Sermons by Marlin Harless


(Text: Acts 16:30)
Marlin L. Harless

INTRODUCTION: The question in the above header is probably one of the greatest man will ever be concerned with, because it has a direct bearing on the soul's eternal destiny!! The Bible not only asks the question, it also answers the question for all humankind. In this study, we shall primarily be concerned with the answer to the question; since the vast majority, apparently, think they are fully competent to answer for themselves! The question appears several times in the New Testament scriptures, in slightly different forms. Beloved, we need to realize that God alone is qualified, to answer this question, because it is He Who has provided, and is offering man the salvation which he so sorely needs!!

Consider the day of Pentecost: "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:37, 38). Saul of Tarsus, asked the question: "And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do" (Acts 9:6; cf. 22:16).


There are eight major examples of conversion in the Acts of the Apostles, however, in this study, we shall consider a few of them. Luke the chronicler of acts, says, "There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always" (Acts 10:1, 2). He was a religious man, but not a Christian!! "He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius, "ЕThy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose name is Peter: Е"he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do" (Acts 10:3, 4b, 5, 6c).

Then Peter is enlightened by a vision concerning the Gentiles, (Acts10: 9-16. The Spirit Directs Peter to go to Caesarea to meet Cornelius, Acts 10: 18-25. We should understand that there is "no direct operation of the Holy Spirit today!" God gives us instructions, with respect to what He wants us to do, to become Christians, and how to live the Christian life, in His Word The Bible!! Peter learned from the vision, that he "should not call any man common or unclean," (Acts 10: 28c. Notice that Cornelius tells Peter of his vision, (Acts 10: 30-33; and had already provided Peter with an assembly or audience: Е"and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. Immediately therefore I sent to the; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God" (Acts 10: 24b, 33). My friends, this was Cornelius' way of saying, "What Must I Do To Be Saved?" We should realize that Cornelius was a Gentile, and Peter being a Jew, was forbidden to associate with a Gentile: "And he said unto them, ye know that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or to come in to one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (Acts 10:28).

Peter's sermon to the Gentiles, (Acts 10:34-48). "That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached. How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; because God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:37-43).

The Holy Spirit falls upon the Gentiles (Acts 10:44; 2:1-4, 17), thus, the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. Beloved, notice, that man never administers Holy Spirit baptism; only God does that, and, here, it was a sign that God had accepted the Gentiles into His Spiritual Kingdom {The Church of Christ}; as He had the Jews on Pentecost (Acts 2:14-47). We should understand that the gospel is universal, it is for all nations; and all nations, without exception, must do the same things to be saved!! My friends, hear me, are you listening? "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16:15, 16).

Beloved, did you notice that, Cornelius changed his religion through the exigency of the gospel that Peter preached to him. Many people will say, "Give me that old-time religionЕ it's good enough for me." Then, they will tell you they are Baptist, Methodist, Mormons, or Catholic. etc. They never seem to realize that the church of Christ was established hundreds of years before these false churches were established! These false churches will not encourage one soul to enter heaven! Why? Because they are all phony, bogus, hypocritical, empty shells, having been established, and governed by the "commandments and doctrines of men" (Colossians 2:20b). Christ never shed one milligram of His Precious, Rich, Red, Royal, Ruby, Blood, for the spiritual rottenness, and malignant caricature, commonly known as denominationalism!! It is possibly one of the greatest curses on this planet!! I speak to you the truth, and, I lie Not!!!


We need to understand that all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the establishment of the universal Spiritual Body, better known as the Church of Christ, were written over a long period of time, and were trained and directed by a very steady, and accurate hand, like the arrows from a bow, to find their mark on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as recorded in (Acts chapter 2). The Old Testament prophecies provide a much- needed background for the exciting events of (Acts chapter 2). For example: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go, and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:2, 3).

Daniel, The Statesman prophet speaks: "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. I saw in the night visions, and, behold one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 2:44; 7:13, 14)

Jesus speaks of His Coming Kingdom: "ЕVerily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And, being assembled together with them, commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which saith he, ye have heard of me. "ЕBut ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Mark 9:1; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 5b, cf. verse 8).

The Holy Spirit fills the apostles, enabling them to preach an infallible, fail-safe plan of salvation! "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2: 1-4). It appears that the apostles were, enabled by the Holy Ghost, to speak in many different languages, in order to facilitate the needs of all the people from the nations listed in the text!! This miracle caused great amazement among the people!! Peter said, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:16-21). In fact, Peter bases his sermon on the text of (Joel 2:28-32). And Peter's sermon also brought results, according to the prophecy of Joel, in (Acts 2:21).

Peter's powerful sermon both convinced, and convicted the Jews, in a very particular manner, when Peter said, "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, {Men and brethren, what shall we do?} Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:36-38). The Holy Ghost directed the apostle Peter by plenary, verbal, inspiration, the word plenary, meaning, "full or complete, absolute" verbal inspiration! Man wants to think of the "thought process of inspiration," Beloved, this just will not fly!! My friends, hear me, are you listening? "ЕAnd the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth" (Jeremiah 1:9b).

God expects man to cooperate with Him, in order to be saved, and, when man fights God, he jeopardizes his own salvation! Remember, God is always right!!! "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:41, 47).


And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou oughtest to do" (Acts 9:6). Beloved, consider, that Saul of Tarsus "trembled," that is what all men should do!! "ЕBut to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit. And trembleth at my word" (Isaiah 66:2c). God can always do wonders with a man who is able to "tremble" before the Great I AM!! Accordingly, The Lord had arranged, in advance, for Saul to obey the gospel of Christ, my friends, hear me, are you listening? One named, Ananias, said to Saul, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).

Saul had been a great enemy of God: Hear his testimony, "I verily thought that I should do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities" (Acts 26:9-11).

Paul had been a very wicked man, before his conversion; and, even though he had persecuted Christ, and his church, he found mercy, and grace in Christ: "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1 Timothy 1:12-15). Beloved, If Christ can "save the chief of sinners," it is an absolute certainty that He can save all others!!! Of all the apostles, and missionaries, Paul was the greatest among the children of men, second only to the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself!!!


Paul, and his company were "abiding certain days" in Philippi. "And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord Opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul" (Acts 16:13, 14).

A careful reading of the text will reveal certain facts. It appears that the women were engaged in, or were preparing to engage in, worship to Jehovah God; and, Paul and his company sat down, and began a conversation with the women, by the riverside. It might have been on the order of a preaching conversation; however, we do know that the women, possibly, all of them were attentive to Paul's words, but, Lydia, in particular, was paying rapt attention to Paul's words, and, as the text says, "whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." Though we simply do not know just what Paul said, it seems that Lydia was absorbing, and treasuring, thus, attempting to make a personal application in her own heart, of the message Paul intended to share with them!

Beloved, some seem to think that the Lord miraculously opened Lydia's heart; if He did, then all who "obey the gospel" will experience the same miracle! My friends, hear me, are you listening? It was no miracle; it was no "direct operation of the Holy Spirit"! The text says, "that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." He sowed the spiritual seed in Lydia's heart through the word of God, which he spoke to them! Lydia might have become furious, and bitterly resented the words Paul spoke, as many do today, when some one suggest a study of the scriptures. The fact of the matter is, Lydia believed the pure, unadulterated gospel that Paul preached; this business woman gave every indication that her desire, was to obey the gospel, and, thus, become a Christian!

Lydia's baptism, and hospitality toward Paul and his company. "And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying if ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us" (Acts 16:15). Her household would possibly include several people in her employment; and blood relatives, although, nothing is said of the latter. Of particular interest, is this, she and her household, carefully followed through on the five steps in the Plan of Salvation: 1. They heard the true, unadulterated gospel, (Romans 10:14c). 2. They believed the gospel when they heard it, (Romans 10:14a). 3. They repented of past sins, (Luke 13:3, 5). 4. They had confessed Christ before men, (Matthew 10:32). 5. They were buried in baptism with Christ, (Mark 16:16). 6. Every Christian must continue faithful to Christ, until death, (Revelation 2:10). Then, and only then, do we have assurance of eternal life!!!

My friends, are you absolutely sure of your salvation? If you aren't, you may be lost and not realize it! What a tragedy that would be! The only way any one can be sure of salvation, is to know that you have done all that Christ asks you to do, and to know that you have obeyed, or executed each step, in the precise manner that He has instructed us to be saved!! For example: there is no sprinkling, because baptism or immersion is a burial in water, you must go completely under the surface of the water, in order for it to be a burial. "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead" (Colossians 2:12; cf., Romans 6:1-5). Beloved, will you do it, Today? Today? Today?


1. King James Version of the Bible, The New Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Fifth Improved Edition

2. The American College Dictionary

3. The American Heritage Dictionary

4. The Expanded Vines, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

5. Theological Dictionary of The New Testament

6. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology

(E-Mail address: Dear reader: In the event you find errors in this sermon, spelling, misquoted scriptures, etc., please feel free to inform me of the same, as I intend to be as accurate as possible! (Telephone number: [304] 247-6895). Thank you! MLH.

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