Acts 16:30-31
Great Texts of the Bible
What must I do to be Saved?

Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they Said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.—Acts 16:30-31.

The events recorded in this sixteenth chapter of the Acts are not the only ones which have given a name and a fame in the afterworld to an obscure provincial town in Macedonia. At this same Philippi, about one hundred years before the arrival there of Paul and Silas, the empire of the world had been played for and lost and won. The great battle which derives its name from this city did much to shape the after-history of the world. No one capable of judging will deny this; and yet there are names and incidents linked with Philippi which possess a far deeper interest for us, which touch us far more nearly than the conflict between the chiefs of the two selfish factions, who, quarrelling over the spoils of the world, here decided by the bloody arbitrament of the sword to which those spoils should belong. The shocks of contending hosts, the deeds which once filled the world with their fame, these have passed away. Brutus and Cassius, Antony and the young Octavius, win but a languid interest from us; while Lydia, the humble purple-seller of Thyatira, the first-fruits of the Gospel on European soil, whose heart the Lord opened here, “that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul,” and Paul and Silas singing hymns to God out of the depths of their dungeon, and that unnamed Philippian jailor with his earnest agonizing cry, “What must I do to be saved?”—their story is ever fresh and ever new; it has the same hold upon us as it had upon those who first heard it, touching, as it does, the central heart of things, the everlasting hopes and interests of men.


The Scene in the Prison

1. On some false or frivolous pretext, Paul and his fellow-labourer, Silas, were dragged before the Roman magistrates at Philippi. These, it seems, would not so much as hear them in their own defence; but with their own hands “rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.” Perhaps, but we cannot be sure of this, Paul, if he might have spoken, would have pleaded his Roman citizenship, as he did at Jerusalem, and so have saved himself from the last indignity of scourging. But, whether this is so or not, “when they had laid many stripes upon them” (St. Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, speaks of having been “shamefully entreated at Philippi”), “they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely.” He, careless about their sufferings, only selfishly careful to make all safe for himself in the easiest way, “having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison,” a dark dungeon, below the level of the ordinary prison, and, smarting and bleeding from the rods as they were, “made their feet fast in the stocks,” an instrument of punishment as painful as it was shameful, but which a great prophet of the elder covenant had made trial of before them (see Jeremiah 20:2); and so left them there to themselves; or rather, not to themselves, but to their God.

2. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises unto God.” They were praying; this was natural. The cry de profundis is the one which most readily arises; but more than this their voices were voices not of prayer only, but also of praise. They “sang praises” unto Him “who giveth songs in the night,” who had counted them worthy to suffer for His name’s sake, who had brought them in this sacrament of suffering into a closer fellowship with their Lord, the captain of the crucified, the leader and Commander in the great army of martyrs. We count it a great feat of Christian magnanimity not to murmur, to be what we call resigned: here were those who were “joyful in tribulation.” “And the prisoners,” we are told, “heard them,” or “listened to them.” Strange, indeed, must those voices of prayer and thanksgiving have sounded in that place, most unlike the voices with which those walls at other times had resounded. Curses, no doubt, were familiar enough in that dismal house of punishment and pain, but not blessings; oaths, but not prayers; wailing and gnashing of teeth, of the slave and the malefactor, not hymns of a holy gladness, of the saint and the martyr. No wonder, then, that they all listened; and presently the Lord set His seal to the prayer of His servants. “Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.”

3. The earthquake which released Paul and Silas wakened the jailor, who, “seeing the prison doors open, drew his sword, and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.” Suicide was held by the Romans to be not only lawful, but even in certain cases commendable. This unhappy man knew that he was responsible to his superiors for the safety of those committed to his charge; he knew that the magistrates would show no mercy (cf. Acts 12:19), as he had slept at his post; and so he preferred immediate death to the disgrace of public exposure and the death to which he would certainly be sentenced. But he was arrested in the very act of self-destruction by the Apostle’s voice, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” And now a new terror took possession of him. He saw the miraculous interference which restrained the freed prisoners from escaping; he called to mind the causes which had led to the imprisonment of these Christians. Certain strange words which he had heard often of late must have recurred to his mind: “These men are the servants of the Most High God, which show unto us the way of salvation.”

4. “He sprang in, and, trembling for fear, fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” A moment’s consideration is enough to show how little foundation there is for the common assumption that the man was in a great state of anxiety about his soul. He was a heathen, and a heathen of the lowest class. No sense of sin (as we understand it) could be reasonably expected of such a man; nor, indeed, among the mass of the heathen generally. Feelings of remorse for his rough treatment of Paul and Silas no doubt mingled with his terror, but in any case it was a heathen conscience; and the self-accusations which it suggested were perhaps not so much about a wicked or a wasted life as about some superstitious rites neglected, or some idolatrous sacrifices not duly honoured, and it was in blindness and ignorance, and without anything at first which we should call concern about his soul, that he cried so piteously, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Believing Christians, it is said, can be divided into two classes. One of these classes is typified by the charcoal-burner, who, asked by a learned doctor what he believed, answered, “I believe what the Church believes.” “Yes,” said the doctor, “but what does the Church believe?” “The Church believes what I believe.” “Well, but what is it that you and the Church believe?” The charcoal-burner hesitated, but at length replied, “The Church and I believe—the same thing!” Of the other class we find an illustration in the little girl walking with her father in the country, and asking, “What is that?” “That, my dear, is a cow.” “But why, papa?” Our sympathies are with the little girl, but is there not a point where both these classes meet? And if so, it is surely faith in Christ. Since the Philippian jailor was quite able to embrace this faith, it is evident that it does not need any gifts of intellect, or even any elaborate instruction in the things of God. One of those Assyrian Christians, of whom so many have been massacred in recent years, explained to a Western traveller that he and his were very poor and very helpless, and (what was worse) very ignorant even of their own religion; but they knew who their Master was and they were ready to lay down their lives for Him. And so they have, in more instances than we can number, without hesitation.

5. The story of the Philippian jailor will never be forgotten. It will remain for ever as a witness of the power of the Holy Spirit to change a human life by turning darkness into light. The man, though a jailor, was a man still. He had his human emotions, his human fears, and—as the sequel shows—his human compassions also, which his grim trade had been powerless to crush out. When he asked the question it was not, we imagine, with any very distinct conception of its bearing. He spoke of saving. What did he mean by this? His soul was convulsed by a tumult of conflicting passions. Only the moment before he would have done the very reverse of saving himself; he would have committed suicide. The first instantaneous terror was past. His prisoners were safe. His own life was safe—safe from his own murderous hand, and safe from the displeasure of his masters. But a vague, bewildering awe had seized him. He was in imminent peril, he knew not whence and how, Hence his imploring cry, “What must I do to be saved?” And God took him at his word. God accepted his confused yearning; God heard his inarticulate utterance. He asked for salvation. And God taught him salvation; God gave him salvation, a gift far higher, far nobler, far more beneficent, than it had entered into his heart to conceive. It is instructive to observe the instrumentality which laid the jailor prostrate at the Apostle’s feet. This instrumentality is twofold, partly external and partly moral. There is the physical catastrophe, and there is the spiritual influence.

(1) There is the physical catastrophe. Suddenly, we are told, there was a great earthquake. The prison was shaken to its foundations. The doors flew open. The fetters were loosed. It is thus that God works not uncommonly in His regenerative processes. Through the avenues of the senses He forces His way to the spirit. It may be that the Lord Himself is not in the great and strong wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire; but the fire and the earthquake and the strong wind are His precursors, are His pioneers. They are as the voice of one crying in the wilderness of the man’s heart, “Prepare ye the way.” They arrest the eye and the ear; they overawe and subdue the spirit; they hold the man spellbound; and in the supervening silence the still small voice is heard. So it was here. Agitated and bewildered—his whole moral nature reeling and staggering with the shock—the jailor flung himself at the Apostle’s feet.

(2) But this was not sufficient. The physical shock might arrest, but it could not instruct. It might overawe, but it could not inspire. The rumbling and the crash of the earthquake is not the only voice which breaks the midnight silence. There is the voice of prayer and praise, borne aloft to the Throne of Grace from those subterranean dungeons. We may well imagine that this voice also, so strange, so unearthly, so unlike the gibes and the curses and the blasphemies which were wont to issue from the prisoners’ cells, had arrested the jailor’s ear; that they had suggested hopes and fears, which he could but vaguely understand; that they held out to him a new ideal of life, at which he blindly clutched; that, mingling with his dreams, they had moulded his awakening thoughts; and thus insensibly they had shaped the cry which rose to his lips, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”1 [Note: J. B. Lightfoot.]

6. The calm answer of Paul and Silas was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.” They were not afraid of that Gospel which they came to preach; they did not count that what God had made free, it would be prudent for man to clog with conditions. They did not say to themselves, “This wicked, this hardened jailor must not be encouraged to believe too soon in the forgiveness of sins; he must be kept at a due distance for awhile; and then some glimpses of hope may be given him, and the prospect at some future day of a full pardon.” Not so; but the rich treasure-house of God’s grace was thrown open to him at once, and he was bidden to help himself, and to make himself rich with the best gifts which were there.


The Question

“What must I do to be saved?”

1. Before we come to the words of the question we should take note that, whatever may have prompted similar questions—such as the question of the Rich Young Ruler, “What shall I do that I may have eternal life?”—this question was clearly quickened by fear. The jailor, we are told, was “trembling for fear” (Acts 16:29, R.V.); he had been alarmed by the earthquake, by the prison walls rocking and shaking, by the whole occurrences of the night. It was fear, physical fear at first, that led to the spiritual fear that was uttered in the cry, “What must I do to be saved?”

It is not necessary to say that there are many cases in which the longing for salvation has not been quickened by fear. Children who have grown up in Christian homes, and have been tenderly nurtured “in the chastening and admonition of the Lord,” breathing an atmosphere of piety from their earliest years, are often sweetly drawn to Christ by His tender love, and can hardly remember the time when they did not love Christ. On the other hand, it ought never to be forgotten that in many other cases conviction of sin, and of the need of salvation, have been the direct result of personal fear of being lost. Any minister who leaves out of his preaching “the note of fear” is not only unfaithful to the truth, but he is neglecting one of the means the Spirit of God has used in every age for the conversion of souls.1 [Note: G. S. Barrett]

2. Now come to the question itself: “What must I do to be saved?” This is no worn-out, obsolete question. It is as real now as it was nineteen centuries ago; as pertinent here in the heart of Christendom as it was there amidst the surroundings of paganism; as vital to us as it was to that poor, bewildered jailor in that far-off Roman colony. But it matters much—it matters everything—in what sense we ask the question. What do we mean by this saying? From what evil do we desire to be rescued?

i. What Salvation is not

It is well first of all to see clearly what salvation is not. Dr. M. D. Shutter has forcibly stated some common mistakes as to the meaning of this great word. From what, he asks, do you want to be saved?

(1) “Well,” you answer, “I know that I have sinned, and I feel that God is angry with the wicked and hates them. I want you to tell me how to be saved from His wrath. This is my desire.” Now, there is not and cannot be any such thing in God as you understand by wrath. It is true He has expressed His disapprobation of sin in the consequences which follow the violation of His laws in the soul, the body, the universe. But this is done in love to correct evil, to turn men aside from sin, and not in frenzy. His bolts are not hurled in vengeance, as men retaliate upon each other. He does not delight in destruction. When His laws smite us in their operation, it is to heal and not to kill. The sword falls with the glitter of lightning, but also with the glow of sunrise upon its blade. Let us be sure that we can never receive harm from God, that we can never receive mischief of any kind from God.

The ancient gods are dead.

No Roman despot sits on heaven’s throne,

Dispensing favours by his will alone;

Sends some to heaven and some to lowest hell,

In unprogressive woe or bliss to dwell;

Demands no horrid sacrifice of blood,

Nor nails his victims to the cruel wood

In others’ guilty stead.

The ancient gods are dead.

Law rules majestic in the courts above,

And has no moods, but hand in hand with love,

Sweeps thro’ the universe, and smiling sees

The spheres obedient to her vast decrees,

Proclaims all men the sons not slaves of God.

And breathes the message of His Fatherhood.

The true God is not dead.

(2) “But,” you say, “I may not have been happy in expressing myself. Perhaps I ought to say that it is the justice of God from which I desire to be saved. This may be the better word.” The justice of God? Saved from the justice of God? Why, our hope is that equal and exact justice will at last be done everywhere and to all men. Strange that we should want to be delivered from this attribute of God and its operations, unless we are consciously trying to outwit and defraud Him. The trouble is, we have inserted brutality and fiendishness into our conception of justice, and stand trembling before our own caricature. Justice renders to each his due at last—nothing more, nothing less. Justice meets out to each transgression and disobedience a fair recompense of reward—a “just” recompense. Saved from the justice of God? No, God’s justice has been the hope of the oppressed in all ages. It is the hope of those who are trodden down to-day. It will work in this world and the next, until all wrongs are righted, till that which is crooked shall have been made straight, till the hills are levelled and the valleys exalted. We sing with Whittier—

We only know that God is just,

And every wrong shall die.

We exclaim with Queen Katharine—

Heaven is above all yet; there sits a judge

That no king can corrupt.

(3) “But,” you say, “perhaps I have not said what I mean. It is the penalty of sin from which I wish to be saved.” Exactly so. You want to be assured that you will not suffer for your sins. You want to be told how the pain and anguish and disgrace attending sin may be removed. You want to know how the burden of remorse shall be lifted from your conscience. You want to know how your boat may play upon the current of Niagara above the falls, without taking a plunge over the awful precipice. But this is precisely what cannot be done. There is no salvation from the penalty of sin, in itself considered. Every evil thought, every unkind word, every unmanly deed, will bring, here or hereafter, its just and equitable penalty. This is as certain as sunlight or gravitation.

ii. What Salvation is

The salvation of Jesus Christ is a great salvation—far greater than most men have ever thought or imagined. It meant and it means a large and many-sided experience; the highest quality and order of human life, the highest character and blessedness which men individually and collectively are capable of reaching and realizing.

I do not know of anything more Singular in our English versions than the liberty so deliberately taken with our Lord’s use of this familiar word. Every reader of the Greek Testament knows that He used it quite indifferently of the blessed work of recovery whether of body or of soul. (Compare St. Luke 7:50 with Luke 8:48, where the whole formula is exactly the same.) Every one who speaks English knows that we habitually use the word “save” for any kind of rescue—from fire, from drowning, from any danger of bodily destruction, just as much as from moral and spiritual ruin and death. Yet in the Gospels the word is regularly mistranslated “made whole,” when it refers to a healing of the body. The Authorized Version, indeed, had permitted the proper word to stand in one instance, St. Luke 18:42, and even this one exception was invaluable for teaching purposes. Now, alas, even this lapse into accuracy has been obliterated by the Revised Version. It is quite true that when a person is “saved” from the misery of blindness, or the torment of disease, he may almost equally well be said to be “made whole.” But it is not a question of what our Lord might have said, but of what He did say. He did not, as a matter of fact, say, “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (which would have required a different Greek word), but “thy faith hath saved thee”; and in altering His words, the translators have given a rendering which is inaccurate; and this is so unlike the authors of the Revised Version in general that one is naturally led to suppose that it was done under the pressure of some very strong theological pre-possession. But these pre-possessions have no place in the work of translating the Scriptures.1 [Note: R. Winterbotham.]

1. Salvation is first a certain deliverance from the depression and dismay which spring from our knowledge and fear of the evil we have done; it is a certain relief from the shame which paralyses hopeful endeavour, and from the ignorant and guilty dread which makes the thought of God a burden and not an inspiration. The suffering of an awakened conscience is of all burdens the hardest to be borne. This was the Nemesis that the ancients pictured as ever pursuing the ever-flying and never-escaping criminal. This was the torment that drove Lady Macbeth mad—who, with all her ablutions, could not wash out the bloodstains from her hand. And it is the sorrow not only of those who have committed great crimes against humanity, but of every man who is haunted by lost opportunities, of every man who has fled from duties that demanded faithfulness unto death, of every man who has given his soul away in exchange for some worldly prize, of every man who has not lived up to his light, and has not been obedient to the heavenly vision when obedience was inconvenient and hard; of every man awakened to the sense of the irrevocable past and to the thought of what he might have been and might have done.

Every one reprobates the custom of throwing children into the Ganges. But does every one stop to consider why the Hindu mother commits such cruelty? She is a mother. Motherhood must have borne into her own heart somewhat of the strongest affection of earth. Because the child is hers, it must be horror to watch it die. Under other circumstances she would give her own life to save the child’s. Who knows the smothered agonies beside the Ganges—Rachels lamenting their children “because they are not,” mothers tearing their babes from their bosoms and turning homeward with aching hearts? Of the terrible paradox there is just one explanation; in the awful crime there is just one exalting truth: Those Hindu mothers are trying to answer for themselves a question which lay in their souls before their children were born: “What must I do to be saved?”2 [Note: G. C. Peck.]

2. Salvation means, then, in the second place, a certain deliverance from the depression and fear of sin; it means a sense of the forgiving mercy and help of God; it means the victory of faith and hope; but all this is only clearing the ground for the great salvation of Jesus Christ. The removal of tormenting shame, of our ignorant and guilty dread of God and fate, is only the first step in the way of the Christian salvation. There is evil in the heart and life, and from its presence and dominion we require to be delivered. We are not in real contact with the Divine order of the world until we feel that it is not penalty here or hereafter God wants to save us from—but sin. We bear and must bear the punishment of our sins. The remission of sin is not the remission of punishment. We reap what we sow. It is by this severity of discipline that God makes us see the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Justice and mercy are eternally one. Justice is beneficent and the retributive forces are redemptive. The cry to escape from the natural penalty of sin is the cry, not of the higher but of the lower nature; the cry of a man who cares more for his own personal safety and comfort than he cares for the order and will of God. The man truly awakened and enlightened wants to be delivered from the power of evil affections and evil habits, to be saved from his infirmities and sins, even though it be by fire; to be made right with God, right with men who are the children of God, and right with the whole order of things which is of God.

What must I do to be saved? What must I do, that I may be delivered from this my sin? What must I do, that I may cleanse myself from this impurity which sullies my soul? What must I do, that I may rid me of this untruthfulness, this dishonesty, this insincerity, which mars my life? What must I do, that I may expel this avarice which cramps my heart? What must I do, that I may shake off this lethargy which numbs my spirit? What must I do, that I may cast out this demon of worldliness, of self which shuts out Thee and Thy presence, O God? For Thou, Lord, and Thou only, art salvation, Thou only art heaven, Thou only art eternal life.1 [Note: J. B. Lightfoot.]

3. But, thirdly, while it is much to be delivered from perverted and corrupt affection and to have the power of evil habit broken, yet much more remains to be done to have the fulness of the blessing which the gospel of Jesus Christ calls “salvation.” Salvation is not only deliverance from sin; it is growth in all trueness and goodness of life. Christian character is not an incident, a result, a test of salvation—it is salvation. Salvation is character. The perfection of character and the work of salvation include the training of every power and affection to the standard of the perfect man; the rising up on all sides of our being and life to Him who is the head.

In his book on Darkest England General Booth continually speaks with the most unquestioning confidence of those who, under the ministry of his lieutenants, have been converted, as “soundly saved.” And the thing seems very definite in these cases, a clear and manifest passing out of darkness into light, out of drunkenness, debauchery, and crime into sobriety and industry and love and religion. When a man has drunk himself nearly into the grave, has spent as many years in prison as out of it, has been a thief, a wife-beater, only by chance not a murderer, and then turns right round, renounces drink, works honestly, makes a decent home for his wife, and wins the respect of all who know him, then there is no difficulty in understanding what “being saved” means. When a girl has forfeited all that makes girlhood beautiful, and has grown stained and sodden with drink, and then turns right round and rebuilds the temple of a woman’s sanctity, and spends all her days and years in devoted ministry among those who are now what she was then, we see quite plainly that “being saved” is a remarkably definite thing, and we dare not charge with cant the phraseology of the Christian people who have wrought this change. No man can doubt that such a revolution in the outward life is but the signal of a corresponding revolution in the inward life. Through the application of some potent spiritual energy the nerve and fibre of the soul have undergone a penetrating change. Old passions have been killed. New affections have been born. A new light has entered into the life and transformed it wonderfully, the soul has been born again, the old man has been put off, the new man which is akin to Jesus Christ has been put on.1 [Note: R. A. Armstrong.]

4. And, fourthly, salvation is not something wrought in and for ourselves alone; it means a life lived not for self, but for God and mankind—it means not only character but Service. It is in the teaching of our Lord Himself that we have His large conception of salvation. The name He gives it is the Kingdom of God. Now a kingdom is a society. About any merely private salvation that ended in one’s self Jesus Christ had very little to say but this: He that saveth himself shall lose himself. He always put God—God’s will, God’s work, and the service of God in mankind—where much religion that calls itself by His name puts self—self-interest, personal safety, comfort, peace, and final bliss. To be self-centred is in Christ’s judgment to be in a state of condemnation—to be dead, not alive.

Who standeth at the gate?—A woman old,

A widow from the husband of her love.

“O lady, stay, this wind is piercing cold,

Oh look at the keen frosty moon above;

I have no home, am hungry, feeble, poor.”—

“I’m really very sorry, but I can

Do nothing for you; there’s the clergyman.”

The lady said, and shivering closed the door.

Who standeth at the gate?—Wayworn and pale

A grey-haired man asks charity again.

“Kind lady, I have journeyed far, and fail

Through weariness; for I have begged in vain

Some shelter, and can find no lodging-place.”—

She answered: “There’s the work-house very near;

Go, for they’ll certainly receive you there”—

Then shut the door against his pleading face.

Who standeth at the gate?—A stunted child,

Her sunk eyes sharpened with precocious care.

“O lady, save me from a home defiled,

From shameful sights and sounds that taint the air

Take pity on me, teach me something good.”—

“For shame, why don’t you work instead of cry?

I keep no young impostors here, not I.”

She slammed the door, indignant where she stood.

Who standeth at the gate, and will be heard?

Arise, O woman, from thy comforts now:

Go forth again to speak the careless word,

The cruel word unjust, with hardened brow.

But who is this, that standeth not to pray

As once, but terrible to judge thy sin?

This whom thou wouldst not succour nor take in

Nor teach but leave to perish by the way.

“Thou didst it not unto the least of these.

And in them hast not done it unto Me.

Thou wast as a princess rich and at ease—

Now sit in dust and howl for poverty.

Three times I stood beseeching at thy gate,

Three times I came to bless thy soul and save:

But now I come to judge for what I gave,

And now at length thy sorrow is too late.”1 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti.]


The Answer

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” is not a little word denoting a little thing. It is a word of wide and profound significance. It is the symbol of an infinite idea—an idea of which the whole New Testament may be said to be the expansion and Interpretation. At the beginning of the Christian life, and to the soul spending itself on questions as to personal safety and peace, it means something very simple; but its fulfilment Covers more than we think, more than the most faithful can realize in a long lifetime.

“Sirs,” cried the Philippian jailor, “what must I do to be saved?” It had been not unnatural to say, “First of all, let us out of prison. Play the man, run the risk, keep a higher law than you break, obey a holier duty than this low one, and bear the penalty. Act, do!” But instead, the evangelists begin deeper down. “Believe,” they cry. This is their appeal to the soul. Their own condition affected them not at all in comparison with the condition of this awakening spirit struggling in the dark towards duty and light and peace. Whether they were to be set at liberty was a matter of insignificance compared with the urgency that this jailor should be set at liberty to become a man and a Christian. If he once trusted himself to Christ, he would play the man, he would take all risks, he would dare everything and do anything. But he must begin at the beginning.

i. Believe

The answer says first “Believe,” and next it gives the object of belief—Believe on the Lord Jesus. What is it to believe?

1. Alter the word. Translate the verb “receive.” We are eager to do, to give. First we must learn, we must receive.

The demands of God upon the soul are first that we should accept His gift. We want to make a sacrifice for Him, and do not propose to accept His sacrifice for us. This is the commandment of God—that we receive. The first duty of that child-like spirit, which is the key to the kingdom of God is willingness to be taught. The “better part” in Christianity is to sit at the feet of Christ. Before we can give out we must drink in the very life and spirit of Christ.1 [Note: C. S. Horne.]

2. Again, believing is relying upon, or trusting. It is not a mere assent to a dogma, or the acknowledgment of a fact of the past. It is trust—trust in that Christ who died upon the Cross, that, through His merit, He can remove the guilt and punishment of sin; and also trust in that Christ who rose from the dead and is gone into heaven, that, by the power of His eternal Spirit, He can cleanse us from the dominion and habit of sin. That is the faith which saves—trust in the living Jesus, who is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.

I saw not long ago a woman who said to me, “Is it indeed true that upon trusting in Jesus I shall be saved at once?” I replied, “It is even so.” “Why,” she said, “my father, when he got religion, was nearly six years a-getting it; and they had to put him in a lunatic asylum part of the time. I thought that there was no getting saved without going through a very dreadful process.”2 [Note: C. H. Spurgeon.]

Protracted seasons of conviction are generally owing to defective instruction. Wherever clear and faithful instructions are given to sinners, there you will generally find that convictions are deep and pungent, but short.3 [Note: C. G. Finney, Revivals of Religion, 429.]

Before his conversion Charles Wesley, then apparently near death, was visited by a poor mechanic, a Moravian, who asked him, “Mr. Wesley, do you hope to be saved?” He answered, “Yes.” “For what reason do you hope it?” was next asked. “Because I have used my endeavours to serve God.” The poor mechanic shook his head, but said no more; and Wesley tells us, “I thought him very uncharitable, saying in my heart, ‘Would he rob me of my endeavours?’ ” But that shake of the head, silent, sad, solemn, for ever shook Wesley’s confidence in his endeavours. The light dawned at last; he gave up doing, and wrote these words:—

Other refuge have I none;

Hangs my helpless soul on Thee.

He believed on the Lord Jesus, “and was saved.”1 [Note: G. S. Barrett.]

There is a word in common use in Scotland—lippen—which expresses the condition of a person who, entirely unable to Support or protect himself, commits his interests, or life, to the safe keeping of some person or object. Thus a man crossing a chasm on a plank lippens to the plank. One day Dr. Chalmers visited a poor old bed-ridden woman who was dying. He tried to make her understand the way of salvation. But, alas! it seemed all in vain. The mind he strove to enlighten had been closed so long that it appeared impossible to thrust into it a Single ray of light. At last she said, “Ah, sir! I would fain do as you bid me, but I dinna ken how. How can I trust in Christ?” “Oh, woman!” was his expressive answer, in the dialect of the district, “just lippen to Him.” “Eh, sir,” was the reply, “and is that all?” “Yes, yes,” was his gratified response; “just lippen to Him and you will never perish.”

A little girl had asked her father what faith meant, and he had told her to wait for his answer. One day he was doing something in a cellar, the entrance to which was a trap-door in a passage. The child called out to him, “May I come down to you, father?” “Yes,” he said. The little girl was going to descend, when she found that the ladder had been taken away. “I can’t get down,” she called out; “there is no ladder.” “Jump down,” her father answered, “and I will catch you.” The child hesitated; she could not see her father, and below her everything seemed dark. “But I can’t see you, father; I can’t see anything,” she said. “I can see you,” was the reply; “jump, and I shall be sure to catch you. My arms are wide open now.” The child hesitated no longer; she was sure that her father was there ready to catch her, though she could not see him. She jumped into the darkness and was safely caught.2 [Note: J. R. Gregory.]

ii. The Lord Jesus

1. The belief that saves is belief “on the Lord Jesus.” And belief on the Lord Jesus is not merely to believe that a man once lived in the world who was called Jesus. It is not merely to believe that the Bible contains a true account of all that He did and said and suffered while He was on earth, and of what He has told us to do for His sake. For it is very easy to believe all these things with the head and yet not to care about them with the heart, just as we believe a great many other things in the world: facts of history, for instance, in which we feel no interest, and which we do not think are of any concern to us. The truth is, that to believe about Christ and to believe in Christ are two very different things. The first will help only so far as it may lead to the second. To know that He is able to save is nothing, unless we are really saved; to know that He is able to wash away our sins is nothing, unless they are washed away; to know that He will help us to come to Him is nothing, unless we come; just in the same way we shall be none the better for knowing that there is a heaven, unless we enter into heaven.

Readers of George MacDonald will remember the scene where Mr. Graham, the pious schoolmaster, is sent for to see the Marquis of Lossie on his death-bed. He ventured this verse to the dying man, but it only drew from him the reply, “That’s cant.” “After thirty years’ trial of it,” said the schoolmaster, “it is to me the essence of wisdom. It has given me a peace which makes life or death all but indifferent to me, though I would choose the latter.” “What am I to believe about Him, then?” “You are to believe on Him, not about Him.” “I don’t understand.” “He is our Lord and Master, Elder Brother, King, Saviour, the Divine Man, the human God: to believe on Him is to give ourselves up to Him in obedience, to search out His will, and do it. This is the open door to bliss.”1 [Note: S. L. Wilson, Helpful Words for Daily Life, 59.]

2. In its fulness, then (for it is of a corresponding fulness with salvation), belief on the Lord Jesus involves (1) the apprehension of that Person. We know Him—not, however, in the sense of comprehending Him, but having Him before the mind as an object of apprehension. We know His name. We recognize His present existence. We cannot repose believingly in the annihilated. We know something about Him. The more we know the better. (2) Faith will include assent to what comes to our knowledge respecting the Person, the Deliverer; not merely assent of the intellect, as to the proposition that once at Nazareth lived, and at Jerusalem died, such an one called Jesus. Assent of the understanding undoubtedly, but also of the emotions—of the conscience, of the will. (3) Faith in a Deliverer, presenting Himself as able and willing to save, offering to save us, will include acceptance of that offer. A curious and somewhat striking illustration of this is to be found even in the derivation of the word “believe.” That word is kinsman to the German word glauben. And the ancestor of both words is a noun, signifying “hand.” The simple, primitive idea of believing, then, is that of accepting a promise by the striking of hands, or that of putting into, or leaving in, the hands of another some vital and commanding interest. (4) On such acceptance there follows reliance; just such reliance as the patient places on the physician, the accused on his advocate, the scholar on his teacher, the liegeman on his king. At first the reliance is, that Christ will do such and such; but with advancing experience it becomes a reliance that Christ has done, is doing, great things for us, and will yet do greater things than these. (5) But faith in the Lord Jesus is of such a nature that it demands and implies obedience to His competent direction, the co-operation of our will with His will, the unifying of our whole nature with His perfect nature, a union close, energizing—not merely life-long—existence-long.

3. How does our trust save us? Our trust does not save us, it makes a way for Christ to save us. We commit and surrender ourselves to Him to be saved in His own way. But from the office it fills, the part it acts, and the results it produces, trust evidently includes some other element. Especially it includes the element of sympathy. “Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death; if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead” (Php 3:8-11). Not only does the Apostle value the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord above all the advantages in which as a Jew he once gloried (enumerated in verses preceding), but he is in full and heartfelt sympathy with the way in which he has been saved in Christ. “That I may … be found in him”; which was to have, not his own righteousness, which was of the law, as the ground or procuring cause of his salvation,—which would have been another way than the way of grace and faith, even the way of works,—but the righteousness “which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith”; that is, God’s righteousness, which had been realized for him in Christ and was manifest in Christ’s whole redeeming work.

A distinguished man once said that in early manhood he found deliverance from a guilty passion through a devoted attachment to a branch of science. The saving potency of a true and pure love for a good man or woman has never been without its witnesses. Let a man’s life be taken possession of by a great affection, and what will it not do for him?—cleanse his unclean heart, calm and chasten his hot and eager desires, bind him over to rectitude and faithfulness, and ever urge and keep him to his best. And it is just in this way Jesus Christ has been a Saviour to many in all lands and ages. The things named are not, of course, on the same level as the Christian attachment and loyalty, but they illustrate the same law—the redeeming energy of love—salvation through the quickening of a noble and commanding affection, love in the soul washing sin from the soul.1 [Note: John Hunter.]

What must I do to be Saved?


Armstrong (R. A.), Memoir and Sermons, 150.

Bacon (L. W.), The Simplicity that is in Christ, 24.

Barrett (G. S.), Musings for Quiet Hours, 122.

Book (W. H.), Columbus Tabernacle Sermons, 214.

Burrell (D. J.), The Wondrous Cross, 187.

Church (R. W.), Village Sermons, 1st Ser., 47.

Gregory (J. R.), Scripture Truths made Simple, 105.

Hare (J. C.), Parish Sermons, i. 55.

Hiley (R. W.), A Year’s Sermons, iii. 35.

Holland (H. S.), Old and New, 23.

Hunter (J.), De Profundis Clamavi, 44.

Hutcheson (J. T.), A View of the Atonement, 194.

Jenkins (E. E.), Sermons, 93.

Leach (C.), Sunday Afternoons with Working Men, 261.

Lightfoot (J. B.), Sermons in St. Paul’s Cathedral, 230.

Macdonnell (D. J.), Life and Work, 457.

Macpherson (W. M.), The Path of Life, 138.

Parkhurst (C. H.), The Blind Man’s Creed, 49.

Pearse (M. G.), The Gospel for the Day, 229.

Peck (G. C.), Ringing Questions, 95.

Proctor (F. B.), The Everlasting Gospel.

Quetteville (P. W. de), Short Studies in Vital Subjects, 88.

Shepherd (A.), Men in the Making, 221.

Shutter (M. D.), Justice and Mercy, 240.

Skinner (W. E.), in A Book of Lay Sermons, 261.

Spurgeon (C. H.), New Park Street Pulpit, vi. (1860) No. 293.

Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, liv. No. 3095.

Stimson (H. A.), The New Things of God, 40.

Trench (R. C.), Sermons preached in Ireland, 142.

Vaughan (C. J.), The Church of the First Days, 361.

Winterbotham (R.), Sermons, 305.

Christian World Pulpit, viii. 145 (Talmage); xvi. 280 (Robjohns); xxxix. 17, 33 (Farrar); xliii. 337 (Holland); lxiii. 168 (Hunter); lxviii. 142 (Cuyler); lxxiii. 243 (Warschauer); lxxv. 74 (Horne).

Churchman’s Pulpit (First Sunday in Lent), v. 418 (Grannis); (Sermons to the Young), xvi. 549 (Garbett).

The Great Texts of the Bible - James Hastings

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