Someone objects: “All this talk about justification by grace through faith is largely theoretical. When we talk to real people, they want to know what they must do to be saved.” The down-to-earth, practical truth is that God saves us, apart from anything we deserve, attain or accomplish, for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ and on the basis of Jesus’ finished work of redemption. (Let’s listen in on the following conversation in progress.)
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Q. This news is rather overwhelming! Yet somehow I feel strangely drawn to trust it. I find myself wanting to believe that Jesus obeyed God in my place and that he suffered and died in my stead. The more I read and hear about Jesus, the greater my desire to follow him. Yes, I do rely on what he did to set me right with God. I do believe in Jesus Christ and trust him as my Savior and Lord!
A. What you say tells me that the good news has drawn forth a response from your inner core and that God has begun an incredible transformation in your heart. You have made a mental U-turn by turning over control of your life to God (the Bible calls this “repentance”) and you have trusted Jesus’ work on your behalf and entrusted yourself, your future and your eternity to him (the Bible calls this “faith”).
Q. What do I do next? I am eager to do whatever he tells me!
A. Jesus calls you now to express that inner repentance and faith outwardly by being baptized in water in his name. That is the way you “step across the line” before the whole watching world. This simple ceremony also declares the basis of your salvation — the perfect doing and dying of Jesus long before you were born. God approved Jesus’ work and certified that it was sufficient by raising Jesus back to life and giving him glory at his own right hand in heaven.
Q. One more question. In the future, shall I remember that I was saved when faith first dawned in my heart? Or did it happen when I expressed that faith publicly in baptism?
A. The saving event is not found anywhere in your own personal experience — not in your repentance, not in your believing, not in your baptism. Jesus fully accomplished the work which set you right with God, almost 2,000 years ago. That doing and dying of Jesus for you is why you trusted Christ and entrusted yourself to him. That work of Jesus in your stead is what you are picturing and proclaiming by being baptized in water. That saving work of Jesus Christ is what you will respond to for the remainder of your life by gratitude and praise, service and obedience. Never take your eyes off that saving work to focus on anything you ever learn, experience or do. Keep your eyes forever on Jesus. He is your hope, your righteousness, your salvation!