We’re going to start off a little bit different today than normal. I am convinced that the most important question for Christians to be able to answer is, “What must I do to be saved?” I don’t think there is a more important question for us to be able to answer and perhaps even explain. So, I want to ask each and every one of you to take a card out of the seatback in front of you that looks like this: it says “How do I get saved?” at the top. This is for every one of you. It’s totally anonymous, don’t write your name on this—but I want you to write down what you would say to someone, if they literally walked in here, sat down next to you, and asked you the question, “How can I be saved?” How would you respond to that question? I’m going to give you about 1 minutes to write down what you’d say. And again, this is for everyone in the room, and it’s totally anonymous. 1 minutes: Ready, set, go.
Alright, now, if you would fold that in half, just one time. And pass it to the inside aisle, and we’ll pick it up. Don’t worry, you didn’t write your name down, so it’s not technically a test. I’m not grading these, at least not on an individual basis. But once those are picked up, if you could just put them right here on the front row. Thank you.
There’s a reason why we did this today. Because, every week, we talk about the gospel, at least to some extent. The gospel is the story of our salvation. So, my question today is this: What do we actually do to be saved? Now, oftentimes, in answering that question, there are a few truths involved. And at Raintree, we usually narrow it down to four main truths. And, I try and be consistent when we go over this, mainly to help us in remembering these truths. So, four truths. Number One:
- God is our Creator, and we are accountable to Him. Especially when sharing with someone who may not have this assumption, that God exists, and that because he created all things, all things ultimately answer to Him, it’s important to clarify this. This gives a background for what comes next.
- Mankind has rebelled against God, and therefore deserves eternal death.We have all become our own kings, our own gods. Understanding God as Creator, and understanding the extent of our sin, this wage that we have earned makes sense. We deserve eternal death, and we can do nothing on our own to reverse this. This gives a background for the unimaginable beauty of what comes next. So, what comes next?
- God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the Cross bearing our sin, and rise again defeating death. Because we could do nothing on our own to fix our status before God, Goddid something to fix it. Christ took our sin upon himself, and his righteousness is given to us. This is really the heart of the gospel. When asked, “What must I do to be saved?” we must bring up Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the significance of this, that He was our Substitute.
So, those are the first three big truths of the gospel—as in, whatGodhas done in the gospel. But, it still doesn’t actually answer the question, “What mustIdo to be saved?” We see here what Godhas done, and it is mind-blogging. So then, what must wedo? What do we do to see this great gospel applied to our account?
Explanation of Text
In John 6, Jesus makes a pointed argument that there is something we must do to be saved, and that’s the main argument he makes in today’s text. Turn with me to John chapter 6. If you were here last week, you remember that Jesus has just talked about being the Bread of Life. He’s the one that came down from heaven, and he’s the only One who can truly satisfy our hunger and our thirst. He does so, ultimately, by saving us, reconciling us to our heavenly Father. So, in today’s text, Jesus is going to show us what we must do for this to happen, for us to be saved, and reconciled to God. Read with me, starting in verse 41:
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
The Jews listening, who are likely from the synagogue in Capernaum, didn’t like what Jesus was saying. That’s not too much of a surprise. Back in chapter 5, we saw the Jews in Jerusalem angry because Jesus was claiming to be on par with God. Now, he’s claiming that he came from heaven. Why are they particularly bothered by that? Because they knew Jesus and his family! They had lived in Capernaum for a time. He was local. So, they’re grumbling. Jesus responds. Verse 43:
43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.
So he tells them to stop grumbling. And then he clarifies yet again that they won’t understand on their own, without God moving first. No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. If you have questions on that, I’ll refer you to last week, when we discussed that in some detail. A summary would be this: No one seeks after God, truly. No one can choose God on their own accord—we know that from Romans 3:10 and following. And so, God must first draw, he must choose first to overcome our natural resistance to the gospel. For these Jews, that hadn’t happened. They were still blind, which is why Jesus says what he says in verse 44. So, then he gets to the heart of it. Look at verses 47-51:
47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
If you remember last week, the Galileans brought up Moses, and how he had given their fathers manna to eat in the wilderness. They were trying to get Jesus to give them more food, like he already did with feeding the 5,000. So then, he corrected them—Moses gave you nothing. That was my Father. Now, he’s clarifying another big difference between the manna God offered back then, and the Bread that Jesus is offering now.
That bread, they ate, and died. This Bread, you eat, and never die. Ever. We’re going to come back to these verses in just a moment. But, after he said this, the Jews discussed among themselves. Look at verse 52:
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Obviously, they’re taking him literally. It just seems like they aren’t really paying attention. What he means by eating his flesh he just said in verse 47, to believe in Him. That’s what that means. But Jesus just goes on, further using this analogy for believing, and seemingly even further confusing the Jews who were listening.
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
Do you catch that Jesus has now made this conditional? The Jews are confused, taking him literally, and he says, “Unless you can eat the flesh and drink the blood, you have no life.” He’s even added, “drink his blood” now. If they weren’t already offended, they certainly are now! He goes on even further, summarizing what he’s already said, but with this metaphor. Verses 54 thru 59:
54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
Eat My Flesh
There’s a lot going on here. But the ultimate question we have to ask, is this: “what does it mean to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus?” Does it mean, that, finally, for those of you obsessed with Twilight, that you get to be a vampire and drink blood? No. Certainly not.
As I already mentioned, he’s using a metaphor, right? He already started with this metaphor of being the Bread of Life. Jesus is not literal bread, but he’s like bread, in that he spiritually nourishes, and he nourishes to eternal life as opposed to just physical life. And so, what Jesus is saying, is that you have to partake in this bread, and you have to partake in this blood (which is a reference to what is coming, in spilling his blood on our behalf). We must actually partake to receive eternal life.
In other words, what good does bread do if you don’t ever actually eat it? It does no good, right? Of course not! We must actually eat the bread. You can know everything there is to know about the bread, like all the nutritional facts, and yet, if you don’t eat it, it does you no good.
So, Jesus, over and over and over, says, eat the bread! Drink the blood! Eat my flesh, drink my blood. What is he getting at here? If he’s not being literal, which he certainly is not, then what does it mean to eat the Bread of Life?
The answer is in verse 47. I gave it away earlier: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believeshas eternal life.” It’s belief! We see this throughout this chapter. Back in verse 35, from last week: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believesin me shall never thirst.” To drink the blood and eat the flesh of Jesus, means to believe in Jesus. That’s what it means.
So, why does he say this over and over and over? “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Here’s why he says it repeatedly, especially for the Jews listening. He wants to make as clear as can be: You can thinkabout Jesus all you want. You can knowas much about Jesus as anyone in the world. But, unless you actually believe, yourself, in Jesus, you have no life in you. Belief in Jesus Christ is what we must do to be saved.
Now, to help me explain that, while I look over your answer cards, I want to play a short video of Kevin DeYoung explaining what it means to believe in the Lord Jesus. That will give me just a few minutes to look over your anonymous answer cards. So you understand the context for this video: it was produced for the New City Catechism, which is a really neat tool for helping children and adults learn the core doctrines of the Christian faith. It’s 52 questions and answers.
And, so, let me read this question and answer, before we play the video, so you have some context. The question: “How can we be saved?” The Answer, via this Catechism (and this is in your notes): “Only by faith in Jesus Christ and in his substitutionary atoning death on the cross; so even though we are guilty of having disobeyed God and are still inclined to all evil, nevertheless, God, without any merit of our own but only by pure grace, imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ when we repent and believe in him.”
That’s a pretty clear answer. This catechism, by the way, has a shorter answer for children and this is the answer is for adults, just so you know that. And so, DeYoung explaining what it means to believe upon Jesus. And then, after the video, I’ll get back up and address common confusion when it comes to the gospel, and what it means to believe.
What Must I Do To Be Saved?
Alright. So, I think DeYoung does a great job there explaining with clarity how we can be saved. We must believe upon the Lord Jesus, to quote Paul in Acts 16, or Jesus himself repeatedly in John chapter 6 alone. Now, most of you included “belief” in your answer to this question, which is good! And, again, this isn’t a test. My goal is not to grade you, or make you feel bad about how you answered this. I hope this is a simple way we can help you in being able to answer this question— both for ourselves, and also for others, in sharing the gospel in the future. So, a good number of you included “belief” in Jesus Christ.
Now, let me clarify a few common ways that people answer this question. What must I do to be saved? And I planned to bring a few of these up before I saw your answers. So not all of these are from your answers. Common Answer #1:
- You have to follow Jesus.
This is true, in a sense. We must follow after Jesus, as in do what he has told us to do. But, obeying Jesus cannot save us, except in obeying this command to believe in Him, and trust in him alone. Eat his flesh. Drink his blood. To say, “You have to follow Jesus,” can be misleading. That sounds like you’re saying, just try your best to live a holy life, and that’s how you’re saved. That’s why this isn’t a great answer. We certainly follow Jesus, and yet, we really only have the ability to do that after we believe upon Him and receive the Holy Spirit. Common Answer #2:
- God has a great plan for your life.
You just have to, kind-of, find it and walk in it. This is true, in a sense. God does have a great plan? But what is his great plan, ultimately? For you to believe in Jesus. To say “God has a great plan for your life” as a response to what it means to be a Christians, that misses the gospel. People will start to look for God’s great plan for their lives. Again, that’s not a bad thing. Except, that’s not how to be saved. We are saved through believing in Jesus alone. That is the best part of God’s plan.
- We should try and live like Jesus! Or, more generally: we should try and be good people.
Again, those aren’t bad things. But, ultimately, none of us can be good enough to be saved. That’s why we need Jesus. And so, this is not how we are saved.
What is true Belief?
So, what is the best answer? By turning from sin and trusting (believing) in Jesus, we are saved. That’s the best answer, as long as you understand and can explain at least a bit about what it means to believe. Because if you just answer someone, today, in this culture, with just “Believe in the Lord Jesus,” people will not understand what you mean. “Belief” in this culture simply means to acknowledge that something exists. And, again, as we mentioned last week, if that is all that it means to “believe,” then I guess the demons have eternal life! James 2:19- “The demons believe.” Satan himself knows and acknowledges that Jesus is God, and that he died for the sin of the world, and even that he rose again! Satan himself acknowledges all of that, but, he certainly isn’t saved.
To merely acknowledge and know that something is true about Jesus, is like merely knowing nutritional facts about bread. You can know everything about bread without ever actually eating it. In the same way, you can know everything about Jesus you can possibly know, and yet not truly have believed upon Him, trusting in him alone for eternal life.
You can even know how bread is processed by the body, and yet never actually eat the bread. You can know howJesus saves people, through belief—you can know that, and yet not have believed yourself. The question is, have you trusted in the person of Jesus, alone, for your salvation? Have you staked your life on Jesus’ body that was broken, and his blood that was spilt? That’s the only way to actually eat his flesh and drink his blood. You have to trust in Jesus Himself, and what he has accomplished in his death and resurrection.
DeYoung used the ice skating example, which is a good one. I’ve mentioned to you before the bridge example. You’re walking along a path and come to a bridge, and beneath the bridge is a massive canyon. You can see the bridge and know that it would hold you. You can watch other people cross the bridge. You can understand all the mechanical ways that the bridge works, and even how it was built or accomplished. You can understand all of it, and even “believe” in the bridge in that sense, and yet not walk across the bridge.
We must walk across the bridge. We must trust that Jesus, and what he has accomplishedm is enough to save us. And we must trust him alone. Not try and put some crazy flimsy 400-foot long pole all the way down into the canyon and put some of our weight on that while also trying to cross the bridge! That half-trusting in Jesus and half trusting in yourself, your own works. Trusting that somehow, Jesus’ sacrifice plus your goodness, what you can accomplish on your own, can hold you up. No, no.
Jesus alone saves. He alone has been given authority to grant eternal life. You and I don’t have that authority, nor ability! But Jesus does. And God has sent Jesus to be the Bread of Life.
What is the Gospel?
Yet again, I bring you the same plea as last week, and yet hopefully with ever-more clarity: have you eaten the Bread of Life? Have you actually partaken? Have you trusted in Jesus alone for salvation? Jesus makes it so clear here, over and over and over: you must actually partake. You must actually believe, stake your life upon the person of Jesus, and what he has accomplished. Because if you don’t, as he said in verse 53: “you have no life in you.”
Believe upon the Lord Jesus. And if you have believed upon the Lord Jesus, let me ask you this question. Are you able to tell someone else of this great news called the gospel? We must be clear when it comes to the gospel. And the heart of the gospel is simply that Jesus, the God-man, came and died for our sin and rose again. And we must respond in faith and repentance to be saved.
The greatest way for you to be ready to answer this question is to hide these glorious truths in your heart. Be nourished by them. Be taken by them. Listen to how Charles Spurgeon put it, especially while having in mind God the Creator, to whom we’re all accountable, and also our own sin and rebellion. The heart of the gospel, as Spurgeon put it: “You stand before God as if you were Christ, because Christ stood before God as if He were you.” If you’re not overwhelmed by that, you may be missing something about the gospel. This glorious truth, and how we respond: by turning from our sin and self-trust, to trusting in Jesus alone. Believe upon the Lord Jesus.
Have you staked your entire life upon Jesus and what he has done for us? And if you have, how are you communicating that with your children, or with your neighbors, coworkers, family?
In a moment, we’re going to observe the Lord’s Supper, but before we get to that, I want to answer some of your questions.