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What Does It Take?

Acts 15:1-11



If someone were to walk up to you on the street and ask you out of the blue, “How can I be saved?”, what would you say?  Would you know how to answer them?  What would you say it would take for them to be born again?


This is no small question…for the correct answer determines where we spend eternity.


Paul and Barnabas have just returned from their 1st missionary trip all over the Gentile world…preaching the gospel, seeing many saved.  Then some men came from Judea and said to these new converts, you’re not really saved, you just think you are…if you really want to be saved you need to become a Jewish proselyte first, and go thru our rituals, and keep the OT law of Moses.  They were saying that to get into the house of faith, you have to go thru the door of Judaism.  Well, this disturbed the faith of all these new, young believers…so Paul and Barnabas here rise up in defense of the simple gospel.


They said, we are Jews, we understand Judaism, but you need to understand that has nothing to do  being saved.  They said, we are saved by grace…thru faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on Calvary…plus nothing, minus nothing!   […do you believe that?!]


Paul recognized what these men were doing…it was gospel pollution.

Ill—air pollution/water pollution…not nearly as bad as gospel pollution, which still is going on today.  [Satan knows that most of us want to believe…something…so, clever as he is, he just injects all belief systems  his poisons, toxins, leaven, etc.  He doesn’t mind us believing some truth, as long as it’s mixed with enough error to keep us off course!]


The clear waters of the gift of salvation get so easily muddied today…the fresh, clean winds of heavenly grace are so polluted by the smog of works salvation.  Satan has succeeded in lacing our beliefs  a cyanide that is deadly to us!


In Ch. 15 the disciples decided to talk this out and mark it down in stone, what salvation is all about…and I’m glad they did, for if not, then the stream of grace would have been polluted right from it’s very fountainhead.  But here it is, crystal clear:  salvation is by grace alone!


v. 11        Every person who is truly saved is saved in the same way:  by grace, plus nothing, minus nothing.

        It doesn’t matter if Jew or Gentile/black or white/rich or poor…if you are truly saved, you are saved by grace.


Take all the churches in our area who claim to be Christian, and you can divide them into 2 groups:

1.     those who say faith in Christ alone is enough to save a person.

2.     those who say faith is the starting point, but you have to then do something.


3 truths about salvation to help keep the waters clear:


I.      Salvation is imperative, not optional.

Almost all would agree on this.  But why is salvation imperative?

vv. 8-9     “no difference” –…

Romans 3

    Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: [23] For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;


We all have this universal problem…the sin problem.  The idea that there are good people and bad people is a notion which only exists in the eyes of men.  We think of terrorists as evil and ourselves as good.

Abortionists/murderers/child abusers…and we feel pretty good about ourselves!


In Rom. 1 it says that bad people need to be saved.

Rom. 2 says that GOOD people need to be saved.

Rom. 3 says that so-called “religious” people need to be saved…and it all culminates in vv. 22-23 saying there’s no difference, we all need to be saved!

Satan doesn’t like this clarification I’m making now…he has several in this room and countless who will hear this online and from the lips of other preachers using our notes completely duped into believing his deadly lie: that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell.




There is no difference.  The man who lusts after women, undressing them  his eyes is no different than the man who commits the act of adultery  them.  The person who robs a store at gunpoint is no worse in God’s eyes than the person who cheats on their timecard at work, falsifies their taxes, etc.  Sin is sin, and the most moral people in our community, if they are honest, will admit that they sin…there is no difference!


Ill.—preacher walking along the beach, had Bible in leather pouch he was carrying, back in days when cameras first came out…it was a big deal to have your picture taken.  He wanted to find a place to sit down and read his Bible.

        Group of young people saw his pouch and thought it was a camera inside, not a Bible…they ran up to the preacher and said, will you take our picture?  He said, I already have your picture.  “What?  We didn’t see you take our picture.”  No, God did.  “Huh?”  He took out the Bible and read Rom. 3:23 to them.


And no matter who you are or what you’ve done, you’re in that picture…there is no difference.


That was the bad news.  Here’s the good news:

Romans 10

    For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. [13] For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I Tim. 2:5

    For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

Jesus is the Mediator, the God-Man.  All God and all man.  He satisfied the holy demands of God with His perfect life, and He satisfied our sin-debt with His sacrificial death…and on the cross He took a holy God with one hand and sinful man with the other and brought the two together and reconciled them.

        He is the mediator between God and all mankind…and if you wanna be saved, you shouldn’t go thru the church door / Catholic / Pentecostal / Christian / certainly not the Baptist door…you have to go thru the “Jesus” door.

John 14:6

    I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Jesus is not just a good way to heaven, not just a better way or the best way to heaven, He’s the ONLY way to heaven!


Salvation is imperative, not optional…


II.    Salvation is an inward matter, not outward.

v. 5          The Pharisees were doing what a lot of people are doing today:  taking something which was to be an outward symbol [circumcision] and making it an inward reality.

Today, churches substitute the word baptism for circumcision.

        Baptism is a beautiful outward symbol, but it brings about no inward reality, and to say it’s needful for salvation is ugly, false doctrine.

        Baptistery water can’t wash away sin.  “What can wash away my sin?...”  Nobody gets saved in that tank, they only get wet!


Some substitute church membership for circumcision.  I believe you ought to be a member…when a person comes under the umbrella of a NT, Bible-believing church there is a certain spiritual protection / heavenly blessing that they enjoy, and we all need to have a heavenly home, a Christian home, and a church home…yes, but when you add church membership to the plan of salvation you are becoming a part of gospel pollution!


Taking communion/confessing sins to a man/joining a lodge/doing charity work/making donations/speaking in tongues/keeping 10 commandments…none of these things will save your soul!


It’s by grace alone, thru faith alone, in Christ alone!


Ill.—chair:  if I put my leg on the chair, my faith is split between the chair and the floor.  [and saying 'I trust in Christ and baptism' is not saving faith, either!]





Him  [Faith]


Some say, oh, that’s so narrow minded…we’re all going to heaven, just taking different roads!  All that matters is that you’re sincere.


Funny how people want to be open-minded when it comes to salvation, but not in other areas of their lives.


When I go to the pharmacy I don’t want an open-minded pharmacist.

        I don’t want him to just start grabbing bottles saying, it doesn’t really matter which medicine I give you…I’m sincere!  No, I want him to understand reality, right and wrong, helpful and dangerous!


I don’t want an open-minded banker.  If I deposit $100 I want a receipt for that exact amount.

        I don’t want him to say “Numbers are just numbers, we’ll make sure you have somewhere in the neighborhood of what you put in.”  No, I want him to be narrow-minded and understanding of concrete reality, and that 2 plus 2 is always four!


All the religions of the world cannot be right, they are all fundamentally different.  And in different ways Satan has most saying salvation is a boost from beneath, when God says it’s a birth from above!  It’s not by doing, it’s by believing/not by trying, but by trusting!


Salvation is imperative, not optional…it’s inward, not outward…


3.     Salvation is freely given, not earned

v. 11        Grace = unmerited favor.  It’s receiving something which you absolutely do not deserve.  If you can do anything to merit salvation then the Bible says that Christ died in vain.  If you can do anything to even “help” salvation, then you had a part in it, and it’s not all about Him!


Ill.—salvation is a gift.  “Do you want this dollar?  I hold it out to you, and what do you have to do to make it yours?”  [take it.]

        Another scenario:  “Here’s a dollar for you, all you have to do is shine my shoes…”  Is that a gift?  No!


Ill.—Spanish-American war/young colonel named Teddy Roosevelt/had a group of men who were hungry, and no food/heard of a lady nearby with food named Clara Barton/was starting a new group she called “The Red Cross”/wanted to buy food for his sick and wounded Rough Riders. But she refused to sell him any. Roosevelt was perplexed. His men needed the help and he was prepared to pay out of his own funds. When he asked someone why he could not buy the supplies, he was told, "Colonel, just ask for it!" A smile broke over Roosevelt's face. Now he understood--the provisions were not for sale. All he had to do was simply ask and they would be given freely.

        He insulted her by trying to buy it, it was not for sale, it was a gift of love!


Let’s not insult God by trying to earn heaven…all the money in the world could never purchase it…we can’t live good enough to deserve heaven, we’re sinners!  So, we shouldn’t wait to be saved, as some do…they say, I want to clean up my life first.  Well, if you do, you won’t get saved, because you’ll be trusting in yourself partially.  Besides, that’s putting the cart before the horse.  You wouldn’t say, I’m sick, so I’m gonna try to get better and then go to the Dr.!


Are you saved today?  Salvation is imperative, not optional.  And let’s understand what it is:

It’s inward, not outward…it’s a free gift, not earned.  [not cheap, came at a high price!]

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