Jesus answered this question in plain and clear terms. When He was sending His apostles out to preach to all of the world He told them, “And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). In Matthew’s account of this same event (Matthew 28:18-20) he speaks of teaching and baptizing. The same ideas are present as a taught person being baptized shows their belief. Jesus’ answer to that question is that belief met with baptism results in salvation.

While there are religious people who tell you that you should do nothing but believe, there are some things God has told us to do in order to be saved. In Acts 2 we read of a gathering of thousands of people who heard Christ preached, were convicted in their hearts, and asked this question. They said to the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter did not tell them to do nothing. Peter did not tell them that because they already believed they were saved. Peter did not even tell them to say the sinner’s prayer. He said, “Repent and be baptized 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” (vs. 38). They already believed in Jesus and were convicted by His death, now they just had to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.

Consider some other scriptures in the New Testament that shed further light on this question:

  • Before Paul became a Christian he was told, “Why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).
  • Romans 6:3-4 says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.
  • Later, Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10)
  • Galatians 3:26-27 says, “For in Christ Jesus, you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized in Christ have put on Christ.”
  • Speaking of Jesus, the Hebrew writer comments, “And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9)
  • Peter writes, “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” (I Peter 3:21).

So what must I do to be saved? Taking a “bird’s eye view” at all God has said about the question we get a consistent and complete picture. I have to believe the gospel message concerning Jesus Christ, decide to turn away from my sins in repentance, be willing to confess my faith in Him, and be baptized into Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. Following my baptism I am to devote myself to serving Him.

All of this does not mean that salvation is not a matter of grace (Romans 6:23). Salvation is still a free gift that results from God’s unmerited favor (Ephesians 2:8). We do not deserve being saved and nothing we do can make us earn our salvation. Suppose I was to offer to give you $1,000. In order to receive that money, you had to come over to my house. By coming to my house, did you earn that money? Of course not! So it is with salvation. Nothing we can do will put us in a position of earning what God has given us. How can anyone expect to receive the grace and mercy of God for salvation if they will not do what God has said to do in order to be saved? One truly seeking is humble and penitent and will obey God because they want to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).