Ready To Be Free • Expanded Study

A Study of the Vital Topic of Salvation

By Doug Joseph

Our Need of Salvation

We were all born with a sinful nature. Sin is any behavior contrary to the law of God, and sin separates us from God. Sin is very harmful to us in many ways—emotionally, physically and spiritually. Salvation refers to God redeeming a person, washing away that person’s sins, and bringing him into God’s community (the church) and into communion with God Himself.

The New Birth: God’s Plan for Our Salvation

The gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ can be summarized very simply: Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, died for the sins of all humanity, was buried, and resurrected on the third day.

The Word of God (the Holy Bible) reveals a plan for our salvation, in which God, the church, and the believer all act in concert. This plan is explained in the Bible, and it involves three simple steps of faith. Each of these steps identifies us with Jesus and His gospel:




Repentance is an act of faith in which one turns away from sin and toward God. Your previous life as a sinner (the old man) ceases. A new life begins. Because the old man (your previous lifestyle) dies, this identifies with Jesus’ death on the cross. Repentance is an act of faith on the part of the believer.



Water Baptism

Proper baptism—being immersed in water with the name of Jesus invoked aloud—is an essential step in becoming a Christian. After Jesus was crucified, His followers buried Him in a borrowed tomb. Once a believer has repented—become dead to sin—he is to bury the old lifestyle through water baptism. This step identifies with the burial of Jesus. The Bible says, “We are buried with him [Jesus] by baptism” (Romans 6:4). Baptism is an act of faith on the part of both the church and the believer.



The Gift of the Holy Spirit

God is a Spirit (John 4:24), and He is holy (righteous, without sin). Thus the Bible often refers to God by the terms Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit. The most amazing fact of Biblical salvation is that a person can go from being a sinner (separated from God) to being a Christian—so unified with God that His Spirit dwells inside the believer! No one is able to adequately describe this; it must be experienced. Because a Spirit-filled person has the power of God dwelling inside, that believer may live in a realm previously unattainable. God’s Spirit provides the power to live a new life, and thus identifies with the resurrection of Jesus. It is an act of God upon the believer who receives, through faith, the gift promised in the Word of God.

Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Jesus then explained what this new birth is: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Truth and Doctrine

Doctrine simply means teaching. There can be good doctrine (truthful teaching) and bad doctrine (false teaching). Any teaching that does not match with God’s Word is false doctrine. Different groups and individuals teach many different (often contradictory) doctrines regarding salvation and redemption. In spite of this, one may clearly know what a person must believe to be saved. The key is to look to God’s Word, not to groups or individuals. Some teach that doctrine is unimportant. But God’s Word reveals that doctrine is very important:

God has revealed the truth. We have the responsibility to diligently seek for that truth.

Faith (Believing) and Repentance

Repentance means “a turning from sin to God” (Holman’s Bible Dictionary). Faith and repentance are foundational steps toward God. True repentance, as a step of faith, is a prerequisite for salvation. Repentance prepares one’s heart to obey the Scriptures further. God demands repentance of each of us!

Jesus strongly emphasized the necessity of repentance, and He said that repentance and remission of sins would be preached in His name:

Some have erroneously taught that belief in Jesus (in and of itself) is the new-birth experience, saying that if we “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” we need not go any further, because the new birth is complete. However, while it is true that believing on the Lord Jesus is a necessary step toward the new birth, it is only the initial step.

One Scripture that is often misused to prop up the doctrine that believing alone equals the new birth is “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). All Scriptures are true. Just what does this verse mean? Examine the setting, and you will see that the apostle Paul spoke this short verse to a Philippian jailer who was about to commit suicide. These words were spoken quickly to prevent the man from doing harm to himself. This verse was only the beginning of Paul’s instructions. It is certain that Paul later gave more directions, for the Bible tells us that the man was baptized with his entire household. Paul knew that “Without faith it is impossible to please him [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Let’s look at this issue even closer. While one verse says, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21), another verse shows that Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Apparently some call Him “Lord” yet neither obey His word nor do His will! Jesus made it very clear that simply attending church and claiming to have accepted Christ as savior is not the new birth experience! To the contrary, it is he that “doeth the will” of the Father that will be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven. 

Water Baptism

After believing and repentance, the next step of obedient faith for any Christian is water baptism in the name of Jesus. The word baptize comes from the Greek word baptizo meaning to dunk or immerse. After Jesus was crucified on the cross, He was buried in a tomb, where He lay until His resurrection three days later. The Scriptures clearly reveal that Christian believers are to become identified with the Lord’s burial by being baptized. Practically speaking, water baptism is an act of faith in which each believer is buried momentarily in water while having the name of Jesus invoked aloud. Scriptures also reveal a connection between water baptism and our spiritual cleansing (from sin) for the salvation of the believer. Thus, water baptism has two distinct meanings:

Washing (or cleansing):

Burial with Christ:

Old Testament Typology:

During the great flood, Noah and his family were saved by water. So also we are saved by water baptism during the church age:

Just as the Hebrews were saved by water while passing through the Red Sea (to escape from Pharaoh’s armies), so also we are saved by water baptism:

While making their way through the wilderness, the Hebrews carried a tabernacle built according to God’s instructions. Notice the symbolic representation of water baptism in the God-given design:

The early church (the first-century church led by the Apostles) fulfilled the command of Jesus regarding water baptism:

How were believers baptized during the time of the apostles? According to the Bible, believers were baptized by immersion in water, and the name of Jesus was invoked aloud over each believer during the event.

Immersion in water:

What about sprinkling or pouring? What if one was baptized as an infant?

We simply do not find these practices in the Scriptures. Neither sprinkling, nor pouring, nor infant baptism can be found or substantiated in the Word of God. These are human traditions; therefore we should reject them in the light of scriptural truth. The Bible says that water baptism is “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (I Peter 3:20-21). Since infants are not old enough to comprehend the gospel, they cannot conscientiously decide to be baptized. While infants may be blessed and dedicated to God through prayer, they must still be baptized when they are old enough.

In the Scriptures, what formula was used in baptism? In whose name were they baptized? Does it matter?

Prior to the birth of the church, the prophet John (called John the Baptist) baptized many followers in Judea. The Bible does not mention John using anyone’s name during his baptisms, saying only that John baptized unto repentance.

After the birth of the church (read about it in the second chapter of the Book of Acts) water baptism was updated; a name was added to it. The greatest legacy the Lord left to his bride (the church) is His name!

In the New Testament, the name of Jesus was invoked aloud over each believer during water baptism. No other baptismal mode was ever practiced in the church during the time of the apostles:

Other pertinent verses:

Since Jesus is the one who was crucified for us, we should be baptized in His name! Look at Paul’s own baptism: 

Does water baptism matter? Water baptism is a command to be obeyed for salvation!

What about Matthew 28:19? Some use this verse to support a baptismal formula that does not include the name of Jesus.

Let’s examine it closely:

There are only two ways to act upon this verse (and only one way is correct). Either we are to repeat these words when we baptize, or we are to obey these words, baptizing in a singular name. Notice in the verse above that “the name” is singular. This verse does not say “names.”

When Jesus spoke the words of Matthew 28:19, He was speaking to His apostles. It is apparent that His apostles did not interpret the words as a formula to be repeated. Any study of the New Testament shows that the apostles obeyed this verse rather than repeating the words. The New Testament clearly confirms that believers were baptized in the name of Jesus.

To truly obey Matthew 28:19, one must discover the singular “name” of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. That singular name is Jesus.

Matthew 28:19 was obeyed in the Book of Acts, through baptism in the name of Jesus. We should obey this verse today, by being baptized in the name of Jesus.

Receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost)

Once you repent and commit to being water baptized in the name of Jesus, you’re ready for the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit!

Old Testament prophecy:

Jesus prophesied of the outpouring of the Spirit:

Notice that Jesus’ words (above) illustrate that all believers should receive the Holy Spirit! 

The first baptism of the Holy Ghost (the birthday of the Church):

Contrary to the teaching of some, one does not automatically receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at the moment he believes. Receiving the gift of the Spirit is a separate, dynamic experience that completes the new birth! Consider receiving the Holy Ghost as you read the following passage of Scripture:

In the passage below, the Scriptures reveal that “believing” is a separate event from water baptism and from the experience of receiving the Holy Ghost.

Is the baptism of the Holy Ghost necessary for salvation?

Jesus then explained what this new birth is:

Both water and the Spirit are necessary for the new birth and to enter into the kingdom of God!

The Holy Ghost experience described in the Book of Acts is part of the new birth!

Some ask honestly, “But will not my church attendance and my being a good person save me?” The answer is no. We all must be born again. If any man could have been saved by his own works, it would be the righteous Cornelius of Caesarea (described in the tenth chapter of Acts). But even that pious man had to be born again:

Cornelius called for Peter, and Peter came and preached to Cornelius and his entire household. God poured out His Spirit upon them all, and Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. 

Good works is not enough. Being devout is not enough to save you. You must seek truth. Update your spirituality! We all must be born again!

Tongues: Sign of the Gift of the Holy Spirit

The single common sign of the baptism of the Holy Ghost is speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance.

Old Testament prophecy:

New Testament evidence:

Speaking with tongues as God’s Spirit gives the utterance is the initial, physical sign of the Holy Spirit baptism. While this is not the only sign, it is an immediately noticeable, miraculous sign of having received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? Have you been water baptized in Jesus’ name?

Life magazine has noted that the Pentecostal phenomenon of receiving the Holy Ghost and speaking with tongues is one of the most significant events of the last hundred years. Millions upon millions of people worldwide have now been born again according to God’s Word.  Have you?

The promise of real freedom awaits those who are ready to be free:


Visit to find a church near you that preaches and practices the truth as discussed in this study.

Ready To Be Free Expanded Study copyright © 2001 by the Home Missions Division of the United Pentecostal Church International. The Ready To Be Free name, logo, logo-type, and all associated images and art are copyrighted trademarks of the Home Missions Division of the United Pentecostal Church International. Ready To Be Free is a ministry of the Home Missions Division of the United Pentecostal Church International.

About the Author

Profile of Rev. Doug Joseph (as of 7/2011)

Doug and LaDonna Joseph will soon celebrate 23 wonderful years of marriage, and they have four awesome kids. Rev. Joseph is an ordained minister in the United Pentecostal Church International (since 2003), and pastor (since 2002) of Christian Apostolic Church, Clarksburg, WV. He serves on the board of directors of the WV Home Missions Department, as secretary-treasurer. In 2004, the Josephs led CAC to establish Apostolic Christian Academy (K-12 Christian school).

Previously, Rev. Joseph was creative director for the General Home Missions Division, at the United Pentecostal Church International headquarters in St. Louis, MO, where the Josephs were blessed by the friendship and mentorship of Rev. and Mrs. Jack & Elsy Cunningham. Doug helped launch the UPCI’s national Men’s Ministry, and was editor for the Apostolic Man magazine. He oversaw the creation of Ready To Be Free, a sweeping evangelism thrust. Before that, the Josephs served on pastoral staff of North Charleston Apostolic Church (WV), blessed by the leadership of Pastor Billy & Shirley Cole. The Josephs helped the Coles to publish their memoirs, entitled “The Life and Ministry of Billy and Shirley Cole” (available at and Doug is also author of “New Immortal” (2009) and “Tesseract” (2010), and coauthor of “The Book of Salvation” (2010). All of his books are available at,, and wherever else great books are sold. LaDonna is a native of West Virginia. Doug hails from Shreveport, LA, and is an adopted, honorary West Virginian. Pastor Joseph’s blog is at