in 586, he was primarily a preacher of repentance and judgment (chs. 1-24).
ii) He delivered constant warning to a people who rebelled against God and who succumbed to a pagan environment. (2:3ff; 3:4-11; 13; 14:1ff; 18:2, 25; 20:1ff.)
iii) It is difficult to oppose your enemies; it is more difficult to oppose your friends.
3) Ezekiel: the Message.
a) The book of Ezekiel is to many a difficult book, hard to understand.
i) For most it is almost a closed book – their knowledge of it extends little further than its mysterious vision of God’s chariot-throne, with its wheels within wheels, and the vision of the valley of dry bones.
ii) Otherwise his book is as forbidding in its size as the prophet himself is in the complexity of his make-up.
iii) From antiquity ordinary readers have found its language, images, and theology puzzling; scholars have been embarrassed by the contents of the book and by their inability to produce commentary on it.
iv) Jerome’s (ca. A.D. 340-420) commentaries are filled with apologies for his inability to clarify obscure passages.
v) In Jewish tradition the interpretation of Ezekiel has been particularly difficult because they believe that some of the legal material in chaps. 40-48 contradicts the laws of the Torah.
(1) The Babylonian Talmud reports that this fact caused some rabbis to advocate withdrawing the book from circulation, a fate that was avoided only through the extraordinary efforts of Hananiah son of Hezekiah, who successfully reconciled the contradictions.
(2) Equally troublesome to the rabbis was the vision of God’s glory described in Ezekiel 1, a passage that they feared might lead to dangerous mystical speculations or even destroy the interpreter who probed too deeply into its mysteries.
(3) According to the Talmud, Hananiah son of Hezekiah was again able to persuade his colleagues not to withdraw Ezekiel, although Jerome reports that some rabbis prohibited the reading of the beginning and end of the book by anyone under the age of thirty.
vi) Despite the difficulties associated with the book and the occasional efforts to withdraw it from circulation, there is no indication that early Jewish or Christian interpreters ever questioned the canonicity or divine inspiration of the book.
vii) While the difficulties of the book cannot be denied, many of them can be minimized by keeping in mind the historical, sociological, and religious settings in which the book was produced and by cultivating sensitivity to the book’s structure and peculiar literary style.
b) In its structure, however, if not in its thought and language, the book of Ezekiel has a basic simplicity, and its orderly framework makes it easy to analyze.
i) Structure of Ezekiel.
(1) In the opening vision, Ezekiel sees the majesty of God on the plains of Babylon and receives his call to be a prophet to the house of Israel (1 – 3).
(2) This is followed by a long series of messages, some enacted symbolically but most expressed in spoken form, foretelling and justifying God’s intention to punish the holy city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants with destruction and death (4 – 24).
(3) Then, at the half-way mark in the book, when the fall of Jerusalem is represented as having actually taken place (thought the news has still not reached the exiles), attention is diverted to the nations that surround Israel and God’s judgment on them is pronounced in a series of oracles (25 – 32).
(4) By this time Ezekiel’s audience is prepared for the news of Jerusalem’s destruction (33:31).
(5) At this point a new message falls from Ezekiel’s lips – with a renewed commission and a promise that God is about to restore His people to their own land under godly leadership by a kind of national resurrection (33 – 37), Ezekiel describes in apocalyptic language the final triumph of the people of God over the invading hordes from the north (38, 39).
(6) The book concludes as it began with an intricate vision, not this time of the Lord’s chariot-throne moving over the empty wastes of Babylon, but of the new Jerusalem with its temple court and inner sanctuary where God would dwell among His people for ever (40 – 48).
ii) Another commentator suggests that the book divides itself into four sections:
(1) Jerusalem must fall. Chs. 1-24.
(2) Foreign nations must fall. Chs. 25-32.
(3) A bridge between chs. 1-24 and chs. 34-48. Ch. 33.
(4) Jerusalem (and its people) must be comforted. Chs. 34-48.
iii) Three major structural devices are used to give coherent shape to the book of Ezekiel.
(1) It makes extensive use of dates to mark important events and oracles, and these dates indicate that the book is organized chronologically.
(2) The chronological ordering of material is reinforced by the arrangement of oracles and visions according to content.
(a) Between the first and last sections of the book (Jerusalem perishes and Jerusalem’s promises) Ezekiel inserts a pronouncement of doom against foreign nations.
(b) While these devices give the major shape to the book, they are not followed slavishly and are not without exception.
(3) Finally, a measure of structure is achieved in the book by the use of repetitive images and words.
(a) This device is used on many levels, but the most obvious example is the verbatim repetition of part of the prophet’s call narrative (3:16-21; 33:1-9), the second occurrence of which marks a crucial shift in the prophet’s message.
(b) The various literary devices reinforce each other so that the reader’s overall impression is one of unity.
iv) It is not surprising, therefore that most older commentators regarded Ezekiel as being free from the literary fragmentation that was imposed by critics upon Isaiah, Jeremiah, and some of the minor prophets.
v) Given the overall impression of the unity of the book, it is not surprising that since antiquity interpreters have treated the book as the work of a single author.
(1) Even with the rise of modern critical scholarship in the middle of the nineteenth century, the book managed to escape scholarly dissection.
(2) When the challenge finally came, it came not one literary grounds, but on religious grounds related to the concept that prophets must be ecstatic, and, while ecstatic, must be poetic.
(3) Prose such as Ezekiel’s could not qualify and must therefore be questioned.
(4) The only comment that I will make on this concept is that those who make it cannot agree among themselves on the portions that belong to Ezekiel and those that do not.
vi) There are six main reasons for ascribing the book to a single author, the prophet Ezekiel.
(1) The book has a balanced structure as outlined above – a logical arrangement that extends from beginning to end. There are no breaks in its continuity except where it is done deliberately, as in the as of the oracles against the nations (25 – 32).
(2) The message of the book has an inner consistency that fits in with the logical arrangement. The center point is the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, announced in 24:21ff and reported in 33:21. From chapter 1 to 24 Ezekiel’s message is destructive and denunciatory: he is a watchman set to warn the people that this is the inevitable consequence of the nation’s sins. But from chapter 33 to 48, while he still regards himself as a watchman with a message of individual retribution and responsibility, his tone is encouraging and restorative. Before 587 BC his theme was that the deportation of 597 BC, in which he himself was one of the victims, was certainly not the ends of God’s punishment upon His people. Worse was to come and His people must be prepared to face it. But after it had come, and the worst had happened, God would act to rebuild and restore his chastened Israel.
(3) The book has a remarkable uniformity of style and language.
(4) The book has a clear chronological sequence, with dates appearing at 1:1, 2; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 26:1; 29:1; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1, 17; 33:21; 40:1. No other major prophet has this logical progression of dates, and only Haggai and Zechariah among the minor prophets afford any comparable pattern.
(5) With rare exception (See 1:1, 2) the book is written autobiographically.
(6) The picture of Ezekiel’s character and personality is consistent through the entire book. There is the same earnestness, the same eccentricity, the same priestly love of symbolism, the same fastidious concern with detail, the same sense of the majesty and transcendence of God.
c) Religious issues addressed by Ezekiel.
i) The issues arose following the first deportation (of which Ezekiel was a part) when Israel’s religious leadership was split between Jerusalem and Babylon.
(1) Both groups naturally attempted to provide theological interpretations of the events that had just occurred, but these interpretations did not always agree.
(2) The result was a growing religious controversy that reached crisis proportions after the final destruction of the city and the Temple.
ii) Several important issues were involved.
(1) Debates over the meaning of the first deportation.
(a) There had been prior warnings that the sins of Judah and its kings would eventually be punished by God. (See, for example, 2 Kings 21:8-9, 14-15; 23:26-27, 32, 37; 24:1-9; Jer. 14:1-15:4; 36.)
(b) Therefore, when the first deportation occurred, there was general agreement, even among the exiles, that the prophecies of judgment had come true.
(c) However, there was disagreement about the completeness of the judgment – did God’s exile of Jehoiachin and his officials represent a final word of divine judgment, or were the people who remained in Jerusalem still in danger of additional punishment if they did not change their ways?
(2) Debates about the length of the Exile and the possibility of return to the land.
(a) This debate arose after the first deportation and intensified after the second one.
(b) Some interpreted Jeremiah and 2nd Kings to teach that the deportations represented God’s complete and final rejection of Israel (see 2 Kings 21:10-15; 24:3; Jer. 14:1-15:14; 17:1-4).
(c) However, Jeremiah’s ultimate word on the subject was to prophesy a return after a long but limited exile.
(d) Other prophets, however, disagreed and soon after the first deportation began to speak of a rapid return of the exiles and a restoration of normal worship in the Temple. (Jer. 27-32.)
(3) Debates about the status of the exiles in Babylon after the first deportation.
(a) Did the fact that they had been removed from God’s chosen city mean that they had been rejected and were no longer part of the true Israel?
(b) This issue was obviously of great concern to the exiles, who were anxious to clarify their religious status (Ezek. 11:14-21).
(c) Furthermore, the theological status of those in exile had a direct bearing upon their religious life in Babylon.
(i) Did the fact that the exiles were separated from the land of Israel mean that they could no longer worship God?
(ii) If they could worship, then what form should that worship take?
(4) Debates among prophets reflecting differing points of view.
(a) These debates are seen most clearly in the book of Jeremiah where Jeremiah is often portrayed in conflict with other prophets.
(b) While Jeremiah warned of the imminent destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians,, others were confidently predicting that the city would be spared (Jer. 6:14-15; 14:13-14; 23:13-40).
(c) While Jeremiah was speaking of a long exile, the prophet Hananiah was telling Jerusalemites that the Exile was almost over (Jer. 27-28).
(d) While Jeremiah was advocating surrender to the Babylonians, exiled Judean prophets in Babylon were counseling revolt (Jer. 29:15-32).
(e) While it is easy in hindsight to determine which prophets spoke truthfully and those who did not, those who lived in the time of the prophets did not have that benefit.
(i) The hearers seemed to become suspicious of all of the prophets, and even Jeremiah and Ezekiel had to defend their prophetic authority.
(ii) The words of Ezekiel were particularly open to question because he prophesied in Babylon, and many Israelites doubted that true prophecy could exist outside of the land of Israel.
(5) Debates about the relationship of God to Jerusalem.
(a) This debate was provoked by the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.
(b) A fundamental tenet of Judaism was the belief that God had elected David and his descendants to be the eternal rulers of Israel (2 Sam. 7), and the city of Jerusalem as the divine dwelling place forever.
(c) Once Solomon built the Temple God took up residence there and was enthroned above the Cherubim in the Holy of Holies.
(d) Because of God’s eternal presence in the Temple, both the city and the Temple were inviolable.
(e) When the city fell, serious questions were raided.
(i) Did the destruction of the city and the Temple mean that God had broken the divine promise and rejected Jerusalem and David’s line?
(ii) Even worse, had God lacked the power to defend the city against the Babylonians?
iii) Despite the complexity of the book of Ezekiel, his message is relatively simple and can be easily summarized.
(1) The city of Jerusalem and the people of Judah would inevitably be punished because of their sins, which were both religious and social.
(2) Not only was the current generation sinful and deserving of punishment, but the entire history of Israel had been a history of disobedience and rebellion against God (ch. 20).
(3) Repentance might still save individuals who lead a righteous life (ch. 18), but the righteous few, if they existed at all, could not save the rest of the nation.
(4) This message applied both to the deportees of 597 BC and to the people who remained in the land.
(5) Yet in spite of this unequivocal message of doom, Ezekiel also prophesied that after the city had been destroyed and the people punished, God would bring the exiles back to the land, and the Temple would be restored according to a divine plan (chs. 40-48).
(6) God will bring the people back in order not to profane the divine name (36:16-32).
iv) In the face of conflicting prophetic words Ezekiel lays claim to absolute prophetic authority.
(1) His word is in fact the direct word of God, which is delivered to his audience without human interference or interpretation.
(2) His prophecies are therefore a safe guide for surviving the Exile.
(3) When the exiles heard an oracle from Ezekiel, they truly knew that a prophet was among them (33:33).
d) In addressing these issues, Ezekiel presents five recurrent themes (others could be discussed  but these highlights around which his message is built).
i) The otherness of God.
(1) Perhaps because of his priestly upbringing, the aspect of God’s nature that Ezekiel felt most deeply was His holiness.
(2) The root meaning of holiness is “to be separate,” and thus to be cut off from ordinary relationships and use for the sake of serving a peculiar function, one belonging to God, the Holy One.
(3) The God of Israel did not possess holiness; He was holiness. Everything connected with Him derived holiness from Him; a holy place where He was worshipped, holy priests who acted as His ministers, holy garments that they wore, and holy equipment that they used. His name was holy and His people were holy. The place where He made His dwelling was His holy mountain.
(4) The vision of Jehovah riding upon His chariot-throne typified this sense of otherness and majesty. This was the setting for his commission to prophesy and from it he carried with him through his entire ministry a sense of awe and holy fear. The false prophet can chatter glibly about God because he has never met Him. The man of God comes out from His presence indelibly marked with the glory of his Lord.
(5) It must have been of great comfort to Ezekiel and the exiles to know that this God who dwelt on Mount Zion could appear in Babylon amidst all the sordidness of heathenism and idolatry. This must have been an assurance that God cared for them even in the punishment of their exile.
ii) The sinfulness of Israel.
(1) Ezekiel was faced with conflicting reactions to the nation’s recent disasters.
(a) Some felt that the punishment due to them for their disobedience had been exhausted by the events of 597 BC and there remained nothing to do but wait for repatriation.
(b) Others took the fatalistic line and regarded themselves as the unfortunate heirs to their forefathers’ sins for which an unjust God was now punishing them.
(c) Most felt a measure of security in that, as they were Jehovah’s own people, He could never punish them too drastically without losing face in the eyes of the heathen.
(d) A few felt that Jehovah had lost face and had been shown to be impotent before the gods of Babylon.
(2) The prophet’s treatment of these views demonstrates his ability and willingness to meet his hearers on their own ground and to answer the objections that they raised. But for the most part his aim is to convince the people of their utter unworthiness of any consideration from God, in order to shame them into true repentance.
(3) He does this in two ways – general and specific.
(a) In the first instance he uses allegory to describe historically the story of Israel’s persistent unfaithfulness to the gracious covenant of God.
(i) Three passages deal with this (16:1-63; 20:1-31; and 23:1-49), each of which schematizes the past in a slightly different way.
1. 16:1-63, the parable of the foundling, begins with Israel (or Jerusalem), as an unlovely outcast child (“weltering in your blood”), but as she grew to maidenhood and reached the age of love the Lord entered into a covenant with her, purified and beautified her, and lavished queenly riches and honors upon her. In return, Israel, trusting in her beauty, played the harlot with foreigners and despised her divine benefactor.
2. 20:1-31 sees Israel’s history as a cycle of disobedient acts each followed by a gracious decision of God not to punish but to withhold His hand. It is remarkable for the repeated phrase, “
I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they dwelt” (20:9, 14, 22). God’s action in revealing Himself to Israel, making a covenant with them, and even chastening them, was initially for their benefit (“that they might know that I am the Lord” (20:12, 20, 26), but ultimately His dealings with Israel looked beyond the nation’s own interests to the concern that God’s name should be known and respected the whole world over. This was a doctrine that put Israel’s election pride firmly in its place.
3. 23:1-49 contains the allegory of the two sisters that discounts even the possibility of Israel’s original innocence. Oholah and Oholibah played the harlot in Egypt in their youth. They could hardly be described as fallen women because they had never been anywhere but in the gutter. Their own characteristic was an insatiable appetite for fornication, and their punishment would be correspondingly complete.
(b) More specifically, Ezekiel cites in ch. 8 the wrongdoings that he knew to be going on in the temple – idolatry, animal worship, nature worship, and sun worship.
(i) Israel’s sins constituted abundant justification for God’s decision to punish the people of Jerusalem with a slaughter reminiscent of the Passover plague (9:5ff) and to rain destruction upon the city as in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah (10:2).
(ii) Both here and in the three surveys of the past, the sins of Israel have in the main been religious sins. – they have been idolatrous, made alliances and played the harlot with foreign powers, and have failed to fulfill their covenant responsibilities (5:6ff).
(iii) In a word, they have profaned God’s holy name (20:9; 36:20-23), and since, for Ezekiel God was holiness, this was the most heinous sin. The social sins that Amos had condemned two centuries before received scarcely a mention.
iii) The fact of judgment.
(1) This was not a new message for Old Testament prophets.
(2) Messages of judgment had been the regular proclamation of prophets sent by God to Israel and Judah.
(3) If Ezekiel’s message is different, it is that he proclaimed not a threatened judgment, but an imminent judgment.
(4) God’s message to and through Ezekiel was “I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it” (17:24; 22:14; 24:14; 36:36; 37:14).
(5) Judgment could no longer be shrugged off with the excuse that though the prophets had threatened it, nothing had happened so far (12:22), or that it all referred to the distant future (12:27).
(6) God’s word now was that “The word which I speak will be performed” (12:28).
iv) Individual responsibility.
(a) The possibility of the salvation of a remnant is frequently held out, even in the predictions of destruction (e.g., 5:3, 10; 6:8; 9:4), and Ezekiel’s intention in acting as a watchman is that the wicked man may turn and save his life (3:18).
(i) This is more explicitly stated in 18:1-29, where in a context of temptation to fatalism (18:2ff) Ezekiel is at pains to say that God treats every man as an individual.
(ii) What happens to him is not dependent purely on heredity (his father’s sins), nor yet on environment (the nation’s sins), but is conditioned by personal choice.
(iii) The choice that matters is commitment to God.
(b) Basic to the analysis of the whole issue is that the Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (18:23, 32); He wants him to turn and live.
(i) Destruction was coming, but men could repent and be saved.
(ii) Ezekiel the watchman was also Ezekiel the evangelist.
v) The promise of restoration.
(a) Although repentance was for the individual, salvation is to be enjoyed by him as a member of a restored community.
(i) The new Israel is to be brought to life miraculously by the working of God’s Spirit, who alone can make dry bones live (37:5).
(ii) It will be a community without the old divisions of Israel and Judah to tear it apart (37:17).
(iii) It will enjoy blessings of an everlasting covenant, and the covenant watchword, “they shall be my people and I will be their God,” will be written into its constitution (11:20; 14:11; 36:28; 37:23, 27).
(iv) At its head will be “my servant David,” the Messiah King (37:24ff).
(v) He will rule justly and conscientiously, caring for the weak and crippled among the flock (34:23).
(vi) The land will prosper and flourish, and from out of the sanctuary in the new Jerusalem will flow the symbolical river of life to water the waste places of the earth (47:1-12).
(b) All this, however is but the external aspect of the restoration that God promises to His righteous remnant; internally, He holds out the offer of a new heart and a new spirit for the individual, so that he may be made clean from the defilement of his sins and the uncleanness of the exile and may be motivated from within to live after God’s commandments (36:24-28).
(c) In those words Ezekiel gives added definition to Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34).
(d) The message is clear: man’s greatest stumbling block is in himself and nothing can resolve this problem except the gracious action of God in renewal and spiritual regeneration.
OUTLINE OF EZEKIEL
I . Ezekiel's vision and commission : chapters 1-3
II. Jerusalem must fall : chapters 4-24
1 . The three-fold sign (chapter 4)
A. The city on the tile
B. The 430 days
C. The unclean food
2. The haircut and its significance (chapter 5)
3 . Idolatry denounced and punishment promised (chapters 6-7)
4. The necessity and nature of the destruction of Jerusalem and its people (chapters 8-11)
5. Two signs and a warning (chapter 12)
A. The exodus
B. The trembling drinker
C. The swift judgment
6. False prophets denounced (chapter 13)
A. The men
B. The women
7. Inner idolatry (chapter 14)
8. The righteous nature of God's judgment (chapter 14)
9. The parable of the useless vine (chapter 15)
10. A resume of shameful history (chapter 16)
A. Undeserved kindness
B. Inexcusable infidelity
C. Gracious reconciliation
11 . The parable of the eagles (chapter 17)
A. The Babylonian eagle
B. The Egyptian eagle
C. The tender twig
12. Sour grapes-God and the individual (chapter 18)
13 . The parables of the lions and rods (chapter 19)
A. The lions
B. The rods
14. An indictment on a shameful record (chapter 20)
15. The impartial sword of God (chapter 21)
16. Jerusalem the Corrupt (chapter 22)
17. The parable of Oholah and Oholibah (chapter 23)
18. The sign of the caldron (chapter 24)
19. The sign of Ezekiel's refusal to mourn (chapter 24)
III. Foreign nations must fall: chapters 25-32
l. Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia: chapter 25
2. Tyre : chapters 26-28
3. Sidon : chapter 28
4. Egypt: chapters 29-32
IV. The Watchman and the smitten city: chapter 33
1 . The watchman defended
2. The watchman's function
3. The fall of Jerusalem
4. The word of Ishmael and his followers
5. The revised estimate of the prophet
V. Jerusalem must be Comforted : chapters 34-38
1 . The government of the future
2. The land of the future
3 . The nation of the future
4. The security of the future
5 . The temple and worship of the future
 One commentator lists five major themes in the book of Ezekiel:
1. God’s holiness – it will not permit him to dwell in a temple that had become the center of iniquity. (see 8:6.)
2. God’s transcendent power – he is most often spoken of as “Jehovah,” but very often as “Lord Jehovah.”
3. God’s concern for the individual – demonstrated in such passages as 9:4-6, 8; ch. 18; 20:38; 22:30.
4. God’s sovereignty – some 70 times we will hear “they shall know that I am Jehovah.” The proof of his sovereignty is shown both in mercy and in judgment (see, for example, 20:33, 38; 34:29-30).
5. God’s almightiness as opposed to man’s humanness – seen in the often-repeated expression “son of man” as it is used of the prophet (some 90 occurrences).
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)