Ezekiel — Lesson 12

Ezekiel 19-21

1. Chapter 19: Prophecy Lamenting Jerusalem's Leaders

A. Introduction to Chapter 19

1. Chapter 19 contains two funeral laments -- one for the king and one for the people of Judah. These two laments are both set in poetic meter and are both allegorical.

2. This chapter is about the last days of Judah, the death of the kings, the death of Jerusalem, and the death of the nation.

B. Funeral Lament for the King (19:1-9)

1. The lioness in this lament represents the royal Davidic line, and the first lion cub represents King Jehoahaz.

a) A lion was a common figure for Judah, and especially for the line of David. (Genesis 49:9; 1 Kings 10:19-20).

b) Recall from Lesson 2 that Jehoahaz was the son of King Josiah and became king in 609 BC when Pharaoh Necho killed Josiah at Megiddo. (Jehoahaz became king instead of his older brother Jehoiakim.) Necho carried Jehoahaz off to Egypt where he died, having only reigned for 3 months. Necho then installed Jehoiakim as a vassal king.

2. Who does the second lion cub represent?

a) Some have identified this cub with Zedekiah (Josiah's youngest son), who reigned as the last king of Judah from 597 to 586 BC. He and Jehoahaz had the same mother. (2 Kings 23:31; 24:18). But he is dealt with later. Also, he was not a legal king --- Ezekiel refers to him only as a prince. (He refers to exiled Jehoiachin as the king. (Ezekiel 1:2)).

b) It probably does not represent Jehoiakim, who (recalling from Lesson 2) was killed by his own people during a Babylonian siege and received the burial of an ass. In fact, Jeremiah tells us in 22:18 that "They shall not lament for him." Also, verse 9 indicates this king would undergo exile, which did not happen to Jehoiakim.

c) The most likely choice is Jehoiachin (the son of Jehoiakim and nephew of Zedekiah) who was captured and taken off to Babylon as verses 8-9 suggest. He was carried off (along with Ezekiel) during the second deportation.

d) The grandiose descriptions of these kings given here speaks in idealized terms --- not in terms of attainment but in terms of potential. Both Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin ruled for only a few months and did very little of note. The description given here is an ideal one.

C. Funeral Lament for the People of Judah (19:10-14)

1. In the second poem, we have branches and a vine rather than cubs and a lioness.

a) We saw a vine metaphor earlier in Chapter 15:1-8 and in Chapter 17:5-10. God had planted Israel in a home of her own and given her rest. But the people rebelled, and so the vine was uprooted, stripped of its fruit, caused to wither, and consumed by fire. But the vine was not totally destroyed. Instead, it is transplanted in the desert.

b) This transplanted vine denotes the final Babylonian invasion in 586 BC, the destruction of the city, and the exile of the survivors to Babylon.

2. This vine had no branches left on it strong enough for a ruler's scepter.

a) Men like David, Solomon, and Hezekiah had come from this vine, but now there were no strong branches left.

b) All that Judah had left in the way of a king was the loathsome Zedekiah, who was not really a legal king at all. It was foolish for the people to put any trust in him.

3. Chapter 19 concludes the prophecies that began in Chapter 12 about the fall of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem. Why did this happen? Ezekiel has given us at least five reasons:

a) Judah failed to submit to God's chastening and rebelled in the face of captivity.

b) Judah rejected divine revelation by ignoring the true prophets and listening to the false prophets who said only what the people wanted to hear.

c) Judah failed to be fruitful as God had intended when he created her.

d) Judah was continuing a long history of unfaithfulness to God.

e) Judah looked to political alliances for security rather than to God.

2. Chapter 20: Enumeration of the Rebellions of Judah

A. Introduction to Chapter 20

1. This is the fourth dated prophecy in the book of Ezekiel. (August 591 BC)

2. The date indicates that this chapter begins a new series of messages.

a) It has been 11 months since Ezekiel delivered the messages that began in Chapter 8. The siege of Jerusalem will begin in about 3.5 years.

B. Ezekiel Speaks to the Elders (20:1-4)

1. As in Chapter 14, a group of elders come to see Ezekiel and inquire of the Lord. God cuts them off right at the start and says that he will not let them inquire of him.

a) It seems that the elders still held out some hope for a return from exile.

b) They may have been encouraged by news of an Egyptian victory in Sudan during the summer of 591. Rumors spread that the Pharaoh would soon make a triumphal entry into Palestine.

c) The text is silent regarding the elders' question but it probably had to do with whether Egypt would free them from the Babylonian captivity. God would not even listen to such a foolish question.

d) Zedekiah shared the same dream as these elders when he revolted against Babylon and placed his confidence in Egypt. Egypt never showed up to help, however.

2. Instead, God tells Ezekiel to confront these elders with a record of the past sins of Israel.

a) The elders came with hearts full of rebellion and idolatry and wanted a sweet message of comfort from Ezekiel. They wanted Ezekiel to give them the word of man --- but instead they got the Word of God!

C. Lessons from the Exodus (20:5-9)

1. The phrase "I chose Israel" in verse 5 is covenant language.

a) God heard their cry in Egypt and led them out of captivity. He then chose them to be his people by the covenant he established at Sinai.

b) The phrase "I swore with uplifted hand" suggests that God took a solemn oath to fulfill the promises of that covenant. But that covenant also contained curses for disobedience -- and these he also swore to fulfill.

c) Based on their covenant relationship, God commanded them to stop all vile, foreign religious practices --- and be faithful to him as in a marriage covenant. (Recall Chapter 16).

d) Instead of obeying God, the people rebelled. Indeed, just shortly after their departure from Egypt they worshipped a golden calf --- a sign of their longing for the gods of Egypt they had left behind.

2. Why didn't God destroy the people then?

a) After the golden calf incident, God expressed a desire to destroy the people and start a new nation with Moses. (Exodus 32:7-10).

b) Moses, however, appealed to God in Exodus 32:11-14 not to destroy the people because if he did the Egyptians would question his character.

c) Here in verse 9 God says he spared them for the sake of his name. That is, he spared the people so the surrounding nations would not question his character.

d) The name of the Lord is holy, and the Israelites were to bear continually a proper witness to that holy name (Exodus 19:5-6). If they would not do so, the Lord would do so himself.

(1) God is concerned about his name and he expects us as his children to be concerned as well. The world has no concern for that name. Hollywood apparently takes great pleasure in taking the name of Jesus in vain at every opportunity --- but one day every knee will bow at that name and confess that Jesus is Lord of all. All men will honor the name of God --- the only question is when.

D. Lessons from the Wilderness Days (20:10-14)

1. Ezekiel next turns to the wilderness experiences of the exodus for a second example of Israel's rebellion.

2. God freed them from Egypt and gave them laws and decrees for living.

a) The word translated "decrees" means laws that were general axioms or principles. The word translated "laws" means rules that were associated with a specific penalty when broken.

b) God did not just liberate the people, but he honored them with a great law. He not only gave them freedom, but he gave them dignity. They chose to wallow in dishonor instead.

c) God gave them the law, but what did they want? They lusted after the garlic and the cucumbers they had left behind in Egypt! (Numbers 11:5)

3. In addition to providing laws, God also provided the Sabbath.

a) The Sabbath denotes more than just the day of rest. The Sabbath was a perpetual sign of God's presence with the people and of his pledge to keep his covenant with them. It was a constantly recurring reminder of God as the creator of the universe. Yet the people desecrated the Sabbath.

b) "By continually observing the weekly Sabbath, Israel would be reminded that God graciously set her apart as an instrument of blessing to the world and as a witness against the pagans who had exchanged the worship of the Creator for the worship of his creation."

4. God gave the people laws, decrees, and the Sabbath so that they would "know" him (verse 12).

a) The word for "know" here is the Hebrew word "yada." It speaks specifically of knowledge by personal experience.

5. Again, God spared the people for the sake of his own reputation.

E. Lessons from the Forty Years of Wandering (20:15-22)

1. In spite of their history of rebellion, God gave them the promised land --- but they rebelled and would not enter.

a) So God left them to wander in the wilderness for forty years until all that generation had died. Only those twenty years old and under were allowed to enter the land.

2. Though God took care of their needs, the people continued to rebel against him and to desecrate his Sabbath.

a) In Numbers 22-25 we read of the people's choice to worship Baal prior to their entry into Jericho.

3. Yet God again withholds his hand and continues to spare the nation.

4. The phrase "the man who obeys them will live by them" in verse 21 is from Lev. 18:5. Paul quotes the same passage in Romans 10:4-5 when he contrasts justification under the Old Covenant with justification under the New Covenant.

F. Past Rebellions Committed in the Land (20:23-29)

1. God promised to disperse the people among the nations if they continued to rebel.

a) Of course, the fulfillment of this promise was a current event for Ezekiel's listeners. Moses himself had warned about the very exile they were now enduring.

2. The people rejected God's law, desecrated his Sabbath, and lusted after idols. They filled the land of promise with pagan idols and offered their children to pagan gods.

a) Do you notice how often this child sacrifice issue comes up in Ezekiel? When God wants to really make His point and show just how bad these people are, He confronts them with their murder of their own children. Apparently to God it just doesn't get any worse than that.

b) The next time you hear a modern liberal theologian explaining how God supports abortion rights, you might ask how the modern sacrifice of our children on the altar of our own convenience is any different from the sacrifice of the Israelite children on the altar of Molech.

3. Verse 24 contains the fifth reference in this chapter to the Sabbath.

a) The repeated reference probably refers to more than the weekly Sabbath day, but likely also includes the Sabbatical Year and Jubilee Year discussed in Leviticus 25.

b) Leviticus 26 (the very next chapter!) contains a prophetic warning against idolatry and details the consequences of such a rebellion.

(1) (Lev. 26:17) "I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you."

c) The Babylonian captivity lasted 70 years. During those 70 years, the land lay at rest to enjoy her Sabbaths.

(1) (2 Chronicles 36:20-21) "And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years."

d) Ezekiel's repeated references to the Sabbath stresses the connection between the exile and the desecration and disregard of God's Sabbath.

4. When they finally entered the land what did they do?

a) Verse 28 tells us they immediately went to the hills and offered thanks to the idols!

5. So what did God do this time? He gave them over!

a) He gave them over to the practice of idolatry and the abandonment of his laws. Verse 25 tells us that God gave them statutes that were not good -- that is, they would be given the worldly laws of the surrounding nations that brought only misery and death.

b) The people had become like those people in 2 Kings 17 who "feared the Lord, yet served their carved images" --- and God gave them up.

c) Where else have we seen this? Romans 1:22-26 talks about those who worshipped the creature rather than the creator. What did God do? Verse 26 tells us He gave them up to their vile passions.

d) What a terrible state to be in -- to be given up on by God! Why does God do that? Perhaps he hopes that the people he gives up will become so defiled that they will come to their senses. Or perhaps he wants their defilement to be a lesson to others.

e) The phrase "What is the high place you go to?" in verse 29 is rhetorical. The people thought they could worship these other gods without God knowing.

G. Present Rebellions and the Coming Exile (20:30-39)

1. Having focused on their past rebellions, attention now turns to their present rebellions.

2. The people who came to Ezekiel were as guilty as their ancestors, as had been made clear in Chapter 18.

3. God speaks of the wilderness experiences in verses 37-39 as a time of purification.

a) Those who rebelled against God were purged from among the people.

b) Verse 37 says they passed under the rod. What does that mean? Shepherds did this with their flock as they were bedding them down in the fold. They would hold their staff across the entrance and stop each sheep to check for injuries. They also made sure that the sheep were theirs and not from another flock. In this way, God would purge the rebels from out of his people.

c) The phrase "bond of the covenant" in verse 37 does not occur very often in scripture. The people were in obligation to the covenant they had made with God.

4. "Go and serve your idols!" is a remarkable command in verse 39.

a) "God is not urging them to commit idolatry but is calling for them to quit limping on both sides -- if you must sin, he is saying, go ahead, but keep my name out of it."

b) Recall Jesus' message to the church of the Laodiceans in Rev. 3:15-16.

(1) I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."

c) I think I had rather be an honest atheist on judgment day than a so-called Christian who professes a belief in God but lives every day as if God does not exist. Sometimes God looks down and just shouts "Make up your mind! Get off the fence!"

(1) (1 Kings 18:21) And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.

(2) Oh, but you know there are two sides to every issue. If I make up my mind one way, people on the other side may be upset with me. We need to study this some more. Let's not be hasty... As Chesterton said, we are raising a generation of people who are too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table!

d) "Go and serve your idols!" It was too late for repentance. Judgment was coming.

H. The Purification After the Exile (20:40-44)

1. After the nation had been purified by the exile, the people would once again return to the "holy mountain."

a) The "holy mountain" is a reference to Jerusalem. (Joel 3:17 -- So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, Dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, And no aliens shall ever pass through her again.)

2. This future restoration would encompass four events:

a) God's name would be vindicated among the heathen nations. He would show himself holy among his people in sight of the surrounding nations. (verse 41)

b) His people would again know that He is the Lord. (verse 42)

c) The people would repent, turn to God, and express deep remorse for their sinfulness. (verse 43)

(1) "I wonder if God came today through our cities, in judgment, sparing only those who cried and hurt over the wickedness so rampant in our nations -- how many of us would survive the purge?"

d) The people would see that God had been merciful in his dealings with them. They had received much less punishment than they deserved. (verse 44)

3. Are verses 40-44 looking toward the actual return from exile that occurred under Cyrus or is it looking to the spiritual restoration of Israel that occurred under Christ?

a) I think there are elements of both restorations here. Certainly there would be a physical return from exile after this purification, but that restoration was only temporary. I think these verses also have in mind the spiritual restoration that occurred through Christ.

b) The phrase "all the house of Israel" is speaking of a united kingdom. Later in 37:22 Ezekiel speaks of the church as a single kingdom with a single king. (Yet Ezra 6:17 speaks of offerings being made on behalf of the twelve tribes.)

I. The Call for Judgment to Begin (20:45-49)

1. Before the restoration can occur, judgment must occur.

2. The process of purging the land would begin with refining fires of judgment on Judah and Jerusalem.

a) Ezekiel looks toward the South to deliver this message. That is, he looked toward Jerusalem.

b) Verse 48 tells us that this judgment would be so severe and of such a scope that it would be clear to all that it was an act of divine judgment.

3. This chapter ends with a complaint by Ezekiel that he was not being taken seriously because he spoke in parables rather than using plain words.

a) Chapter 21 gives the message in plain words. (He may have had the opposite complaint by the time the next chapter came to an end!)

3. Chapter 21: Prophecy of the Sword of the Lord

A. Introduction to Chapter 21

1. The phrase "Son of man, set your face against..." occurs nine times in the Bible, all in Ezekiel. We see it here in verse 2.

a) Each time it indicated a message of judgment. Here Ezekiel is commanded to prophecy judgment against Jerusalem.

b) A New Testament parallel can be found in Luke 9:51. There Jesus "set his face to go to Jerusalem" and he pronounced a judgment against that city very similar to the judgment prophesied by Ezekiel. (Luke 19:41; 21:20-24).

2. The collection of sword oracles in this chapter continues the messages of judgment against Judah and Jerusalem.

B. The Sword is Drawn (21:1-7)

1. Verse 2 mentions the city, the sanctuary, and the land. God's judgment would be complete. Nothing would be spared. God's sword in verses 3-5 was the Babylonian army itself!

2. In 20:46, the face was toward the "South." Now it is toward "Jerusalem."

a) Is that plain enough? They wanted plain language? They are getting it! No more riddles. No more parables. Read my lips --- Jerusalem is going to be smashed with a sword! (The only thing worse than hearing everything in parables is not hearing everything in parables!)

3. Verse 4 indicates that both the wicked and the righteous would be cut off. Does this contradict what Ezekiel was told in Chapter 18 -- that each man was responsible only for his own sins?

a) The righteous were not being punished for the sins of others -- but they were certainly suffering due to the sins of others.

b) Read Exodus 34:6-7. (And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7“keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”)

c) Children died in the flood. Were they being punished by the flood? No. Were they suffering because of the sins of their parents? Yes.

d) It may seem to us like there is a fine line between suffering and punishment --- but to God there is a great deal of difference.

e) Also, taking the righteous from the land is a terrible punishment in and of itself on those unrighteous who remain behind.

f) Finally, sometimes the righteous die so that they might be spared a coming evil.

(1) Isaiah 57:1 (NIV) -- "The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil."

(2) 2 Kings 22:20 -- "Therefore, behold, I will gather thee [Josiah] to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil which I will bring upon this place."

(a) God had just been telling Josiah that he was pleased with his humility. Verse 20 was a promise of blessing! It was better for Josiah to die in battle with Pharaoh Necho than to live on and see what would happen to the people because of their sin.

C. The Sword is Used (21:8-17)

1. This section is predominantly poetic, with some prose statements interspersed.

2. First, the sword is sharpened and readied for the slaughter. (v. 8-11)

a) The meaning of the phrase in verse 10b (the scepter or rod despises every stick) is uncertain. Some take the rod to be a rod of discipline. Others note that in Genesis 49:10 both "scepter" and "my son" are used to describe the promise of the royal line in Judah, which is a subject of discussion here.

b) The translation that makes the most sense to me is in the NKJV -- "It despises the scepter of my son, as it does all wood." That is, this sword is impartial. It chops down foreign kings as well as kings in the Davidic line.

c) This idea reappears a few verses later in verse 13 -- "And what if the sword despises even the scepter? The scepter shall be no more."

3. Second, Ezekiel cries and smites his chest as a symbol of the carnage. (v. 12)

a) Yet again we have a physical demonstration by Ezekiel. (After hearing this message, Ezekiel might very well have done this without even being told!)

4. Third, the sword strikes twice, then three times to indicate the extent of the judgment. (v. 13-14)

a) The three strikes may denote the three Babylonian invasions and deportation.

(1) The first was in 605 during the reign of Jehoiakim. The second was in 597 BC during the reign of Jehoiachin. The third was in 586 during the reign of Zedekiah.

(2) It may simply stress the severity of the judgment. Amos used similar language at the beginning of his book. For three judgments, no four!

5. Finally, the sword is instructed to do its work. (v. 15-17).

a) The sword is stationed at the gates to intercept those who might flee. It will slash until its work is done, at which time God will clap his hands together to indicate the completion of his judgment.

D. Nebuchadnezzar's Decision (21:18-27)

1. Ezekiel next makes a drawing of the road by which Nebuchadnezzar would approach Judah.

a) The King had two choices. He could attack Rabbah (a city of the Ammonites) or Jerusalem. Damascus was the normal junction where the road divided.

b) Faced with this decision, the King uses divination to decide what to do. Three forms of soothsaying are mentioned in verse 21.

(1) Belomancy was the shaking of arrows, letting them fall, and interpreting the pattern.

(2) Consulting the teraphim meant consulting idols about what to do.

(3) Hepatoscopy was the examination of the liver of an animal to determine the future.

c) Nebuchadnezzar chooses to attack Jerusalem. The message here is that God controls both this pagan and his pagan divination and Nebuchadnezzar will do whatever God wants him to do. (In Jeremiah 27:6, God describes Nebuchadnezzar as his servant.)

2. What does the phrase "sworn allegiance" in verse 23 mean?

a) One possible paraphrase: "And this decision to come against Jerusalem will seem to the Judean false prophets to be a false divination contrary to Nebuchadnezzar's best interests. These Judean false prophets have sworn oaths to the Judean people that everything would work out all right for them. But God (through Babylon) will bring their iniquity (their lying to the people, etc.) to remembrance."

b) Another possibility: "This decision to go against Jerusalem will seem to the Judeans to be a mistake for Nebuchadnezzar. The Judeans had sworn oaths to Nebuchadnezzar and didn't keep them so the Babylonian will bring this faithlessness to remembrance."

3. The "profane and wicked prince of Israel" in verse 25 is Zedekiah.

a) He would lose his crown and the kingdom of Judah would end (verse 26). Zedekiah would be dethroned and humiliated (verses 25-27) and his kingdom would become a ruin (verse 27).

4. The removal of the priesthood and kingship from Judah are pictured here by the removal of the high priest's turban and the king's crown.

a) With these removed, all would be different. The low would be exalted and the exalted would be brought low. (verse 26)

5. The crown and the turban would be held in reserve until "he comes to whom it rightfully belongs." (verse 27)

a) That coming king is, of course, Jesus Christ.

(1) Genesis 49:10 --- The scepter shall not depart from Judah.

(2) Psalm 2:6 --- But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.

(3) Jeremiah 23:5 --- Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land.

(4) Ezekiel 37:24 --- My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.

b) Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 17:14)

(1) Not "will be" King of Kings as we sometimes sing. (See #577 in our song books and see my comments about that song at http://www.thywordistruth.com/Songs/index.htm. You can also find out there why premillennialists deny that Jesus is presently reigning on the throne of David.)

(2) Jesus is presently wearing the crown of David as he rules over everything, having been given all authority in heaven and on earth.

6. In about 500 years, the Davidic throne had gone from King David to the loathsome and pathetic Prince Zedekiah.

a) The Davidic throne was established in 1047 BC. David sat on it and ruled for 43 years. The kings after David all the way down to Zedekiah occupied a literal throne in Jerusalem on Mt. Moriah. After Zedekiah's rebellion, the throne was vacant for 600 years.

b) The next mention of the throne is in Luke 1:33 --- "The Lord God will give Him [Jesus] the throne of His father David."

c) Jesus is now on the throne of David, and that throne is now in heaven where Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 8:1 --- "Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens...")

d) After the Babylonians came the Medes and the Persians and then the Greeks. The Jews revolted against Greek rule during the the Maccabean Rebellion, which eventually gave rise to the first independent Jewish nation since before the Babylonian captivity. This nation only lasted 79 years. In 63 BC, the Romans under Pompey conquered Jerusalem and once again the Jews were under foreign domination.

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)