Must I Do Anything To Be Saved?

One of the last things Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount was the need to then do those things He had just taught. In His words, Jesus stated that we would be either wise or foolish based on what we did. It is important to note that it was not based on something we felt, something found in the creeds of men, or something beyond our control. We should remember well that God has told us that "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city." (Rev. 22:17) This said, some still reject any idea of placing any responsibility on man, teaching that God has done the work, and done all the work.

I believe that we should consider the word of God first, and see what God has said about the part of man in salvation. Let us look into the Scriptures to see what God says about it, and then let us apply these lessons equitably and fairly, no matter what we have formerly believed, and no matter what our preacher or our parents or our own opinion says.

First of all, I believe we should consider the consequences of a few popular doctrines. The Calvinistic idea of predestination (as stated above), the teaching of a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of men in conversion, and Universalism are all different in one way or another, but the result is the same. Calvinism teaches that God has already sealed the fate of all men irrevocably, others teach that God saves men by sending the Holy Spirit into the hearts of men to cause them to have faith and, thus, be saved, and Universalism teaches that all men will be saved in the end, no matter what they have done. As different as these may sound, the end result of having listened and heeded these doctrines is that men will sit back and…do nothing! Not a thing! Why would they?

If God has already predetermined who will be saved and that will not changed, nothing I could ever do will change that. If God is going to send the Holy Spirit into my heart to cause me to be saved, all I can do is just sit back and wait. If Universalism is true, then nothing I do (good or bad) is going to matter, so I'm going to do what I want. If not, why not? I know, I've heard all the arguments of the Calvinists that, though we can't do anything to change it, we should still live godly lives, but why? What difference would it make? Some argue that we are influencing others by our lifestyle. So what? It's not going to change their eternal destination, either! Do you see the foolishness of this position?

In Mark 10:17-22, a young ruler comes to Jesus and asks, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" And how did our Lord respond? Did He say, "There is nothing you can do"? No, Jesus told Him to keep the commandments. The young man stated that he had done so since his youth. Then Jesus told him, "One thing you lack:…" This man was lacking something! Was it grace? No, for the grace of God has appeared unto all men (Titus 2:11). Was it the working of the Holy Spirit? No, for the Spirit would lead all to salvation, if they desired such. So, what was it? It was something that the man had to do himself. And when he would not do it, he could not be a disciple of Jesus (cf. John 8:31). Was this harsh and unmerciful to refuse him because he would not do something? Absolutely not! Eternal life for this man hinged upon the action of this man. He refused to do a command of the Lord, and in so doing, forfeited eternal life.

On Pentecost, when Peter preached the gospel message, some responded by asking "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Wouldn't this have been the perfect opportunity for these men who were inspired of the Holy Spirit to answer clearly and distinctly, "Nothing!"? Would this not have been the perfect opportunity for them to answer by the power of God that they could do absolutely nothing towards their salvation? But they did not! Instead of telling these people who had been convicted by the word of God that they could do nothing or had to do nothing, Peter told them in one sentence what they must do. And they did that very thing.

And we also have the examples of the persecutor Saul and the Philippian jailor, who both asked that pertinent question of what they must do. In all cases, those who asked were never told that they could do nothing! Never!

Doing is, and has always been, a part of our salvation. In the judgment scene of Matthew 25:31-46, for what were the righteous praised and the others condemned? It was for either doing or not doing those deeds for others. When Jesus Himself spoke of that coming judgment in John 5:28, 29, He stated that judgment would be pronounced based on the truth that some had "done good" and others had "done evil." We are told that Jesus is Savior to those who obey (do His commandments, Heb. 5:9), and that some will face the wrath and vengeance of God because they did "not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thess. 1:8). In all these things, it matters what man does.

The great argument against this truth is that some will say that this is "works salvation." Nothing could be further from the truth. When you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, what great work have you done? When you repent of your past sins and turn to God, what great work have you done? When you confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus, what great work have you done? When you are immersed in baptism, what work could you claim to have done in your salvation? And if you continued a life of faithfulness and godliness in the service of the Lord, when you stand before God and Christ in judgment, knowing of the great love God showed to man even when we were sinners, the great love of our Savior in leaving heaven, suffering the humiliation and persecution He did while here on earth, and then and dying for our sins, is any man in his right mind going to point to some small act of obedience that God had commanded — the act that God had determined would allow access to His grace (Rom. 5:1, 2) — and argue that he had earned his salvation? Of course not!

Yes, we must do something to be saved. What must we do? We must do the will of the Father in heaven (Matt. 7:21). We must look into the word and find out what Jesus has said we must do to be forgiven of our sins — to be saved — and then do that. Having done so, we have not earned salvation at all, but we have obeyed, and we will be saved.

By Steven Harper

Return to the General Articles page

Return to the Bible Study for Beginners page

Home / Bible studies / Bible Survey / Special Studies / General Articles / Non-Bible Articles / Sermons / Sermon Outlines / Links / Questions and Answers / What Saith The Scriptures /Daily Devotional / Correspondence Courses / What is the Church of Christ / Book: Christian Growth / Website Policy / E-mail / About Me /