The purpose of this study is to present a clear and comprehensive picture of how people became Christians in the first-century church, as shown in scripture. With so many different doctrines regarding salvation floating around the religious world, this is a very important study. Please note that this is a long lesson and may need to be broken down into two parts, depending on the needs of the person being taught. Some parts may be already well understood and thus can be quickly reviewed. Other parts may not yet be fully embraced and thus may deserve full attention and explanation.
Today we are going to study how a person crosses over from darkness to light, or how they become a Christian. It might be a good idea to ask them to remind you exactly how and when they became a Christian if you do not remember that from a previous talk. Refer to the “Big Picture” diagram (Attachment J) introduced during the “Sin of Man” study.
Attachment J: The Big Picture
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
- Jesus died so he could bring light back into the world
- The whole purpose of Jesus was to help us be in the right relationship with God
- Does that mean that everyone is saved? No. But it does mean that we all have the opportunity.
How does a person get from darkness to light? How does a person receive the forgiveness of sins and become a true Christian?
Let’s look at several steps in that process.
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”a]
16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”b] 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
- First step to getting right with God is to hear the Word
17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
The more you hear the Word, the more you will believe
16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
- It is impossible to have a relationship with God without faith
What does it really mean to believe?
Two types of belief: Intellectual acceptance (e.g. I believe 2+2=4)
Passionate conviction (e.g. I believe in equal rights)
God wants more than just intellectual acceptance, He wants deep, heart belief; to believe in who He is, His word, His heart, His cause
When we really believe like that, it will affect our actions
19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.
- Repentance (metanoia in Greek) literally means to change your mind. It’s a complete change of thinking that is shown by your change in actions.
19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me.
This is what Paul preached everywhere-that they should repent, turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.
- Why would he call them to prove it by their deeds?
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Without repentance, there can be no salvation
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”a] that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
We must commit to the Lordship of Jesus in order to be saved
- Not enough to just stop doing what is wrong, we must also commit to doing what is right.
1 JOHN 2:3-6
3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for Goda] is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
- If we claim to know God, we must walk as Jesus did
- This fits in with the Lordship of Jesus study and the verses we looked at regarding what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
V. BE BAPTIZED
This is a very misunderstood concept and teaching. Let’s take a look at several of the primary verses in the New Testament that teach about baptism.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.a]”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spiritb] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘Youc] must be born again.’
Being born again is necessary to enter the kingdom of God. Here, water and the spirit are closely linked with being born again
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus commanded that his followers be baptized
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
First-time non-Christian audience is addressed after Jesus left the earth
- Question posed-“what shall we do?” (they had already heard the word and believed and understood Jesus was Lord)
- Both repentance and baptism are commanded; not just suggested
Forgiveness of sins and receiving the Spirit take place when a believer repents and is baptized
- Repentance precedes baptism or is done simultaneously, but not after
Baptism literally means “immersion” or “dunking.”
14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’
Paul himself was commanded to be baptized in this same manner
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
When baptized, one is actually sharing in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Baptism is the point a person “puts on Christ.”
11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesha] was put off when you were circumcised byb] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
One is buried with Christ in baptism and raised through their faith. It is essential that there be faith at that point.
1 PETER 3:18-22
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,a] he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.b] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
- Noah was saved by water, as the rest of the sinful world was buried in water
- That water of Noah symbolizes Christian baptism
- Baptism saves you, by the resurrection of Jesus and your internal pledge to God
This is a good summary of the whole plan of God concerning salvation. It is important to take all these verses and steps into account and not pick and choose some verses over others. Everyone who hears the Word, believes in Jesus, repents of their sins, commits to the Lordship of Jesus and is baptized for the forgiveness of sins is truly saved and is a true Christian!