Our Greatest Need

What Must I Do To Be Saved?


ACTS 16:16-34

"Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. The girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her.

No one gets to heaven by accident! Although salvation is a gift, it is not something we simply acquire along life's way. No one ever drifted into heaven. Jesus said in John 3:3, "Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." What did He mean? Simply that unless each individual undergoes a life-transforming experience of salvation, he will not get to heaven. Salvation is a pre-requisite of heaven.

Perhaps you are wondering, "How can a person be saved?" It is not a new question. But it is a question more relevant and more important to modern man than perhaps any other question. It was first asked on a dark night in a jail in ancient Greece. But it comes to us through the ages with the same ringing urgency.

In Acts 16 we read the account of the Apostle Paul's ministry to the city of Philippi. Paul and Silas were conducting a series of meetings in that town. A young girl who was demon-possessed and had an ugly reputation followed Paul and his group around, calling out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." Because this girl sanctioned the ministry and message of Paul, the people turned away in disgust. Paul knew that something had to be done, and it had to be done right away. So in the name of Jesus he turned to the girl and commanded the unclean spirit to come out of her. Immediately she was set free.

There was a group of men who made money from the girl because the demon gave her the ability to tell fortunes. When the demon left the girl, their business was destroyed. The men stirred up the multitudes against Paul and Silas, dragged them to the magistrates, and falsely accused them. Paul and Silas were severely beaten and cast into the inner dungeon in the Philippian jail. Acts 16:25 tells us that Paul and Silas sang at midnight. They were "praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them." This was a dungeon and had no resemblance to a normal place of prayer. But, they prayed. They had been severely beaten and you would think they wouldn't have felt much like singing. But they sang praises unto God. It was a dark, dismal dungeon with no choir or musical accompaniment. But they sang praises unto God.

Prayer is always in order. Praising God is also always appropriate. And the prayers and praises of Paul and Silas reached to heaven. God heard and answered their prayers. Their singing pleased Him. The Scripture says that there was an earthquake. The ground started to shake and the doors were sprung open. The bars were twisted, the chains fell off and Paul and Silas were free. The jailer awoke . He drew his sword and was about to commit suicide, knowing that he would have to pay with his life anyway at the hands of brutal authorities if the prisoners had escaped. But Paul and Silas were still there. Paul, led by the Spirit of God, shouted in verse 28, "Don't harm yourself! We are here!" Touched by the testimony of the power of their God and the reality of their compassion, the jailer in verses 29 and 30 "called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas." He then brought them out and asked, "Men, what must I do to be saved?"

Let's examine this question from three different perspectives. First, THE JAILER'S QUESTION WAS A PERSONAL QUESTION. Acts 16:29 states, "What must I do?" He correctly perceived salvation as a personal matter. God deals with us on a personal basis. He deals with us primarily as individuals, not as races, or as nation or as families.

You may be a number in the eyes of government or your employer. But you are a much-loved individual in the sight of God. He created you as an individual and He loves you as an individual.

Notice in the passage how God opened the jailer's eyes to his spiritual need. He was in an earthquake. His prison was damaged, and his life seemed in jeopardy. He was at the end of himself. He was ready to take his own life. God often uses life's difficult circumstances to speak to our hearts. Our extremity is often God's opportunity. Think about the fact that there would have been no Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead had there not first been a cross. As a matter of fact, the best news this old world has ever heard was heralded from a graveyard: "He is risen!"

Often, tragedy and crisis will help us to see our need for God. Many people never see that salvation is a personal, individual issue that must be considered personally and individually by each one of us. The Philippian jailer had come to the point where his very life was in danger before he asked the question, "What must I do to be saved?"

Let me ask you a question. Have you responded personally to the claims of the Gospel? Have you personally turned from your sins and put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the one who died for you personally on the cross?

Receiving Christ involves turning to God from self (repentance) and trusting Christ to come into our lives to forgive our sins and to make us the kind of people He wants us to be. Man is sinful and separated from God. Thus he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life. Romans 3:23 states "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Man was created to have fellowship with God; but, because of his stubborn self-will, he chose to go his own independent way, and fellowship with God was broken. The self-will, characterized by an attitude of active rebellion or passive indifference, is an evidence of what the Bible calls sin. Romans 6:23 states , "For the wages of sin is death... (spiritual separation from God). Jesus Christ is God's only provision for man's sin. Through Him you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life.

Salvation is not just for the ‘down and out.' It is for the ‘up and in,' the ‘in and around,' the ‘good and the bad,' the ‘religious and the indifferent,' the ‘poor and the wealthy.' It is for everyone. No matter who you are, you need to be saved.

But, in the second place, notice that THE JAILER'S QUESTION WAS AN URGENT ONE. The question of salvation is always one of urgency. Notice the apostle Paul didn't say, "Let's talk about it when the excitement is over." Can you sense the urgency of this situation? A massive earthquake, widespread confusion, a suicide attempt, and an opportunity to escape the prison all contributed to the excitement. But the only matter truly urgent in the mind of Paul was the salvation of the jailer.

The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is an urgent one. If your life is not in right relationship with Jesus Christ, then there is nothing that could possibly be more urgent for you than to make things right with Him. Perhaps this is the first time you have understood your need of personal salvation. Or, perhaps you are now at a particular place in your life that you are ready to surrender your life to Jesus Christ. Why not take that exciting faith step today. Delay can be dangerous. The road marked tomorrow leads to the town of never. Satan's clock always says tomorrow. But he is our adversary. God's clock always says now. Today is the day of salvation.

The jailer in Philippi had no desire to wait. Delay was the farthest thing from His mind. "What must I do to be saved," he asked. He was anxious to be saved. He had just been through an earthquake that might have killed him. He might have been killed for allowing prisoners to escape and if Paul had not stopped him he most likely would have killed himself. He had perfect understanding that there is no guarantee of tomorrow. The only time that is certain in now. His question was an urgent one.

In the third place, THE QUESTION "WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED" IS ALSO A VITAL ONE. There is no hope for anyone apart from salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Philippian jailer was a man who had absolutely run out of hope. He was on the verge of suicide. He saw nothing to live for and was prepared to end it all right there.

You may not be on the verge of suicide. But, if you have never trusted the Lord Jesus Christ and been saved from your sins, you know something of a hopeless life. We cannot save ourselves. Human works are futile to produce genuine righteousness. According to Acts 4:12, "Salvation is found in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Notice Paul's answer to the jailer's question in verse 31: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." There are two ingredients in salvation: repentance and faith. The jailer had repented. His attitude and question to Paul were proof of that. He came as a broken, trembling, repentant man and asked the way of salvation. He was turning from his sin and selfishness and wanted to know where to turn; that is repentance. Paul directed him to turn toward the Lord Jesus; that is faith. Faith is committing yourself to the Lord Jesus. It is trusting Him, casting yourself completely on Him.

Heart faith is much more than just an academic faith. Paul did not tell the jailer to believe the truth about Jesus. Demons have that kind of faith and that kind of faith alone can not save a person. Paul spoke of the kind of faith that believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the faith that abandons itself completely to the object.

God is calling all of us to trust the Lord Jesus Christ. But this alone is not salvation. God calls, but you must answer. There is something you must do to be saved and that is to believe.

An important aspect of the message of the Gospel includes some wonderful facts: God loves you; Christ came into this world and died for your sins; when the Lord Jesus left this world He sent His Holy Spirit; and He has called you and convicted you of your sins. God has done all that He is going to do. If you are ever to know God's salvation, you must respond. You must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

"What must I do to be saved?" Perhaps you are asking that question. The answer for you is the same as it was for the jailer at Philippi. You must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Will you do it today? You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. You will never make a more important decision.

Prayer is talking with God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. The following is a suggested prayer:

Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? If it does, pray this prayer right now, and Christ will come into your life, as He promised.

Did you receive Christ into your life? According to His promise in Revelation 3:20, where is Christ right now in relation to you? Christ said that He would come into your life. Would He mislead you? Base your authority on God who promises eternal life to all who receive His Son.


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"Who Is Jesus? - An Interactive Journey"