The most important topic as it pertains to Christianity is salvation. It’s the central foundation of the Christian faith that all of mankind are sinners in need of the saving power of Jesus Christ, having shed his blood on the cross for all of man’s sins. Without this knowledge and realization, you have no Christians, and thus you have no Christianity. It perhaps can not be stressed anymore strongly than that, which is why is it’s extremely relevant for one to understand how to receive salvation through Christ. The difference between knowing and not knowing is the difference between a life of eternity with God and a life separated from God. There can not be any room for error when it comes to factually understanding this question of salvation, and God would not allow there to be any doubt about it for something He considered so important, the salvation of mankind, that he sent His only begotten son to die for it.So how do we come to the understanding of how one receives salvation? The first thing that must be established is that the Word of God is the authority over all matters regarding the Truth. Let’s illustrate this notion with scripture. 2 Tim 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” Now if all scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, one is left only to conclude that all scripture is right. Many times often when Christians have disputes of beliefs, they each choose their own set of scriptures to validate their beliefs, rather than understanding things in the context of what all the scripture states. It really becomes an issue of pride for one to want to be right rather than accurate, and as many of us know, God isn’t exactly the biggest fan of pride (Proverbs 16:5).
Thus it is important for us to humble ourselves in not just seeing what we want to see, but letting the scripture show us everything there is to see. Once we have established that the scripture is inspired by God, and in all of it’s writing is the authority over spiritual matters, then we must not choose to allow anything else to guide us other than the scripture. The things which we have always been taught can not guide us. Our own personal feelings can no longer guide us. Only the complete Word of God must be our guide in understanding the most important issue that matters today, the salvation of mankind.
Now that we’re choosing to operate under this conclusion, the next logical thing we would seem to want to know, is what does the authoritative scripture tell us in regards to salvation. I’ll get to that in a moment, but I first want to discuss what our present culture tells us about how we can receive salvation. If you grew up in church, or if you’ve ever seen a religious program on television, you’ve probably heard once in your life that the way to become saved is very simple. The preacher begins to speak in a soft sentimental voice, and he begins to tell you, “All you must do is pray this prayer. Jesus come in to my heart, I believe you died on the cross for my sins. I need you to wash me of my sins with your blood. I want you to be my Lord and Savior for the rest of my life.”
While there’s occasional variation, this is the core of what many will often say to do in order to become saved. One question we have to ask ourselves is if this is true. As I mentioned in my previous post, scripture illustrates that it is important that any teaching or subject matter regarding God is validated through examination with the help of the scripture. So as we dissect this common teaching in culture today, we first must ask, is it true that salvation begins with a prayer. Well according to scripture that can not be true.
1 Pet 3:12 “FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS,
AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER,
BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.”
God only hears the prayers of the righteous. The person dead in his sin can not be righteous until he is made spiritually alive through Christ (Eph 2:5, Col 2:13). It would be contradictory to say a spiritually dead person in sin is righteous and able to have their prayers heard. It would thus seem it can not be true for one to pray to receive salvation. If this portion of what is commonly asserted by some preachers is discredited by scripture, then the rest of what follows in what is instructed of the spiritually dead person in sin to pray for salvation collapses under the falseness of the initial presumption that the people in this category can pray and be heard by God. More than just what is stated in the Word that needs to be considered, what is not stated also needs to be considered as well. To the best of my knowledge of having read the whole New Testament, there is no direct statement of prayer that leads to salvation.
Now that I’ve addressed the common misconception of how one receives salvation, it’ll help us to turn to what the scripture does say about how one can receive salvation. Now if you read Eph 2:5 and Col 2:13, it talked of being made spiritually alive through Christ, so we can presume salvation is delivering one from a state of spiritual deadness in sin. So let’s remember that as we delve through scripture carefully. Now thought this may obvious, it’s worth stating that one must hear the gospel of our Lord first. Rom 10:14-17 states,
14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who [i]bring good news of good things!”16 However, they did not all heed the [j]good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word [k]of Christ.”
As you can read in this passage, in order for one to believe in Christ, one must hear about Him first. Faith can only come from hearing, and the subject that needs to be heard is the word of Christ. What you might also find striking in this passage, is that Paul states that not all people heeded the good news. In the age of churches trying to do all they can to make themselves relevant to attract and persuade people to becoming saved, Paul himself said when this news was being delivered then, that not all responded to the good news. It’s fascinating that in the presence of all these great miracles that were occurring, people still didn’t believe, and it’s an illustration that no amount of culture relevancy or persuasion will lead people to heed the call of the gospel, when even when people were in the presence of miracles, some still didn’t believe. It’s a bit of a digression, but something to consider when you look at many of the church movements that are occurring today.
Now let us turn to John 8:24. For context, and you’re welcome to read the whole passage or the whole chapter for yourself, Jesus is explaining to the Jews he is the light of the world, and shortly after they question him a little. He eventually makes this statement that was not only true of them, but true for all of us as well. John 8:24 states “24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that [f]I am He, you will die in your sins.” So we have a clear statement here from Jesus, that a person who does not believe that He is God in the flesh, they will remain spiritually dead in their sins. Other verses I will mention reassert this notion, but continue to keep this in mind as we go along
Another crucial component to one’s salvation according to the scripture appears to be repentance. Let’s read these next few scriptures. Now before we read Luke 13:3 and 5, for context, Jesus was telling the Jews that essentially they were no better than the rest of the world in how much sin they were dead in. Prefacing that he makes the same statement not once, but twice, stressing the importance of repentance for our salvation. Luke 13:3 and 5 both state, “I tell you, no, but unless you [b]repent, you will all likewise perish.” A question we can ask here is what does it mean to repent. Well the Greek translated word for repent is metanoeō, which means to change one’s mind. We see this accurate definition illustrated in the scripture in Matthew 21 with the parable of the two sons.
Mat 21:28-30 Jesus states “28 “But what do you think? A man had two [f]sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘[g]Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Now verse 29 seems to give us a clear answer, that to repent is make a conscious decision to change from doing wrong which is sin, and doing what is right according to God. Now you might say aren’t we always regretting our sins, sure, but that doesn’t mean we’re always re-making the decision we made to turn to living for God, it means we recognize that we did make that decision and as a result we regret when we sin. The way we respond when we sin is not repentance, it’s confession, because you’ve already make that change of mind, and when you make a mistake, God will forgive you if you tell him. As 1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
So to re-track, a person must hear the gospel, then the person make the choice to either believe or not believe, and then a next person must choose to repent, which is to change their mind from a sinful lifestyle, and choose to live for God. A next necessity for salvation according to the scripture appears to be confession of Jesus as Lord and Savior, which will bring us back to Romans 10. Romans 10:9-10 states, “9 [e]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, [f]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [g]resulting in salvation.” As Paul states, it appears to be necessary to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior in order to be saved.
The next critical necessity for salvation according to the scripture is perhaps arguably the most controversial to many mainstream Christians, but it must be stated, that baptism is strongly indicated as a necessity for one gaining salvation. Now there are many challenges to this assertion, and I will address the main ones as we look to the evidence of scripture. Challenge #1: Many people will say that baptism is a work, and we’re saved by faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8). While it is true we are saved by faith and not by works, factually speaking, nowhere in the Bible does it state that Baptism is a work. Challenge #2: The Bible says we just have to believe and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior to be saved. As you’ve been reading along, I did mention that, but now we return to the point of beginning of stressing the importance of recognizing that all scripture has spiritual authority for correct doctrine, and therefore against each other. Thus it must be true as I will illustrate in scripture in a few moments, that both Belief, confession, and baptism are necessities of salvation
Challenge #3: The criminal on the cross next to Jesus was told that he would be in paradise with Him after his death, and thus is an example of someone who was not baptized and went to heaven. The problem with this presumption is that it doesn’t take into account that this was before Jesus died and rose again, and then gave the command of Baptism being apart of one’s receiving salvation, which now brings us to scripture. Jesus states Mark 16:15-16: “15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” Belief and Baptism, and being the indicative conjunction of both, are necessary to being saved according to the authority of our salvation Himself, Jesus Christ.
The fact of the matter is, in every instance of conversion throughout Acts, you will not find one case where the person did not get baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Baptism was always a part of the process of becoming saved. Now I could discuss with you many other numerous scriptures that stress the importance of Baptism for receiving salvation, but I want you to recall what we discussed about salvation being changing us from a state of being spiritually dead in our sin to a state of being spiritually made alive in Christ. If it is true that we can not be saved in our sins and outside of Christ, then these next scriptures give us a clear illustration of that. For context, Acts 22 is recalling the conversion of Saul, who became Paul, and traveled the world spreading the Gospel and also wrote half of our New Testament. Acts 22:16 states “16 Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’” Galatians 3:27 states “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
We see in both verses the illustration that we are no longer dead in our sins cause of the cleansing through baptism, and we are in Christ, because baptism has clothed us in Him, and thus made us spiritually alive. Now some may present one other challenge of how do you know it’s referring to water baptism. Well in Acts 22:16 Paul is being commanded to wash away sins, and the greek translation of the word wash is apolouō, which to wash off and way, and according Thayer’s Greek lexicon, it’s speaking of remission of sins to those who have gone down into the baptismal bath. One other example to illustrate this is the conversion of the Ethiopian. This would seem to present a clear example of how a Christian tells the Gospel to another person, and then they have to make the choice to respond to the call.
Acts 8:35-40 ” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 [[f]And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 38 And he ordered the [g]chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, [h]but went on his way rejoicing.”
In this scripture, you see the complete combination of salvation conversion in action. The eunuch heard the gospel, he believed and confessed Jesus as the Son of God, his repentance though not clearly stated is already evident in the change of his mind by choosing believe and confess, and then he was baptized by Philip, and went on his way rejoicing, because after being baptized he had just gotten saved. It seems also significant that the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away right after the Eunuch was baptized. If Philip’s job of helping the eunuch come to salvation was done before Baptism, why didn’t the Lord snatch Philip after the Eunuch believed? We can only conclude that it was because he needed to baptize the eunuch in order to complete the salvation conversion of the eunuch being changed from being spiritually dead in sin to spiritually alive in Christ.
All of this according to the scripture is how we obtain salvation, and God makes it clear he will punish those who do not obey the gospel commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thes 1:8). Still though, the journey doesn’t stop there. One must continue to remain faithful in the faith. As Heb 10:23-27 makes it clear, we’re supposed to stay committed to our faith, or risk punishment for turning away. Heb 10:23-27 states, “23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. 26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries”
It’s my prayer that this information will be read by those who need to be saved that are presently spiritually dead in their sin. God bless to all of you who took the time to read everything written here.
Phil 4:20 “Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.“