Ezekiel — Lesson 20

Ezekiel 36 & 37

1. Repossession of the Mountains of Israel (36:1-15)

A. This chapter contains a prophecy of encouragement, and yet "this prophecy of encouragement interestingly took the form of a judgment speech."

B. Verses 1-15 contain three accusations against Edom and the surrounding nations (verses 1-7) and three promises of restoration for Israel (verses 8-15).

C. The restoration message is a counterpart to the judgment message in 6:1-14, which was also addressed to the mountains and hills. The mountains of Israel are contrasted with Mount Seir (the home of Edom) that we saw in Chapter 35.

D. In 6:3 we saw that Israel's idolatry occurred at the "high places." That same word is translated "heights" in 36:2.

E. It was because of this idolatry that in Chapter 6 God said he would destroy the pagan shrines and would bring the sword to slay the people "because of all the wicked and detestable practices of the house of Israel." (6:11)

F. Through Edom and the rest of the nations (36:3-5) God had fulfilled His word. They had wielded the sword and made desolate "the inheritance of the house of Israel." (35:15; 36:4)

G. Nevertheless, God would not leave these other nations unpunished for their "malicious talk and slander" (36:3), their scorn (36:6), or for their glee and the malice in their hearts with which they acted (36:5).

H. Most importantly, God would not allow these other nations to retain possession of the land, but he would return it to "the whole house of Israel." (36:10).

I. The three accusations brought against these other nations expands on the ideas in Chapter 35.

1. First, the nations and Edom had taken possession of the mountains of Israel. (36:2-3, 5)

a) In verse 2 they said "Aha, the ancient high places have become our possession." These high places for pagan worship were thought to have special powers and were considered a prize possession.

2. Second, they had plundered Judah and left the land desolate. (36:3-4)

3. Third, they had ridiculed and scorned Judah. (36:3-4, 6, 15)

4. Edom is mentioned specifically only in verse 5, but the accusations are comparable to those in Chapter 35.

5. The "nations" in verse 4 refers to the Gentile nations of which the most recent was Babylon. But Edom is especially significant in these verses as "the epitome of nations that sought to overrun and acquire Israel's land for themselves."

J. Verses 8-12 contain three promises to Israel regarding the land.

1. First, the land will again be fruitful (36:8-9). Compare 6:8-10.

2. Second, the house of Israel will return and multiply in the land (36:10-11).

3. Third, the Israelites will once again possess the land (36:12-14).

K. Ownership of the land was by divine commission.

1. Every family was entrusted with a portion of land protected by the law of the Jubilee Year (Lev. 25:8-24) when all property was restored to the original owner or surviving family.

2. Thus, the land was viewed as a divine stewardship. It was for this reason that Naboth refused to sell his portion of the land to King Ahab (1 Kings 21:3; Lev. 25:23).

3. "When the enemy claimed possession of the land, they claimed ownership of what was not theirs to take. It was God's land."

4. The use of "my land" in 36:5 called attention to the fact that the land was God's -- as were the people ("my people" in verse 12).

L. When the spies described the land in Numbers 13:32, they said it was a land that "devours those living in it."

1. God promises that in this restoration the land would no longer "devour" the people (36:14). No longer will people taunt Israel in it; no longer will they scorn them or cause them to fall (36:15).

2. The people would enjoy a special protection by God. This is a theme that Ezekiel will develop more fully later in the book.

2. Reasons for the Coming Restoration (36:16-23)

A. Verses 16-18 describe how the land had been defiled by the Israelites' disobedience to the Mosaic covenant.

B. These acts of disobedience centered in two areas: (verse 18)

1. Bloodshed and violence.

2. Idolatry.

C. Verse 19 tells us that God judged them by dispersing them -- a reference to both the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.

D. But by their punishment, they became a reproach to God's holy name because they made it appear to others that God was not able to keep them safe. "These are the people of the LORD, and yet they have gone out of His land." (verse 20)

1. Recall from Ezekiel 20:39 that the Israelites' idolatry not only defiled the land, but it profaned God's name.

2. The revelation of God's name or character was a major aspect of God's dealings with Israel from the beginning.

3. The Jews were God's representatives, and their sin brought reproach upon God. There is a real lesson here for us. The church is God's representative today.

E. Thus, God intended to restore them, not because they deserved restoration, but for the sake of His own holy name and His reputation. (verses 20-23).

F. Not only would the people be restored, but God's name and reputation would be restored among the surrounding nations.

3. Seven Elements of the Coming Restoration (36:24-32)

A. Seven elements of the coming restoration are presented in these verses. They expand ideas that were first presented in 11:14-21.

B. First, God promises to return his people to their land. (verse 24)

1. God would gather them "out of all countries" in verse 24. Which countries?

2. The Northern Kingdom went into Assyrian captivity in 722 BC. Babylon took captives from Judah in 605, 597, and 587 BC. Babylon was overthrown by Medo-Persia in 539 BC, after which the Hebrews began to return to the land under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

3. Premillennialists say that "all" must mean many more than just these three (and really just one -- Medo-Persia). They look for a future regathering following the dispersion of AD 70. But, as we will see below, this view conflicts with some very clear teachings in the Bible regarding the church and its role in God's plan.

4. What then does this refer to? While the coming physical restoration involved a return from one nation, the coming spiritual restoration would indeed involve all nations. Read Acts 2:5 ("And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.")

a) Read also Isaiah 2:2 ("And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.") --- and read Acts 2:16-17 and Joel 2 to see when the "last days" occurred.

C. Second, God will cleanse the people from their impurities and especially their idolatry, which had defiled the land. (verse 25) ("I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.")

1. Ezekiel used his favorite mocking word (gillulim) for "idols" in verse 18. It may be derived from the Hebrew word for dung (gel) -- gillulim thus meaning "dung things" or "dung idols."

2. Cleansing and forgiveness were symbolized by sprinkling with clean water to wash away their impurities. See Numbers 19: 13, 20.

3. Some have pointed to this passage to support baptism by sprinkling.

a) The pattern for proper baptism is found in the examples we read in the New Testament, not in Ezekiel or Numbers. The word "baptism" means immersion and Paul tells us that baptism represents a burial and resurrection.

b) Even one Catholic scholar wrote that early church baptism was "by immersion of the whole person, which is the only meaning of the New Testament word. A mere pouring or sprinkling was never thought of." (J. J. Ignatius Dollinger)

c) A more interesting comparison with baptism is that water is used here to denote cleansing, and that cleansing follows repentance. Where else do we see repentance followed by a cleansing with water? (Acts 2:38)

d) In most of the denominational world (and sadly among a growing number of people in the church itself), baptism is thought to occur after cleansing -- which makes no sense at all.

e) Recall Acts 22:16 ("And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.") Could that be any more clear? You really need expert help to misunderstand that passage.

D. Third, the people will be given a new heart and a new spirit. (verse 26)

1. Their hearts of stone will be replaced by hearts of flesh. No longer would they be stubborn and unresponsive to God's word.

2. One premillennial commentator writes:

a) "The temptation to find the fulfillment of the "new heart" and "new spirit" ... exclusively in Christian conversion in this age should be resisted. New Testament conversion is only a preview of the massive spiritual revival that God has in store for all true Israel[ites] and Gentiles who believe. ... When Israel did not fulfill its role, God used the New Testament church as a means of presenting the message of redemption."

3. And there is the central thesis of premillennialism -- the church is the result of a mistake by God.

a) God had a plan for Israel, but Israel surprised him and rejected Jesus, so God came up with "Plan B" --- the church. We could say so many things here, but time will permit only three points.

b) First, this attitude may explain why many denominations have no concerns about departing from the pattern for the church we find in Acts. If God considers the church to be just "Plan B" then how important could it really be? He won't mind if we change it to suit our own tastes and our own desires.

c) Second, NO ONE (God included!) reading the Old Testament could have possibly expected the Jews to do have done anything other than what they did -- reject and murder the son of God. Isaiah seemed to have known all about it in Isaiah 53; as did David in Psalm 22. The rejection of Jesus was certainly not a surprise to God, and it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone else.

d) Third, the church of Christ is not a mistake. It is the eternal kingdom of Daniel 2 that was to be set up during the days of the Roman empire and was to outlast all of the kingdoms of men. The church is the body of Jesus Christ to which the saved are added by God. It is the New Jerusalem prepared as a bride for Jesus Christ. Does that sound like a mistake or a "Plan B"? Hardly.

E. Fourth, God's spirit would move the people to follow his laws. (verse 27)

F. Fifth, the people will live in the land that God gave their forefathers. (verse 28)

G. Sixth, God promises a new level of productivity. He instructs the grain to produce and the trees and crops to yield bountifully. (verses 29-30) No longer would famine drive God's people from the land.

H. Seventh, the people will remember their former vile practices and they will loathe themselves. (verse 31)

1. This terminology was used in 6:9 to describe Israel's repentance in exile. Here and in 20:43 is describes their feelings of revulsion after their return from exile.

I. We will see these seven elements of the restoration again in the next chapter, where we will have more to say about them.

J. Verse 32 ends with another reminder that none of these restoration promises was provided because the people deserved them. The primary motive was to demonstrate God's greatness and holiness.

4. The Benefits of the Restoration (36:33-38)

A. These verses review the benefits that would be provided by God's restoration of His people.

B. The benefits listed in verses 33-34 include cleansing from sin, resettlement, rebuilding, replanting, and productivity in the land.

C. Mention of the "Garden of Eden" in verse 35 points to a theme that we discussed in Lesson 19. God's plan from the start has been to recover the relationship with man that He had in the Garden and that was lost when man rebelled and sinned against God.

D. It is important to note that the Bible often describes spiritual blessings as physical blessings.

1. Example: "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5)

2. Read Isaiah 11 (e.g., "the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb" in verse 6) and then read Romans 15:8,12 to see when the prophecies in Isaiah 11 came to pass -- in the first century with the coming of Jesus Christ.

E. It is impossible to interpret all of these blessings literally and remain consistent with the remainder of Scripture -- or even the remainder of Ezekiel.

1. In verse 35 of this chapter we see that Israel will dwell in fortified cities. However, in 38:11, we find Gog coming against a people who dwell, not in fortified cities, but in unwalled villages with neither bars nor gates.

2. The Northern and Southern Kingdoms are reunited in 37:22. Yet, back in 16:53-59 we saw the Northern Kingdom brought back in the future as an independent nation.

3. It may sound good when some people proudly proclaim that they take all of scripture literally, but they don't (they take David to refer to Christ in these chapters, for example). Also, taking figurative language literally quickly leads to contradictions and inconsistencies.

F. When was or when will that "Garden of Eden" relationship be restored?

1. It has already been restored! In Exodus 25:8 God said "Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." In many ways the rest of the Bible is simply a variation on that theme.

2. John 1:14 tells us that "the word became flesh and dwelt among us." A literal translation of this passage is that the word became flesh and tabernacled among us.

3. In Revelation 21:3 (speaking of the triumphant church after the judgment of Rome) God says "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God."

4. 1 Corinthians 3:16 ("Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?")

5. Paul (describing the church) writes in Ephesians 2:22 ("in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.")

6. When will that perfect relationship that God had with man in the Garden be restored? It was restored when God established his church. We who have been added to that church presently enjoy that restored relationship. God dwells with us, and we may boldly approach his throne of grace.

7. Do we then have anything to look forward to? Of course! Colossians 3:2-4 ("Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.")

5. Restoration of Life for Israel (37:1-14) -- The Valley of Dry Bones

A. Chapter 37 begins with one of the most amazing and well known prophecies in the entire Bible.

B. "The hand of the Lord was upon me" is Ezekiel's usual expression for a visionary experience (verse 1). Compare 1:3 and 8:1.

C. He is taken in a vision to a valley filled with human bones that had been dried, bleached, and scattered. The bones are said to be "very dry" in verse 2, indicating they had been there for some time.

D. Ezekiel walked "back and forth" (literally "around") in the valley taking care not to touch any of the bones. As a priest he would have to take these precautions because touching a dead body was forbidden (Lev 21:11). (He was careful to obey God even in a vision!)

E. In verse 3 he hears a question that must have seemed preposterous to him: "Son of man, can these bones live?"

F. Ezekiel's answer in verse 3 indicated both his appreciation for God's power and his recognition of man's helplessness in the face of death. "O Lord GOD, thou knowest." (Recall that his own wife had died in chapter 24.)

G. God tells him to preach to these dead, dry bones, and he obeys despite the apparent absurdity. He tells the bones to hear the word of the Lord!

1. Lesson for Today: Whenever we are tempted not to proclaim God's word because we think we already know our audience's response --- remember Ezekiel! Did any preacher ever have a deader audience?

H. Ezekiel's obedience produces immediate results. Even before he finishes, he hears the noise of the bones coming together and being covered by flesh, yet they are still not alive.

I. God commands Ezekiel to preach to the "ruah" (breath, wind, or spirit) to fill the corpses. As in Genesis 2:7, the people here are filled with breath and life, and they then stand up as a vast, living, reconstituted army. (verse 10)

J. In verses 11-14, God interprets the vision for Ezekiel. This vision was God's response to the people's feeling of hopelessness. "Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off." (verse 11)

K. Can these bones live? Can a dead and powerless nation in exile and under the control of a godless nation be resurrected and become a living, thriving kingdom once again?

L. Sin had caused the death of the nation of Israel. (Rom. 6:23) These people needed a spiritual resurrection.

M. God's message is that the nation would live again; the people would settle again in their own land; and, the people would know that it was God who had brought them back to life.

N. When did this resurrection occur? Or is it yet to occur?

1. There was a national resurrection when the people returned from exile. Their neighbors no doubt thought they were all dead and gone, but they returned and the nation came back to life.

2. But there was a later spiritual resurrection as well.

a) Daniel 12:2 speaks of a resurrection of Israel that (from the context of chapter 11 and 12:1) must have occurred in the first century. See my notes on Daniel 12 at www.thywordistruth.com.

b) (John 5:25) Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

c) (Ephesians 5:14) Therefore it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”

d) (Luke 2:34) and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel…

6. Reunification of Israel (37:15-28)

A. These verses present a new vision that was a sequel to the vision of the dry bones.

B. Ezekiel was commanded to perform a symbolic action as he had several times before. He took two sticks and identified them with inscriptions denoting the two former kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

C. Ezekiel made one stick of the two by holding them together (verses 15-17). Through this symbolic action he portrayed the reunification of the revived nation.

D. Aside: The Mormons cite this section of Ezekiel as proof that the book of Mormon is from God.

1. According to the Mormons, these sticks are scrolls. The stick of Judah is the Bible, and the stick of Joseph is --- guess what! --- the book of Mormon. The two sticks become one to symbolize these two books coming together as complimentary scriptures.

2. See www.thywordistruth.com for an interesting article about the origin of the book of Mormon. (It definitely did NOT come from God.)

3. McGuiggan: The man who can get the book of Mormon and the Bible out of this section marches to a different drummer than Ezekiel.

E. Ezekiel used "Joseph" and "Ephraim" to denote the Northern kingdom.

1. Jereboam I was an Ephraimite (1 Kings 12:25). Ephraim was a popular designation of the northern tribes under his leadership (Hosea 4:16-17). (Manasseh and Ephraim were sons of Joseph.)

F. In verse 18 he is asked what this all means. Ezekiel explains that God was going to join (literally "give") Joseph to Judah (verse 19). Why "give"? Perhaps because David (the new king in verse 24) was of the tribe of Judah.

G. Thus, God was going to restore and reunite the nation under one king (verses 18-22). Further, the nation would never again be divided (verse 22) and never again would the people serve idols (verse 23).

H. The restored nation would have David as its king. Thus, they would be united under one shepherd.

1. Even the most avowed premillennial literalist takes the reference to David here to be a reference to Jesus. If God was using King David to symbolize the coming Messiah, couldn't he have been using other symbols as well?

I. They would live under a covenant of peace.

1. In the previous lesson we saw that this covenant of peace refers to the reconciliation and peace with God that was part of the New Covenant.

2. There is an additional aspect of the covenant of peace -- peace between the Jews and the Gentiles.

3. This is the peace that Paul wrote about in Ephesians 2:13-18 ("But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.")

4. See Isaiah 2:1-5 ("and they shall beat their swords into plowshares"). Although the UN displays this phrase on its building as if it something yet future, the Bible makes it clear that those swords were beaten into plowshares nearly 2000 years ago! See also Micah 4:1-5; Acts 2; Joel 2.

J. Two new elements of the promise are given here: (1) the people would be restored to the land forever (verse 25), and (2) a sanctuary would be constructed among them that would remain forever (verse 26).

1. The word "olam" meaning forever or everlasting is used five times in verses 25-28. It is the same word used to describe the everlasting kingdom in Daniel 2:44 --- the kingdom that was set up in the first century.

2. Mention of the sanctuary here is a prelude to the temple vision of 40:1-44:31.

K. There were 13 promises made to Israel in verses 15-28. "It is clear from our vantage point that all of these promises were not fulfilled after the first return from Babylon. Prophecy often had an immediate, limited fulfillment but also a long-range, more complete fulfillment."

1. God will personally find Israel and gather the people from among the nations (verse 21a).

2. God will bring them into their land that will be restored to them (verse 21b).

3. God will make one nation of the two that had been in the land (verse 22a).

4. God will set one king over the nation (verses 22b and 24a).

5. God will insure the unity of the restored kingdom that will never again be divided (verse 22c).

6. The people will never again serve idols (verse 23a).

7. God will save them, cleanse them, and establish an intimate personal relationship with them (verse 23b).

8. The people will walk in obedience to his law (verse 24b).

9. God will establish them in their land forever (verse 25).

10. God will establish his new covenant of peace with them (verse 26a).

11. God will multiply them in the land and they will enjoy prosperity with peace (verse 26b).

12. God will establish his sanctuary among them and personally dwell there forever (verses 26c and 27).

13. God will make Israel a testimony to the nations of his saving grace (verse 28).

L. Do these verses speak of a future restored Jewish nation or the present day church? It can only be the church!

1. God made three promises to the Jews. All have been fulfilled or forfeited.

a) There was the promise of land in Genesis 15:18-21.

(1) The promise of land was fulfilled.

(a) Joshua 21:43-45 (And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. ... There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.)

(2) Continued possession of the land was conditioned on the people's faithfulness to the covenant.

(a) Deuteronomy 28:58-63 (If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, ... ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it.)

b) There was the promise of worldwide blessing through Abraham's seed in Genesis 22:15-18.

(1) This promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

(2) See Galatians 3:8 ("And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.")

c) There was the promise of an eternal kingdom in II Samuel 7:12-16.

(1) This promise was fulfilled in the establishment of the church.

(2) Mark 9:1 ("there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.") According to some, Jesus was mistaken when he said this. Somebody is mistaken, but it certainly is NOT Jesus!

(3) Colossians 1:13 ("For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.")

(4) Acts 1:6 (and compare Luke 24:27 and Luke 24:45) ("And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, 'Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?'")

(5) John 18:36 ("Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.")

(6) 1 Cor. 15:24 ("Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.") Jesus is not coming again to set up a kingdom; he is coming again to deliver an existing kingdom to God.

2. Christians are the true offspring of Abraham.

a) Galatians 3:27-29 ("For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.")

3. The Jews were given the opportunity for salvation BEFORE (not AFTER) the Gentiles.

a) Romans 1:16 ("For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.")

4. Faithful Jews are saved the same way as faithful Gentiles.

a) Acts 15:11 ("But we [Jewish apostles and elders] believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they [the Gentiles].")

b) Romans 10:12-13 ("For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.")

5. The Church is the new Israel and the new Jerusalem.

a) Galatians 6:15-16 ("For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.")

b) Revelation 21:2 ("And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.")

c) Hebrews 12:22-24 ("But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.")

6. The temple need not be rebuilt because the church of Christ is God's temple.

a) 1 Cor. 3:16-17 ("Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.")

b) Ephesians 2:20-22 ("having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.")

7. All of the promises to the Jews were fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ. No promises that are peculiar to the Jews remain to be fulfilled.

a) Jeremiah 33:14-16 ("Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. 15 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.")

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)