What must we do to be saved?

When Peter first preached the Gospel, his listeners cried out, “what must we do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). We all know, as they did then, that we cannot save ourselves; there is nothing we can do to merit or provide salvation for ourselves or anyone else. Salvation is a gift of God. However, Peter’s audience realised that they needed to make some sort of response to the Gospel, but they didn’t know what that response should be.

In a previous post I told the story (a true story by the way) of the evangelist who asked the waiter to ‘receive Jesus’. Was the waiter’s prayer an adequate and effective response, and to what was he responding? Wayne Grudem writes in his book ‘Systematic Theology’ that ‘anyone who comes to Christ for salvation must have at least a basic understanding of who Christ is and how he meets our needs for salvation’. He goes on to say that the explanation of salvation must include at least the fact that all people have sinned (Romans 3:23), that the penalty for our sin is death (Romans 6:23), and that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:8). If these basic facts are not presented in some comprehensible form then to what exactly is the person expected to respond? Without wishing to be crass, would the following ‘gospel’ invitation’ suffice… “Tim do you know Jesus? No, Well Jesus this is Tim, and Tim say ‘pleased to meet you Jesus’. Good, now you are saved.” Yet many of the alter call/sinner’s prayer methods we see and hear so often are really little more than that.

One of the evangelists who recently preached in my church said that we shouldn’t expect people to come blubbering to the front to repent when all that is needed is to simply call upon the name of the Lord. Yet, surely, if repentance is required it needs to be real and to be real it must be heart-felt?! Imagine committing serial adultery over several years and then saying to your spouse “I call on you to take me back!….  what…. why won’t you?” As a very minimum your spouse would need to be convinced that you were heart-broken over how you had hurt her/him, deeply repentant, and determined that it would not happen again.

After real repentance must come a genuine and informed acknowledgement that we cannot make it right with God. We can’t pay him off and we can’t work off our debt for the rest of our lives.  Jesus has paid for our sinful rebellion and we must understand, acknowledge and accept the wonder and validity of this. Yet, even that is insufficient, because even if we repent and accept what Jesus has done on our behalf we are still the same old fatally flawed human being we were moments before our repentance and acceptance. God needs to do something radical – he needs to give us a new spiritual existence – we need to ask him to give us this new life; we need to be born again. Jesus taught Nicodemus about this (John 3) and Paul explained it comprehensively (Ephesians 4:21-24 and many other places). We receive the new birth by faith and then confess what God has done for and in us by telling others especially through the physical ‘telling’ of water baptism. These then are the things we need to do in order to receive the free salvation God offers us in Christ Jesus. Anything less is an inadequate response to an inadequate Gospel.

A thought to leave with you – what about those folk who have grown up in a Christian home and church environment and who have never consciously made a response to the Gospel – are they ‘saved’?

Christopher Peppler

Christopher Peppler



3 thoughts on “What must we do to be saved?”

  1. Hi Chris,

    I have just read your series of posts concerning the Gospel. These are very interesting posts!

    Could you please clarify what you mean with the following:

    ‘We receive the new birth by faith and then confess what God has done for and in us by telling others especially through the physical ‘telling’ of water baptism. These then are the things we need to do in order to receive the free salvation God offers us in Christ Jesus. Anything less is an inadequate response to an inadequate Gospel.’

    It seems like you mean water baptism is essential or a requirement in order to truly be saved. I might be misunderstanding you!

    I understand that a person ought to confess his/her sins to God and part of confessing also means to ‘tell’ others of how Jesus Christ has transformed us.

    My understanding is that water baptism is an outward ‘sign’ of the inward ‘act’ or transformation brought about within the repentant person. Isn’t a person already saved and then ‘confesses’ or proclaims to fellow believers what God has already done in his/her life by being baptised in water?
    What about those people that are not able to be baptised in water, e.g. those that become born again in prison and where there is no water for ‘baptism by immersion’ in water or what about the one thief on the cross who was not baptised in water, but was told by Jesus that he would be with Him in paradise that very day?

    Sorry if I have misunderstood what you have said in your post 🙂
    There have, sadly, been very few comments on your ‘Gospel series’ of posts and I think this is a very interesting and also extremely important discussion!

    Thanks for challenging my thinking in your posts!

    Many Blessings

  2. Thank you for your detailed comment. No, I don’t mean that we need to be water baptised in order to be saved, but I do believe that water baptism is a biblically prescribed way of testifying to what Jesus Christ has done for us. Salvation is all from and of God but we are expected to respond appropriatly. Our responses only indicate how we are appropriating what God has providid. Thank you for raising this becuase it is something where views differ quite a lot.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

follow me on

Recent posts

Weekly Highlights

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.