What Must I do to be Saved

That’s not what John 3:16 says!

Sinners Prayer

While doing some evangelistic work at a local festival I was given the above piece of paper (which, by the way, also happens to be a fake $100 bill on the other side) by an individual who had stopped at our congregation’s booth. After reading the piece of paper, I decided to look up John 3:16 because the wording under the scripture reference seemed to be a little longer than what I remembered the actual verse saying, and just as I suspected – it’s not what John 3:16 says!

The prayer and the promise on this paper is as fake as the $100 bill on the other side. And like the fake $100 bill, these tactics seem real until you open them up to the light of God’s word so don’t fall for it. No apostle or prophet of Jesus Christ ever taught anyone to pray a made-up sinner’s prayer to be saved; and not one time in the New Testament can a verse be found that says faith alone saves anyone. Peter didn’t say, “believe and pray to Jesus for the remission of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38. And Paul wasn’t told to, “arise and pray some more, washing away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord” in Acts 22:16. So why should anyone say anything close to that today?

John’s gospel is full of people who believed in various ways but they still weren’t saved, so don’t miss the point of John 3:16 (which happens to include the new birth that was discussed at the beginning of the chapter)! The point of John 3:16 is about opportunity. It’s an opportunity to find salvation from the effects of sin by listening to God’s instructions which have been given unto us by the Son who was lifted up on the cross to be the answer to our sins.

Believing in Jesus involves actions, and these actions don’t include some prayer written by the inspiration of some man or woman. And this why you’ll find sinners praying in the New Testament, but you won’t find the sinner’s prayer because that’s not what John 3:16 says.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:14-17)

Washed or Wet?

When it comes to water baptism, intentions make a difference between getting washed and getting wet:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Matthew 3:7-9)

When it comes to water baptism, purpose makes a difference between getting washed and getting wet:

And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:1-5)

When it comes to water baptism, the origin of the act makes a difference between getting washed and getting wet:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:18-19)

When it comes to water baptism, the result makes a difference between getting washed and getting wet:

Then Peter said to them, “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.” (Acts 2:38)

You can be sprinkled over, poured on and even immersed – but there’s still a difference between getting washed and getting wet in the water baptism that we read about in the New Testament of the Bible. EA

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)

Learn From the Thief – But Learn from the Rest of God’s Word Too!

Many times when the forgiveness of sins is discussed there are some who eventually use the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43) as example of what people should do to be saved today. I am glad that the conversation of Jesus and the thief is recorded because it reveals the willingness and desire that Jesus had then, and still has today, to extend His mercy to the lost. But it saddens me when one tries to teach that “all a person has to do be saved” is believe like the thief did. This is simply not true. Let me quickly explain why with the scriptures:

First – the thief lived under a different covenant than we do today:

For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.” (Hebrews 9:16-17)

Second – the thief did not have to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead like we do today:

[T]hat if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

Third – the thief was not saved by faith alone; he reviled Jesus at first but then he repented:

Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.” (Matthew 27:41-44)

Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”” (Luke 23:39-41)

Lastly – the thief found forgiveness because Jesus had the power to speak sins away while living on the Earth (Mark 2:10); Jesus gave the command for baptism for the remission of sins after the thief was dead:

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16)

Then Peter said to them, “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.” (Acts 2:38)

If a person wants to learn about salvation today, they can learn about God’s willingness to forgive from the thief, but they must also learn from the rest of God’s word too. EA

Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)

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