The human race, as represented by Adam and Eve, rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden resulting in all humanity becoming sinners and separated from Him (Gen 3:11-13; Isa 59:2). The penalty for sin is spiritual death, described as eternal torment, however salvation is promised to all who genuinely call on the name of the Lord and walk in relationship with Him being spared this outcome (Ezek 18:20; Rom 2:6-8, 5:12, 6:23, 10:13; 1 Jn 5:11; Rev 21:8).
The Bible is clear, Jesus Christ is the only way out of this dilemma for there is no other means of reaching heaven in spite of the popular concept that there are many ways to God but these are counterfeit beliefs that will end in eternal regret (Isa 43:11; Jn 3:17, 5:40, 14:6; Act 4:12).
A variety of terms are used to describe salvation such as being born-again, saved, receiving or accepting Jesus into one’s life, becoming a Christian or a child of God or being converted. In essence they all refer to being saved from spiritual punishment (through repentance), restoring what was lost and receiving the spiritual blessings that Christ offers (Jn 3:36; Rom 5:9,19; 2 Pet 1:3; 1 Jn 3:8). Even our perceived righteousness is ‘as filthy rags’, yet He won’t turn anyone away who genuinely repents and only He has the ability to make the vilest sinner clean (Isa 64:6; Jn 6:37; Act 2:21; 1 Tim 1:15,16).
Am I truly centred on Christ as the ‘author’ of salvation?
His righteousness in the place of our sin and its punishment (2 Cor 5:21). Although God wants all people to be saved, not everyone will accept this loving offer enabling them to pass from death to life for without being born-again no-one can reach heaven (Jn 3:3,15,16, 5:24; Rom 1:16; 1 Tim 2:4). It is all-inclusive (whoever will), yet also exclusive (whoever does not believe), with each person freely choosing for themselves which category they are in (Josh 24:15; Jn 3:18). The decision to follow Christ must be made before we die, and as we don’t know when our last breath might be, it is a foolish choice to procrastinate on such a vital matter (2 Cor 6:2; Heb 9:27). The Scriptures show humanity’s plight because of sin, but also the remedy, faith in Jesus Christ, that the spiritually wise will follow (2 Tim 3:15).
A radical transformation
Receiving salvation requires humility – to accept this gift of God that cannot be earned through our efforts. It will also cost us our
personal desires and rights, summed up as death to self by ‘taking up our cross’ (Mt 16:24-26;
Jn 7:37; Eph 2:8,9; 2 Tim 1:9; Tit 3:5,6; Jas 2:17; Rev 22:17). Living the way God desires us to live, does not earn
our way into heaven, but it shows our commitment to God is real. Godly conduct is not a substitute for, but a verification of our faith in Christ.
Salvation should radically affect every part of us as our allegiance changes from Satan to God, turning in repentance from sin to following Christ, confessing our faith and obedience and so becoming new creations in Christ (Rom 6:4,16-18, 10:9,10; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:15,16, 6:15). A subsequent desire for water baptism can indicate the change within, which will also be revealed in the ‘fruit’ of this new life (Mt 3:8, 7:20-23; Gal 5:22,23; 2 Tim 2:19).
It's NOT about the good balancing out the bad
Through proactive co-operation our lives and words should confirm the continuing transformation, because of the ongoing relationship we have with Jesus, the life giver, who we should love more than anything else, which is in total contrast to those who are under the world’s control (Mk 12:30; Eph 2:2; Phil 1:6, 3:12; 1 Thes 4:11,12; 2 Tim 3:1-5; 1 Pet 2:12-15).
Though all believers will receive the same pardon from sin and entry into heaven, there will be rewards for those who have faithfully outworked the life of Jesus over many years, as contrasted to death bed decisions (Mt 20:1-15; Lk 23:43).
Jesus is the only way to heaven – John 14:6
people to ‘allow Jesus to enter your life and take control’ must be preceded with a clear explanation of sin and its penalty, the payment Jesus made, the reality of His resurrection, and the vital necessity of repentance, the turning from sin to live a different life (Mt 4:17; Lk 13:5; Act 3:19, 17:30; Eph 2:2, 4:22-24). The answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” is best summed up as “Repent and believe” (Mk 1:15; Act 16:30,31). The sinner’s prayer has become a typical evangelistic tool, yet there must be more than repeating a ‘formula’ to save a person. There must be a repentant and humble confession of sin, a believing that Jesus took my punishment and acceptance of His pardon, resulting in a change of attitude confirmed by a renewed lifestyle.
It is our responsibility to witness and challenge people to follow Christ yet it is the Holy Spirit who draws them to repentance (Mt 28:19,20; Jn 6:44). Believing is not just giving mental assent to certain facts as being true, (although the devils believe, they are not saved). Rather it is trusting Jesus as your Saviour, accepting His forgiveness and maintaining an ongoing personal relationship with Him expressed through a changed lifestyle (Lk 19:1-10; Jn 17:3; Eph 2:5; Jas 2:19).
While many people are yet to hear about Jesus’ offer of salvation, within each person is an awareness of Him and His demands, so if they die before receiving a fuller presentation their response to that knowledge is what they will be judged by, with the Lord judging accurately and fairly (Deut 32:4; Jn 5:30; Rom 1:18-20; Rev 16:7). We should always be thankful of being a recipient of the mercy and grace of God, by not receiving the hell we deserve, instead being given the heaven we don’t deserve (Lk 10:20).
Our salvation spans the past, present and future with each aspect dependent on God’s love and power to bring it into reality.
In the past tense we were saved. At conversion by belief in Jesus we are redeemed and forgiven with the Holy Spirit witnessing with our spirit we are a child of God through our acknowledgement and repentance of sin (Jn 1:12; Rom 8:16).
In the present we are being saved. Salvation is not just an initial experience but an ongoing experience, living a righteous life, (with the Holy Spirit’s help), denying ungodly desires and doing good works out of love for Him (1 Cor 1:18; Phil 2:12,13).
In the future we will be saved. The completion of our salvation will take place when Christ gathers the true believers to be with Him for evermore and we are fully conformed to His image (Rom 8:29, 13:11; Eph 1:13,14; Phil 1:6, 3:21; 2 Thes 2:13; Heb 9:28).
Christ's sacrifice not only made provision for us to experience eternal life but provided many additional blessings in this life as part of the divine exchange. As children of God we can know His comfort, guidance, deliverance from tormenting evil spirits and physical healing. Through a lack of understanding of Scripture many believers are unaware of the resources that are ours by right because we are now redeemed property, no longer under the domination of Satan.
Although we can't earn salvation by our efforts or good works we must choose to meet His conditions to receive it and maintain it. In respect to our being saved it is our responsibility is to believe and receive Christ as Saviour in order to be saved (Jn 3:16; Rom 10:9,10). After becoming a Christian it is our obligation to walk in His ways and share the gospel with others (Mt 28:18-20; Act 1:8).
Many children, in sincerity of heart, make a decision to follow Christ but later fall away from the faith and live in ways contrary to the teachings of the Bible. While only “The Lord knows those who are His” we are instructed to “Depart from iniquity…and make every effort to enter”, with this being our responsibility to ensure we are genuinely on the way to heaven, for not all who claim to be Christian actually are (Mt 7:21; Lk 13:24; 2 Tim 2:19; 2 Pet 1:5-11, 3:14).
The once saved, always saved and cheap gospel beliefs are seriously flawed teachings as they advocate a person’s salvation is secure regardless of their subsequent ongoing lifestyle, whereas Christ’s criterion is evidence-based – a new, righteous life must be replacing the old evil nature (Mt 19:17; Rom 6:22, 8:29, 12:2; Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:5-10; Heb 5:9, 12:14; 1 Pet 1:14). We must not presume on God’s grace but rather ‘make our election and calling sure’ by co-operating with God, diligently applying ourselves to outwork the Word of God (1 Cor 9:27; Phil 3:12-14; Col 1:10; 1 Thes 4:1; 2 Pet 1:10). This aspect of salvation is addressed under the listing eternal security.
The assurance of salvation is not based on fluctuating emotions but on the promises of Scripture, with God setting His seal of ownership on us and having the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Our obedience to His commands is a proof we are His (Rom 8:16; 2 Cor 1:21,22; 1 Jn 2:3, 3:24).
Universalism is a false concept that all people will be saved.
The gospel is the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the
forgiveness of our sin (1 Cor 15:3,4). Prior to salvation a person should understand what sin is and its serious penalty, the payment Christ
made on the cross, and the reality of Christ’s resurrection. A proper response to the gospel message is: believe (Jn 3:16; Act 16:31),
repent (Act 3:19), and receive (Jn 1:12). It is important there is a correct understanding of the terms. Believe is more than
the intellectual agreeing that certian facts are true, it is a trust and relying on those true facts. Repent is to turn from the
previous selfish sinful lifestyle to living a life allowing the Lord to take control, walking in newness of life (Rom 6:4). This major
aspect is seldom addressed adequately. It is not acceptable with God to say, "I'm sorry' and continue to do the same sinful thing
without a second thought. Rather than an emotional display true repentance is shown by actions, with the fruit or evidence revealed in
ongoing lifestyle choices (Mt 3:8). Receive is another active decision to accept the gift of eternal life by faith. Although we
are born with the capacity to be children of God it requires a definite choice and corresponding action to pass from death to life (Jn
5:24; Rom 6:23).
By wholeheartedly believing, repenting and receiving a person enters the Kingdom of God – with sins forgiven (Isa 43:25; Heb 8:12, 10:17), the Holy Spirit taking up residence in their heart (1 Cor 6:19; Eph 1:13) and their name written in the book of life (Lk 10:20; Rev 21:27).
Salvation is not about believing a list of facts. Rather it is about trusting in Jesus as your Saviour, receiving the forgiveness He offers by grace through faith. Salvation is about being made new through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit (Tit 3:5).
As children of God we are to walk in a manner of life that is consistent with His Kingdom. Our love for Jesus is displayed by obedience to Him (Jn 14:15,23). However, we often fail to live up to those standards. This requires us to confess to God those specific or identifiable sins, which the Bible declares He will forgive (1 Jn 1:9). Our confession is needed before forgiveness is granted and close fellowship with Him restored.
The final outworking of salvation is when we are ushered into heaven – our eternal home where God, our Saviour and all who have been redeemed by His blood will live.
See also: accept/acceptance, apostasy, assurance, backslide, belief, born-again, cheap gospel, chosen, Christian, confession, conversion, cross, discipleship, divine exchange, election, eternal damnation, eternal life, eternal security, faith, follow up, forgiveness, gospel, grace, Holy Spirit, mercy, predestination, redeem, repentance, saviour, self-examination, sin/sinner, sinners prayer, sovereignty of God, universalism.