What Must I Do To Be Saved?
by Evangelist John R. Rice (1895 - 1980)
What must I do to be saved? Here in the simplest, shortest form is
put the question to which every man must learn the answer, or spend eternity
lost, away from God, suffering the torments of the damned! Thank God, this
question is asked and answered in the Word of God so simply that every soul
can understand it. There are other questions in God's Word which affect the
soul's welfare, and many places in the Bible is the plan of salvation made
plain, but only one place is this question given word for word, and there,
too, we find the answer.
Paul and Silas were in jail in the city of Philippi and at midnight they
sang and prayed until God broke down all the doors and broke the stocks
which held their feet, with a mighty earthquake. The poor jailer, frightened
and convicted of his sins, came to these two preachers and asked this
question. Read it in Acts 16:29-31:
"Then he called for a light and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down
before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do
to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt
be saved, and thy house."
"What must I do to be saved?" "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou
shalt be saved"! There is God's plan of salvation, the only plan He has for
every man, woman and child who was ever born into the whole world.
WHAT MUST I DO?
Sinner, there is something you must do if you would be saved. There was hope
for this jailer because he saw himself a lost sinner and came trembling to
inquire, "What must I do?" Reader, you are a sinner. The Word of God from
beginning to end emphasizes that fact. In Isaiah 53:6 we learn:
"ALL we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned EVERY ONE to his own
way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us ALL."
We have all gone astray! The Lord is not content for sinners to be left
believing themselves good. In Romans the third chapter, how positive, how
certain is the Word of God that every man, woman and child is a sinner!
"What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before
proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are ALL under sin; As it is
written, There is NONE righteous, NO, NOT ONE: There is NONE that
understandeth, there is NONE that seeketh after God. They are ALL gone out
of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is NONE that doeth
good, NO, NOT ONE"!--Rom. 3:9-12.
In verses 22 and 23 it is stated again that "there is no difference: for all
have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." That is the reason Jesus
said to Nicodemus in the third chapter of John, "Marvel not that I said unto
thee, YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN." And a little later in the same chapter, verse
18, He said that the man who has not believed in Jesus is already condemned.
Certainly these Scriptures must make it clear to every man who believes the
Word of God that he is a sinner, and until he has believed in Christ and has
been saved, he is a lost sinner and needs saving. The heart is wrong, and
only God can make that right. Then if you want to be saved, you must admit
in your own heart, "I am a sinner. I am lost and need to be saved." No one
ever was saved without coming for salvation as a sinner.
CHRIST DIED TO SAVE SINNERS, NOT GOOD MEN
Oh, I beg you, see it today! You are a poor, lost sinner, a Hell-bound
sinner! Your heart is black. You have hardened your heart, you have resisted
the call of God, you have rejected Christ. However good you are in man's
sight, you are a terrible sinner, and unless you turn to Christ you must
spend eternity in Hell. A SINNER! That is what you are. Admit it in your own
heart, confess it to God. You are a sinner and you need saving worse than
you need anything else in the world.
If you have settled in your heart that matter, then you are ready to learn
God's answer to your question, "What must I do to be saved?"
BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
Here is God's simple way to be saved. You are a sinner, your heart is wrong,
you cannot save yourself, you are already condemned. The thing you are to do
then, to be saved, is to simply trust the Lord Jesus with that matter. When
you do trust Him, then you have God's promise, "Thou shalt be saved."
I do not mean that you are simply to believe that there is a God or that
there is a Saviour. Devils believe that and tremble (James 2:19). You can
believe that a certain physician is a good doctor without calling him to be
your doctor when you are sick. You can believe that a certain man is a good
lawyer without taking him as your lawyer to defend your case. You are not
just to believe the truth about Jesus; you are to believe on Him, that is,
depend upon Him, risk Him, trust Him; and when you do, you are saved.
NOT SAVED BY GOOD WORKS
Of course, you do not deserve salvation. There is nothing you can do that
will make you worthy of it. You cannot be saved by keeping the Ten
Commandments, for the Scripture clearly shows that you have not kept them.
Romans 3:20 says:
"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his
own sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
The same thing is told in Galatians 3:11 which says:
"But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident:
for, The just shall live by faith."
Many, many Scriptures repeat again and again that there is no salvation
through human goodness.
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his
mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy
"FOR BY GRACE ARE YE SAVED THROUGH FAITH; AND THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES; IT IS
THE GIFT OF
GOD: NOT OF WORKS, LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST."--Eph. 2:8, 9.
We had as well admit, then, that no man deserves saving and no man can save
himself. Salvation must be free or the sinner could never get it. In fact,
it takes blood to pay for sin, for the Scripture says:
"Without Shedding of Blood Is No Remission"--Hebrews 9:22
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own
way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."--Isa. 53:6.
Peter tells us that all of us are bought by the blood of Christ:
"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as
silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your
fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish
and without spot."--1 Peter 1:18, 19.
Every lamb, bullock, heifer, goat, turtle dove and pigeon offered in the Old
Testament times on the altar pictured this: that man, a guilty sinner, must
have some innocent one to shed his blood to pay for one man's sins. Jesus
died for our sins, and, thank God, salvation is bought for every man in the
world, if he will have it, as the free gift of God.
"For the wages of sin is death; but the GIFT of God is eternal life through
Jesus Christ our Lord."--Rom. 6:23.
Dear sinner, remember that church membership will not save you. If you have
been baptized that cannot save you. Baptism does not save, does not keep
anybody saved. It is only an act of duty for those who have already found
Christ as their Saviour. A moral life or lodge membership or good
citizenship--these must all fail to bring salvation, for it is "not by works
of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us"
(Titus 3:5). Don't depend, then, on what you do, but on what Jesus did and
promises to do for you.
WHAT ABOUT REPENTANCE?
Does not the Bible say that we must repent? Yes, the Bible plainly says that
"God ... commandeth all men every where to repent" (Acts 17:30), and again,
"Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3, 5). This was
the preaching of John the Baptist, of Jesus, of Peter and of Paul, that men
should repent. And certainly repentance is God's plan of salvation. The
trouble here, however, is that men misunderstand what repentance means, and
there has grown up an idea that repentance means a period of weeping and
mourning over sin, or sorrow for sins. This idea comes from the Douay
Version of the Bible which instead of "repent" says "do penance." So the
place of inquiry, where people should be taught the plan of salvation from
the Bible, in revival meetings, became "the mourner's bench" and thousands
of people have been taught that God would not hear their prayer nor forgive
their sins until they went through a process of sorrow and mourning over
Do not misunderstand me. God is anxious for you to have a penitent, broken
heart over your sins. You have gone away from God. You have trampled under
foot the blood of Jesus Christ, wasted years of your life which you can
never live over again. You have served your father, the Devil. There is
plenty for you to weep over, and I am not surprised if you feel deep shame
and sorrow in your heart that you have so mistreated the God who made you
and the Saviour who died for you. I am not surprised if you cannot keep back
the tears! But what I want you to know is that tears or no tears, however
much sorrow you may have in your heart, or not have, those things do not
You ought to be sorry for your sins and ashamed of them. "Godly sorrow
worketh repentance" (2 Corinthians 7:10)--the right kind of sorrow leads to
immediate repentance, but mourning is not itself repentance.
"Could my tears forever flow, Could my zeal no respite know, These for sin
cold not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone."
To repent literally means to have a change of mind or spirit toward God and
toward sin. It means to turn from your sins, earnestly, with all your heart,
and trust in Jesus Christ to save you. You can see, then, how the man who
believes in Christ repents and the man who repents believes in Christ. The
jailer repented when he turned form sin to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The jailer did not go through a period of mourning. He was told to believe
on the Lord Jesus Christ; he did just that and was saved, and his whole
family was saved the same way, immediately, the same hour of the night.
Everywhere you look through the New Testament you find that people were
saved all at once without any process, without any period of mourning.
Zacchaeus, up a tree, trusted Jesus and made haste and came down, and
received Him joyfully (Luke 19:6-9). Jesus said,
"This day is salvation come to this house." When Peter told Cornelius and
his assembled household that they could be saved
by believing, immediately "while Peter yet spake these words," the Scripture
says, the Holy Spirit came on them and they were happily saved (Acts
10:44-48). The thief on the cross, wicked sinner that he was, who a few
minutes before had been railing at Jesus, was saved immediately when he
inquired of Jesus (Luke 23:42, 43). In the first chapter of John, verses 35
to 49, we see where Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanael were all
converted, one by one, immediately by faith in Christ. There is no record of
any person in Bible times who was ever told to wait, or mourn, or weep over
his sins before trusting Jesus and being saved! One who believes in Christ
has repented. Repentance and faith are the same thing put in different
words, and neither requires a long period of time, nor a process of mourning
Salvation is instantaneous. All that keeps you today from being saved is the
wickedness of your heart that holds on to sin and will not run to Jesus to
trust in Him for salvation. I beg you, turn in shame and sorrow from your
sins this minute, and trust in Christ and be saved!
CAN ONE BE SAVED WITHOUT PRAYER?
In the Bible there are many cases of sinners who prayed like the thief on
the cross or the publican in the temple. In fact, Romans 10:13 says:
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Many people believe that a sinner cannot be saved without a period of
prayer, without consciously calling on God. However, the Bible does not say
that a sinner must pray in order to be saved. In fact, immediately following
the verse in Romans 10:13 is an explanation which shows that calling on God
is an evidence of faith in the heart and that it is really faith which
settles the matter. Read it again.
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then
shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?"--Rom. 10:13, 14.
The Lord encourages the sinner to pray, and the Lord hears and answers the
sinner's prayer, if that sinner trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation when he
prays. He heard the prayer of the thief on the cross, of the publican in the
temple, of blind Bartimaeus. But the Scripture says, "How then shall they
call on him in whom they have not believed?" Certainly every one who is to
be saved must believe. Prayer is evidence of faith. No matter how long one
prays, if he does not trust in Christ, he can never be saved. If he trusts
in Christ without conscious prayer, then he is saved already. There is just
one plan of salvation and just one step a sinner must take to secure it.
That step is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!
Some way we preachers have left the impression on this poor world of sinners
that God is hardhearted and that it takes many tears and loud cries and long
periods of sorrow before He will hear and save the sinner. We have left the
impression that God does not care whether sinners are saved or not, and that
sinners must some way touch the heart of God and get Him ready to forgive.
What a slander on a good and holy God who "so loved the world, that he gave
his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life." Man's sins are already paid for, God's wrath is
already turned away from any sinner who wants to be saved. Both the Father
and the Son are a million times more anxious to save every sinner than the
sinner can be to get saved! Thank God, I do not have to beg God to forgive
my sins. He will do it the minute I am willing to trust it with Him.
HOW TO GET THE CHANGE OF HEART
This simple way of being saved by faith seems so easy, and it is. Some
sinner may say, "But I thought one must have a change of heart." So you
must, dear sinner, but that is God's part. Jesus was talking to Nicodemus
when He said, "Ye must be born again," and in the same chapter He tells
Nicodemus how to get the new birth.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting
The change in your heart, sinner, is God's part and you may be sure He will
attend to that. Your part is to simply believe in Him. Whatever else is
necessary in your eternal salvation, the Lord attends to when you trust in
Him, or believe in Him.
HOW SHOULD I FEEL?
Some people have an idea that the change of heart is a matter of feeling.
Some do not want to claim Christ as Saviour until they have the mysterious
feeling that they want. Do not let the Devil deceive you here. I believe in
heartfelt religion, and thank God for the joy which He gives to me day by
day. But the Bible nowhere tells how one must feel before he is saved, nor
does it anywhere say how you feel after you are saved. In fact, people do
not feel the same. Feeling varies with the person saved.
Some cry when they are saved, some laugh, and a few shout aloud the praises
of God. One is no more saved than the other.
What you want, dear sinner, is salvation, and you should be satisfied to
feel any way that will please the Lord, just so He forgives your sins.
Be sure you notice another fact, too, and that is that you cannot feel right
until you get right. Rejoicing does not come before you trust the Lord. One
does not feel the result of medicine before he takes it. The Children of
Israel in the wilderness, bitten by fiery serpents and at the point of
death, were not healed and did not feel healed until they looked to the
brass serpent on the pole (Num. 21:6-9). People are not saved by feeling;
they are saved by trusting in Christ. The prodigal son, away from home in
the hog pen, decided to arise and go to his father, but he did not feel
good. He was without shoes, clothed in rags, without the ring of sonship,
without any evidence of his father's forgiveness, perishing with hunger! Yet
he arose and came to his father, not by feeling, but by faith in his father.
Thank God, his father received him, like God receives every sinner who will
come. And when the prodigal boy sat down at his father's table, with shoes
of the gospel of peace, clothed in the garments of righteousness of Christ,
with the ring of sonship on his finger, eating the fatted calf at the right
hand of the father, happy in his love, then he has plenty of feeling.
Feeling comes after salvation. Leave the feeling with the Lord and come to
the Saviour by faith today.
After you are saved, you will get peace and joy out of following the Lord in
baptism, reading His Word, winning souls and otherwise pleasing Him. You
need to go to the Lord again and again day by day for the joy of a Christian
life. But thank God that salvation is settled once and for all when you
simply depend upon Christ as your Saviour.
WHAT ABOUT PUBLIC CONFESSION?
Every person who is saved ought to publicly confess Christ. Matthew 10:32
and Romans 10:9 plainly teach that God will claim as His child any of us who
will claim Christ as our Saviour, but we simply confess with the mouth what
we have already trusted in our hearts. Concerning that very matter Romans
"For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth
confession is made unto salvation."
To claim Christ as your Saviour simply proves that you trust Him in the
heart. Likewise with all other promises in the Bible about how to be saved.
"Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out," says John 6:37; and
salvation is promised in John 1:12 to as many as receive Jesus. But you
could not come to Christ without trusting Him, and John 1:12 shows that
receiving Jesus is the same as believing on His name.
Dear sinner, do not make this a difficult matter. There is one simple step
between you and Jesus. When you trust Him, everything else is settled, and
you have repented, you have come to Christ, you have received Him, you have
done everything necessary to be saved. Take the answer in Acts 16:31 at face
value: "BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THOU SHALT BE SAVED"! In
dozens of Scriptures all through the Bible salvation is promised to those
that believe. Read carefully the following Scriptures and see that again and
again, many, many times, God has promised all any poor sinner would ever
need when he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of
God, even to them that BELIEVE on his name."--John 1:12.
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son
of man be lifted up: That whosoever BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but
have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only
begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life."--John 3:14-16.
"He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that BELIEVETH not is
condemned already, because he hath not BELIEVED in the name of the only
begotten Son of God."--John 3:18.
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that BELIEVETH
not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."--John
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and BELIEVETH on
him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into
condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."--John 5:24.
"And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the
Son, and BELIEVETH on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him
up at the last day."--John 6:40.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that BELIEVETH on me hath everlasting
"To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever
BELIEVETH in him shall receive remission of sins."--Acts 10:43.
"And by him all that BELIEVE are justified from all things, from which ye
could not be justified by the law of Moses."--Acts 13:39.
Read again the Scripture we started with:
"What must I do to be saved?"
"BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."--Acts 16:30,
Trust Jesus, the Great Physician
If you were sick and about to die, and there was some good doctor whom you
could trust, would you not risk him to take your case, give you the
necessary treatment, and with God's help get you well? Then just like that,
trust in Christ, depend on Him for your salvation, and turn it over to Him
today. With the same kind of faith that will call in a doctor and risk him
for your body, you can call in the Lord Jesus Christ and risk Him to forgive
your sins and save your poor lost soul! He said, "They that are whole need
not a physician, but they that are sick" (Luke 5:31). He is the Great
Physician and will heal your soul instantly if you will trust Him. As you
would trust a doctor, submit to his treatment, depend on him for results, so
trust Jesus today about your soul. To be sure, human doctors fail many
times. Their results at best are gradual, and so no doctor is a perfect
picture of Jesus. The doctor can work no miracles, but Jesus can, and the
change that is needed in that poor, wicked heart, He will make immediately,
instantly, without any further effort on your part, when you trust Him!
JESUS IS OUR LAWYER
If you had committed a crime and were thrown in jail, probably the first
thing you would do would be to send for some lawyer in whom you had
confidence and trust him with the entire matter of your defense. In God's
sight you are a criminal, condemned already and with the wrath of God upon
you day by day. But God has provided somebody to take the part of us poor
sinners, criminals before the bar of God's justice, and Jesus is that
lawyer, for the Scripture says:
"If any man sin, we have an advocate [or lawyer] with the Father, Jesus
Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for
our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world."--1 John 2:1, 2.
Jesus will not only be your lawyer to defend your case; He has already paid
the penalty and you may safely trust Him to have you immediately pardoned
and justified! Why not simply risk Jesus as you would risk a good lawyer?
Jesus is better than any lawyer, of course, and you do not have to pay Him a
fee, and He never fails.
A young man and young woman stand together, side by side, before the
preacher. The preacher says, "You will join right hands." Then to the young
man he says, "Do you take this young woman to be your lawfully wedded wife,
to love her and cherish her until death do you part?" He answers, "I do." To
the young woman the preacher says: "Do you take this man to be your lawfully
wedded husband until death do you part?" She answers, "I do." Then the
preacher says: "I pronounce you man and wife," and they are married in the
sight of God and man.
What a simple picture of salvation! Jesus is the bridegroom and we who trust
Him are to be His bride. Already Jesus has loved you and has long urged you
to accept His love. Jesus invites you to accept His love. Jesus invites you
to believe in Him right now and be saved and so become a part of His bride.
Will you not right now with the same simple faith of that young woman who
takes a husband, accept Jesus as your Saviour and say to Him, "I do."?
MAKE IT SURE--CLAIM HIM TODAY!
The way is plain and you can be saved this moment if you will.
Surely it has become plain, dear lost sinner, that it is your own fault if
you are lost! Do you hate Jesus Christ? Will you hold on to your sin and go
to Hell for your stubbornness? Nothing in the world could show your
wickedness like postponing this matter. You can be saved right now, this
minute. I beg you, do it now. Turn your whole heart from sin to trust in
Christ. Choose for Heaven against Hell, choose for Christ against Satan. Do
not let Satan deceive you any longer. If you delay, it may result in a
hardened heart, a wasted life and a tortured soul in Hell! And if you are
not saved, when God has made the way so plain and paid the price for your
sins, then you have no one to blame but yourself. Will you trust Jesus
Christ today and be saved?
"Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring
"Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."--2
"Today if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts."--Heb. 3:7, 8.
God has given you this heartbeat, this breath, this moment in order to trust
Christ, but there is no promise of another. I beg you do it right now, and
then claim Him as your Saviour.
One who trusts Jesus Christ as personal Saviour should publicly claim Him
before men. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with
the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10).
After trusting Jesus Christ you should join a church and be baptized. I hope
you will find a good Bible-believing church and attend faithfully.