“What Must I Do to Be Saved?” (Ac 16.30): The Essentials of the Christian Faith

Delivered by Kermit Zarley at One God Seminar, Seattle-Tacoma, October 24, 2010

(All Scripture references are from the NRSV)




Church fathers changed the gospel by adding that we must believe Jesus is God in order to be saved. But Moses declares in the Torah, “You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it” (Deut 4.2). And Prov 30.5-6 states, “Every word of God proves true;… Do not add to his words, or else he will rebuke you, and you will be found a liar.” Let us examine in Scripture what Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John said are essentials of Christian faith and if they include that Jesus is God and that God is three persons.



·        Angel to Joseph: “She [Mary] will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1.21). Jesus=Yeshua=Joshua=Yeh Ho Shua

·        Jesus told Nicodemus, “no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (Jn 3.3). How? “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up [on the cross], that whoever believes in him [dying for sins] may have eternal life” (vv. 14-15).

·        Jesus said, “anyone who hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (Jn 5.24).

·        “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (Jn 6.29).

·        “As he was saying these things, many believed in him. Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’” (Jn 8.30-32).

·        Jesus said he was “a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God” (Jn 8.40).



·        “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him” (Ac 2.22).

·        “This Jesus God raised up,… Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God” (Ac 2.32).

·        “God has made him [Jesus] both Lord and Messiah” (Ac 2.36). This Lord (kurios) not LORD (YHWH).

·        “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven” (Ac 2.38). ABCs of the gospel.

·        “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out” (Ac 3.19).

·        “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him… God raised him on the third day” (Ac 10.38, 40).

·        “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all,… in order to bring you to God” (1 Pt 3.18).


The sum of Peter’s teaching about what we must do in order for God to forgive us of our sins and save us is as follows: we must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and believe God raised him from the dead. Peter never says Jesus is God, much less that we must believe this notion to be forgiven. Neither Peter nor any disciples ever call Jesus God in their evangelistic messages in Acts.






·        “he [Saul=Paul] began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God’” (Ac 9.20)

·        “Saul … confounded the Jews … by proving that Jesus was the Messiah” (Ac 9.22; cf. 17.3; 18.5).

·        The Philippian jailer inquired, “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They [Paul and Silas] answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household’” (Ac 16.30-31).

·         “God … commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him [Jesus] from the dead” (Ac 17.30-31).

·        People “should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance” (Ac 26.20).

·        “I [Paul] testified … about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ac 20.21)

·        if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved 1” (Rom 10.9)

·        Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news [=gospel] that I proclaimed to you,… through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15.1-4).


The sum of Paul’s teaching about what we must do to be saved is as follows: we must repent of our sins and believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, Lord, that he died for our sins, that God raised him from the dead, and we must continue in these beliefs. Paul never states unambiguously that Jesus is God, much less makes such a belief essential for salvation.



·        “But to all who received him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he [God] gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1.12; cf. 2.23; 3.18; ).

·        “Holy Father, protect them [the Eleven] in your name that you have given me” (2x in Jn 17.11-12).

·        “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (Jn 20.31).

·        “everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 Jn 2.23).

·        “this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ” (1 Jn 3.23).

·        “God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God” (1 Jn 4.15).

·        “believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn 5.13).

·        “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 Jn 5.1).

·        “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1Jn 5.12).

·        “believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn 5.13).


The sum of John’s teaching is that to become a child of God and thereby obtain eternal life we must be born spiritually by believing that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, which seems to be synonymous with his being the Son of God, we must believe in the name of Jesus, which means Yahweh saves through this man, and we must confess these beliefs publicly.





God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit Mentioned Together


Matthew 28.19

2 Corinthians 13.14

Ephesians 2.18

1 Peter 1.2

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

“for through Him [Jesus Christ] we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.”

“according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ”

Romans 15.30

1Corinthians 12.4-6

Ephesians 4.4, 6

Jude 20-21

“Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me”

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God”

There is one body and one Spirit,... one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father”

“praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ”



Unity on the Essentials

Fifth century church father John Chrysostom wrote, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity. In all things, Jesus Christ.” In modern times this has been slightly altered to read, “Unity on the essentials, freedom on the non-essentials, love over all.” Scripture encourages “unity” of the faith (e.g., Ps 133.1; Jn 17.23; Eph 4.3, 13; Col 3.14).


A Personal Experience                                                       

In the fall of 1983, I taught an adult Sunday School quarter at my church, Fellowship Bible Church, in Pearland, Texas. Some of the folks in this class had been students of the Bible for many years. None of the members of this church knew that I had changed my theology the prior year—in which I no longer believed in the doctrine of the Trinity and thus that Jesus is God—because I didn’t tell people about it. This evangelical church still exists today. It has always regarded these beliefs as essential to Christian faith, and these beliefs have always been included in this church’s doctrinal statement.

My title for this 13-week class was “The Basic Fundamentals of the Christian Faith.” It was strictly a class discussion about what the Bible teaches regarding this title. I announced each week what subject we would discuss the next week that related to this title, such as Jesus’ virgin birth, atonement, resurrection, whether God is a trinity and thus if Jesus is God. Sometimes, I suggested Scripture portions to study in preparation for each class. So, I only moderated the discussion and took notes on it.

At the end of each session, I had the class vote on whether the topic we had discussed that morning was essential to salvation and thus a fundamental of Christian faith. When the quarter ended, I presented to the class a page that had the voted conclusions of the majority of the class arranged in the form of a statement of faith in one column with The Apostles Creed in a parallel column. We had never discussed this historic creed, and the members generally didn’t know what it says. We were all surprised that their statement resembled closely The Apostle’s Creed. As with that creed, this class statement said nothing about God being three persons or Jesus being God. The following is this statement of faith by the majority of the members of the class based only on their understanding of what the Bible says:


I believe in one God, revealed in Holy Scripture, who created man who became a sinner, separated from God.

I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who on behalf of man came down from God, was born of a virgin, died for man’s sins, arose from the dead, and thus became man’s only way to God by faith and the only source of eternal life.