What Must I Do to Be Saved?

By Pastor Teck Uy

We all have that inner desire to be saved. Even those whose hearts are far from God have this desire, as can be seen in the response of the jailer when the apostle Paul and Silas were miraculously freed from their prison chains and the prison doors were opened. He asked them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). He knew that there must be more to this life and that he needed to do something to achieve it. The response of Paul and Silas is an eye-opener to everyone seeking for their salvation. They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) Apart from Christ, there is no salvation.

But what does believing in the Lord Jesus Christ entail? Is it enough that we know him? Certainly not! Our salvation is not based on knowledge only. Rather, it is based on what we do with the knowledge that we have. For us to better understand this, let us consider Jesus’ response to a similar question that was posed to him by a rich young man. Desiring to be assured of his salvation, the young man asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17) This young man appeared to be pious by the way he responded when Jesus told him to obey the commandments. He said, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” However, his piety proved to be superficial, for when Jesus said, “One thing you lack, go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me,” he left the presence of the Lord instead of obeying him. 

By the response of the young man, it can be deduced that we are not saved by what we know about God, nor are we saved by just keeping his commands in our head. Our salvation hinges on our obedience and on how we practically apply what we know about God. Since the commands of the Lord pertain to loving our brothers, the practical application, then, is to share what we possess with others. Due to the young man’s refusal to obey, Jesus concluded, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:24-25). Indeed, it is not easy to obey God’s commands, yet our obedience is the key to our salvation.

We are living at a time when we need to seriously consider our salvation. In his epistle, the apostle Paul admonished believers, saying, “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11). We can no longer afford to take our time and spend it on whatever purpose we want. If we are serious about our salvation, we have to often ask the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Let us not be deceived by the teaching, “Once saved, always saved.” While we are saved by the grace of God and not by our works, God still expects us to do what is right. If we persist in doing evil, we will certainly compromise our salvation. It is foolishness for us to think that after having been born again, we can continue on living a sinful life and still be saved. The reality is that only those who will pursue righteousness and endure to the end will be saved.

But how will we know if we are saved? Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them…a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matt. 7:16-18). We are saved if we continue to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. This not just a matter of knowing him and his word, but believing in him as manifested by what we actually do. We need to be true believers and not just pretenders. If we are only pretenders, we will soon be discovered because by our fruits, we will be known.

The promise of salvation is not only for us, but for our entire household. However, it must be understood that salvation is personal. We are not saved by the righteousness of our loved ones. The Lord declared through the prophet Ezekiel, “if I send a plague into that land and pour out my wrath upon it through bloodshed, killing its men and their animals, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness” (Eze. 14:19-20). Therefore, we need to personally live a righteous life for us to be saved. Let us act out our faith because faith without action is dead. Hallelujah!