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HOW SALVATION WORKS
Intro: Questions! Our lives are filled with them. People spend their lives asking themselves all kinds of questions. One of the questions man asks himself is: How can I make a lot of money? When he has made his money, he will often ask: How can I make myself more beautiful or handsome and desirable? The next question is: How can I be sure that I will live long enough to enjoy my money and my popularity? The final question man asks is: What kind of legacy can I leave behind that will ensure that people will remember me after I am gone? Did you know that not a one of these questions really addresses what is most important in life?
The Bible offers us two questions that are of eternal significance. These are the two questions that man should be asking himself. The first question is found in Matthew 16:15, “Whom say ye that I am?” God the Father answered it this way: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”, Matt. 3:17. Simon Peter answered it like this: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”, Matt. 16:16. Every person’s eternal destiny rests on how he answers that question! What is your answer to that question?
I think you would agree with me that that is an important question. The second important question offered in the Bible is found in verse 37, “What shall we do?” The question they are asking is this: “What must we do to be saved?” This was the same question that was asked by the Philippian Jailer in Acts 16:30. This is a question that arises out of a heart touched by God. It is this question that gets to the heart of man’s greatest need.
You see, man doesn’t need more money. Man doesn’t need more things. Man doesn’t need better health or longer life. What man needs is to be saved! He needs to be in a right relationship with God!
In this passage, Simon Peter preaches the first Gospel message. He explains in detail how a person can be saved. He tells us in very clear terms how anyone can come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. He tells us How Salvation Works. That is the thought that I want to magnify today. So, let’s examine How Salvation Works. It may be that someone here today is asking themselves that same question: “What must I do to be saved?” If so, this message is for you and this passage has the answers you need. So, let’s take a few minutes to think about the subject, “How Salvation Works.”
I. V. 37a THE FIRST STEP IS CONVICTION
(Ill. What does it mean to be convicted? The Bible says that those who heard Peter’s sermon were “pricked in their heart.” The word “pricked” means “to be pierced through, to be stabbed, to be greatly agitated or troubled.” What they heard that day caused them to be troubled in their hearts. This is what conviction is all about. The word “conviction” means “To persuade of convince the mind by evidence. To convince man of error or of truth.” They were convinced of the truth of what Peter was preaching! When they heard what Peter was preaching about Jesus Christ, they were convinced that it was true and they were touched deep within their hearts. Let’s look at what convinced these men that day!)
A. V. 14-21 Convinced By The Fulfillment Of God’s Word - Peter merely reminded them that God had said that this day would come. They were convinced by the fact that God has kept His Word.
B. V. 22-36 Convinced By The Fruitfulness Of God’s Work - As Peter talked about Jesus, He was talking about a man of whom they had all heard much. They had heard of His claims to be the Messiah. They had also heard that He had been crucified. But, there were rumors all over Jerusalem that this man had risen from the dead! After all, there were over 500 people running around that claimed to have seen Him after His resurrection, 1 Cor. 15:6. Now, these followers of Jesus are all filled with the Spirit and telling the multitudes that He had indeed risen from the dead.
You see, the Day of Pentecost was exactly 50 days from the day Jesus raised from the dead. It was only 10 days separated from the His ascension back into Heaven. For 40 of those 50 days, Jesus had lived with, worked among and instructed His disciples. Oh, the people in the crowd had all heard the rumors. Rumors of stolen corpses, empty graves, terrified disciples and frightened Jewish leadership. Now, one of Jesus’ followers is telling them that this same Jesus they had crucified was risen again and they are convinced! In fact, they are being told that the blame rests squarely upon their own shoulders, v. 23-26.
C. V. 15, 32 Convinced By The Faithfulness Of God’s Witnesses - This crowd had certainly heard about the terrified disciples hiding in the upper room. Now, they see them standing boldly and preaching ion the power of the Spirit of God and they are convinced! This crowd saw the change in these people. They also understood the risk these disciples were taking in standing up to proclaim Jesus Christ. When the message was preached in power, they acknowledged that this message was indeed the truth from God and it convinced them!
(Note: If you are saved today, or if you are lost, but will be saved some day you need to know that God will use these methods and more to bring you under conviction. You see, before you can ever be saved, you must first be brought under conviction of your sins and your sinful condition, John 6:44. You can never be saved until God opens your eyes to what you are and Who you need, Eph. 2:1-3; 2 Cor. 4:4.
So, what is conviction? It is God, Himself, taking whatever steps are necessary to convince you that His claims concerning Jesus are true. It is God bringing you to the place where you can see yourself as a lost sinner in need of a Savior and to where you can see that Jesus Christ is your only hope. It is God bringing you to the place where you cry out, “What must I do to be saved?”
By the way, this is not a negative thing! Notice what Jesus Himself said about conviction, John 16:7-13. The greatest day of your life is when God shows you that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. That is the day your life begins to forever change for the better. That is the day you take the first steps toward Christ and His salvation.)
(Note: Take some time to describe what conviction feels like and how to recognize the symptoms! Have you ever been under deep conviction? Did it hurt? When the Word of God comes to you in your sins and brings conviction, it will hurt deeply, Heb. 4:12-13. Zechariah describes what conviction will be like for the Jews present when Jesus returns in glory, Zech. 12:10.)
II. V. 37b-41a THE SECOND STEP IS CONVERSION
(Ill. After these people are convicted, Peter tells them how to be converted. He tells them how salvation is brought about!)
A. V. 38a Conversion Involves Changing The Mind - Peter tells them to “repent”. Repentance is “a change of mind that results in a change of action.” Up until now, these Jews had believed the party line concerning the identity of Jesus Christ, Peter tells them it is time to change their minds concerning Jesus. That is the plea of verse 40.
Genuine repentance is an absolute essential ingredient in salvation. For when you repent of your sins, you will forsake your sinful ways. You will think like God thinks, feel like God feels, will God’s way and work for Him with zeal and delight. You see, repentance is more than just felling sorry for your sins. It is more than sorrow over being “found out” in your sins. Repentance is an absolute changing of the life! It is a renunciation of the old life in sin and the embracing of the new life in Christ, 2 Cor. 5:17. (Ill. The Geneva Study Bible says this about repentance: “Repentance means changing one's mind, so that one's views, values, goals, and ways are changed, and one's whole life is lived differently. Mind and judgment, will and affections, behavior and lifestyle, motives and plans: all are involved. Repenting means starting to live a new life.”, page 1756.
But, there is a problem with repentance! The problem is this: man cannot repent of his sins unless he is aided by God! The Bible is clear, repentance is a gift of God, Acts 5:31; Acts 11:18, 2 Tim. 2:25. Genuine repentance is not turning over a new leaf. That will not last, because it is the effort of man and a work of the flesh! Genuine repentance is a work of grace in the heart of a sinner that makes him desire to be a new creature in Christ! But, don’t despair and think that you cannot repent! If the Lord is convicting your heart and calling you to be saved, He is extending His grace to you already and He will see it through in your life. If He is calling, He will give grace to follow Him in genuine repentance!
B. V. 38b Conversion Involves Confessing The Master - Peter than calls on these people to be “baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Peter is not telling them that baptism will wash all their sins away and save them. He is telling them that openly identifying themselves with Jesus Christ through baptism in His Name will give public testimony to the fact that they have received the message of the Gospel!
I am sure most of you know that baptism does not save! However, receiving Jesus Christ by faith does, Rom. 10:9-10. Peter is trying to get these people openly admit that they have embraced the Gospel. That is, he wants them to give external evidence to an internal work. That was the function of baptism then, and it is the function of baptism today!
Do not miss the fact that salvation does not come by external rituals such as baptism, but that it comes through believing the truth about Jesus Christ and embracing Him as you only hope of salvation!
C. V. 39-41 Conversion Involves Claiming The Message - The Bible tells us that they “gladly received his word.” That is, they accepted the Gospel message and openly identified themselves with Jesus Christ. That is the essence of salvation! It isn’t about getting in an altar and praying some prayer! It isn’t about signing a card in an evangelistic crusade. It is about hearing the truth of the Gospel and receiving it by faith. That is what saves the soul!
That is why the Bible puts it so simply time and time again! Jesus said it this way: John 3:16; John 6:47. Paul said it this way to the Philippian Jailer, Acts 16:31. Phillip had this to say to the Ethiopian eunuch, Acts 8:36-37. God said it this way to the whole world, Isa. 45:22. The Holy Spirit says it this way to you, Rev. 22:17.
III. V. 41B-42 THE THIRD STEP IS CONTINUATION
(Ill. We are told that these people, after they were saved. “Continued steadfastly” in their new way of life. This little phrase means “to persevere, to give constant attention to someone or something.” When they were saved, they begin a new life. After they were saved, they continued in that new life. Nothing makes the clear statement that you are saved more so than your steadfast continuation in the things of God! You see, a new life is proof of conversion, James 2:18! Some people call this “the perseverance of the saints”. Notice the things they held to after they were saved.)
A. They Continued In The Right Acknowledgment - We are told they continued steadfastly in “the Apostles’ doctrine”. That is, they lived by the Word of God. They made the teachings of the Bible the centerpiece and guiding influence of their lives. This is always evidence of genuine salvation, 1 John 2:3; 3:24. Your obedience to the Word of God is proof of your love for the Savior, John 14:15.
B. They Continued In The Right Associations - They also continued in the “fellowship”. That is, there was a new love for the brethren and a desire to be with them. Again, this is proof of a converted life, 1 John 3:14. If you love the brethren, it is only because you have the love of God within you, 1 John 4:7! However, the absence of love for the brethren, signals an absence of genuine salvation in your life, 1 John 4:20-21.
C. They Continued In The Right Appointments - When the Bible refers to “the breaking of bread”, it is speaking of the gathering of the saints at the Lord’s table for worship and to observe communion. It is talking about the gathering together of the saints for worship. In other words, they went to church! Your desire for and involvement in worship says a lot about your commitment to the Lord Jesus! After all, we are commanded to gather with the people of God for worship, Heb. 10:25. Are you frequenting the assembly of the saints?
D. They Continued In The Right Adorations - Lastly, we are told they continued in “prayers”. This refers to personal worship before the Lord. These people took the time to get into the presence of the Lord on a personal level. Again, your desire for a personal relationship with God is an indicator of your spiritual condition! Saved people want to be near the Lord often!
(Note: None of these things can produce salvation in the heart of any individual, but each of these things is an indicator of the truthfulness of our claim to be saved. When we know Him, we will want to be near Him and His people. Our continuation in the things that matter to Him is a good sign that we are His!)
Conc: What must we do to be saved? I think we know now, don’t we? Those are the simple steps that teach us how salvation works. Has God spoken to you today, through this passage?
My friends, if you are under conviction today and you know that Jesus is Who the Bible says He is, and you know you are a sinner in need of a Savior, I invite you to come to Him right now. You can be saved!
If you have a professed a relationship with Jesus at some point, but your experience doesn’t line up with what the Bible teaches about being saved, then I invite you to come to Him so you can get the real thing today.
If you are saved but you have become slack in your new life and want things to be like they used to be, you need to come. Or, if you are saved and just want to thank Him for convicting you and converting you, then you need to come.
When Peter preached his message 3,000 people were saved. I don’t expect that to happen today, because not that many people are present. Close, but not quite! However, I do expect God to honor His Word today and I humbly ask you to listen to His Spirit and respond to Him if He has spoken to you.