Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)
What must I do to be saved? That is the seminal question in Jesus’ Kingdom, The Church. There are many who will tell you what you must do. There are many who will lay before you a path of works. You will hear that good works must be done in the Kingdom of Heaven. I agree. Good works will be done. But good works do not save you. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8). Paul also writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).
So we have two elements that God’s word tells us will be done. We will be saved by faith, and we will do good works. The order that these are done is important. It sets the groundwork for Christianity. Must you do good works in order to be saved, or do you do good works because you are saved?
The answer from the Bible is that first we are saved. We are saved by our faith. We believe. Believing is not our work, but God’s. It is God that calls us. It is God that makes us believe. This is not our work, so that we are not convinced that we are saved by our own righteousness. “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). We are not saved by our own righteousness, but by Jesus’ righteousness. Jesus lived a perfect life, we can’t. Jesus died sinless, we can’t. Jesus was raised from the dead, and only as a part of Him are we called righteous.
How are we made a part of Him? “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Peter 3:21-22). We were called to our Lord in Baptism. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). In our Baptism we died with Jesus and were buried with Him. He was raised and we are raised.
Since we are raised, we live life differently. Someone who knows the price of His salvation does not live the same as before. Since we are saved we live differently. Good works do not save us, but the Holy Spirit dwelling in us leads us to do good works for our neighbor. We are changed, new people, saved! We do those things that are good because we are saved. What must I do to be saved, believe. What will I do since I am saved? Good things for all those around me.