Drawing Near to the Lord

"No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me" (John 6:44-45)

Location: Charlotttesville, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Who Are You to Judge Me?"

By Mark Larson

Often when Christians present the truth to others, they are accused of being arrogant, narrow-minded, and judgmental. Frequently, there are resentments that people have when Christians tell them how to live their lives for the Lord. They interpret our words as a personal attack, instead of the message of truth from God.


In defense against all moral judgments, people will frequently make reference to Jesus’ statement of Matthew 7:1 which says: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (KJV). This Bible verse is used today as “proof” that we should never make moral judgments about anyone. To do so is considered unloving and judgmental of others. In their view, Christians ought to never judge others or preach against other people’s religions. Just be tolerant and do not correct other people, even when they are in error (i.e., sin, false belief).

The problem lies not with Christians actually being judgmental when they present the truth to others, but rather a misconception that people have of what it means to be judgmental. Jesus was not at all saying that we can never make judgments of anyone (Mat. 7:1). In this same chapter, Jesus warns us to beware of certain kinds of people who are like “dogs” and “swine” (Mat. 7:6) and also warns us of false prophets that are like “ravenous wolves” (Mat. 7:15). To identify people as such would certainly require that we make judgments. What Jesus is actually condemning in Matthew 7:1-5 is the judging of others with a sense of moral superiority over others. The failure to examine ourselves first, for the sin that we readily see in others, results in hypocritical judging or “judgmentalism.” To effectively help a person repent of their sins, we must first look at our own lives for any sin and repent accordingly.

“Judge with a Righteous Judgment” (John 7:24).

If, at first, people feel personally attacked when you present the truth of God’s word, remember to emphasize where the truth came from. Christians are not in the business of standing in the place of God and judging people’s eternal destiny (1 Cor. 4:1-5). Rather, such judgments come solely from what the word of the Lord has to say: "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48). The fact of the matter is, Christians merely deliver God’s word and do not do the actual judging. The word of God, that was given to the apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 3:5), does all the judging that is necessary of people’s conduct, lives, and spiritual condition (John 16:8-11). When people feel judged, we are not acting as their judge. Instead, it is God’s word that is at work which is “able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

A Christian Demonstrates Love for Others by Judging.

Christians must make judgments every day in order to distinguish between good and evil and make good choices in life (1 Thes. 5:21-22; Heb. 5:12-14). In addition, Christians must also make judgments in order to help others who need to be warned, reproved, rebuked, or corrected of their sins. We have been given this responsibility by the commands of God in His word (Gal. 6:1; James 5:19-20; 2 Tim. 4:1-5; Titus 2:15).

Judging others of sin must be done according to God’s instructions. We must not act proud or be arrogant, but we must be humble in our conduct and in our speech (1 Pet. 5:5). We must deliver the message of truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and in the spirit of meekness or gentleness (Gal. 6:1). However, there may be certain cases that call for a severe rebuke of our brethren so they will be sound in the faith (Titus 1:13). Sometimes a severe rebuke of non-Christians or false teachers is in order also (e.g., Mat. 23).

No matter how the religious world may define love, true love for others will be demonstrated by our judgment (based on the Word) of their spiritual condition and thus our involvement to restore the erring back to God: “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mat. 22:39).

Are Christians Narrow-Minded?

The charge that Christians are narrow-minded is commonly given with the charge of being judgmental. This is because the Christian holds to only one standard of truth (God’s word) as the basis of all their moral judgments. “Narrow-minded” is defined as: “unwilling to listen to or tolerate the views of others; prejudiced” (Oxford University Press). Does this accusation have any merit? Are Christians narrow-minded?

In examining this definition of narrow-minded, we can eliminate two possible applications to the Christian. First of all, Christians are by no means “prejudiced.” Prejudice, partiality, or bias is condemned in Scripture (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; 1 Tim. 5:21; James 2:1). Any Christian who has prejudice in their heart must repent and ask God for forgiveness. Secondly, Christians are not people who are “unwilling to listen to. . . the views of others.” Christians must be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (Jas. 1:19; cf. Prov. 18:13). A willingness to hear other points of view demonstrates fairness on our part.

Yet, what about the part of the definition of narrow-minded which says: “unwilling to . . . tolerate the views of others”? Is this an accurate description of Christians? Again, we must define terms. Tolerate can mean either “allow (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) to exist or occur without interference” or “patiently endure (something unpleasant)” (Oxford Univ. Press). Christians can and should at times tolerate or “patiently endure (or bear) that which is unpleasant” such as the sins of others (cf. Gal. 6:1-2; Eph. 4:2; 2 Tim. 2:24). This does not mean we condone their sin, but instead we must show patience with others as they are given the chance to hear the truth and repent of their error.

However, Christians cannot tolerate or “allow (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) to exist or occur without interference” when it comes to matters of morality and religion. It would be wrong for Christians to “tolerate the views of others” in this sense. Instead, we have a responsibility to challenge people’s beliefs when they are in error and do our best to teach them the truth of God’s word (e.g., 1 Tim. 1:3-4; 2 Tim. 2:25; 3:16-17; 4:2; Titus 1:9; Jas. 5:19-20). Though the religious world teaches we ought to allow all religious doctrines to exist without any interference whatsoever, the Christian must get involved by helping others see the error of their way and teach them the truth.

Christians Are Narrow-Minded to the Extent That the Truth Is Narrow.

Christians are in a sense “narrow-minded” when it comes to their stand for the truth. After all, the way of truth that leads to eternal life is described as narrow or restrictive in nature: "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (Mat. 7:14). Christians should have no shame to be “narrow,” for Jesus was also narrow in what He taught: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). Only through Christ, who stands for the truth, can a person have access to God in Heaven.

If Christians are going to be true to God and to their convictions of truth, they must be “narrow” without compromise. Many people will travel the “broad” way and thus “tolerate” all religious beliefs without distinction. Many are unwilling to debate or discuss religious differences in light of the Scriptures. The “broad” way only leads to eternal destruction (Mat. 7:13). Though the path of truth is unpopular and a more lonely road to travel (Mat. 7:14), the Christian commits him/ herself to it because there is only one truth or faith that will save him eternally (Eph. 4:5; Jude 3; Gal. 1:6-9; Rom. 1:16).

Monday, November 06, 2006


By Mark Larson

Introduction: “Is it Necessary to Define Marriage?”
A. Many say that defining marriage is unnecessary and unwarranted, that marriage is strictly a human or civil right, a social and private affair that should be left to individuals to decide without government interference.

B. Such an approach to marriage will inevitably lead to the destruction of marriage itself, where marriage is anything you want it to be!

C. Defining marriage is in fact very important, critical to preserving and protecting the institution of marriage.

I. Attempts by the World to Redefine Marriage

A. Same-sex couples who “love” and commit to one another (homosexuality).
B. A man and woman who live together in “love” and commitment (cohabitation).
C. A man and / or woman who lives with, “loves”, and commits to several men /women (i.e., polygamy and/ or bisexuality).

II. Does the World Have a Right to Redefine Marriage?

A. The Bible exhorts us to not conform to this world, which would include its
standard of morality and practices (Rom. 12:2).

B. No matter how Man may define marriage, God’s definition will forever stand! (1 Pet. 1:24-25; Heb. 4:12).

III. God’s Definition of Marriage

A. Marriage is the union of one male and one female (Mat. 19:4-6).

1. There is no mistaking God’s original definition of marriage, given “from the beginning” – a monogamous relationship.

B. Marriage is a heterosexual, not homosexual relationship.

1. “At the beginning made them male and female”, not male and male or female and female (Mat. 19:4; cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 2:22).

2. Marriage involves the union of the only type of couple, one male and
one female, capable of natural reproduction of the human race (Gen. 1:28).

3. When God created a help meet for Adam, He did not create another man
(Gen. 2:18, 21-23).

4. Another man would not have been a suitable partner for Adam, any more than any one of the animals which God had created! (cf. Lev. 18:23).

5. God condemns the fleshly union of males with males and females with females in both the Old Testament and New (Gen. 18:20; 19:5; Lev 18:22; 20:13; Mat. 11:23-24; Luke 17:28-29; Jude 7; 1 Tim. 1:10; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).

6. Homosexuality is a “vile passion” that is “against nature” - not a genetic or inherited “sexual orientation” (Rom. 1:26-27).

C. The honorable institution of marriage does not permit fornication or adultery (Heb. 13:4).
1. Unmarried couples living together (cohabiting) “in love” is not the moral equivalent to marriage, but a dishonor and disrespect of marriage.

2. Those who practice polygamous “marriage” will be judged by God for
3. To tolerate “marriage” for same-sex or homosexual couples (a form of fornication) is to belittle and defile the marriage institution.

4. Marriage is to be highly esteemed (“be held in honor”) by pure conduct and by our defense of it.

D. Marriage is about companionship and commitment.

1. By creating woman for man, the need for companionship was fulfilled in the first marriage (Gen. 2:18, 22).

2. Marriage is also about devotion, commitment, and unity (Gen. 2:24).

E. God’s definition of marriage includes couples complying with civil law to ratify the marriage contract or agreement (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-14).

1. Rom 12:17b says “Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men” (ASV), thus marriage must be ratified in a way accepted by society.

2. Civil procedures should be followed, provided they do not violate God’s
law (Acts 5:29).

IV. Standing Up for God’s Definition of Marriage is not Discrimination!

A. God’s definition of marriage is not discriminatory, but is open to all adults who meet His requirements (Mat. 19:4-11; cf. Gen. 2:24).

B. Marriage has a specific meaning that should be upheld and respected by all (Gen. 2:24; Mat. 19:4-11).

Conclusion: Let Us Honor, Respect, and Defend God’s Definition of Marriage!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Does the Salvation of the Thief on the Cross Make Baptism Unnecessary?

By Mark Larson

The following question is often asked: "If we are required to be baptized in order to be saved, why was the thief on the cross allowed into Paradise? (Luke 23:42-43).

There are several reasons why the thief on the cross got to enter Paradise without being baptized. First of all, Jesus had the authority to forgive people of their sins and give them salvation. What He did for the thief (Luke 23:43) corresponds to the theme that is emphasized throughout Luke (5:20, 24; 7:48; 19:9-10), that is, that Jesus has such authority. The story of the thief on the cross was not recorded to show us how to be forgiven, but rather to demonstrate that Jesus had authority on earth to forgive sins (cf. Mark 2:10). Luke’s gospel account showed that Jesus could forgive sins. It was only after Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead that Luke records the instruction of Jesus on how forgiveness would be obtained: “And that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47, NASB).

The majority of the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John explain to us why Jesus is good news (i.e., gospel). It is only after Jesus death, burial, and resurrection, that we are told how to respond to the gospel in order to become Christians (Mat. 28:18-20; Mark 16:16). Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, recorded how people responded to the gospel message by repenting of their sins and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). The story of the thief on the cross should not be used as a reason to make baptism unnecessary and of no eternal value.

Second, people who lived before the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus cannot be examples to us on how to respond to the gospel for our salvation. Yes, people like Abraham (Romans 4), Enoch, and Noah (Hebrews 11:5-7) for example, were saved and were never baptized. Yet, they also never had an opportunity to respond in obedient faith to the gospel of Jesus Christ because they all lived before His death, burial, and resurrection. How was it possible, then, that they were saved before Jesus’ death? We are told in Romans 3:25 that God “passed over the sins previously committed” (i.e., let them occur without punishment of His eternal wrath, c.f., Acts 17:30). How could He have done this and still be a righteous God? Because God anticipated the death of Christ as a propitiation (i.e., atonement) for sins. The cleansing power of Jesus’ blood is essentially “retroactive”, applying to those people who lived before “the cross of Christ” – people who, in obedient faith, looked to the Messiah (Hebrews 9:15).

The thief on the cross was saved, even before Jesus died for his salvation, because Jesus knew His heart - knew that He had a penitent, believing heart and thus chose to save him, even though he had not been baptized. Jesus saved him because He had the authority on earth to forgive sins. Jesus, in saving the thief, did not establish an exception to the rule of baptism for salvation (a rule to be given later under the New Covenant). Now that the death, burial, and resurrection has taken place, we have no excuse not to meet the conditions that Jesus gave to be saved to become Christians which includes baptism into Christ (Mark 16:16) (even those He gave through His apostles - Acts 2:38; Romans 6:4; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21).

Third, when Jesus died on the cross He established a New Testament (i.e., Covenant). When instituting the Lord’s Supper, Jesus taught that it would be His blood (i.e., death) that would establish a New Covenant making forgiveness of sins possible (Matthew 26:28). His death on the cross brought the end of the Old Testament (i.e., covenant) (See Colossians 2:13-17; Hebrews 8-10). With this in mind, we should recognize that the thief on the cross was under the Old Covenant era, not the New. The New Covenant was not in effect yet, thus he could not respond to the instructions of the New Covenant (or Testament) to be baptized into Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:12-13; 35-39; 9:18 / 22:16; 10:48; 16:14-15, 30-33; 18:8; 19:3-5; Romans 6:4; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:5b; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21). Therefore, Jesus, with authority on earth to forgive sins, invited him to enter Paradise with Him for his faith and penitent heart.

Fourth, the gospel by which we are saved today is built upon the foundation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Thus, no one who lived and died before the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus can be used as an example of what is required to respond to the gospel for salvation. The thief on the cross could not have been baptized into Christ, even if he wanted to because baptism into Christ is based upon Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (See Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:11-12) which had yet to occur.

May we also recognize that even if the thief on the cross had received John’s baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3), that this would not have qualified as being “baptized into Christ” for salvation. The baptism John gave was only temporary and people baptized by John would still need to be baptized into Christ in order to be saved (See Acts 19:3-5). Baptism washes away our sins (Acts 22:16) because of Jesus’ death / blood (Revelation 1:5). Baptism saves us due to the power of Jesus’ resurrection (1 Peter 3:21). The thief simply could not be baptized into Christ and gain those blessings before the death, burial, and resurrection occurred. Thus, Jesus, with the authority He had, granted him salvation for this faith and penitence.

The Eternal importance of baptism should not be minimized. To be “spiritually reborn” (John 3:3-5) or become a child of God, a person needs to not only believe in Christ, but also be baptized into Christ to “put on Christ” (See Galatians 3:26-27). A person does not belong to Christ and enjoy the blessings found “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3) until baptized into Christ.

To belong to the Lord’s church, a person must be baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38, 41, 47). When a person is baptized into Christ, he/ she is, at the very same moment, baptized into His body (1 Corinthians 12:13), which represents the church (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23). Salvation begins at baptism, for only those who belong to the Lord’s church have their names “written in heaven” (See Hebrews 12:22-23).

Are There Many Ways to Heaven?

By Mark Larson

“We’re All Trying to Get to Heaven, Just Taking Different Paths to Get There.” How often have you heard that statement? Too often, it has been said by people who want to legitimize most any religious belief or practice. Rather than examine the different religious beliefs that people have by the Scriptures, most people prefer to show “tolerance” and not interfere with what others believe the religion of God or the truth in religion to be. In American society where freedom is trumpeted, the philosophy is: “Everyone is free to worship the God of their choice and the religion they like best.” Unfortunately, respect for freedom has been taken to the extreme by most people. Rather than question the existence of the many different religious groups and denominations that we have, people accept religious divisions as a way of life in America.

If Many Paths to Heaven Are Possible, Then Jesus Died on the Cross in Vain!

Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). If any path to Heaven will do, then Jesus needlessly died on the cross for our sins. The Bible clearly teaches that only through Christ can one have access to God in Heaven (Acts 4:12; Eph. 2:18; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:25). Even though there are many different religions in the world, only the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ will lead a person to Heaven.

Not All “Christian” Beliefs and Practices Will Lead to Heaven

Many people in America agree that only through Christ a person may go to Heaven. Yet, at the same time, these same people believe there are many different beliefs and practices that people may have to express their “Christianity” that will all lead to Heaven! For them the motto is: “Preach the man, not the plan.” What they mean by this expression is that the only important issue is that people believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. What people happen to believe about other matters and practices in religion is of no real consequence to them, so we need not be concerned. The belief that all so called “Christian” paths lead to Heaven usually comes from the “Can’t we all just get along” philosophy in the desire for unity.

Belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is at the core of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-4). However, the Lord made it clear that no one can go to Heaven by following beliefs and practices that are contrary to the Father’s will (Mat. 7:21-23). Some paths that people choose in religion definitely do not lead to Heaven (2 Pet. 2:1-3). Just because a religious group or teaching makes the claim to be of Christ, does not make it so. All religious teachings, including those associated with the name of Christ must be tested by the word of God (1 John 4:1; Acts 17:11). Contrary to popular belief, what a person believes and teaches does matter! (Gal. 1:6-9).

Would You Take Any Road to Travel to Your Destination?

In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus does not speak of many ways that lead to life, but only one “narrow” way of truth. It is amazing that people do not understand this principle in religion, yet in travel most everyone does. Imagine being on a road trip and you stopped to ask a man for directions to Nashville and he told you “Take any way you want to. It doesn’t matter which way you go. Any road you choose will lead you to it.” You would wonder if the man was mentally unstable, dishonest, or just “pulling your leg!” Not all roads will lead to Nashville or to our final destination in travel. Neither do all roads in religion lead to Heaven.

Religious Paths Invented by Men Do not Lead to Heaven

When a person comes up with their own way to get to Heaven and does not take the one “narrow” way that God has given, the place he or she will end up is not Heaven, but Hell. The Bible warns against coming up with our own way to Heaven: “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Prov 14:12). People will take many different paths invented by men (e.g., religious creeds, traditions, popular opinion or philosophy, worldly wisdom, family customs, etc.), yet not one of these will lead to Heaven. It does not matter how sincere people are in their moral and religious convictions. If the path they have chosen to take to Heaven is the wrong path, it will still lead to “the pit of destruction” (Mat. 15:12-14).

Only the Path of Truth Will Lead to Heaven

When we listen to the truth, believe in its message, and obey it, we then know that we are on the right path that leads to Heaven (Eph. 1:13; 1 Pet. 1:22). By continuing in God’s word, which is truth (John 17:17), we can be set free from our sins (John 8:32) and have the hope of eternal life. Only through faithful obedience to the words of Jesus (law of Christ as revealed in N.T. - 1 Cor. 9:21) may a person have confidence in going to Heaven after this life is over (John 12:48).

The Path to Heaven Must Be Chosen

Most people believe, that in “the end,” they will somehow be received up into Heaven by virtue of “the fact” that they are “good” people who want to be saved. Rather than choose a particular path to get to Heaven, they just assume that Heaven is their home and hope for the best.

The Scriptures teach that no one can enter into Heaven by good morality alone, no matter what the standard of good a person may have. Everyone needs to obey the gospel to have their sins forgiven and be saved: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Even a devout and generous man like Cornelius still needed to obey the gospel to be saved (Acts 10:1-2, 48; cf. Acts 2:38). Everyone needs to obey the truth to go to Heaven, no matter how “good” a person may be.

Furthermore, no one stumbles into Heaven by chance or accidentally! Instead, the path that leads to Heaven must be chosen on purpose and traveled upon deliberately throughout life: “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things (i.e., vs. 4-9), you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” (2 Pet. 1:10-11). After obeying the gospel (i.e., Acts 16:31ff; Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 2:38), every Christian must stay the course, remain faithful, and continue on the path of truth to the end in order to go to Heaven (Heb. 3:12-14; Rev. 2:10).

Receive Jesus as Your Savior

By Mark Larson

Many religious people, with good motives, seek to save the lost by getting anyone they can to receive Jesus as their Savior through prayer. The so called “plan of salvation” often goes something like this: “Pray the following prayer and receive Jesus as your Savior: Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You in the Name of Jesus. You said in Your Word: "if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shall be saved" (Rom. 10:9). I believe in my heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I believe He was raised from the dead for my justification. Your Word says, "...with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10). I do believe with my heart, and I now confess with my mouth Jesus as my Lord. Therefore, I am saved! Thank You, Lord!”

Is this the Gospel plan for salvation? Is that all that is required of God to become a Christian? As popular as this doctrine may be, we need to look to “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) (not just Romans 10:9-10) to gain understanding of the truth on what exactly is the plan of salvation.

What Does it Mean to Receive Jesus as Your Savior?

Only two times during His ministry did Jesus speak about the importance of “receiving” Him (Mark 9:37; John 5:43) and in both cases Jesus gives no instruction to pray. For example, Jesus rebuked the Jews for their willingness to believe in false teachers or false Messiahs, but not in Him: “I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another shall come in his own name, you will receive him” (John 5:43, NASB). “Receive” (from lambanoo) in this context means to receive, accept, admit, or come to believe (See Thayer & Friberg Lexicons). “Receiving” Jesus, in this sense, is certainly important to a person’s salvation (e.g., John 8:24), yet never does Jesus (or His apostles) teach that one must pray to receive Jesus as their Savior in order to be saved.

If a person truly wants to “receive Jesus,” then that person will also receive the sayings or teachings of Jesus: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48). Being saved or entering into a right relationship with the Lord is not based on our faith in Him only, but also by our acceptance or belief in the words of Jesus. If, indeed, we believe in the words of Jesus (which would include the words which He gave His apostles – Eph. 3:3-5), then we will obey them. Those who truly believe in God’s word and accept the Scriptures as the actual words of God will perform the works of God (1 Thes. 2:13).

“Receive My Sayings”

Those who are quick to quote Romans 10:9-10 as the plan of salvation neglect much of the doctrine of Christ. Yes, Jesus did say (through the apostle Paul): “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9), but that is not all that He said! If we truly want to receive Jesus and not reject Him (John 12:48), then we must take heed to all that Jesus said on how to be saved. True believers in Jesus receive all of His sayings, not just a few.

Jesus also said that in order to be saved, we must repent of our sins: “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Through the apostle Paul, the Lord tells us that repentance leads to our salvation (2 Cor. 7:9-10; cf. Acts 17:30; Rom. 2:4-5).Thus, repentance is as critical to our salvation as belief in Christ and our confession of Him.

Jesus, furthermore, said that in order to be saved, we must be baptized: “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). To become one of Jesus’ disciples, a person must be baptized into His name: “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mat. 28:18-19). To become a disciple of Jesus means to become a Christian (Acts 11:26). No one is a Christian until he or she is baptized into Christ. In fact, no one belongs to the Lord’s church until he or she is baptized into His name: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ ... Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them... And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:38, 47, NKJV; cf. 1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 1:18).

Every single person, as recorded in the book of Acts, who received the sayings of Jesus to become a Christian was baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38-41; Acts 8:5-13, 35-38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:31-33; 18:8; 22:16). There is no record in the Scriptures of anyone “praying to receive Jesus as their Savior” to become a Christian. Can you name one?

Jesus is Savior to Those Who Are “in Christ.”

If you really want Jesus to be your Savior, it will not come by praying a prayer. To partake of “all spiritual blessings in Christ” (Eph. 1:3), you need to be “in Christ” or enter into fellowship with Christ where salvation is found. The way to do that is to be baptized into Christ: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, 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” (Rom. 6:3-4; cf. Gal. 3:27).

Isn’t Romans 6:3-4 just as true as Romans 10:9-10? If not, why not? Receive all of Jesus’ sayings and you will, in truth, “receive Jesus as your Savior.”