The Plan of Salvation
The Bible is very clear about what it takes to become a child of God. Here is the simple plan revealed in God's word:
Step 1: We Must HEAR the Word
Without first hearing the word of God we would never know we are sinners and that the "wages of sin" is death (Rom. 3:23 and Rom. 6:23). Without hearing we wouldn't know of Jesus' sacrifice for our sins and our need for him.
Step 2: We Must BELIEVE What We Hear
Merely hearing the word of God doesn't save. We must believe what we hear or we are not likely to obey the Bible's commands. In John 8:24 Jesus says, "...if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins." But belief is not enough. In Matt 7:21 we learn that just declaring our belief is not enough - we must "do" what God demands.
Step 3: We Must REPENT of Our Sins
Sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Therefore, if we intend to seek God's forgiveness, we must be willing to repent of our sins. Repentence means "turning away from sin" and making the effort to sin no more. If we aren't willing to repent of our sins, we cannot be saved (Acts 3:19; Luke 13:3).
Step 4: We Must CONFESS Our Faith
Those that wish to be saved must confess their faith in Jesus. It was Jesus Christ himself who said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32; 1 John 4:15).
Step 5: We Must Be BAPTIZED
There is considerable religious confusion about baptism. Some think baptism isn't necessary, others believe we are saved before we are baptized. Note what the Bible says baptism does:
Baptism shows a good conscience to God (1 Pet. 3:21)
Baptism washes away sins (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11)
Baptism gives entry "into" Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal 3:27)
In other words, our sins are not washed away, and we are not "in Christ" until we are baptized. Since baptism is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), we are still in our sins (and lost) until we are baptized. We should also realize that baptism is a burial or immersion--not sprinkling (Rom. 6:3-4) and baptism is for believers, not infants (Mark 16:16).
Is baptism a work? In one sense it is, but Jesus says belief is a work too (see John 6:29). Are we saved by our works? No! But we must still do those works, including being baptized for the forgiveness of our sins. We are saved by the mercy and grace of God, but He demands we be baptized to wash away our sins. He does the work, if we follow His instructions.
Step 6: We Must Remain FAITHFUL
While baptism puts us into Christ and washes away our sins, we must still be obedient and faithful to God, otherwise, we will lose our souls. The Bible tells us "...be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). Some suggest that once we are saved, we cannot be lost. Doesn't that contradict what Hebrews 6:4-6 says?