Common Questions

What must I do to be saved?

This is the most important question that can be asked by anyone who is seeking to please God and go to heaven. Salvation is man’s greatest need! All have sinned and are in need of being saved from the consequences of sin (Romans 3:236:23). There are many different and contradictory answers given by men to this vital question that have caused many seekers of God to become discouraged and misled. The only reliable source to answer the question is found in God’s word. In fact, this very question has been asked three times in Scripture and answered. Please look at these three occasions.

  1. Acts 2:37 – “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’”This question was asked by the crowd of Jewish people who had gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. Each of the apostles had been speaking to different sections of the large crowd of Jews who had come from all over the known world to celebrate this feast. Their message was that Jesus, whom they had crucified some fifty days earlier, had been shown by His miracles, wonders, and signs to be from God. God raised Him from the dead as was foretold by David in the Psalms, and they were witnesses of the resurrected Jesus. God had exalted Him to sit on David’s throne, making Jesus both Lord and Christ. The people were convicted by this message and therefore asked the above question seeking to know what to do to be saved from the consequences of their sin. Here is the answer given by the apostle Peter under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 – “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.’”Verse 42 tells us that “those that gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousands souls were added them.” Verse 47 says, “…the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”So, what did these 3,000 people do to be saved? The text does not say they believed in Jesus, but that is implied in their asking the question in verse 37. If they did not believe, they would not have asked what to do next. And what did they do? They were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, which is later described as “being saved.”
  2. Acts 9:6 – So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’”We will see that the question of “what to do” in this text is also a question regarding salvation. Paul was the person who asked the question, and the Lord (Jesus) was the one who told him what to do to find the answer. Paul had persecuted Christians, and he was on his way to Damascus to do the same when Jesus appeared to him. The appearance of Jesus to Paul did not save Paul, but later it would qualify him to become an apostle in that he was made an eyewitness of the resurrected Lord. Again, it is apparent from Paul’s reaction that he believed that he had seen Jesus and was in need of changing his life since he had been chief in persecuting those who followed Jesus. But how did Jesus provide the answer for Paul regarding salvation? Acts 9:9 says that Paul was without sight and neither ate nor drank for three days. Obviously, he was in a state of sorrow and repentance for the kind of life he had led in opposition to Jesus. The Lord sent a disciple named Ananias to Paul and told him that he could find Paul at the house of Judas. We also learn that Paul had been praying. In a parallel account of this event in Acts 22, we learn that when Ananias came to Paul he said, “Now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).Notice that even though Paul had been fasting for three days and praying, he was still in his sins. While prayer and fasting are signs of Paul’s believing and repentant heart, they did not bring the forgiveness of sins. It was the command of baptism that Paul was to obey that would make such a gift possible, for that was the way that Paul could call or appeal to God for his salvation. So what did Paul do? He believed in Jesus, repented of his former manner of life, and was baptized, thus washing away his sins. That sounds like salvation, right?
  3. Acts 16:30 – “And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’”This is the third time in the book of Acts that this inquiry is made and answered. This time it is asked of Paul and Silas by a jailor who had been charged with the security of these prisoners in the jail in the city of Philippi. Paul and Silas had been put in the prison after casting out an evil spirit from a girl causing her masters to bring charges against them before the city magistrates. The two preachers were beaten with rods, punished with many stripes, and then thrown into the prison to await further sentencing. At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God, and the other prisoners listened to them. “Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’ Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’” (Acts 16:26-30)The answer is found in verses 31-34. Many stop after reading verse 31, which says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” and conclude that all that is necessary for salvation is belief in Jesus. Yet, such a conclusion is not true to this text, nor to the greater context of the book of Acts, as we have already seen on the two previous occasions. The Scriptures are not contradictory and do not give different answers to the same question. In verse 32, we find that Paul and Silas then “spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” This jailor and his household were Gentiles in a Gentile city. They did not know about Jesus or what to believe about Him and therefore needed to hear more. Faith in Jesus comes by hearing the word preached (Romans 10:17). Thus the message about Jesus was preached to them, and what happened next? They washed the stripes of Paul and Silas, indicating that they realized the injustice of the action and sought to turn from such by this washing, and then immediately the jailor and all his family were baptized (Acts 16:33-34). Why did they wash the stripes of Paul and Silas? Did it not show a repentant response to the message learned? Why did they all immediately go out of the house to be baptized? Isn’t it reasonable to conclude that it was because that is what these two preachers taught them about the nature of belief in Jesus (verse 31)? This was the same message taught to those on Pentecost and to Paul himself by Ananias. They heard the word, believed in Jesus, repented, and were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Note it is only then that they rejoiced and are said to have “believed” in verse 34.

In none of these cases were the people instructed to say the “sinner’s prayer” or to “just believe” in order to be saved. Yet, such is the most popular answer given to many today. Why not accept the Scriptures and come to the Lord as He teaches rather than listen to what men teach? Remember, your salvation is in the balance.

John McPherson

Are we supposed to tithe or give as the Lord has blessed us?

It is a popular notion that Christians today are to tithe (give 10% of their incomes), but the New Testament has no such requirement. People often pick out laws and practices from the Old Testament that please them and disregard the parts they don’t wish to observe, but whoever tries to be bound by part of it is obligated to obey all (Galatians 3:10James 2:10). Tithing in the Old Testament had specific commands connected with it. The offering of corn, wine, oil, etc., was to be eaten in the place God had chosen, and the partakers were to rejoice. One tenth of that offering was to go to the Levites. Every third year, the tithe was to be laid up for the Levites, strangers, fatherless, and widows of the community (Deuteronomy 14:22-29). I know of no one today who even tries to keep all these requirements.

But we don’t have to. The WHOLE law was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14) and is no longer in effect. The New Testament instruction on giving is both easier (because we don’t have to go to Jerusalem, etc.) and more difficult (because our heart and judgment are involved) than the Old Testament law. We are not given a specific amount but are told to give as we have prospered (1 Corinthians 16:2), according to our ability (Acts 11:29), liberally (Romans 12:8), and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:67). We show the love of God and our faith by giving to the needy (1 John 3:17James 2:14-17). And if our possessions are interfering with our walk with God, we need to sell them and give the money to the poor (Luke 12:3318:18-23). 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 also teaches that we are to give of ourselves, which is much harder than giving money.

These passages show that God is concerned with my heart as much as the dollar amount that I might give.

In the New Testament, what is the system of time being used (third hour, sixth hour, ninth hour, etc.)?

The confusion arises because we use a different method of reckoning time than either the Romans or the Jews did in the first century. The New Testament writers used the Roman clock, which began at dawn, or about 6 a.m. So the third hour was 6 + 3 or 9 a.m., the sixth hour was 6 + 6 or 12:00 noon, the ninth hour was 6 + 9 (6 + 9 = 15, which is 12 + 3) or 3 p.m., and the eleventh hour was late afternoon, or about 5 p.m. Nighttime was divided into four watches (Mark 6:48).

The Hebrew day begins at sundown, so the Sabbath begins on Friday evening when the stars are visible and ends on Saturday evening.

What is the difference between pastor, elder, bishop, deacon, teacher, preacher, evangelist, member, and reverend?

While men tend to complicate things, the Biblical pattern is very simple. Each church governs itself. There is no organization of churches cooperating or coordinating with each other, nor is one church over another.

In each congregation, men who are qualified (1 Timothy 3:2-13Titus 1:5-9) are selected to be elders (also known as pastors or bishops) and deacons. Elders oversee the church–its work, its finances, its members, etc.–and the deacons serve under the direction of the elders for specific tasks wherever they are needed.

An evangelist, also called minister or preacher, does the work of teaching and preaching, usually as his life’s work (2 Timothy 4:5). He is also under the authority of the elders.

Members are to submit to the elders and strive to use their talents as they work and worship with the local congregation in a spirit of brotherly love (Romans 12:4-21).

All members are equal in God’s sight and are called saints (Romans 1:7), disciples (John 15:8), and priests (1 Peter 2:5-9), as well as sons, children, brethren, and servants.

The only reference to “reverend” in the Bible is found in Psalm 111:9 and is speaking of God.
Jesus forbade the use of special titles that would elevate one above another and instead taught that humility is the proper attitude for God’s people (Matthew 23:9-12).

So the only “order” is that elders oversee only the congregation among them (Acts 20:28) and the members are to submit to their authority (Hebrews 13:17).

All other arrangements are without scriptural basis.

How did the Israelites return from captivity to Jerusalem?

This information comes from Halley’s Bible Handbook.

Israel was taken captive by Assyria in 721 BC.
Judah was taken captive by Babylon in 606 BC.
The return from the captivity was permitted by Persia in 536 BC.

The policy of Assyrian and Babylonian kings was to deport conquered peoples, but the Persian kings’ policy was the opposite: to return people to their own countries. Cyrus, King of Persia, authorized the return of the Jews to their own land. The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther are from this time period. The prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi lived and worked in the restoration period.

There were three returns:
536 BC – led by Zerubbabel
457 BC – led by Ezra
444 BC – led by Nehemiah

Chronology of the restoration:
536 BC – About 50,000 return from Babylon to Jerusalem
536 BC – Seventh month, they built the altar and offered sacrifice
535 BC – Work on the temple began, and stopped
520 BC – Work renewed by Haggai and Zechariah
516 BC – Temple completed
478 BC – Esther becomes queen of Persia
457 BC – Ezra goes to Jerusalem from Babylon
444 BC – Nehemiah rebuilds the wall

At the close of the Old Testament, about 430 BC, Judea was a Persian province. It remained so for another 100 years. We do not know much about this period.

Greece was the next world empire from 331-167 BC. At Alexander the Great’s death, the kingdom was split among his four generals. The last ruler of the broken Grecian empire was Antiochus Epiphanes, who was violently opposed to the Jews and was determined to destroy them. He devastated Jerusalem and defiled the temple by offering a pig on the altar (168 BC). This led to the Maccabean revolt.

The Jews were independent from 167 BC to 63 BC, when they were then conquered by the Romans. Herod the Great was King of Judea by Rome’s permission. He was king when Jesus was born. This is where the New Testament opens.

Is the entire Bible inspired by the Holy Spirit? What about the Pauline books, in which he seems to be sharing his ideas and personal feelings?

Yes, the entire Bible is inspired in that God through the Spirit determined what would be written (2 Timothy 3:16). But not everything you read in the Bible is a true statement in itself. For example, in Genesis 3:4, we read of the serpent deceiving Eve with the lie, “Ye shall not surely die.” Job’s friends did not speak the truth about God (Job 42:7), and the Jews made the false statement that they knew Jesus was a sinner (John 9:24). So the context must be carefully studied to determine the speaker, and whether he is speaking “as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11).

Now concerning Paul and his writings, he uses phrases such as, “I speak this by permission and not of commandment,” found mainly in chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians. Paul is answering a question that they had asked (7:1), and is giving his judgment on a matter where either choice would not be sinful: to marry or not marry in the present situation (7:26). It is his opinion that it would be better to remain single (7:8), but one did not sin by marrying. It was a sin, however, to commit fornication in any circumstance, and still is (7:2, 6:18).

Paul was an apostle (1 Corinthians 1:1) who spoke the wisdom of God in the power of God (chapter 2) and an imitator of Christ (11:1). He was always consistent in his teachings (4:17, 7:17, 14:33, 11:16), but he made it clear when he was stating his judgment and not a direct command (7:25). His judgment was based on the fact that he had “obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful (or trustworthy)” (7:25). It would be a wise choice to follow his advice and remain single in view of the present distress, but not sinful to marry (7:28).