1. FOLLOWING A GOOD EXAMPLE
Whether you are building a house or a skyscraper, you must have a pattern to follow if you are going to erect a beautiful, serviceable, and permanent structure. When God led Moses to build His tabernacle, He instructed Moses to “make them after the pattern that was showed thee in the mount.”
For a pattern to be useful, it must be readable, understandable, and executable. If the pattern is faulty in any of these respects, the final product cannot but be flawed.
When Thomas Jefferson was a young man, he made it a point to be in the company of great and good men as much as possible. Years later he wrote to his grandson, “I had the very good fortune to become acquainted very early with some characters of very high standing and to feel the incessant wish that I could become what they were. Under temptations and difficulties, I would ask myself, ‘What would Dr. Small, Mr. Wythe, or Peyton Randolph do in this situation?’ I am certain that this mode of deciding on my conduct tended more to correctness than any reasoning power I possessed. Knowing the even and dignified lives they pursued, I could never doubt for a moment which of two courses would be in character for them.”
Much is heard about being a good example; it is just as important to set about following a good example.
2. HOW DO SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS COME TO US?
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1:3.
Spiritual blessings – ALL spiritual blessings – come to us in Christ. Although this expression comes at the end of the verse, it is most important. The person who leaves out the in Christ will never have any spiritual blessings at all. This is pivotal and central in connection with the whole of the Christian faith. Every blessing we enjoy as Christian people comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Of course, this is not to say that those not in Christ enjoy no divine blessings. God has blessings for all sorts and conditions of men. For instance, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught that God makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good. Matthew 5:41. There are certain common general blessings that are enjoyed by the whole of humanity. This is sometimes referred to as “common grace,” but that is not what Paul has in mind here. He is dealing with particular grace, with special grace, the blessings that are enjoyed only by those who are in Christ.
People often stumble at this truth, but the distinction is very clearly drawn in Scripture. The ungodly may and do enjoy much in this world, and their blessings come to them from God in a general way, but they know nothing of the blessings mentioned in this verse. Paul is here writing to Christian people and his concern is that they should understand and grasp the special blessings and privileges possible to them as Christians; therefore he emphasizes that all those blessings come in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot be a Christian without being in Christ; Christ is the beginning as well as the end. He is the Alpha and the Omega; there are no blessings for Christians apart from Him.
3. IN CHRIST JESUS
What a blessed thought! As those who have been baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13) we are in Christ Jesus! By this new birth, by our regeneration, we are joined to the Lord Jesus Christ, and we become sharers and participators in His life and in all the blessings that come from Him. We are in Christ; we are part of Christ; we are so bound to Him by this union that whatever is true of Him is true of us spiritually. As He is in the heavenly places so are we. The blessings we enjoy as Christians are blessings “in the heavenly places” because they all flow out of Christ who is there.
The Christian has two natures. He is still a natural man; what he has inherited from his forefathers he still possesses. He has to live; he has to earn a living; he has to do various things in the same way as other people. At times, as he looks at himself he wonders if he is so different from other people; he seems to be identical with them.
If you take only a superficial view of the Christian, you may very well come to the conclusion that there is indeed no difference between him and anyone else. But that is not true because it is not the whole truth about the Christian. In addition to all that, there is another nature, there is something else that has come in. It is this something else that makes a Christian an enigma to other people and to himself. In a sense he is a natural man, but in a sense he is a spiritual man because he has also become a partaker of the Divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4. This is his chief characteristic, and it is the dominating factor in his life. He has received that nature from Christ and in Christ. He draws everything he has from Christ, and that is so different from everything else that the Christian is conscious of having two natures.
4. IN HEAVENLY PLACES
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1:3.
Paul never rises to greater heights than he does in this great passage where he lifts us up into the “heavenlies” and shows us the Christian standpoint in its greatest glory and majesty. In some respects the expression “in heavenly places” is the key to this epistle where it occurs no less than five times. For example, it is used in verse 20 of this chapter where it is described as the place where Christ sits at God’s right hand. Paul would not repeat this phrase unless it had a truly significant meaning.
This term was popular in the first century. It was a common Jewish conception. In 2 Corinthians 10 when Paul spoke of a man called up to “the third heaven,” the expression he used was the exact same phrase translated “the heavenly places.”
Here we see more clearly than anywhere else the profound change that one undergoes in becoming a Christian. It is not a mere superficial change. It is not merely that we don some robe of respectability or decency or morality. It is not some surface improvement or some temporal change. It is as profound as this – that we are taken from one realm and put into another. (Colossians 1:13.) As God brought Jesus out of the grave, and from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, so Paul teaches that the change we undergo in our rebirth and regeneration leads to this corresponding change in us. That and nothing less than that is the truth about the Christian. Because of our limited capacities as the result of our finite condition and of our sin, we find it difficult to take hold of this great truth. It is for this reason that Paul prays:
“15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Ephesians 1:15-23.
5. IS THERE NOT ANOTHER WAY TO RECEIVE SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS?
Paul neither alludes to nor implies the existence of any source of spiritual blessings other than the Lord Jesus Christ. He has no assistant – “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” said Peter. Acts 4:12. An alternative translation of that is “there is no second name.” Every spiritual blessing is in Him – not a single spiritual blessing comes from anywhere else. He is the only channel – “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5. Any talk, therefore, about varied sources from which you choose the best of the various religions of the world, is a denial of both Christ and Christianity. The very moment that you add any name to that of the Lord Jesus Christ you are detracting from Him. At the same time you are deluding yourself.
This emphasis is clearly seen in Colossians: “It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” Colossians 1:19. At the end of the first chapter of Ephesians the same truth is underscored: “He hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” Ephesians 1:22-23. Clearly, since there are no spiritual blessings outside of Christ, and since the church is his body, it follows that there are no spiritual blessings outside of the church. When one says “no” to the church, he also says “no” to Christ and rejects the only source of spiritual blessings.
Hear Paul again in Colossians 2:3: “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” You can’t add to that! All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ, all the fullness of the Godhead is in him. Colossians 2:9.
6. SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN HEAVENLY PLACES
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1:3.
Our tendency is always to want something for ourselves. Not so with Paul – he insists that we start with God and with worship. Indeed, he insists that we not rush into the presence of God, but that we first realize who He is. One who rushed into Buckingham Palace to see the Queen without observing proper etiquette would be insulting to the Queen. Yet we often tend to act in that manner with respect to Almighty God because we are so eager to obtain a blessing. Paul insists upon the appropriate order; we must only consider the nature of the blessing after we have worshipped God and praised His Name, and after we have realized what God has done in order that it might be possible for us to be blessed at all. It is only as we adopt this apostolic order that we really begin to enjoy the blessings.
Careful observation discloses that those who are most miserable in their spiritual life as those who are always thinking of themselves and their blessings, their moods and states and conditions. The way to be blessed is to look to God, and the more we worship Him the more we shall enjoy His blessings. The practical person is not the one who runs after the blessings, but the person who considers the Source of the blessings and is in touch with that Source.
7. THE CHRISTIAN’S SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS ARE IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES
As you have read the Ephesian letter, have you ever stopped to ask, “What are the heavenly places?” Paul was not just carried away by his eloquence. He used words that had definitions and that he expected us to understand. Every expression is full of meaning. The blessings Christians enjoy are in heavenly places. Paul has already given us a hint when he described God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ rather than as the Father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Paul reminds us that as the covenant and the representatives are different, so also are the blessings. Our blessings are not measured by the count of our cattle; we look for our blessings not so much here on earth, but in the heavenly places.
The Christian faith is clearly and openly “other worldly.” That principle is not popular in a world that is obsessed with the here and now. Modern man, we are told, is not interested in the “after while,” but in the immediate. But whether modern man likes it or not, the fact is that the blessings we enjoy in Christ are in heavenly places. This does not mean that there are no blessings for the present, nor does it mean that we are to become hermits. It does mean that we have a correct view of this world and of our relationship to it:
15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. 16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:15-18.
This is our Father’s world, be we do not conform to it. Rather we are transformed by the renewing of our mind. Romans 12:1-2.
8. THE WONDERFUL PRIVILEGE OF BEING A CHRISTIAN
Read 1 Peter 1:10-12
There are not many passages in the Bible that have more to tell us about how the Old Testament prophets wrote and how they were inspired than this one, and few passages have more to tell us about the wonderful privilege of being a Christian. Peter tells us that the Old Testament prophets “enquired and searched diligently” or “searched intently and with the greatest care” about the salvation that has now come. Peter also tells us that the Old Testament prophets learned about Christ from the Spirit of Christ that was in them. (The phrase “spirit of Christ” is used elsewhere only in Romans 8:9.)
The Old Testament prophets testified about the sufferings of Christ and the glory of Christ. For example, Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 speak of the sufferings of Christ, and Psalm 2, Psalm 16, and Psalm 110 all speak of the glory and triumph of Christ. Note here that the glory follows the suffering. Neither Christ nor his people receives the crown of glory without first wearing the crown of thorns. Peter wants his readers to know that they too will experience glory after suffering.
One commentator wrote of having once seen a blind lamplighter tapping his way from lamppost to lamppost, bringing light to others that he would never see himself. Likewise, the prophets lit lamps that we can see, but they could not see. Peter in verse 10 tells his readers that the prophets spoke of the grace that has come to you. However much these readers may be suffering, they stand in a privileged position that even the greatest of the ancient prophets did not enjoy.
Going even further, verse 12 tells us that even the angels desired to look into those things that are now reported to us. The Greek word used suggests that the angels are straining to see what God has done for mankind through Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven in verse 12 is likely a reference to Pentecost when Peter preached the very first gospel sermon. Notice here that the proclamation of the gospel in the New Testament is placed on the same level as the prophecies of the Old Testament. Both are the inspired word of God. Peter’s point here is that believers in Jesus Christ are incredibly blessed to live in the time when the prophecies of the Old Testament have come to pass. The prophets wondered about it; the angels looked at it from afar; we actually experience it. We are insiders, while the prophets and the angels are in some sense outsiders.
9. TWO FACTS ABOUT THE CHRISTLESS LIFE
Read 1 Peter 1:13-16
Peter in verse 14 tells us two facts about the Christless life. First, the Christless life is a life of ignorance. Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. Many students heading off to college will be told the exact opposite -- the beginning of wisdom is to forget God.
Second, the Christless life is a life dominated by lust and desire. These lusts and desires may be physical. We know from Scripture and from secular history that homosexuality was rampant at this time. But heterosexuality was also rampant! Jerome tells us that in Rome there was one woman who was married to her 23rd husband, she herself being his 21st wife. But these lusts and desire can also be mental. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:3 of those that were “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.”
Every person is eventually called in their life to make a choice between truth and desire -- one will win and the other will lose in that person’s life. Either we subject desire to truth or we subject truth to desire. God is calling us to do the former; the world is calling us to do the latter.
Peter is verses 15-16 has a simple but profound message -- holiness is not an option for a Christian! We are commanded to be holy. Why? Because God is holy. “Be ye holy for I am holy.” The pattern for our holiness is God himself.
To be holy is to be different. The temple was holy because it was different from other buildings. The Sabbath was holy because it was different from other days. The Christian is holy because he is different from other men.
If we are not different, then we are not holy. Holy people do not blend in with the world. Holy people are noticed! Holy people may live “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation” but they “shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15)
Notice that verse 15 tells us to be “holy in all manner of conversation.” To be holy is to separate oneself from evil, and that command embraces ALL of life. No part of our lives is outside the dominion of God.
10. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
Read 1 Peter 2:11-12
Peter has just told his readers about their incredible privileges as Christians. He now tells them about the responsibilities that come with those privileges, and he tells them what they need to do if they are to live a Godly life in an ungodly and hostile world. Believers must live exemplary lives with the kinds of good deeds that will make unbelievers take notice.
Peter gives us two reasons to abstain or distance ourselves from these fleshly lusts and desires. First, we must abstain from fleshly lusts because we are strangers and pilgrims. We are strangers in this world, and because of that we cannot accept the world’s customs and ways and standards. We are pilgrims, and as pilgrims we must never become so entangled in this world that we cannot escape from it, and we must never let ourselves become so soiled by this world that we are unfit to enter that land to which we are heading. Our lives must always fit the place we are headed to rather than our temporary lodging here on earth.
Second, we must abstain from fleshly lusts because we are under fire. The early church was particularly beset by this problem. Slanderous charges were continually being made against the early Christians. The early church was seen as a Jewish sect, and so all of the slanders heaped against the Jews were also thrown against the church. But the church also had its own slanders. Early Christians were accused of cannibalism, immorality, incest, hatred of mankind, and disloyalty to Caesar. They were accused of damaging family relationships and of turning slaves against their masters. Tacitus said that Christians were “loathed because of their abominations.” Suetonius described Christians as “a class of people animated by a novel and mischievous superstition.”
It was often the very abstaining from fleshly lusts that caused the pagans to despise Christians, and the same is true today. People who wallow in sin like to believe that everyone is just like them, and they are the first to shout “Hypocrite!” when they meet someone who appears different. This type of slander is based on the guilt of the slanderer. Peter says that the only way to refute such lies is to live lives so holy that the slanderous charges will be seen as obviously untrue. “Here is timeless truth. Whether we like it or not, every Christian is an advertisement for Christianity; by his life he either commends it to others or makes them think less of it. The strongest missionary force in the world is a Christian life.”
11. TWO BEAUTIFUL NAMES FOR JESUS
Read 1 Peter 2:25
Verse 25 gives us two beautiful names for Jesus. First, Jesus is our Shepherd. We are very familiar with the descriptions in the Old Testament of the Lord as our shepherd. (Psalm 23, Isaiah 40:11, Ezekiel 34:23) Jesus described himself as the good shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. (John 10:11) And Peter knew that as an apostle and an elder he had a responsibility for those sheep. Jesus gave him that charge in John 21:15-17.
In The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, Sir George Adam Smith describes the shepherd of Judaea. “With us, sheep are often left to themselves; but I do not remember ever to have seen in the East a flock of sheep without a shepherd. In such a landscape as Judaea, where a day’s pasture is thinly scattered over an unfenced track of country, covered with delusive paths, still frequented by wild beasts, and rolling off into the desert, the man and his character are indispensable. On some high moor, across which at night the hyenas howl, when you meet him, sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, armed, leaning upon his staff, and looking out over his scattered sheep, everyone of them on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judaea sprang to the front in his people’s history; why they gave his name to their king, and made him the symbol of providence; why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice.”
Zechariah brought together the figures of the Sufferer and the Shepherd. In Zechariah 13:7 we read, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.” And Peter could well remember this passage. He had heard Jesus quote it as he led the disciples from the last supper to the garden of Gethsamane. And what was Peter’s response? In Mark 14:27-29 he told Jesus, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.” And yet Peter forsook Jesus and fled. Later he swore that he did not even know Jesus. What a joy it must have been for Peter to return to Jesus and receive forgiveness. Peter knew what it was like to return to the Shepherd and Overseer of his soul.
Second, Jesus is our Bishop. The Greek word used here is episkopos, and Barclay tells us that the English translation “bishop” is an inadequate translation of that word. Episkopos is a word with a great history. In Homer’s Iliad, Hector, the great champion of the Trojans, is called the episkopos who guarded the city of Troy. Under Athenian law, the episkopos was sent out to subject states to see that law and order and loyalty were observed. The term is many-sided. It means the protector of public safety, the guardian of honor and honesty, the overseer of right education and public morals, and the administrator of public law and order. To call Jesus our episkopos, is to call him our Guardian, our Protector, our Guide, and our Director.
12. FOUR COMMANDS
Read 1 Peter 4:7-8
When we realize the nearness of the end, we are then bound to commit ourselves to a certain kind of life. We must live each day knowing that it may be our last. We are strangers and pilgrims, and our time here is short. In view of this nearness, Peter gives four commands in verses 7-8.
The first command is that we must preserve our sanity. The Greek word “sophroneo” is translated “sober” in verse 7. It means to be of sound mind or to be in one’s right mind. This same word is used in Mark 5:15 to describe the demoniac after he was healed by Christ. The great characteristic of sanity is that it sees things in their proper proportions; it knows what is important and what is not important. This word is particularly important in this context. An obsession with end time events has caused and continues to cause many to become mentally unbalanced.
The second command is that we must preserve our sobriety. The KJV says that we must be sober and watch unto prayer. The RSV translation is better -- “therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers.” Sobriety is the second command rather the first. The Greek word “nepho” is translated “watch” in verse 7. It means to be sober, to be calm, and collected in spirit. These two Greek words for sane and sober are virtually synonymous and should be understood together. Sobriety is a theme in 1 Peter.
The third command is that we must preserve our prayer life. If we are not of sound mind or if we are not sober, then we cannot pray as we should. We are to be of sound mind and sober, Peter says, so that we can pray properly. Prayer demands alertness. It is not an opiate or an escape, but it requires a sound and sober mind. Peter, we recall, failed in this regard at Gethsemane. He slept after Jesus had charged him to watch and pray. Peter no doubt wrote verse 7 with great regret, and if anyone had reason to become paralyzed by regret it was Peter. But Peter did not wallow in regret. He knew regret, but he also knew forgiveness.
The fourth command is that we must preserve our love. The word that Peter uses to describe this love is “ektenes,” which is translated “fervent” in the KJV. The Greek word means outstretched as a runner stretches out or as a horse at full gallop. “Our love must be energetic. Here is a fundamental truth. Christian love is not an easy, sentimental reaction. It demands everything a man has of mental and spiritual energy. It means loving the unlovely and the unlovable; it means loving in spite of insult and injury; it means loving when love is not returned.”
13. FOUR TRUTHS ABOUT PERSECUTION
Read 1 Peter 4:12-13
The more firmly Peter grounds their hope and the more eloquently he states their privilege, the more strange it must have seemed that they would have to suffer. But Peter tells them not to think it strange. Peter tells us four truths here about persecution.
First, Peter tells us that persecution is inevitable. The more we live like Christ, the more we will face persecution. The world hates those who are different -- particularly those who are different because they are holy. A Christian is necessarily different from the world, and thus we should not think it strange when we experience persecution.
Second, Peter tells us that persecution is a test. In fact, it is a test in two senses. First, a man’s devotion to a principle can be measured by his willingness to suffer for it. Persecution is a test of our faithfulness. Second, those who compromise with the world will escape persecution. If we are not facing any persecution it may be because we are not standing up against the world. Persecution is a test of our genuineness.
Third, Peter tells us that persecution is a sharing in the sufferings of Christ. When we are persecuted, we are walking as Jesus walked and we are taking up his cross. Suffering for the sake of Christ is a privilege rather than a penalty. We did not see Jesus on the cross as Peter did, but we like Peter can understand the meaning of his atoning death.
Fourth, Peter tells us that persecution is the way to glory. The cross is the way to the crown. Suffering is not a threat, but a promise. Paul said that if we suffer with Christ, then we will be glorified with him (Romans 8:17) and we will reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12).
Read 2 Peter 1:12-15
A major theme of this section of Peter’s letter is remembrance. Peter tells his readers that they know the truth, and yet he tells them that they still need to be reminded of it. He mentions their “remembrance” three times in these four verses. The implication is that they have forgotten or at least are acting as if they have forgotten something they had been taught before. Also, Peter was about to die, and he did not want the church to forget what he had told them.
Remembrance played an important role in the Old Testament. The weekly Sabbath was a reminder, (Deut. 5:15) and the Passover was a reminder. (Deut. 16:3) Remembrance also plays an important role in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 15:1, Paul said “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you.” In 2 Timothy 2:8, Paul told Timothy to “remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel.” And, of course, the greatest remembrance in the New Testament is the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper. In Luke 22:19, Jesus said “this do in remembrance of me.”
Remembrance plays an important role in the life of a Christian. We must constantly remember where we came from, and we must constantly remember where we are going. In James 1:23-24, we read, “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”
Verses 12-15 discuss one of the top reasons why congregations get swept away by false teaching -- spiritual amnesia. It has been said that history doesn’t repeat itself -- historians just repeat each other. But history does repeat itself. Most problems facing the church today have faced the church in the past. And most problems facing the church today will face the church in the future -- unless we provide effective warnings to future generations. It may be a cliche, but it is nevertheless true -- those who forget the past will be condemned to repeat it.
We do neither the church nor our children any favors by hiding from them the troubles facing the church today. False teachers love congregations with bad memories. We should always be wary of people who arrive with a new or different message, and we should look out for the danger signs when what we know begins to be replaced by messages that are advertised as more attractive or more relevant -- that are advertised as new and improved. There is no way to improve on the gospel! “The business of the church and of preaching is not to present us with new and interesting ideas, it is rather to go on reminding us of certain fundamental and eternal truths.”
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)