Lesson 6: He Who Believes and is Baptized
By Paul R. Blake
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. …receiving the end of your faith--the salvation of your souls. Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you” (1Peter 1:3-5, 9-10).
The salvation of humankind from sin and death is something so monumental that the prophets of old desired to know all that was possible to be known about it. It was a matter that began to be revealed immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15); it was part of the three great promises given to Abraham in the Patriarchal Dispensation (Genesis 12:3); and, it was addressed all throughout the Law of Moses in anticipation of the coming of Jesus the Savior (Deuteronomy 18:18; Galatians 3:22-29; Hebrews 1:1-3).
The greatest blessing God has given humankind since He created us in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27) is the blessing of salvation from our sins through the offering of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. No wonder the Hebrew writer was inspired to declare regarding salvation: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Hebrews 2:3-4). Consider the Gospel of the great salvation and your need to respond to it.
“Men and brethren, what shall we do?” was the question asked by the persons present when Peter and the rest of the apostles preached the Gospel for the first time in Jerusalem on the Pentecost. They asked this question in response to the power of the Gospel (Romans 1:16). Peter instructed them to listen carefully to him (Acts 2:14) while he told them how to call on the Lord for salvation (Acts 2:21). He taught them that Jesus rose from the dead after they had rejected and crucified Him (Acts 2:31-33), and that He is both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). A number of hearers were deeply moved by the Gospel and were compelled by the pain of the burden of their sins to ask what they must do.
God’s people had been waiting since the fall of man for the One who would come and take away their sins. They waited since the promise to Abraham for the One who would bless all nations. They waited for the Savior since they learned that the Law of Moses had no power of forgiveness. They waited since the captivity, since the return from exile to the ashes and rubble of their former homes, since the humiliation of multiple oppressions between the testaments, and since the beginning of the sorrows of Roman occupation. And when Peter preached the Gospel to them, they learned that they had killed the sinless, promised Savior they had been waiting for since the beginning.
Peter told them what God wanted them to do -- the very thing Jesus commissioned them to say before His ascension (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-49; Acts 2:38-40). Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Peter said: “‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’ And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation’” (Acts 2:38-40). Their faith made them believers; their repentance and baptism made them saved children of God.
“Lord, what do you want me to do?” was asked by Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor, when Jesus appeared to him while he was traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians (Acts 9:1-6). The resurrected Savior manifested Himself to this zealous unbeliever. Saul learned that his entire life had been misdirected; he was passionately going the wrong way. He was struck with the overwhelming despair of the knowledge that all he thought, said, and did up to that point in his life was in vain. Where could he go from there? The Lord told him to go to the city where he would learn what he needed to do to be saved. Ananias the preacher was sent to him to tell him “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Saul did as he was told (Acts 9:18). His faith made him a believer; his baptism made him a saved child of God.
“What is it, Lord?” was asked by Cornelius, who was seeking the way of God (Acts 10:1-3). He was a man without hope. He was not a Jew, and therefore unable to enjoy the benefits of being a child of God under the Law of Moses. As a Gentile, salvation had not been preached to the Gentiles, but he would be the first (Ephesians 2:11-12). He was instructed to find Peter who would teach him the will of God with regard to salvation. When Peter arrived, he explained the gospel to Cornelius and all gathered in his home. He taught that everyone can believe and obey the gospel and be saved (Acts 10:35), that through Jesus, even Gentiles can have the remission of sins (Acts 10:37-43), and he commanded them to be baptized (Acts 10:47). The faith of Cornelius and his household made them believers; their baptism made them saved children of God.
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” was asked by the Philippian jailer when he understood that he was lost in his sins (Acts 16:25-30). He had so much to lose when the earthquake broke open the prison, making it possible for all of the prisoners to escape; he could have lost his honor, his family, and his life. He felt great despair that everything was gone and he had nothing left. And then he saw something that was completely outside of the experience of any jailor: none of the prisoners had fled. He knew then that there was power greater than that of the Roman Empire, power to restore everything and more. Paul and Silas carefully explained the gospel to him and his household (Acts 16:30-32). After hearing the gospel, the jailer and household were baptized (Acts 16:33). The faith of the jailor made him a believer; his baptism made him a saved child of God.
“What hinders me from being baptized?” was asked by a eunuch after he heard the Gospel. Philip was sent into a deserted region where he discovered an Ethiopian treasurer who was riding in a chariot and reading from the prophet Isaiah about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:26-35; Isaiah 53). He began with that text and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to him. The eunuch was so moved by the power of the Gospel that he asked to be baptized. Philip asked if he believed, and he confessed that he believed Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Philip led him into a nearby pool of water and immersed him for the remission of sins (Acts 8:36-39). The Ethiopian’s faith made him a believer; his confession and baptism made him a saved child of God.
In every account of salvation after the resurrection of Jesus, the Gospel taught by one person to another is the power that moved them to seek for salvation. In every case, the Gospel made informed believers of them. And in every case, the believers were baptized to remove their sins, to save them, to make them children of God, and to make them members of the Lord’s Church -- citizens in the Kingdom of God.
Regarding those who asked about great salvation, all of them were moved by an intense, soul-rending need to be saved. Until I get to the same place, I will not be saved. What must I do to be saved? Jesus said I must believe. “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Jesus said that I must repent of my sins. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Jesus said I must confess His name in the presence of others. “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). Jesus said I must be baptized, immersed for the removal of my sins. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). The promise of salvation is only to those who do the will of the Lord. “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
Scriptures Used In Text
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