Someone objects: “All this talk concerning 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.” I respond that nothing us more practical than the reality 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. How, then, can I relate to this saving work which God has accomplished, if nothing I do is any part of it?
A. Because it is finished, you can only accept it. You cannot supplement it, improve on it, or make it any more complete or perfect than it already is.
Q. Nothing I do can make that more real and true than it already is?
A. That is correct.
Q. Rather overwhelming! Yet somehow I feel strangely drawn to believe it. I find myself wanting to trust in this message you have told me. 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! What do I do next? I am eager to do whatever he tells me!
A. Jesus himself said that those who believe in him are to express that inner 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, which is the perfect doing and dying of Jesus long before you were born, which God approved and attested 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 at the moment when faith first dawned in my heart? Or did it happen when I obeyed Jesus and expressed that faith publicly in baptism?
A. No, no, no! Your believing was not the saving work, nor was your baptism. Never forget that Jesus fully accomplished the work which set you right with God, almost 2,000 years ago. That is why you can entrust yourself to God in Christ for salvation. And that is what you are picturing and proclaiming by being baptized in water. Don’t ever take your eyes off that saving work to focus on anything you ever learn, experience or do.