Have you believed that salvation must be earned, or that you need do nothing?

Does the Bible provide any answers?

Are you open to be changed?

Do you find repentance easy?

Have you been baptised?

If so, what is its significance for us?


Isaiah 64:6

Ephesians 2:8

Luke 3:3

Acts 2:38

Philippians 2:12,13

2 Corinthians 5:17

Luke 13:3

Matthew 3:13-15

Matthew 28:19

The Way to Eternity

What Must I Do?

1. Repent and be baptised

These are the kind of question we sometimes hear. What must I do to be sure of eternal life? What must I do to be saved? What must I do to please God? The answers sometimes given, such as lead a decent life, do no one any harm, go to church, pray and read the Bible are pointers, but not guarantees. A life of wickedness does not please God; but a life of trying to please God by doing our own things in our own strength to earn or deserve reward does not do so either. It is impossible to do this, and the Bible describes our attempts as the wearing of filthy rags.

Another answer therefore says that we can do nothing to earn our salvation, which is the sole work of God. This he gives freely by his grace, and we can contribute nothing. Does that mean that we have no part to play? However, the fact that we have been motivated to ask the question shows that we have an interest, that this may be our desire and that we are in earnest. In the Bible these questions are asked on a number of occasions, and helpful answers are always given. Here are one or two examples.

John the Baptist urged three things: repentance, baptism in water, and showing the fruit or consequences of repentance in a changed lifestyle. He also foretold a baptism in the Holy Spirit which would be like a refining and consuming fire, and would be delivered by the One who was to follow him. Jesus was that One. He repeated the message of John of the need for repentance and baptism. He also told Nicodemus that he must be born again. This is what John had foretold, since this rebirth was to be of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also set the standard of a changed lifestyle. The expert in the law who was one of those who asked the question, and knew that you must, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and your neighbour as yourself," was told that neighbour must be interpreted in the widest sense. The rich young man who likewise asked the question, was told that his obedience to the Commandments would have to include sacrificing his possessions to give to the poor.

The promise of eternal life is for those who believe in Jesus, God's one and only Son. This faith has to be continuing and persevering, a daily denial of self, taking up the cross and following Jesus. Peter, who was asked the question, "What must we do?" on the day of Pentecost, replied, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Paul and Silas were asked by the Philippian jailer, "What must I do to be saved?" They told him, "Believe and you will be saved, you and your household."

From all this it is evident that although we cannot do the work of salvation, which belongs to God, we cannot just be passive. God requires a response from us. God calls us, and is willing to do all the work that is required, provided that we are desiring, asking, open to receive and ready to respond in obedience. We must reconcile the facts that in our own strength we can do NOTHING to earn salvation, yet we have to do EVERYTHING required by God to live out salvation.

Put simply, those who want to enter the Kingdom of God must be changed. They must be made to be like Jesus. This change is possible, but it is not by our own actions, and it is not forced upon us. We are able to choose, and we can refuse it. However if we are responsive to God, desiring, asking, open and eager to receive, then the Holy Spirit will work the transformation within us. Here then are the ways in which we must respond.


We are called to repentance. This involves recognition of our sinfulness, regret and remorse at what we have done, a readiness to confess, and most importantly, a willingness to be changed. The essence of repentance is change, a turning round from wrong-doing to doing what is right. It is a change of mind which is put into effect. Our call to repentance may come to us in a number of ways. Our conscience may alert us to the harm our sins are causing. Other people may draw our attention to this. The Holy Spirit brings to us an inner conviction of wrong-doing (John 16 v8). The power for repentance comes from this one source, the Holy Spirit. Paul recognised his continuing failure in his own strength (Romans 7 vv 15 to 19), but then he discovered the answer (Romans 7 v. 24 to 8 v.2). We need forgiveness for and renunciation of all our past sins. Some we will be very aware of, some we will have forgotten. If we are serious about this we will spend time reviewing mentally our past lives, asking the Holy Spirit to bring to our attention those attitudes, events and relationships which we have forgotten or hidden away where we need to repent. We must respond to the Spirit's conviction by confession in prayer to God, seeking forgiveness for what is past, and desiring a new way of life which is pleasing to him.


John the Baptist's call to be baptised was to make a public declaration and demonstration of one's desire to have sins washed away and to be made spiritually clean. The water of the River Jordan was a symbol or agent of God's cleansing power. The cleansing of the soul came not from the water, but from God as he recognised the person's sincerity of desire. The importance of baptism is revealed by Jesus. He was himself baptised, though not because he needed to be, since he was sinless. It was because he wanted to set us an example, that we might follow him in this as in other things. Jesus instituted his own practice of baptism, although performed by his disciples, at the same time as John.

In his final instructions Jesus told his followers to go into the world, "baptising in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." This implies more than repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It signifies an act of submission in obedience to the command of Jesus, and a declaration of allegiance to God in the three persons of the Trinity. The act of baptism, in being submerged in and then lifted out of the water, is a means of identification with Jesus in his sacrificial death, burial and resurrection. The need to understand these aspects of baptism is made clear in Acts 19 vv 1 to 5. It is baptism, not just out of the old way of life, but into a new way of life in Christ. It demonstrates the meaning of repentance.