One of my favorite passages of scripture to share with someone that I am talking to about how to obey the gospel is Ephesians 2:1-10:
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world…But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-2; 4-10).
This passage shows us the gospel message and it’s response clearly. We were dead in our transgressions before coming to Christ, and it is through Christ we can be saved. This salvation comes by the grace of God through faith when God makes us alive together with Christ and raises us up together with Him. Most churches and professed Christians will agree with this. But the question that gets many different, contradictory answers is this: “When is it that God saves us by grace through faith? When is it that God raises us up together with Christ and makes us alive together with Him?” There is only one verse in the New Testament that answers this question: Colossians 2:12-14. Let’s compare Ephesians 2 and Colossians 2, two sections of scripture that Paul wrote at about the same time:
Colossians 2:12-14 clearly answers the question “when does God raise us up with Christ into new life and make us alive together with Him?” The parallels between the two passages are undeniable. The answer to our question is: When we by faith are baptized. There is not another answer that the Bible gives to this question. At this point we are made alive together with Christ and forgiven of all of our transgressions by God (v13). This happens, not because we are working to try to earn our salvation, but because we have “faith in the working of God” (v12). Salvation is of the Lord. We receive it by faith. If you want to receive the spiritual circumcision of Christ and have your sins “cut away” from you by God, then you must in faith be buried with Christ (immersed) in baptism. At this point in time, we are saved by the grace of God through faith. Just as in the Old Testament, it is not just going through the motions that saves us. They couldn’t just kill animals without knowing why to be forgiven. They also couldn’t just believe in sacrifice and not act. They needed to perform their sacrifices in faith, and when they did so, they received God’s gift of forgiveness. The same is true in the New Testament with Christ’s sacrifice. We cannot mentally believe in the sacrifice of Christ and not act. Faith is a verb. It demands action. God tells us what is necessary to be saved by His grace, and if we want to receive it, we must act.