THE WORLD’S GREATEST QUESTION
(No. 8 of The Gospel Tract Series)
By Eugene S. Smith
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” This question, asked in Acts 16:30 by a man in Philippi nineteen hundred years ago, has never been equaled in importance. In substance this same question is asked in two other places in the Book of Acts. In the inspired answer to this question, asked three times, we have an infallible answer. To this we do well to give heed in these days.
The importance of this question stems from the fact that it deals with the salvation of our souls. Nothing in this world, no, not even the world itself, can be compared in value to our souls. The soul of man, your soul or mine, is the most important thing in the universe and the question concerning its salvation is the greatest and most important that we can ask.
It Is of Doing
Please note in beginning this study that the question is, “What Must I Do?” We know that “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son” (John 3:16). We know that Christ so loved the souls of men that He “tasted of death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). We also know that the Holy Spirit, through the Apostles, revealed unto us “the way of salvation” (Acts. 16:17). These, therefore, having done their part in our salvation, we are now interested in what we should do.
Further, it is not a question of what one should be, how one should feel, where one should live, or the language that one should speak. This is a question of doing, and the answer that is given by inspiration (as the question was asked these three times) is evidence that there is something for us to do and that everyone must do these same things.
In the sixteenth chapter of Acts when the question was asked the immediate reply of Paul was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house” (Acts. 16:31). A great many people want to stop here, thinking that this is all the answer that was given to the question. However, an examination of the verses following reveals that this is not all of the answer and that to stop here is to stop short of a complete answer.
The remainder of the answer of Paul is indicated by the words of the following verse: “And they spake the word of the Lord to him, with all that were in his house” (Acts 16:32). This was necessary for even faith could not come to the man or his house apart from the hearing of the word. Paul has said, “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). The word had to be spoken to produce the faith and faith could not come till the word was spoken. However, when the word was spoken we find that the jailer had learned that he must do more than believe and this he did. Verse 33 says that “he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, immediately”. Here repentance and baptism are definitely shown to have been included in the word of the Lord, the answer given by Paul and Silas to the man’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” The washing of their stripes indicates repentance and it is definitely stated that the man was baptized, Therefore, these things were included in the answer given him or he would have known nothing of them. These are as much a part of the word of the Lord as belief and have as much to do with our salvation from sin.
Therefore, we must remember that in answer to this man’s question he was taught to, 1. Believe on the Lord Jesus, 2. Repent of his sins, and, 3. Be baptized unto the remission of his sins. When he had done these things, the record says that he “rejoiced greatly, with all his house, having believed in God”. By his obedience his faith was made perfect and he became a Son of God and could rejoice in that relationship.
In the second chapter of Acts the question again is asked. This time, however, those who ask are believers in the Christ. Although only a few days previously they had denied the Christ and condemned him to be crucified they are now convicted of their sins and realizing that he is the Christ cry out to Peter and the others of Christ’s apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
With all directness the Apostle Peter gave answer to these inquiring souls as he said, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38). This answer of inspiration is too plain to need explanation and “They then that received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). Here again sinners were taught to: 1. Believe on the Lord Jesus, 2. Repent of their sins, and 3. Be baptized unto the remission of their sins.
Having done this they “continued steadfastly in the Apostles teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2:42). That is they “walked in the newness of life” (Rom. 6:4) and were acceptable in the sight of God as his children.
In the twenty-second chapter of Acts, Paul gives an account of his own conversion. On the Damascus road he believed in the Lord and confessed that faith, calling him Lord. He repented of his sins and desired to know and do the will of the Lord. This is all evidenced by his asking the question, “Lord, what shall I do?” (Acts 22:10). This question shows the faith and the repentance of Saul of Tarsus yet he was not saved.
The Lord, in answer, told him to go into the city and there it would be told him all things appointed for him to do. When in that city Ananias came to him he said, “Why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on His name.” (Acts 22:16). This is Paul’s own account of the matter and one I am sure we can trust. Paul realized that his sins were not removed by faith or repentance but only when his faith was expressed in obedience to the Lord’s command to be baptized.
Thus, again we have the question and the answer is the same, 1. Believe. 2. Repent. 3. Be baptized unto the remission (washing away) of your sins. This brought him “into Christ” and in Christ he was a new creature.
Therefore, the question is asked and answered. You can see the answer as given by inspiration. You can walk in the same way to your own salvation.