This was the question asked by a jailer who lived in the ancient city of Philippi. The story is told in Acts chapter 16. This jailer was desperate. In fact, with his sword drawn, he was about to take his own life. There had been an earthquake, the doors of the prison had been opened, and he believed all of the prisoners had escaped. That was bad news for a Roman jailer! Roman law stated that the jailer who allows his prisoner to escape must pay with his own life. He preferred his own sword to the painful and humiliating death he would receive from his superiors.
But one of his prisoners, the apostle Paul, interrupted this jailer’s suicide with a shout: “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”
The jailer called for a light. He ran into the dark prison to see if it were really true. Trembling, he kneeled before this apostle, overcome with relief, perhaps realizing then and there that there was something different about this man named Paul and his companion, a man named Silas. Yesterday, these men had been mobbed, arrested, and condemned for proclaiming salvation through Christ. To be beaten with rods was a horrible, torturous experience. But these men had taken their punishment patiently. Then they had been delivered over to the Jailer’s keeping with strictest orders to keep them secure. The jailer had taken no chances with these two. He had placed them in the inner prison and had bound their feet in stocks. Even then, while most men would have been cursing, Paul and Silas had spoken no harsh words. And now, here they were, these two men, having refused the opportunity to escape that would have cost the jailer his life.
“What must I do to be saved?”
Paul and Silas gave him this answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Friend, the Bible says that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The apostle Peter declared concerning Jesus, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
And so came the answer to that desperate Jailer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”
But what does “believing on Jesus” mean? Why would a person need to be “saved” in the first place? What is a person being saved from?
No doubt, the same kinds of questions were running through the jailer’s mind also. That is why Acts 16:32 explains, “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” Paul and Silas took time to explain the way of salvation more fully, instructing this man in the way of salvation, teaching Him the word of God, answering his questions.
As you continue to read, I would like to do what Paul and Silas did on that night so long ago: explain to you what the Bible teaches about being “saved.”
To do this, let me answer three simple questions that you may be asking in your heart:
There are many answers that some people give to this question which you may have heard. You need to be saved, some say, so that you can be happy and find fulfillment in this life, or because God has a wonderful plan for you.
But the real reason that you—or any of us—must be saved is that we have sinned against the loving and holy God who created us.
Consider these truths from the Bible, God’s word to us:
God is our Creator and our Sustainer. He created all things for His own pleasure. This means that we are completely dependent upon Him for our very existence. We have no right to run our own lives. All that we are and have we owe to God.
Genesis 1:1 –
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:27 –
God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 2:7 –
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Isaiah 42:5 –
Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it:…
Colossians 1:16-17 –
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
Revelation 4:11 –
You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.
God is sovereign over all, which means that He has absolute power over all that He has made.
Daniel 4:35 –
He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?”
Romans 9:20 –
But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”
God is holy. He is perfectly righteous in all that He thinks and all that He does.
Isaiah 6:3 –
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!
Psalm 19:7-9 –
The law of the LORD is perfect… The testimony of the LORD is sure… The statutes of the LORD are right… The commandment of the LORD is pure… The fear of the LORD is clean… The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
1 John 1:5 –
God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
God desires that we respond to Him by loving Him with all of our heart and by living a holy life, just as He is holy.
Deuteronomy 6:5 –
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Psalm 63:1-3 –
O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.
Micah 6:8 –
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
Acts 17:24-29 –
God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though His is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.
1 Peter 1:15-16 –
…but as He who called you his holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
It is here that we come to the heart of the matter. The truth is, we do not love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength. We love ourselves and our pleasure more than God. Although we may do some wonderful things to try and please God, the Bible says that we fall far short of living the holy and righteous life that God desires us to live.
The Bible explains why this is true:
Adam and Eve, our first parents, sinned against God. The story is told in Genesis chapter 3. Although God had created them, had placed them in a paradise, and had given them the ability to rule over His creation, they violated God’s holiness by breaking the one law that He had made for them. They decided that they knew better than God and tried to take control of their own lives. When they disobeyed God, their fellowship with Him was broken. Their life of innocence, living in righteous harmony with God, was over. Instead of endless life, they now faced death. This event is known as the Great Fall of humankind.
Sadly, Adam and Eve’s sin against God affected the entire human race. Because of their sin, we are born into this world out of fellowship with God, subject to death just as our first parents.
Romans 5:12 –
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.
1 Corinthians 15:22 –
…in Adam all die….
Not only are we subject to death, but apart from God we also have no desire to love God, to follow Him and obey Him. We repeat the sin of our fist parents by ignoring God’s commands and trying to take control of our own lives. The Bible declares that every one of us is plagued by sin. We are all guilty before God.
Isaiah 64:6-7 –
But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. And there is no one who calls on Your name, Who stirs himself up to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us, And have consumed us because of our iniquities.
Jeremiah 17:9 –
The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Romans 3:10-11 –
As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.
Romans 3:23 –
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
At this point, you may be saying, “But I’m not like the people in those verses. I don’t do wicked things. I try to be a good person. I do good things for people. Why should I be out of fellowship with God?” This is a common response from those who try to live a good life. Many people believe that when they die, God will weigh their good works against their bad works and welcome them into heaven. This kind of reasoning makes sense to us. However, it is not what the Bible says.
Remember God’s standard for us: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut 6:5). And, “As He who called you his holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16). And, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
It is true that men and women do kind and wonderful things. Although there are evil people in the world, the world is also full of people who show love and concern for one another. There are many also who pray, study the Bible, and attend religious services regularly. But our own standard for righteousness is no good if it does not measure up to God’s standard: to love Him and obey Him perfectly.
Are we righteous according to God’s standard?
How do we measure up to some of the basic, well-known commands of God?
You shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3; 1 John 2:15-16). A “god” is anything that we worship other than our Creator God, anything that is more important to us than Him. Is there any relationship, any activity, any possession that is more important to you than God? Have you ever or ignored God because you were consumed with something you thought was more important than Him?
Do not lie (Exodus 20:16; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9). We lie when we wrongfully try to deceive someone. Have you ever lied? How about a “little white lie”? God doesn’t care about the size of the lie. In His sight, lying is a sin.
Do not steal (Exodus 20:15; Ephesians 4:28). Stealing is secretly taking something that does not belong to us. But what do you have to steal in order to be considered a thief? A large sum of money? A car? A pen? Again, God does not make the size of the theft an issue.
Do not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:27-28). Most would say, “I have never committed adultery.” But Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” God’s standard is moral purity both in mind and in body.
Do not murder (Exodus 20:13; Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15). Again, most would say, “I have never committed murder.” But Jesus said in Matthew 5 that you can be guilty of murder in your heart and 1 John 3:15 says, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.”
In addition to these handful of examples, we could examine so many more parts of the Bible where God tells us how we must live with respect to His holiness. Our speech must never be corrupt but always uplifting to others (Eph 4:29). We must not be bitter or filled with unrighteous anger, but kind and forgiving (Eph 4:31-32). Even when we make plans without considering the sovereign will of God, the Bible calls this “boasting” and “evil” and “sin” (James 4:13-17). 2 Timothy 3:2-4 lists sins such as loving money, boasting, pride, blasphemy, dishonoring parents, thanklessness, lacking love, and hating what is good. And if these examples are not enough to demonstrate our lack of righteousness, James 2:10 says, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”
Once, early in the morning, before the sun came up, I cleaned the living room window. I wiped every part of it and rubbed out all of the smudges. It looked great to me! But a little while later, the sun came up. And when the sunlight shone on those window panes, there were suddenly dozens of smears and blemishes visible on the glass. What once looked clean and perfect by the standards of dim light now appeared dirty and full of imperfections in the brilliant light of the morning.
That is the way it is with our lives. We may be a good person by our own standards. We may even look like a great person compared to someone else. But when we bring our lives under the scrutiny of God’s holy and righteous standard, we find that we are guilty.
Furthermore, our guilt condemns us. While God is loving and He was pleased to create us, our sin is a direct affront to Him and must be punished. Because of our sin, we are cut off from fellowship and life with Him and we must necessarily face eternal judgment.
Ezekiel 18:4 –
The soul who sins shall die.
Psalm 9:17 –
The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God
Romans 1:18 –
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
Romans 6:23 –
The wages of sin is death….
Colossians 3:6 –
Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.
Revelation 20:11-15 –
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things that were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire
Do you understand why you need to be “saved”?
You must be “saved” or “rescued” from your sin and the judgment that you will face because of your sin. You must find a way to become righteous as God is, righteous as Adam and Eve were before they sinned and plunged the entire human race into sin.
Do you agree that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness from a holy God whose righteousness you have violated? Are you troubled and humbled by what God’s word says about your condition? Like the Philippian jailer in Acts 16, are you desperate to be “saved”?
Then please continue to read. The Bible has great news for you!
Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin. (Romans 4:7-8)
God has already provided a way for you to be saved. God stands ready to forgive you for yoursins and accept you into fellowship with Him. But God’s forgiveness does not mean that He overlooks your sin. Remember, sin is a violation of God’s holiness, an offense against Him. Sin must be punished.
The reason that God is able to forgive you for your sins is because someone else was punished in your place. God Himself, in the Person of Jesus Christ, who is called the Son of God, entered the human race through the womb of the virgin, Mary. He became one of us. Having no sin of His own, Jesus gave Himself to be the sin-bearer for the human race. He is called the “Lamb of God” because He became like the spotless, sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament, acting as our representative, bearing our sins and dying for them on the cross of Calvary.
Isaiah 53:5-6 –
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, everyone, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
John 1:29 –
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Romans 5:6-8 –
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Galatians 1:3-4 –
…our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
2 Corinthians 5:21 –
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us….
1 Peter 2:24 –
Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.
After Jesus was crucified on the cross for our sins, He was buried in a tomb for three days. Then He arose from the grave, conquering death and hell.
Matthew 28:5-6 –
But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
Romans 6:4 –
…that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
God sees the perfect sacrifice of His Son as the complete payment for your sins. The just wrath of God that must punish sin is satisfied (1 John 2:2). Jesus died for sinners and demonstrated through His glorious resurrection that He is indeed the Savior of the world.
In a word, there is only one thing you must do to be saved: you must believe.
Acts 16:31 –
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
To “believe” means to trust in, to put your faith in, or to count on as being true.
But let me caution you. Anybody can say, “I believe.” In fact, the Bible says, “Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19) I want you to understand the kind of belief that leads to salvation.
To begin with, believing is always believing in something. To “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” means to believe in or trust in what Christ did for you as your only hope of salvation. It means to be under the conviction that, if you do not trust in Christ alone, then you will be lost forever. It means to believe in the “gospel.” The term “gospel” means the “good news” about what Christ did to save you.
The apostle Paul talks about the Christian gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved….
What is that “gospel” which Paul preached to them, which they received (believed in), and by which they were saved? The gospel is four statements about Christ. These statements represent the very truth which you must believe in order to be saved:
Statement #1 – Christ died for our sins (1 Cor 15:3) Every one of those five words is important. The expression, “Christ died,” by itself is not the gospel. The gospel is why Christ died; it is the meaning of His death. He didn’t just die, He died “for our sins.” He paid our penalty.
Statement #2 – He was buried (1 Cor 15:4) The burial of Jesus is proof of His death. Jesus didn’t just swoon on the cross and later resuscitate. He was sealed in a tomb for three days.
Statement #3 – He rose again the third day (1 Cor 15:4) Jesus came out of the tomb. He did what no other person in human history has ever done: He came back to life, never to die again. In coming back to life, He broke the power of death that held humankind in bondage because of sin.
Statement #4 – He was seen (1 Cor 15:5) The witnesses of Jesus are proof of His new life. In fact, verses 5 through 8 are taken up with the subject of the various ones who saw Christ after His resurrection.
Secondly, to believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins means that you are repenting of your sins and turning to Christ. To “repent” means “to change your mind.” The only reason for you to believe in Christ is if you have changed your mind about your sin. You are ready to believe in the gospel only if you are convicted by the realization that your sin offends the holy God of heaven and you want to be rid of it forever, choosing rather to follow the paths of righteousness as expressed in the Bible.
Mark 1:15 –
Repent, and believe in the gospel.
Luke 24:46-47 –
Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Acts 3:19 –
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.
When you truly believe the gospel, God saves you through a wonderful transaction that has two parts:
First, God removes the guilt of your sins. Just like a financial debt that is paid in full, your sin debt has been transferred to Christ who died in your place. You are completely free from the guilt of your sins. No matter how many, no matter how awful those sins, Christ has paid the debt in full.
Romans 8:1 –
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 2:13-14 –
And you, being dead in your trespasses…He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross
Second, God gives to you the righteousness of Christ Himself. Just as your sins are transferred to Christ, Christ’s righteousness is transferred to you. In the eyes of God, you are righteous because Christ is righteous. You are now “justified,” which means that you are “declared righteous.” This is why salvation enables the believer to stand in the presence of a holy God. Having the righteousness of Christ, we are perfect in God’s sight, our relationship with God has been healed, and we have the gift of eternal life.
Romans 3:21-22 –
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed…even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.
Romans 5:1 –
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:9 –
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21 –
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Titus 3:7 –
Having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
You must understand that salvation can never be earned or worked off. God is pleased to save those who believe because He is kind, loving, and merciful. You are not saved by believing in Christ and doing good works, trying to live a better life, turning over a new leaf, or cleaning up your life. You are saved by believing the gospel plus nothing else. Your life will be changed on the outside after the Lord gives you a new heart on the inside.
Romans 4:5 –
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.
Titus 3:4-5 –
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works or righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.
Salvation is a free gift that we receive when we believe the gospel.
Romans 6:23 –
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 2:8-9 –
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Finally, let me impress upon you that believing the gospel is more than giving assent to the gospel, more than merely acknowledging that the gospel is true. When you believe the gospel, you are trusting in the death and resurrection of Christ personally, as your only hope for eternal salvation. You are casting yourself upon the mercy of God and clinging to the truth of the gospel alone to save you. You cannot simply add faith in Christ to other ideas in which you may be trusting, as if you could “sample” Christ to see if this works for you. You must abandon any other notion of how you may be saved and cast yourself on Christ alone.
The issue becomes: what are you trusting in to save you from your sin and the penalty you owe because of your sin? The Christian answer is: the death of Christ for my sin and His resurrection from the dead.
Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to Your cross I cling.
Do you recognize your need of forgiveness from God for your sins? Do you desire to repent of your sins and live righteously unto God?
Then “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”
Cast yourself upon Him. Trust in His death for your sins and His resurrection which has the power to remove your sins and to replace them with the perfect righteousness of Christ.
The apostle Paul declared, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16)
You can tell the Lord about your decision to trust in Him for salvation right now. You may pray something like this:
I know I am a sinner. I know that my sin has offended You and that you must judge that sin. I deserve the eternal punishment that Your word speaks of.
Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, who died for my sins in my place. I trust in His death on the cross for my sins and in His resurrection from the grave to save me. Please be merciful to me and save me because of what Christ has done for me. Take away my sins and give me the righteousness of Christ, that I may live for You and serve You.
Thank you for the gift of your salvation.
I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you have trusted in Christ for salvation, we would love to hear from you! We want to send you a free study guide to help you begin to learn the Bible and grow as a new believer in Christ.
Or, perhaps this explanation of salvation through Christ has raised other questions in your mind and you would like more information.
Please feel free to contact us.
Thank you for taking the time to read this document. I look forward to hearing from you.