Matthew 26

Mary and the Anointing at Bethany

This event is also recounted by Mark and John.

John tells us that the woman described here is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

Luke tells us about a different, earlier anointing in Luke 7:36-50. Mary, likely aware of that earlier anointing, may have been deliberately imitating that earlier tribute of love here.

What can we learn from this event? I agree with Barclay who says that "in it are enshrined certain very precious truths."

This event shows us love's extravagance.

This ointment may very well have been the most precious thing she owned. Mark and John tell us it was worth 300 denarii (a year's wages).

When the multitude were fed in John 6:7, we were told that 200 denarii was just about enough to scarcely feed 5000 people. That tells us how many could be fed with 300 denarii!

Why did she give it to Jesus?

Because it was the most precious thing she had.

You can imagine the love in that room as she looked at her Lord and as she looked at her brother Lazarus, recently raised from the dead by her Lord.

One sat there who had been dead. And one was there who is the very Life, without whom there is no life, and yet who was about to die.

"Love never calculates; love never thinks how little it can decently give; love's one desire is to give to the uttermost limits; and, when it has given all it has to give, it still thinks the gift too little."

"The real wonder is that the Church of Christ should be so slow to pour out her treasures at his feet, that calculating economy and grudging meanness should cripple the efforts of any Christian people in sacrificing themselves and giving their offering the glory of their Lord."

This event shows us that with giving sometimes the common sense, pragmatic view of things fails.

It was common sense and pragmatism that called this a waste – why not use it to feed the poor? They could have thought of 1000 reasons why Mary should not do it.

The pragmatic disciples were horrified, but Jesus said it was lovely.

Yet "there is a world of difference between the economics of common sense and the economics of love."

"A gift truly becomes a gift only when there is sacrifice behind it."

This event shows us that certain things must be done when the opportunity arises or they can never be done at all.

They would always be able to help the poor. In fact, the rabbis said: "God allows the poor to be with us always, that the opportunities for doing good may never fail."

But there are some things that can be done only once or not at all. To miss the opportunity to do them is to miss the opportunity forever. Once some doors close, they never open again.

Barclay: "Is our life the history of loss opportunities to do the lovely things"

What if Mary had saved her precious ointment for later?

Mary understood the significance of the moment, and she left us an example of uncalculating love and devotion.

This event shows us that the fragrance of a single lovely deed can last forever.

Had she saved that ointment, its fragrance would have disappeared millennia ago. But she gave it up, and the fragrance remains to this day.

Such deeds shine like a light in this dark world, and that was particularly true then as Jesus neared the cross.

Her gift is proclaimed wherever the gospel is proclaimed.

The women came to the tomb in vain to anoint him on the morning of the resurrection, but he was not there. This anointing by Mary was the only one he received.

But on the same night when Jesus was anointed out of love, he was betrayed out of hate.

"Without transition, the Gospel leads us from the light of faith into the darkness of treason."

One commentator suggested that perhaps Mary and Judas were the only two disciples who finally believed that Jesus was about to die – and they had opposite reactions.

But if that is true, then Judas must have understood it only recently because Luke 18:34 tells us that at that time the twelve "understood none of these things, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said."

As we look next at Judas, we can contrast Mary's uncalculating generosity with his sordid bargaining.

Judas the Betrayer

Who was Judas?

He has been called one of the darkest riddles of human history.

He has been called the most colossal failure in all of human history.

His earliest recorded words in the Bible are a complaint in John 12:3-6.

Prior to these events in Matthew 26, he had been mentioned only once by Matthew (10:4). Now from the shadows he moves toward the center stage.

What was Judas' motive?

This question is the subject of much debate and controversy.

The gospels provide no explanation for his motive, but there are some hints.

Many, and perhaps most, point to greed and avarice as the motive.

John 12:6 provides the additional details that it was Judas who complained about Mary's gift of the expensive ointment, and that he did so because he was a thief.

The Greek word carries with it the idea of a sustained practice of pilfering.

Yet I think we must agree with one commentator who noted that his description as a thief does not seem to exhaust the depths of his treachery. As bad as that was, Judas was much more than just a thief.

His final decision to betray Jesus occurred immediately after the perceived waste by Mary.

"His thieving instinct made him blow with his tainted breath upon the beautiful offering of Mary to Jesus."

Notice how Satan took something good and turned it into something evil – God does just the opposite: He takes evil and turns it into good. (Genesis 50:20) Not even the worst act of treachery could derail the divine plan – in fact, it was made a part of the divine plan!

It is interesting to wonder when Satan finally figured out that his attempts to derail God's plan were actually furthering God's plan. Did Satan have a hand in the dream of Pilate's wife and her attempts to have Jesus freed? If not, who was behind that dream (if anyone)?

To Judas, the anointing and the communion supper must have been sheer folly at this moment of crisis.

Look at the triumphal entry! The people were on his side! It was time to act! To Judas this must have all seemed like the last straw.

Judas initiated the bargain by asking the High Priests, "How much will you give me?"

Mark 14:11 says that he did it when it was convenient, and Luke 22:6 tells us that it occurred in the absence of the multitudes – that is, Judas was a coward as well as a thief!

All still the case when the thirty pieces are exchanged today!

If money was the motive, then surely this is the most terrible example in history of the depths that the love of money can take a person.

Perhaps Judas rationalized the bargain – after all, look at what he had given up to follow Jesus. (Matthew 19:27 – "we have forsaken all, and followed thee") Wasn't he owed something out of this deal?

Perhaps we are meant to contrast Mary's love of Christ with Judas' love of money.

If we compare the sum, we see that Judas sold Jesus for a sum much smaller than the value of Mary's ointment.

Exodus 21:32 tells us that 30 pieces of silver was the price to be paid for a slave gored by an ox.

Perhaps Jesus was looking at Judas when he spoke about covetousness and laying up treasure in Heaven.

"Still as of old, Man by himself is priced; for thirty pieces Judas sold himself, not Christ."

Other argue that the real motive was a bitter hatred for Christ and a complete disillusionment with him.

We know very little about Judas, and some have surmised that he was one of those extreme nationalists who were willing to do anything to drive Rome out of Palestine.

Perhaps Judas wanted Jesus to lead such a rebellion, and he was upset that Jesus chose the path to the cross over the path that Judas wanted him to take.

Judas may have felt betrayed himself – why not betray in turn?

Perhaps he thought this ship was sinking, and it was time to get out while he could.

This was not the type of movement he had signed up for. Jesus was heading for failure and defeat!

Perhaps Judas hated Jesus because he was not the Christ he wanted him to be – and perhaps Judas has a lot of company in our modern world!

Perhaps Judas was becoming increasingly disenchanted with the type of Messiah Jesus was turning out to be.

Had Judas been an informant all along?

The High Priests seemed to know who he was. And they also seemed to know a great deal about what Jesus had been saying and doing at his trial.

And I think Judas knew that Jesus knew – which likely also made Judas grow to hate him. He might have been able to fool the others, but he could not fool Jesus.

Even in John 13, the others did not suspect Judas. Instead, they suspected themselves!

In Matthew 26:22-25, no one pointed the finger at Judas, but rather each (including Judas) said "Surely not I!"

They trusted Judas so much they made him the treasurer.

Judas should have won an Academy Award for his acting abilities!

Still others argue for what they see as a more positive motive – that Judas wanted to force Jesus' hand and make him act against Rome.

Barclay says that this view "best suits all the facts" – although I disagree and think he is leaving a few key facts (such as John 12:6) out of his analysis. We know Judas was a thief. We know his motives were not positive.

Those who hold this view argue that it best explains Judas' suicide when his plan went awry.

Barclay says that when Judas kissed Jesus, he meant it. He stood back and waited at last for Jesus to act – and when he did not, Judas ran away a broken man.

Under this view, Judas refused to accept Jesus as he was, but instead tried to make him be what Judas wanted him to be. If so, it is a common mistake.

It is we who must be changed by Christ, and not vice versa. It is Jesus who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow – not us. He is the fixed point – not us.

We need to remember that in our song service!

We sing songs that show us crowning Jesus (who is changing there?) and placing Jesus in a high place (who is moving there?).

We would never let a denominational preacher preach from our pulpit, but do we let them proclaim the same message through our song service?

Perhaps Judas' biggest problem was that he thought he knew much better than God what needed to be done.

Judas may have had a geographical motive.

In our introductory class we talked about the differences between the Galilean Jews of the north and the Judean Jews of the south.

Judas Iscariot is the only apostle who is (perhaps) identified geographically.

Iscariot may mean "man of Kerioth," which would mean that Judas (unlike the Galilean apostles) came from a small town in Southern Judea. (Others have proposed different explanations for "Iscariot," but this view is the most common.)

Thus, it is very possible that Judas was the only Judean Jew among the apostles.

If so, he likely always felt different, and he most likely felt superior. As we saw in our introduction, Judean Jews looked down on the northern Jews as country cousins. Judas likely saw himself as much more sophisticated than Jesus' other apostles.

Do we see pride at work here? If so, it would explain much!

And before we point the finger only at Judas in this regard, remember that James and John expressed their own desire for personal power and prestige over the other apostles. (Mark 10:37 – "Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left.") But Judas may have taken it much further than John and James would ever have imagined or sought.

Did Judas perform miracles? Yes. Mark 6:7-13 tells us that the twelve cast out demons and healed people.

Did this power go to Judas' head? Did he think he would make a better Messiah than Jesus? Did he want to take Jesus' place? Did he want this power for himself and for his own selfish purposes?

It is interesting to compare this possible motive with the similar descriptions in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, which many (including myself) think apply to Satan.

Had Judas' pride caused him to become ashamed of Jesus and his teaching? Was Jesus perhaps looking at Judas in Mark 8?

Mark 8:37-38 – For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Perhaps Judas planned to use this Northern prophet for his own purposes all along.

Did Judas grow to resent the leading role of these Galilean fishermen? Do we perhaps see jealousy here? If so, wouldn't that explain Judas' extreme emotions at his end better than his merely being a thief?

My view is that Judas likely had more than just a single motive.

Scripture tells us that money was a primary motive. But I think hatred, disillusionment, jealousy, and pride were also likely involved.

But Scripture also shows us a Judas that is different from the cold, unfeeling creature we often picture.

The Greek word used for the kiss in the garden indicates that Judas kissed Jesus repeatedly and fervently.

Also, the final act of suicide shows us an extreme emotional response. If money were the sole motive, then why not just head out of town once the money was safely in your bag?

Perhaps Jesus was a means to an end for Judas.

After all, one thing can be said for Judas that cannot be said for many of Jesus' other disciples – Judas stayed with Jesus almost to the very end. (Many others left early as we see, for example, in John 6.)

But was he staying purely for selfish motives – what he could get out of it? Was Judas seeking personal power in an earthly kingdom? And having invested so much, perhaps he wanted to make sure he left with something – hence the thirty pieces?

One commentator argued that for a student to kiss a master uninvited was a "studied insult."

If so, then the kiss itself may have been intended as a public repudiation of Jesus' authority.

It is notable that Judas called Jesus Rabbi rather than Lord. Judas is the only person who calls Jesus Rabbi in the book of Matthew.

Others look at the kiss and wonder if Judas was trying to hide his connection with the mob that soon followed him.

Was Judas a Hero?

Some commentators have a very different view of Judas than the ones we have described so far – they see Judas a hero!

This view, largely of German origin, says that Judas was one who dared to act. They say that Judas was willing to sacrifice himself for a larger cause.

An uninspired text called the "Gospel of Judas" has been in the news recently.

The National Geographic Society held a press conference in April 2006 announcing the publication of this so-called Gospel. It was promised to give "new insights into the relationship between Jesus and the disciple who betrayed him."

For starters, this false gospel was known to the world long before 2006. Irenaeus wrote about it in AD 180, described what it said, and told us who wrote it – a Gnostic sect called the Cainites who revered Cain, Esau, Korah, and Judas. Their writings tried turn bad guys into good guys, and this writing was no exception. (See more about the Gnostics in our lessons on the book of Jude.)

What does the Gospel of Judas say?

In that false text (likely written between AD 130 and 170), Judas is an enlightened secret agent who by his feigned treachery foils the evil designs of demonic powers called the Archons who tried to prevent the salvation of mankind.

According to this document, Jesus told Judas to betray him, and he said that Judas was the only disciple who really understood his message.

Of course, this view is directly counter to the teaching of Scripture.

This false gospel may tell us something about the Gnostics, but it tells us nothing about Judas. Its reconstructionist views find no support in the Bible.

Luke 22:3 tells us that Satan entered into Judas.

Jesus said in John 6:70 that he had chosen the twelve, and one of them was a devil.

Jesus called him the son of perdition in John 17:12.

Jesus said in Mark 14:21 that it would have been better for Judas had he not ever been born.

John tells us in 12:6 that Judas was a thief. His focus was on what he could get for himself, which is the very question he asked the High Priests when he struck his bargain.

In Luke 22:22, Jesus said "woe to that man by whom [the Son of Man] is betrayed!"

We see the extreme depth of his treachery from the simple fact that he used his knowledge of Christ's habits to betray him – his hour and place of prayer. (John 18:2 – "Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place; for Jesus had often met there with His disciples.")

Why all the publicity then?

The main reason is money (and that motive should ring a bell as we study Judas). The big splash came about the same time as the Da Vinci Code came out, which was also based on Gnostic heresies.

Another reason is the desire by many to undermine Christianity and the Bible. Even though no serious scholar (liberal or conservative) believes the Gospel of Judas has anything to do with the historical Judas, the National Geographic Society treated it seriously. Would they have done that with a document written in 1950 purporting to describe the real motives of Benedict Arnold?

One commentator rightly calls this hero theory "a figment of pure imagination, such stuff as dreams are made of, and not the Judas of the New Testament."

Spurgeon: "If it had not been for a Judas, we had not known how black, how foul, human nature may become. I scorn the men who try to apologize for the treachery of this devil in human form, this son of perdition, this foul apostate."

The Death of Judas

However we view his motive, one thing is clear – he at last saw the horror of what he had done.

Matthew 27:3-4 says that "when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood."

What did Judas see – or not see? Had he expected Jesus to miraculously free himself?

And note his testimony – he knew that Jesus was innocent! He had lived with Jesus for 3 years, and he knew he was sinless.

How glad the Jewish leaders would have been to have found an apostle to witness against Jesus, but not even Judas would do that.

Judas died with the truth on his lips!

How do we explain Judas' remorse?

Does his remorse at Jesus' condemnation suggest that Judas was expecting a different outcome?

Or perhaps he expected the outcome, but was not ready for it when it happened.

Sin committed always looks very different from sin in prospect.

Hebrews 3:13 reminds us that sin is deceitful, and Matthew 13:22 reminds us that riches are deceitful. Judas may have recognized that at the end.

And note that what we see here is remorse rather than repentance.

Suicide comes from a hopeless despair, which is very different from repentance.

The Greek word used in verse 3 means simply that Judas regretted what occurred or that he changed his mind.

Judas flung the money into the temple.

The Greek word used here indicates that he had gone as far into the temple precincts as he could – up to the Court of the Priests.

He called out to them to take back the money, but they would not – so he threw it at them and went off and hanged himself.

Judas is not alone in his attempt to cleanse his hands of Jesus' blood. The High Priests do the same thing in verse 4, and Pilate will soon do the same thing in verse 24.

The Priests could not put the tainted money back into the treasury, so they used it to buy a field in which strangers could be buried.

Some believe these strangers were Gentiles who died within the city, and, if so, some point to this purchase as a reminder that Jesus' blood was a blessing to both Jew and Gentile alike.

Other commentators argue that these strangers were Jews who travelled to Jerusalem for religious festivals and died while in the city.

And Judas hanged himself.

We also learn in Acts 1:18 that " falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out."

So presumably in hanging himself, the rope snapped and he fell.

There is an interesting comparison between the death of Judas and the death of Ahithophel in 2 Samuel 17:23, the friend of King David who betrayed him.

We can also see a great contrast between the remorse of Judas and the repentance of Peter, perhaps explained best by Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:10 – "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."

Judas had a theme song, and that song continued even up to his death at his own hand. It is the theme song of Hell – "I did it my way!"

And what happens to people who do it their way? Like Judas, they go to their own place. (Acts 1:25 – "That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.")

Jerome argued that Judas offended the Lord more by hanging himself than by betraying him.

"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'" (C. S. Lewis)

And to what place are we going? John 14:2 – "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you."

We learn two things about sin from the death of Judas.

First, we cannot turn the clock back.

We cannot undo what we have done, which should make us doubly careful of how we act. No action can be recalled.

"The Moving Finger writes; and having writ? Moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it."

Second, we learn that what men gain by sin they most often end up hating.

They often end up flinging away the great prize they won by their sinning.

They believe the forbidden thing will make them happy, but in the end they often find that their real desire is to rid themselves of their forbidden prize – but so often they cannot.

Was Judas free to change his mind?

Once again, this question has given rise to much controversy.

Jesus knew what Judas was up to long before the event, and Matthew reminds us that the betrayal had been prophesied from long before.

Psalm 41:9

Psalm 55:12-14, 20-21

Zechariah 11:12-13 (which speaks sarcastically of the 30 pieces of silver)

Luke tells us in 22:3 that Satan entered into Judas.

How then could Judas have changed his mind?

Some argue that he could not have done so. Calvin, for example, said that Judas was predestined to damnation.

Erasmus, however, argued that Judas was freely able to change his mind.

Don't we see the paradox clearly in Matthew 26:24?

"The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born."

It had to happen just as it was written, and yet Judas was completely responsible for what he did.

While completely confirming prophecy, Verse 24 leaves no room for fatalism.

I think the best answer is that Judas could have changed his mind, but God knew that he would not change his mind.

Jesus held Judas responsible for his actions (Luke 22:21-22) – even though he had known all along what Judas was planning, even though the betrayal had been prophesied, and even though Satan had a big part to play in what Judas did.

If Jesus held Judas responsible, then Judas must have had free will to do or not do what he did.

Barclay turns this all around and argues that no example demonstrates more vividly God's respect for our free will!

Jesus could have stopped Judas at any time, but he did not.

Was Judas lost?

I agree with Wayne Jackson that Judas' ultimate destiny is hardly open to discussion.

John 17:12 describes him as the son of perdition and says that he was lost.

Acts 1:25 says that Judas went to his own place.

But Calvinists go a step further – they argue that Judas was never saved.

Why do they make that argument? Because their Calvinistic dogma requires them to. If Judas was saved and then lost, much of Calvinism falls.

Thus, without any basis, they make arguments such as the following:

"Yet we ought to make it very clear that Judas was never saved. He was never converted. He never put his own personal faith in the Savior for the forgiveness of sins." (Baptist editor Robert L. Sumner)

Was Judas ever saved? The evidence suggests he was.

First, he was almost certainly baptized under the baptism of John, which Mark 1:4 tells us was "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."

Second, Matthew 10:1 tells us that Judas was sent out by Jesus to heal people and cast out demons. Was Judas Satan's man at that time? If so, how do we explain Matthew 12:26 – "And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand?" Luke 9:6 says that the twelve "went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where." Was Judas Satan's man when he was out preaching the gospel?

Third, John 17:12 ("I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.") suggests that Jesus once had Judas but that he "lost" Judas. Did Jesus know from the beginning that Judas would betray him? Yes. But does that mean that Judas was lost from the beginning? Not necessarily.

Can we say with certainty that Judas was once saved? No (although the evidence suggests that he was). But neither can we say with certainty that he was never saved – and if he was once saved, then the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" is proved false. That is why the Calvinists must argue that Judas was always lost and never saved – not on the basis of what the Bible says about Judas, but rather on the basis of what Calvin had to say about him.

What lessons can we learn from Judas?

Judas is the greatest example of lost opportunities.

He spent three years with Jesus! He was "one of the twelve."

What happened? The same sun that melts the wax, hardens the clay.

The good seed was sown in his heart by Jesus himself!

Judas is the greatest example of wasted privilege.

Consider the incredible irony when Judas accused Mary of wastefulness! Judas was a monument to waste!

He traded his Lord for silver coins.

What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? To which apostle in particular did Jesus direct that question?

Judas is the great illustration of the evil that comes from a love of money.

His life answers the question, how far can greed take a person?

"With some natures there is nothing so holy that money cannot besmirch it."

Judas' question in Matthew 26:15 was "What will you give me?"

There is the age old question of grasping greed.

Under Judas' system, everything has a price! Is that also the case in our system?

I fear that we exalt capitalism to the point of suggesting it has a divine seal of approval, but don't we see the end result of unbridled capitalism in verse 15?

And was Judas the only one to ever sell Christ to highest bidder? Hardly!

What are we doing if we stifle our convictions for the sake of a business deal?

What are we doing if we determine doctrine based on the contribution plate?

And what about the small sum Judas received? Satan does not always have to bid that high!

Judas is the greatest example of unbalanced priorities.

We see that in his reaction to the gift of Mary as described by John.

He complained about the waste of the ointment, but then he sold his Lord and his own soul for much less.

Don't we see the theme of wrong priorities running throughout these final chapters?

In the Jewish leaders concern for their own ritual purity as they plotted the death of Christ?

In the Jewish leaders concern for the blood money that they had used to purchase the betrayal of Christ?

In the Jewish leaders concern for the Sabbath as they crucified the Lord of the Sabbath?

Judas is the greatest example of the forbearing, patient love of God.

Jesus called him "friend" to the end. (26:50)

Jesus washed Judas' feet in John 13:5 after Judas had already decided to betray him in John 13:2 – something John 6:64 tells us Jesus knew from the beginning.

True, Jesus pronounced a woe upon Judas in Matthew 26:24 ("woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born"), but surely that was spoken with love and sadness over Judas' sad and sorry state. Judas did suffer woe, but it is not God's will that any should perish – and that includes Judas!

Had Judas run to the cross rather than to the gallows, can anyone doubt that he would have found forgiveness there?

Judas' statement in 27:4 ("I have sinned") is the same statement we find on the lips of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:18. Would he have found a different reception had he, like the prodigal, returned to the father? Calvinists say he would have, but the Gospel says otherwise!

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)