Considering the chaos we see in the world around us, it’s understandable that many people see a need to “get right with God.” But what exactly does that mean?
Many think that all God expects or requires is found in John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
But is it biblical that belief in God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ is all that’s required to be saved? Clearly not! As Jesus’ own half-brother wrote in James 2:19 James 2:19You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
American King James Version×: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (emphasis added throughout). They likewise know that Jesus is the Messiah (see Mark 1:24 Mark 1:24Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with you, you Jesus of Nazareth? are you come to destroy us? I know you who you are, the Holy One of God.
American King James Version×).
Yes, the demons believe—but clearly they are not saved!
So what does God expect of us? What does it mean to “get right” with Him? What does it look like in a person’s life? Let’s notice Jesus Christ’s own statements that give us the answer!
In Matthew 7:21 Matthew 7:21Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Merely acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Master—calling Him “Lord, Lord”—is not sufficient. To inherit salvation in God’s Kingdom, we must do God’s will, as Jesus clearly stated.
Getting right with God and receiving His gift of eternal life involve much more than just belief. Our conviction that Jesus is our Savior who died for us must be more than just a comforting feeling or intellectual idea. It means actively doing God’s will in our lives, which starts with surrendering our lives to Him, studying His Word and praying regularly so we can understand how He wants and expects us to live.
Matthew 19:16 Matthew 19:16And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
American King James Version×records how a wealthy young man asked Jesus a crucial question: “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Christ’s reply might shock those who think Jesus came to do away with the law or that He taught that obedience to God’s law is unnecessary. Jesus responded, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (verse 17).
Jesus didn’t tell the young man that all he needed to do was believe. Jesus told him he must obey the commandments of God. How plain! And then, to clarify which commandments He meant, Jesus listed as examples several of the Ten Commandments plus another summary commandment God had given through Moses. Jesus then told the young man to reorder his priorities in life to become a committed follower of Christ (verses 18-22).
In Mark 16:16 Mark 16:16He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.
American King James Version×, Jesus revealed another condition we must meet to receive God’s gift of eternal life: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Baptism—being fully immersed in water—is a symbolic act representing the death and burial of the person we formerly were, with our rising from the water signifying a resurrection to begin a new life committed to serving God and striving to avoid sin (Romans 6:1-23 Romans 6:1-23  What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?  Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin.  Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:  Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over him.  For in that he died, he died to sin once: but in that he lives, he lives to God.  Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin: but yield yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.  What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.  Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?  But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness.  I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity to iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness to holiness.  For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness.  What fruit had you then in those things whereof you are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.  But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life.  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version×).
Scripture shows that baptism is to be followed by the laying on of hands by a true minister of Jesus Christ, through which we receive God’s Holy Spirit and truly become His (Acts 8:17 Acts 8:17Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×; Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
American King James Version×). Unless we surrender our lives to God through baptism and the laying on of hands to receive His Spirit as shown in Scripture, we fail to meet this requirement for receiving His gift of salvation.
To those who ignore these and other clear biblical instructions—and there are more—Jesus replies, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?’”(Luke 6:46 Luke 6:46And why call you me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
American King James Version×).
So returning to the question at the beginning, is your way of life “good enough” for God? In these passages you have seen the beginnings of His answer. And as Jesus states in Luke 14:33 Luke 14:33So likewise, whoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.
American King James Version×, “No one can become my disciple without giving up everything for me. (New Living Translation 1996).
Read the articles in this issue to learn more about what God expects from your life!