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“What must I do to be saved?” is the absolute most important question that one must ask themselves during their lifetime. Fortunately, the Bible gives us the answer to the question! We can find it in the New Testament in verses that teach the “Plan of Salvation.” This then leads one to hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized which adds them to the church (Romans 10:17; John 3:16; Luke 13:3; Matthew 10:32; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:47). After all that is done, then the second most important question one should ask himself/herself is, “What must I do AFTER baptism?” It seems that we, members of the Lord’s church, are pretty good at helping people with that first question, but we don’t often put as much emphasis on that second question as we should. Yet, the manner in which one lives their life after they have been saved is just as serious of a matter as obeying the Gospel! Fortunately, the Bible gives us the answer to the second question, as well! Let’s take a look.
The plan of God to save man is not just getting one into the baptistery. In fact, notice that within the Great Commission there is one very distinct objective that is to be completed in two phases. The first phase is, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The second phase is seen in the words, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Those two phases lead to the main objective of making disciples, which is the only verb in the entire command. “Go,” “baptize” and “teaching” one to observe Jesus’ commands are all participles which point directly to the main verb, “making disciples.”
Another way to look at this is by recognizing that God gives specific responsibilities to all believers. First, a believer must obey the Gospel in order to be saved. Secondly, a believer must learn and keep the Lord’s commandments in order to remain saved. Essentially, to be a disciple means one must be obedient all of his/her life from the day they obey the Gospel until the day they die. This is exactly why Jesus said, “Remain faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life,” (Revelation 2:10). Furthermore, note how the writer of Hebrews illuminates this same thought, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,” (5:12). This verse implies those same Christian responsibilities, that basically, a true Christian’s life is characterized by a process of continual growth. This verse is also a clear indication that something special exists within God’s Word that every believer must learn. It is learned in small increments. It illustrates that just like a small child needs milk to grow, so do new Christians.
Notice that when someone becomes a Christian, they are said to be “born again,” (John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:23). Thus, they become a “new creation,” (2 Corinthians 5:17). They are also called, “babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). So, just as a baby or child grows and matures by being nourished by milk, so must a spiritual babe in Christ be nourished by the spiritual “milk” of the Word, (1 Peter 2:2; Colossians 1:10). As they mature, then they begin to consume “solid food” or the “meat” of the word. What a poetic way of saying that the goal of every Christian should be to grow in Christ (Ephesians 4:15)! It is only through the Word of God that one can truly grow and mature spiritually (2 Timothy 2:15).
The truth is, it is not easy being a Christian! If it were, we wouldn’t need all those letters in the New Testament by inspired writers about how to live the Christian life! (Romans through Jude) The fact that we do have those letters shows that we must work at it, that there’s more to our salvation than just being baptized. That’s exactly why Peter warns: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;” (2 Peter 1:10). We also learn from those letters that after we are baptized, we must leave our old life behind and focus on the new. We must “put off the old man,” as Paul puts it in Colossians 3:9. We are no longer part of the world, but now part of a new special family, a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people” belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9). So, the answer to the question is “as you have always obeyed, … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12).