What must I do to be saved?
Pastor G. Koivukangas, Laestadian Lutheran Church, Cokato
“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band. A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.” Acts 10:1-2
Our initial reaction after reading this testimony in the Bible, may be that Cornelius had his life in order.
According to Luke, however, Cornelius was lacking something important. He had not yet learned to know Jesus as his own personal redeemer. Although he was outwardly devout, he was outside the kingdom of God.
We can find seekers and prayers like Cornelius also in our time. You may have prayed a lot, sought, and questioned. The question may have occurred, what must I do to be saved?
As with Cornelius, you also have experienced the crushing blows of sin. The apostle wrote in the Bible of the tendency of man, “For I know that in me that is my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” Romans 7:18
John also reminds, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8
Cornelius, in his prayers, certainly would have been seeking answers to many questions and peace for his conscience. The sincere prayers of Cornelius pleased God, and the angel of God appeared, saying onto him, “Cornelius.”
“And when he looked on him, he was afraid and said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ And he said onto him, ‘Thy prayers and thy alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now, send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter. He lodgeth with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside. He shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.’” Acts 10:4-6
Very often, people think that their sins are forgiven by prayer, directly from God. But the story of Cornelius shows clearly that it is not possible.
On the other hand, there are those who base their faith on appearances, dreams, or supernatural happenings. But the many testimonies recorded in the Bible tell that the angels have only acted as messengers of the will of God. They have advised and guided to the road of life, but have never proclaimed sins forgiven to anybody.
In the Bible story, when Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius, he followed the command of Jesus, “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.” Luke 24:4-7.
He revealed onto them the resurrected Lord Jesus and concluded his speech this way, “‘And he commanded us to preach onto the people and testify that it is He which was ordained by God to be the judge of quick and dead. To Him give all prophets witness that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins’. While Peter yet spake these words the Holy Ghost fell on all of them which heard the Word.” Acts 10:42-44
Cornelius and his entire household heard the gospel message. Much more importantly, they believed it thy sins are forgiven. That which was lacking in Cornelius and his entire house was found by the grace of God, through his servants upon the earth.
Cornelius’ experiences reveal to us that he didn’t receive the forgiveness of his sins directly from God by prayer, nor had supernatural appearances brought the military officer to peace with God. Even the angel didn’t help Cornelius to personal repentance.
Rather, God used Peter, a man who had himself received mercy, in His work. The sermon of the gospel, which he proclaimed in the Holy Spirit, gave birth to faith. Even now, “Everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” Matthew 7:8
What must I do to be saved?
Simply believe the gospel message of the Savior, preached through His own, that thy sins are forgiven in Jesus’ holy name and precious atoning blood.
The kingdom of God approaches through the sweet gospel message. The Holy Spirit of God descends and the doors of heaven open onto those who believe.