Archive for the ‘What One Must Know to be Saved’ Category

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What One Must Know to be Saved: Solomon’s Colonnade

July 21, 2008

Today we will continue our inquiry into what one must know to be saved, by looking at the message Peter preached to the crowd in Acts 3.

In the first part of the chapter, we read of Peter healing a crippled man. This filled the people who witnessed the healing with wonder and amazement. A crowd gathered, and Peter seized the opportunity to preach the gospel to them.

The audience on this day was similar to the one on Pentecost. Peter addressed them as “Men of Israel.” He spoke to them of the “God of our fathers.” And he bluntly held them responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. They were not merely responsible on some general or abstract sense, but apparently had been present in the crowd a few weeks earlier, calling for Jesus to be crucified.

Peter preached about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, crediting Jesus with the healing of the crippled man. He pointed out that Jesus was the Christ and that his suffering was prophesied repeatedly in the Old Testament. Peter then called them to repent and to turn to God. He alluded to Christ’s return. And he warned them that failure to obey Christ would result in their being cut off from the people of God.

The primary points of Peter’s sermon were strikingly similar to those in chapter 2:

  1. Jesus is the Christ
  2. Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy.
  3. Obedience to Jesus is essential for his people (Lordship)
  4. In response we are called to repent and turn to God for forgiveness.
  5. Times of refreshing are promised.

Not surprisingly, fewer details were recorded about this second sermon than had been recorded about the preceding sermon. The important point is that the details which were recorded are completely consistent with those from the preceding sermon. In both cases Peter addressed a crowd of Jews in Jerusalem, and in both cases he taught the same basic message.

We see elements of the same message in his speech before the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law in chapter 4, and also before the Sanhedrin in chapter 5.

As we continue through the book of Acts, we continue to find the message emphasizing the eyewitness testimony that Jesus rose from the dead.

Next time we will examine what Peter taught Cornelius in Acts 10.

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What One Must Know to be Saved: Pentecost

July 18, 2008

The obvious place to learn what a person must know in order to be saved is the book of Acts. There we find a variety of conversion accounts, including the things that were taught to bring people to faith in Jesus. These accounts show us what the inspired apostles taught, and what the Holy Spirit considered important enough to record in the scriptures for our benefit.

Let’s begin with the first conversions, the 3000 in Acts 2.

God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven had come to Jerusalem to observe Pentecost (Acts 2:5) These Jews must have known the Old Testament scriptures, and in particular they would have been expecting the Messiah (Luke 2:26, Luke 3:15, John 1:41, John 4:25, John 7:26-31, John 7:41-42, John 12:34). They did not understand everything about the prophecies of the Messiah. But they understood much about the nature of God and the sinfulness of man. They understood the need for atonement.

Peter’s message addressed the following points:

  1. The miracles confirming his message and the message of Jesus (Acts 2:14-22)
  2. The prophecies about the Christ, which were now being fulfilled.
  3. The resurrection of Jesus, in fulfilment of scriptural prophecy. (Acts 2:22-32)
  4. The ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God, as Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:33-36)

Speaking to these Jews, Peter sought to prove three facts: that Jesus was the Christ, that he rose from the dead, and that he is Lord. Peter presented three pieces of evidence for these points. First, he presented the miracle they were witnessing, a fulfilment of prophecy from Joel. Second, he reminded them of the crucifixion of Jesus, and added the eyewitness testimony that Jesus was raised from the dead. Third, he showed them that the resurrection of the Christ was prophesied in the Old Testament scriptures.

By quoting those old testament scriptures, Peter was not saying that a proper understanding of prophecies from Joel, Psalms etc is essential to salvation. Rather, the purpose of all those proofs was to establish those three essential facts. He was using those prophecies to help persuade them that Jesus was the Christ, that he was raised from the dead, and that he is both Lord and Christ.

Act 2:36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

Many of those present accepted Peter’s message. At that point, Peter called for action on their part:

Act 2:37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Act 2:38 Peter replied, “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.
Act 2:39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

They were called to repent and to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And they were promised a gift of the Holy Spirit. And they were told that this same promise is open to all whom the Lord our God will call. Finally, Peter used many other words to urge them to respond and to be saved.

So, in summary, we learn the following essential elements of Peter’s message in Acts 2:

  1. Jesus is the Christ
  2. Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy
  3. God has made Jesus Lord.
  4. In response, we are called to repent and to be baptized for forgiveness of our sins
  5. We are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Everything in Peter’s message was designed to persuade them of those five points. Understanding and responding to those basic facts was sufficient for 3000 devout Jews to become Christians that day.

Next time we will look at the message Peter preached in chapter 3.

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What One Must Know to be Saved: Introduction

July 13, 2008

Many passages in the New Testament promise salvation to everyone who believes (ie, has faith) in Jesus. Perhaps the most famous of these is this verse:

Joh 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

What a great promise, to everyone who believes in Jesus! It is obviously very important to believe in Jesus. But what does that mean? In order to lead someone to faith, what should we teach first? How much does someone need to know about Jesus in order to “believe in him?” How do we know when they have learned enough to be baptized into Christ as a believer?

In order to believe something, one has to know some minimal set of facts about that thing. There has to be some context for the belief. For example, I believe in the sun. I see it every day, and I have full confidence that it exists. Further, I believe that it will rise every morning and set every evening. But I don’t believe the sun is a god. To understand what “I believe in the sun” means, some context and some basic facts must be understood. Similarly, a statement that someone believes in Jesus has little meaning without some accompanying facts and context in which that belief operates.

The scriptures give us an incredibly deep set of facts and context about Jesus. The Old Testament is full of prophecies about Jesus, some which are explicit and others which are very subtle. And the New Testament provides much more of the meaning and relevance of Jesus to our lives. There are many truths about Jesus, in many layers. An entire lifetime of study is not sufficient to plumb all of the depths of the meaning of Jesus as revealed in the scriptures. And yet a person can reach a saving faith in Jesus in a relatively short time, as can be seen from the many examples in Acts. A person is not required to understand every truth about Jesus in order to become a child of God.

So a very natural question is, “What does one need to understand in order to have saving faith in Jesus?”

I want to survey the book of Acts, with support from the epistles, to see if we can find the answer to that question. In Acts we have accounts of many conversions. We can look at what was taught to people who were at different points in their understanding of man’s relationship to God, in order to bring them to the point of salvation through faith. Hopefully from this survey we can determine the salient facts that must be understood by any person in order for them to become Christians.