(This was a recent bulletin ariticle I wrote. Your input- as always- is welcome.)
This is not a trick question.
There is no doubt that in the realm of salvation that it is God and God alone who brings this tremendous blessing about in our lives. The power of redemption lies totally within the Godhead. Jesus paid the ultimate price for the sinfulness of man. Salvation is the free gift of heaven to us. It is quite impossible to earn. God’s grace alone saves.
Based upon this then, the answer to the title question would be- nothing, and it would be a little tricky. But any student of the Bible knows better. Consider this well-known text:
“For it is by grace you are saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Here Paul makes it clear that God alone does the saving. No way can we brag or take credit for this heavenly gift. It is God’s grace that saves, but Paul reveals another element involved. It is not a work. It does not somehow lessen God’s grace. It is not even anything of which we can boast. But it is imperative. Without it we will never embrace saving grace. And it is something that is generated within us. It, of course, is faith.
What must I do to be saved? If you are asking what can I within myself accomplish to be worthy of heaven’s salvation. Then the answer is nothing. If, though you are asking how can I fully appreciate and embrace the free gift of grace that will save me- then the answer is to acquire a genuine and living faith in God and his promises in Christ.
This is about much more than just belief in the form of some intellectual consent and admission that God exists and Jesus is the Savior. Scripture reveals that even hell’s demons acknowledge this. (James 2:19)
This is about an active faith that constantly leads us in the direction of God. It is a faith that grows and fully accepts God and his Word. It is an admission but even more it is a confession and a profession that delivers a total transformation.
Part of this faith response to grace according to Scripture is baptism and this is where it can really get a little sticky for some. Many view baptism as a work. Quite possibly we in the Churches of Christ in the past may have even presented it that way without realizing it- a kind of water regeneration. But that is not true Biblically nor has it ever been true.
Baptism is a beautiful faith act of submission to God and his will. Through it we mirror the death, burial and resurrection of the Savior himself. There simply is no work involved- no merits earned through it- nothing magic about the water. It is a vivid demonstration of the faith choices we made that led us to God and that will keep leading us to follow his will. It is a natural celebration of faith which completes the initial grace process of “washing away our sins”. (Acts 22:16)
“What must I do to be saved” is not a trick question or even a hypothetical one. It was asked of Peter on Pentecost thousands of years ago. His answer then is still God’s answer today:
“Repent and be baptized every one of you for the forgiveness of your sins…” (Acts 2:38)
Notice he did not even mention faith or grace. He didn’t have to because the question itself demonstrated faith and he had just finished wonderfully proclaiming the power of Jesus to save. Peter just met them where they were- a people convicted enough by God’s grace and moved enough through faith to ask this life-changing question. Well over three thousand people were then baptized and the church greatly rejoiced. They were all saved by God’s grace, through faith.
This remains the way God saves today. ‘What I must do to be saved?” Just be led by a sincere, honest faith to realize the sureness of God’s promise and then embrace the still amazing grace of God with all of your heart through simple obedience to his will
It is not a trick question, but it is, by far, the most significant question we can ever ask.