The simple answer is to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s what the Apostle Paul told the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31. However, some believe there are many roads to salvation and that everyone has to choose his own way. They believe that in the end, men will be judged according to their works, and one’s good deeds will be compared against the accumulation of bad deeds, yielding a verdict according to weight!
Our eternal destiny is too important to leave the matter to one’s own private opinion. We must consult the Bible — and the Bible alone — to discover the answer to life’s most important question, “What must I do to be saved?”
The Philippian Jailer
First, let us consider the man who asked the question. That jailer must have been among the most ungodly men in the Roman Empire. He was as mean as they come. As a jailer, I have no doubt that he was guilty of torturing his fellowman. He had beaten Paul and Silas and put them in stocks. And for what? They had done no wrong. No jury had convicted them.
Secondly, he was stuck in a society that offered little advancement. Unlike our modern democracy, the ancient Roman society had established a class structure that made it almost impossible for the average man to better himself. Slavery was common in those days. Most people were destined to follow the occupation of their fathers. For example, it is not likely that he could have become a philosopher. If anybody ever needed to be saved, he did.
Thirdly, he was not a theologian. He knew little or nothing about the biblical story of Adam’s fall. He was not taught in the theological concepts of the soul. Furthermore, he was not aware of man’s ultimate need for a Savior. He was just an ordinary Gentile, disillusioned with the wickedness of the human circumstance. He had seen the worst of mankind and was a jailer for the dregs of society.
We are told that the jailer was about to commit suicide when Paul stopped him. From this, we can tell that he had little self-esteem. Knowing that his life would be forfeited for the escape of those in his charge, he was unable to face the wrath of his superiors. He could not endure the same torture that he had so easily inflicted upon others. Furthermore, he could not face his family with the shame of losing all of his prisoners. Such despair led him to contemplate suicide.
Once assured that none had escaped, he was brought face-to-face with Paul’s integrity — something available only through a proper relationship with the Creator of the universe. What the prisoners had, he wanted. But what about his question? Was it motivated by a desire to obtain eternal life? Or was it the outgrowth of his despair? Did he merely want to be saved from the wrath of his superiors?
Regardless of his motive for the question, Paul took the opportunity to tell him how he could be forgiven for all of his iniquities:
“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).
How could he be saved — really saved? “Believe!”
Belief is a spiritual experience. It is something that happens in an instant. It is a spiritual miracle that cannot be explained in human terms. We may not know how to fully explain it, but it is real, nonetheless.
We can define matter, but there is one factor in this universe that we cannot explain — life. That is one entity that defies description. We can talk about atoms, protons, nuclei, electrons and quarks, but we cannot define life. It is not of this world. If it is not an emanation from another dimension, then what is it? Whether it is the life deposited in a plant cell, animal cell, or human cell, where does it come from? We can kill the cell, and not be able to determine what has changed in the cell. All of the matter is still there — only the life is gone. Where did it go? What happened to it? Can we get it back? Can we bring a cell back to life? The answer is, no. We cannot bring a dead cell back to life.
So, life must be something that only resides in the cell and is not necessarily an integral part of it. Where does it come from? And where does it go when the cell dies? Does it cease to exist? We are told that no matter can cease to exist. It might be changed, but cannot be totally destroyed. So why should we believe that life ceases to exist?
There is no reason for us to believe that something so fascinating as life — that comes to live in a cell — should cease to exist upon the death of that cell. It is commonly believed that life is not of this world. It must emanate from another dimension.
The Human Soul
The human body is a marvelous and mysterious machine. Though there are functions that the brain automatically controls, there are also functions that I have to consciously and deliberately control. I don’t have to tell my heart to beat. I don’t consciously have to tell my lungs to breathe. But I do have conscious control over my legs, hands, etc. I have the capacity to study and learn — to read, think and talk. There is that part of me I call “consciousness.” Can it be defined? Hardly. Its definition is just as elusive as that entity we call “life.”
It has been said that a person is a ghost living in a physical body. I am a soul, expressing emotion. I am a spirit, as noted by the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge. And I am a body, which resides in this world. And so are you. However, according to ancient rabbinical teaching, man’s soul once provided a connection with an entity known as the Breath of God — the Light of life from a heavenly realm that was broken through Adam’s transgression.
The general term “soul” consists of three entities. The first entity is the “soul” that is embedded within the body. The second entity is the “spirit” — the connection to a heavenly and eternal Light source. The third entity is that heavenly Light.
There are three biblical terms used to express what is generally regarded as the soul. The first Hebrew word (soul) is nephesh; the Hebrew term for spirit is ruach; and the Breath of God or heavenly Light that God breathed into Adam is called neshamah.
A biblical commentary explains these three entities with the following definition:
“The [soul] nephesh possesses in itself no light and cannot out of its own being engender it, and for this reason it is in close connection and deeply enmeshed with its body. The [spirit] ruach rides upon the [soul] nephesh, dominates it, and enlightens it with supernal glory, as much as it can bear; this [soul] nephesh is the throne of its [spirit] ruach. The [Breath or Light of God] neshamah produces the [spirit] ruach, rules over it, and sheds upon it the light of [eternal] life. The [spirit] ruach depends entirely upon the [Breath or Light of God] neshamah and is lit up by its light and nourished by its celestial food, while the [soul] nephesh is similarly dependent on the [spirit] ruach.”
Now let’s see if we can figure out just what happened to Adam when he sinned. God had told him that if he sinned, he would die. But we know that Adam did not die physically on the day he partook of the forbidden fruit. We are told that it was the ruach that died, thus severing the connection between thenephesh and the neshamah — between Adam’s life-consciousness and his God-consciousness. Therefore: “… the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14).
Thus, man’s fellowship with God was broken. God would no longer come down to walk in the Garden and visit with Adam in the cool of the day. Adam was driven from the Garden. Paradise was lost.
So, to recap, according to ancient Jewish writings, what we call the soul is actually made up of three entities. The soul (nephesh) appears to be our human life-consciousness. But, as far as we can determine, man is born without a God-consciousness. That is where the heavenly Breath or Light (neshamah) comes in. That is the part that was breathed into us by God, Himself. When we believe in Jesus and receive Him into our lives, the neshamahregenerates the ruach that had died. We become alive unto God again. Fellowship with God is reestablished.
We have only to observe a natural unsaved man to understand this concept. The unsaved man has no contact with God. As far as the natural man is concerned, there is no God. Oh, he may have an intellectual explanation for the existence of some “man upstairs,” but he has no personal experience to back up his statement. A man must be regenerated (by the Holy Spirit) in order to absolutely know in his soul that there is a God. This is what the Bible refers to as being “born again.” Something has to be reborn inside of us. That entity reborn is what the rabbis call the ruach:
“All three are one [soul], forming one whole, united in a mystical bond, in which nephesh, ruach and neshamah constitute together one totality.”
Simply put, when Adam sinned, man’s connection with God was severed:
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).
This connection has to be regenerated in order to obtain eternal life. And that is why Jesus came to die on Calvary’s cross. He came to regenerate the connection with eternal life — that Breath of God — that heavenly Light.
Sound complicated? It’s not, really. It is simply a matter of believing that Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, and that He came to Earth, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died to remove your sin — that original sin you inherited from Adam — then rose again on the third day to assure your future resurrection.
Here is what it takes to be “born again.” It is as simple as ABC:
A – Admit you are a sinner.
B – Believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died and rose again to give you eternal life.
C – Call upon Him in prayer and ask for salvation.
The Apostle Paul explains:
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9,10).
Yes, salvation is just a prayer away. You could pray this model prayer or one like it:
“Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe that you are the Son of God. I believe that you died and rose again to give me eternal life. I am sorry for my sins. Please forgive me and give me eternal life. Come into my heart and life right now, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
You are now “born again.” This new birth is a gift from God. He bestows eternal life upon you according to His sovereign grace. You did not receive it because of some work on your part. Nor can you lose your new gift of eternal life. Otherwise, it would not be “eternal.” Having been born into the family of God by a spiritual rebirth, God is now your heavenly Father. Through the death of Christ, you have been made heir to His “last will and testament.”
That is the testament God made with Abraham. It is a “grace” covenant offering eternal life. It offers a “city whose builder and maker is God.” Jesus was the One who made that covenant with Abraham. When He died as the “Testator,” the covenant, which we call the New Testament,” became effective. You are now an heir to that covenant.
Because it was a covenant of “grace,” there are no regulations to be observed. There are no laws to keep. It is not a wage paid to you because of works. It is a gift from God:
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
The Apostle Paul wrote again on this subject:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
“Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
You can take comfort and assurance from God’s Word that you now have eternal life and that it is a free gift, given by grace and grace alone.
Finally, I encourage you to find a local Bible-believing church in your area. Attend this coming Sunday, then respond to the invitation at the close of the service and tell the pastor that you want to publicly acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. As the Lord leads, you may want to join the church and attend regularly, so that the pastor and various Sunday School teachers can teach you and your family the Word of God.
One more thing: Why not write and let me know that you have received Christ as your Savior. It would make me so happy. May the Lord bless you and give you peace.