This is undoubtedly the most important of all the questions that a person could ask in relation to his own personal life. To be “saved,” in Biblical terminology, means to be saved from sin and death and hell, and to be saved unto righteousness and heaven and everlasting life.
Salvation has past, present and future aspects: we are saved from the penalty of past sin through Christ’s atoning death on the cross, from the power of sin through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives right now, and ultimately from the very presence of sin in heaven.
This question was asked by the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30, and was forthrightly and simply answered by the Apostle Paul when he said: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Jesus Himself said: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).Thus, personal faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the victorious Savior from sin and death is the means by which salvation is received. The substitutionary death of Christ for our sins is the basis on which God is justified in saving us through faith, and this is demonstrated and guaranteed in the victorious bodily resurrection of Christ from the grave.
But the natural man is proud and tends to resist the idea that there is nothing he can do to save himself and that he must trust in Christ to do it all. Accordingly, he has invented many substitutes for this simple way of salvation, and these substitutes have led multitudes down the road to eternal destruction.
Biblical refutations of some of these false ideas about salvation are outlined below: 1. One cannot be saved simply by believing and sincerely practicing any religion he chooses. “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
2. We are not saved by keeping God’s laws, for no one can keep them perfectly. “Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).
3. No one can be saved through doing good works. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).
4. Baptism is not the means of salvation. Paul said: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:17). The gospel, by definition, is the “good news” of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection, and it is by believing the gospel, not by baptism, that men are saved (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). The thief on the cross was saved, but never baptized (Luke 23:42, 43).
5. We are not saved by joining a church. There are multitudes of unsaved church members. To the members of the church in Laodicea, for example, Christ said: “Because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). There are numerous other false ideas about salvation that are prevalent, but all of them, like the above, consist in man’s doing something which he feels will help earn his salvation.
Thus they all contribute to the upbuilding of human pride and the downgrading of God’s marvelous gift in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
It is certainly true that a person who has been genuinely saved, through faith in Christ and His work, will gladly do the above and other good works. He will follow the Lord in baptism, be a faithful church member, seek to obey God’s laws, and do works of righteousness and try sincerely to live a consistent Christian life in every way. If he refuses or neglects to do these things, there is reason to doubt the genuineness of his salvation. “And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3).
But it is extremely important to do these things with the right motive. If the unsaved man does them to earn salvation, he is deceiving himself and “frustrating the grace of God” (Galatians 2:21).The true Christian does these and other good works out of love and gratitude to the Lord Jesus for saving him. “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; … that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).