From Alien to Saint
How does one become a Christian?
by Patrick T. Donahue
This article is intended to detail what the Bible says about how a person becomes a Christian. It will not deal with God's part in man's salvation, since that is dealt with in another article in this series, but suffice it to say that the death of Christ is absolutely essential, or nobody would be saved. For convenience sake, we will present the conditions necessary to receive the (initial) salvation (and thereby become a Christian) provided by Christ in five steps.
When Hebrews 11:6 reads, "But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him," it teaches that faith in God and his will is absolutely essential to salvation. In addition to believing in God (the Father), we must also believe in his son, Jesus Christ. The golden text of the Bible, John 3:16, which reads, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," teaches this fact in a most beautiful way. The great commission also makes the same clear when it reads in Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned."
Once we have the proper kind of faith, that faith begins to work "by love" (Galatians 5:6) to complete our initial salvation, and continues the rest of our life toward the goal of eternal salvation. James 1:12 shows the importance of the link between love and receiving the crown of life when it says, "... he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."
Belief in and love toward the Godhead should result in sorrow for sin. Repentance, then, is listed as our third step. Acts 2:38 reads, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Both the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost are conditioned upon repentance (and baptism) in Acts 2:38. Another passage that lets us know the importance of repentance is Acts 17:30, "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent."
Many passages teach that we must confess Christ with our manner of life, but Romans 10:10 ("For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation") teaches that a verbal (it must be done with the mouth) confession is required for initial salvation (to become a Christian). The eunuch made this verbal confession before he was baptized in Acts 8:37 when he said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
Galatians 3:26-27 ties baptism to becoming a child of God. It reads, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." The word "for" that begins Galatians 3:27 means "to introduce the reason." Therefore Galatians 3:27 shows that the reason that "ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," is that "as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." All that have been baptized have become children of God, and also all that have become children of God have been baptized. The same number of people, indeed the very same people, that have been baptized, have become children of God. In Acts 22:16, Ananias told Paul, "arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." This verse shows that Paul's sins were not forgiven at the point of his faith on the road to Damascus as recorded in Acts 9:5-6, but instead they were forgiven at the time of his baptism. I Peter 3:21 teaches that we must be baptized to be saved when it says, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." This verse does not teach that submitting to water baptism earns our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9, II Timothy 1:9, and Titus 3:5 teach that no work can do that), but it does teach that baptism is a condition that absolutely must be met to receive the salvation provided by Christ's blood.
God's plan of salvation is the story of how God brought Christ into the world to save sinners, and it climaxed with the death and resurrection of Christ. Wouldn't you like to become a Christian and receive the forgiveness of sins provided for by that death? We urge you to do so. Believe on Christ, develop a love for God, and let that belief work through that love to lead to a sincere commitment to change your life (repentance from sin). Confess Jesus as the Son of God, and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. You will become a Christian, and be on your way to heaven.
[Editor's Note: Thanks to Pat Donahue for the article! He can be reached at: Pat.Donahue@MSFC.NASA.GOV, 4607 Old Railroad Bed Road, Harvest, AL 35749, (256) 721-0726]
Email the Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
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