What is a Christian? How can I become a Christian? The Philippian jailor asked the apostle Paul a question like this back in the first century: “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:31) To be a Christian is to be saved. Saved from what? Why do I need to be saved? Many other questions come to our minds. But Paul’s answer is vital for us to understand. It is a matter of life or death, heaven or hell. He said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”
This is a short answer to a very serious question, and takes some things for granted. The jailor had no doubt known of the charges against Paul and Silas, that they had been preaching Jesus as the way of salvation. He knew some of the background as is seen in his question. He knew that he needed to be saved. But who is Jesus and how can he save us? How can I be sure that I have a part in the salvation Jesus came to give? These questions are answered as we come to understand the gospel or good news that Paul proclaimed.
First, it is a message about God. As Paul preached in the city of Athens, (related in Acts 17:22-31) he told them of “the God who made the world and all things in it.” God is the Creator of all. This world and indeed all things were made by him and for his glory. This God is a holy God who hates unrighteousness and does not take it lightly. Paul says of God in Romans 1: 16, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Many people today have a wrong idea of God as a heavenly Santa Claus who is all love and only love. But though God is love, he also just and holy and has righteous indignation against human rebellion.
Second, it is a message about man and sin. In that sermon in Athens, Paul also told them of God’s purpose in creating man, “that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27) But there is an obstacle in the way of our finding God. That obstacle is our sin. People think of themselves as basically good. But if you look inside yourself and examine your life, you must agree with God’s evaluation expressed in Romans 3:10-12, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” What is sin? Paul gives some specific examples in Rom. 1:28-32, so that you might see that you are without excuse. “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” It reads like a description of today’s society.
Third, it is a message about Jesus Christ. As Paul told that Philippian jailor, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” Why Jesus? Who was he and what did he do? Let’s begin with who he was. The Bible answers that question in John chapter 1. Referring to Jesus as “the Word,” John says, (1:1-3) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” This tells us that Jesus is God, the same God as the one who created all things! And that he is with God, that is, that there is also God the Father (as well as the Spirit). Suffice it to say now that this Jesus is the true and living God. But he also became man! John also says, (v. 14) “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” So the words of the prophet were fulfilled, (Mat 1:23) “‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’”
But what did Jesus do to save his people from their sins? (Mat 1:21). The answer is found in a very concise verse. In second Corinthians 5:21 we read. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” He, (that is God the Father who reconciles sinners to himself), made Jesus (the only one who never sinned and knew no sin) to be sin. That happened when Jesus was put to death on the cross of Calvary as a substitutionary sacrifice to pay for all the sins of his people and satisfy the wrath of God against all their ungodliness and unrighteousness. This was his mission. He came to seek and to save that which was lost, even though it cost him his life. (Luke 19:10 and John 15:13). But the good news doesn’t stop there. We, the unworthy, hell-deserving sinners, take on the record of his righteousness so that we might stand in the day of judgement before a holy God. This is what the last phrase means, “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” What an exchange! What good news!
One question remains as we consider the gospel, however. How can this great blessing become mine? This is behind the jailor’s question with which we began. What must I do to be saved? How can my sins be pardoned? The answer is clear. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ! Put your trust in him and him alone! What does it mean to believe? It means to come to Jesus with an open hand, like a beggar. You receive all his salvation as a gift of grace. You come with nothing of your own to offer in payment. No good works, no religious activities, no attempts to buy off God’s judgement. And, you come holding back nothing from him. You must renounce your own way, your own sinful way. You must surrender wholly to him as Lord and Master. Notice what Paul said, Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ. This means you repent of your sin and unbelief and rebellion and submit to him. It means becoming a disciple. It means becoming a new creature! Saved!
Now, as we conclude, let me ask you some questions. Have you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you turned from your own way? The end of that way is misery and death. Have you committed your life and your all to Jesus, pledging to follow him all the days of your life? Have you come to unite with his people in a Bible-believing and Bible-preaching church? Professing to be his disciple by being baptized? (Matt. 28:19) This means that henceforth, you no longer live for yourself but for him who died and rose again for you. (2 Corinthians 5:15). ARE YOU SAVED?