When God created Adam and Eve, he had tremendously high hopes they would serve as a source of great joy for him. He made a perfect — although physical — place for them to live, gave them the joy of human companionship, the satisfaction of daily labor and accomplishment and provided for every need they had.
But this amazing life and fellowship with God didn’t last. Through the devil (“slanderer, liar”) or Satan (“hostile opponent”), the Accuser, the Father of Lies, etc.), sin came into the world when first Eve, then Adam went against his law (1 John 3:4 — “sin is lawlessness”). This lawlessness continued with the murder of Abel, the polygamy of Cain’s descendent Lamech and finally became so widespread that God “saw that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). The biblical record reveals that down through the entire history of mankind in general — and Israel specifically — men continued to disobey God, with both the guilty and the innocent suffering the consequences.
The apostle Paul, quoting from the writers of Psalms, describes the vile, despicable condition of mankind in his day in Chapter 3 of his letter to the Roman church: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (3:10–12; read through 3:18).
Things haven’t improved with the passage of time. Today, men and women continue to get themselves in situations they can’t handle and often give in to temptation and sin against God. Going against God’s will results in ruined marriages, financial struggles, moral disasters and every other kind of human dilemma. Thankfully, many come to realize their need for help and ask, in effect, the same question — “What must I do to be saved?” — asked by a jailor in the ancient city of Philippi as he faced his assumed failure to secure the prisoners in his charge, including the apostle Paul and his companion Silas. The story is found in Acts 16:16–34.
“What must I do to be saved?” is answered by God for people who recognize their inability to deal with life and its difficulties. “What must I do to be saved?” relates to the recognition of personal sin and the desire to overcome it. “What must I do to be saved?” relates to people caught in the clutches of alcohol and drugs, to unprepared mothers tempted to abuse their children, to ill-equipped fathers tempted to abandon their families, to those caught in the grips of poverty tempted to steal to meet their needs, as well as men and women lured by ungodly sexual desires. At least in principle, every human failing is addressed in Holy Scripture. God is eager for us to know and respond positively to his answer to this all important question, “What must I do to be saved?”
We take a closer look at his answer next time.