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In our last lesson we learned that people become guilty of sin when they disobey God's commands. To be forgiven, their sins must be washed away by the blood of Jesus. The teaching of Jesus in the Bible shows that, in order to receive this forgiveness, people must hear the gospel, believe, repent, confess Christ, and be baptized. This lesson continues our study of forgiveness, taking a closer look at obedience, especially baptism.
Many denominations teach that people do not need to obey any commands in order to receive forgiveness. They claim salvation is by "faith alone," so the sinner does not need to do anything to be saved.
Surely it is true that faith is essential to salvation, and that no amount of obedience can earn or merit salvation. But what does Jesus' word say about obedience. Can we receive eternal life without it?
A. Accepting Jesus As Lord And Savior Requires Obedience.
>>> Read ACTS 10:34,35. <<<
*1* Who is acceptable to God? (a) one who just fears him, (b) one who calls Jesus "Lord," (c) one who fears Him and works righteousness. Answer: ______.
>>> Read HEBREWS 5:9. <<<
*2* Jesus is author (source) of salvation to whom? Answer: To all who ______ Him.
Jesus is the Savior. But He says He will save those who obey Him.
>>> Read ROMANS 6:17,18. <<<
*3* To be set free from sin, what must people do? Answer: They must ______ from the heart the doctrine delivered.
Only Jesus can free men from sin. But to be set free we must obey.
>>> Read 1 PETER 1:22,23. <<<
*4* We purify our souls in doing what? (a) in simply believing in Jesus, (b) in obeying the truth, (c) in praying for forgiveness. Answer: ______.
It is not enough to just recognize Jesus as "Lord." One must do the will of the Father - Matthew 7:21-23. Your Lord is whomever you obey (Luke 6:46; Rom. 6:16; Matt. 6:24). If you don't obey, He's not really your Lord (cf. Matthew 7:24-27).
If Jesus is the Savior, then He must determine whom He will save. If He is the Lord, then we must accept what He says about salvation. He says that, in order to purify our souls, be saved, and enter the kingdom of heaven, we must obey Him, do the Father's will, and work righteousness.
[See also James 1:21-25; Acts 9:6.]
B. Love for Jesus Requires Obedience.
All people recognize the importance of love. 1 Corinthians 16:22 - If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed." (Cf. Matt. 22:36-39; 1 Cor. 13:1-3.)
Some people say, "As long as you really love God, what you do doesn't really matter." But if we don't obey Him, do we really have a proper love for Him?
>>> Read JOHN 14:15; 1 JOHN 5:3. <<<
*5* If we love Him, what will we do? Answer: We will keep (obey) His ______.
Love must show itself in actions - obedience. If we don't obey, we don't really love. So love is essential to salvation, but obedience is essential to love. Therefore, obedience is essential to salvation.
Instead of proving that obedience is not required, the Bible doctrine of love proves just the opposite: obedience is required.
[See also 2 John 6; 1 John 3:18; 2:3-6; Rom. 13:8-10; Rev. 2:4,5.]
C. Faith in Jesus Requires Obedience.
We have already learned that faith is essential to salvation (Heb. 11:6; Mark 16:16; John 8:24 etc.). But some claim we are saved by "faith only," so if we have faith then obedience is unnecessary. Is this true?
>>> Read GALATIANS 5:6. <<<
*6* What avails in Christ? Answer: What avails is faith ______ through love.
Can faith avail anything if it does not work?
>>> Read JAMES 2:14-26. <<<
*7* What is the condition of faith without works (v17,20,26)? (a) it is dead (barren), (b) it saves us, (c) it is like the faith of Abraham. Answer: ______.
*8* We are justified by works and not by what (v24)? Answer: We are not justified by ______.
Note that the context is discussing whether or not we can be saved by a faith that does not work (v14). Faith is necessary to salvation, but some kinds of faith do not save. Demons believe in God (v19), but they don't obey. Are they saved? Both faith and obedience are necessary.
Bible examples teach us the kind of faith we must have to be saved. Notice Hebrews 10:39; 11:8,30, etc. The examples show that people received God's rewards only after their faith led them to obey His commands. Faith that does not obey is faith that cannot save. Neither faith alone nor obedience alone can please God. (Cf. v7,33,4,17,24f.)
Neither the Bible doctrine of faith nor the Bible doctrine of love proves that we are saved without obedience. Instead, both doctrines prove that obedience is necessary. Faith will not save until it moves us to obey. Obedience is included in justification by faith.
[See also 1 John 3:23; John 6:28,29; Rom. 1:5; 16:26; 2 Thess. 1:11.]
D. Repentance Requires Obedience.
We have already learned that repentance is necessary to receive salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10; Acts 17:30; 2:38; Matt. 21:28-32; 2 Peter 3:9). But repentance involves a commitment to quit participating in sin.
>>> Read ACTS 26:20. <<<
*9* One who has repented should do what? (a) live like before, (b) teach that works do not matter, (c) do works worthy of repentance. Answer: ______.
*10* Which of the following must one give up? (a) stealing, (b) homosexuality, (c) drunkenness, (d) an adulterous remarriage, (e) all the preceding. (See also 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; Matt. 19:9; Luke 3:8-14.) Answer: ______.
E. Receiving Eternal Life Requires Obedience.
>>> Read ROMANS 2:5-10. <<<
*11* God will reward each one according to what (v6)? Answer: According to his ______.
*12* Eternal life will be given to whom (v7,10)? (a) those who continue patiently in well-doing and who work good, (b) those who just believe, (c) those who have godly relatives. Answer: ______.
*13* Tribulation and anguish will be given to whom (8,9)? Answer: Those who ______ the truth but work (do) evil.
Should men teach that we are saved without obeying, when the Bible says our eternal destinies will be determined by what we do?
[See also 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12,13; 22:12; Matt. 25:31-46; 1 John 2:17; Acts 17:30,31; John 5:28,29; Matt. 16:27; 1 Peter 1:17; Rev. 2:23.]
>>> Read 2 THESSALONIANS 1:8,9. <<<
*14* Flaming fire and everlasting destruction await whom? (a) those who know not God, (b) those who obey not the gospel, (c) both of these. Answer: ______.
Surely faith is necessary to salvation, but so are hearing the gospel, repentance, love, confession of Christ, and obedience. We are not saved by any one thing alone. All these are required to please God, including obedience. Obedience cannot earn salvation, any more than faith or repentance can. But all are necessary conditions in order for God by His grace to be willing to grant forgiveness to any individual.
In all the examples of conversion that we studied, people were baptized. What does Jesus want us to teach and practice about baptism?
>>> Read EPHESIANS 4:3-6. <<<
*15* How many true Heavenly Fathers are there? Answer (give a number): ______.
*16* How many true baptisms are there? Answer (give a number): ______.
Just as there is only one true God, so there is only one true baptism today. Yet denominations practice many different kinds of baptism. What is the true baptism, and why is it important?
A. The Proper Purpose of Baptism
Why should a person be baptized? Are sins forgiven before baptism or as a result of it? Some groups say baptism is essential to receive forgiveness. Others say sins are forgiven before baptism, but one should be baptized to join a denomination or as an outward sign he has already been saved. What does the gospel of Christ say?
>>> Read ACTS 22:16. <<<
*17* When were Saul's sins washed away? (a) on the road to Damascus, (b) before he was baptized, (c) as a result of his baptism. Answer: ______.
*18* Note that Saul had previously believed in Jesus and had been praying (9:1-6,11). Most churches would say he was already saved before baptism. But was he? Answer (Yes or No): ______.
One who believes in Jesus must be baptized to wash away sins.
>>> Read ROMANS 6:3,4. <<<
*19* Into what are we baptized? (a) Jesus and His death, (b) a particular denomination, (c) a social club. Answer: ______.
*20* According to what we have earlier learned, can a person be saved outside Jesus and without His blood? Answer (Yes or No): ______.
*21* For each person there must be a point at which he first receives forgiveness. He is in sin before that point, but afterwards, he is forgiven. At what point does this occur? (a) the moment we believe, (b) when we pray for forgiveness, (c) when we are baptized. (See also Galatians 3:27.) Answer: ______.
In Jesus we can find forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7), freedom from condemnation (Romans 8:1), salvation (2 Timothy 2:10), and eternal life (1 John 5:11,12). But to come into Jesus, we must be baptized.
Illustration: Before the ceremony, a couple takes several steps toward marriage, but they enter the blessings and privileges of matrimony at the point of the wedding ceremony, not before. So faith, repentance, etc., are essential steps toward salvation; but only at the point of baptism does one contact Jesus' blood.
Note also that, as a result of baptism, we "walk in newness of life" (we are "born again"). We cannot be born again without baptism (see also 1 Peter 1:22,23; 2 Corinthians 5:17; John 3:3,5).
>>> Read ACTS 2:38. <<<
*22* When does remission of sins come? (a) before one repents and is baptized, (b) as a result of repenting and being baptized. Answer: ______.
*23* Can one be saved without repentance? Answer (Yes or No): ______.
*24* Can one be saved without baptism? Answer (Yes or No): ______.
As in the Lord's Supper, baptism involves both an outer action and an inner meaning (1 Corinthians 11:23-29). If a person did the outer act but did not understand the inner meaning or did it for the wrong reason, how could his baptism be valid?
>>> Read MARK 16:15,16. <<<
*25* What must one do to be saved? Answer: He who believes and is ______ will be saved.
*26* When is one saved? (a) before baptism, (b) as a result of baptism. Answer: ______.
Just as 1 + 1 = 2, so faith + baptism = salvation. Take away faith or baptism, and you no longer have salvation.
"...Baptism doth also now save us..." - 1 Peter 3:21. The power to forgive is in Jesus' death and resurrection, not in the water. But we receive that power when our faith leads us to be baptized, not before.
B. The Proper Action of Baptism
Does baptism involve sprinkling, pouring, or immersion?
>>> Read ROMANS 6:4 and COLOSSIANS 2:12. <<<
*27* How is baptism described? (a) sprinkling, (b) pouring, (c) burial and resurrection, (d) all the preceding. Answer: ______.
When Jesus was buried, was a little dirt sprinkled or poured on him, or was He was completely surrounded in the earth, then came out from it (compare Matthew 12:40; 27:60)?
>>> Read ACTS 8:38,39. <<<
*28* How is the eunuch's baptism described? (a) he was sprinkled, (b) water was poured on him, (c) he went down into the water and came up out of it. Answer: ______.
*29* When denominations sprinkle or pour, does the person "go down into" the water and "come up out of it"? Answer (Yes or No): ______.
In the gospel, baptism is always a complete immersion. In fact, the original word meant to dip, immerse, etc. (See the Greek derivation of the word according to English dictionaries.)
[See also Mark 1:9,10; Hebrews 10:22; John 3:23.]
For more information about the action of baptism, see the links at the end of this lesson.
C. The Proper Subject of Baptism
Should babies be baptized, or should people wait until they are old enough to understand the commitment and decide for themselves?
*30* Before one can be baptized, he must understand the gospel (John 6:44,45), believe (Mark 16:15,16; Acts 8:12), repent (Acts 2:38), and confess (Romans 10:9,10). Can babies do all these things? Answer (Yes or No): ______.
*31* Baptized people are members of the church and must participate in its work and worship (1 Corinthians 12:13,25,26; 10:16,17; 11:23-29; Ephesians 4:16). Can babies do these things? Answer (Yes or No): ______.
In our last lesson we learned that sin is not inherited, and therefore little children are innocent of sin. To enter the kingdom of heaven, sinners must be converted and become like little children. (See Psalm 106:38; Matthew 18:3; 19:14; Ezekiel 18:20; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Since baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), and since babies have no sin, it follows that they do not need to be baptized. The command to be baptized is addressed to people old enough to make their own choice with understanding. To baptize babies would be to obey the teachings of men, not Jesus (Matthew 15:9; Galatians 1:8,9; etc.).
In the Bible, when people understood, believed, and repented, they were baptized without delay (Acts 2:41; 8:35-39; 22:16; 16:23-34). Many churches today postpone baptism until a "baptismal service" days or weeks later. This shows they misunderstand the purpose of it. If you understand, you should not delay, but obey today.
For more information about infant baptism, see the links at the end of this lesson.
To be sure your sins are forgiven, you must obey the teachings of Jesus the Lord, not human doctrines. In our last lesson, you summarized your own relationship to Jesus. Please go back and compare what you have done in the past to what you now know the Bible teaches.
Perhaps you are one of the many people who thought you were forgiven, but now you realize you were misled. What should you do? You should realize that you simply have never completed your obedience to the gospel, and you should now determine to complete it.
In particular, if a person realizes that his "baptism" was not Scriptural, what should he do? Acts 19:1-7 shows that people with this problem needed to be baptized properly. Remember, there are many false baptisms, but only one true baptism (Ephesians 4:3-6).
"Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only" - James 1:22.
"If you love Me, keep my commandments" - John 14:15.
(These questions are for you to ponder. Your answers will help us understand your thinking, however they will not affect your "score.")
*32* What is your belief about the importance of obedience in salvation? __________
*33* Have you believed in Jesus as your Savior who died for your sins, and have you repented and determined to dedicate your whole life to serving God? __________
*34* Have you confessed Jesus as your Lord and been Scripturally baptized - completely immersed, based on your own personal conviction, for the purpose of receiving forgiveness of sins by the blood of Jesus? __________
(C) Copyright David E. Pratte, 1999 biblestudylessons.com
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.