First of all, we need to limit ourselves to the Scriptures. We can neither leave out anything the Scripture includes, nor can we minimize it, nor can we add things the Scriptures do not include in salvation. Here I will try to justify each point of these points. Note that I do not explain or mean each sub point with each person I witness to. Depending on their background and how God leads me with that person I focus on certain aspects and leave others alone. For Catholics, works salvation and not believing in Mary are important. For Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses the deity of Christ and works salvation are key elements. Others bring in other aspects.
I. Recognition that you are a sinner.
- Luke 5:31 They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick
Very simply here, there has to be some recognition by the person that he needs salvation and a Savior. Without this, there is no real need for him to get saved, (there is, but he won’t accept it). There are camps (Hyles for one) that emphasis that sin should not be dealt with when witnessing except in a general, broad, non-specific aspect. The problem with this is that Jesus always seemed to discern the person’s sin and directly confront them with the fact that they are a sinned, and their sin.
In Mark 10:17-23, Jesus confronted the rich young ruler with his sin of avarice, and Jesus let him go with the distinct conclusion that he could not be saved without dealing with and surrendering his sin of coveting riches. This would support the need of including recognition of and dealing with (repentance) of sin, especially life dominating sins before salvation occurs.
Every person has sinned and is a sinner.
- Acts 10:34 God is no respecter of Persons
- James 2:10 keep whole law, but offend in one point is guilty of all
- Gal. 3:11 no man is justified by the law in the sight of God.
These three verses state that God will not accept your person (Acts 10:34) so noble people or special people get the same treatment as anybody else. James 2:10 places a person in a position of realizing that besides the fact that nobody can keep the law of God, even if by some miracle you could, breaking one single point of the law makes you a sinner destined for hell. Galatians 3:11 states that justice (doing what is right) does not make a man just before God. A just man will do justice, but the basis of why he is just lies outside of his works of justice.
Example – A rich benefactor of a city commits a crime of murder and it is video taped. All of his charity works are not even considered in the least in his case. The only consideration is whether he committed a single crime or not. This makes him a criminal and places him under the condemnation of the court.
- Rom. 3:9 all are under sin, no one is righteous.
- Rom. 3:12 none doeth good, no, not one.
- Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned, and come short.
These verses simply state the fact that all are sinners. We can add the following also.
- 1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
We are all under the condemnation of God for our sins.
- Eccl. 7:20 there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not.
- Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
No second chance at salvation after death, no purgatory, no reincarnation.
There is no escape from hell and your destiny once sealed by death.
- Ecclesiastes 7:20 is the most direct statement I could find stating that nobody does good, nobody is just, and nobody is without sin.
Hebrews 9:27 is a key verse for me because I deal with a lot of Catholics and some Mormons. The point is that there is a finality in death, and after that, you get no more chances. Your destiny is sealed. With Catholics, there is a mistaken belief that they can get out of purgatory by time or by activities of people back on earth. There is no second chance, and there is no “eternal cycle.” Mormons believe that all good Mormons become gods in a new universe, and their spiritual children become a “Jesus” (good son) and “Satan” (a bad son) and the rest become angels. The Hindus and other oriental religions believe in reincarnation that also is based on an “eternal cycle” of things, whereby a person returns to get a second chance at things. This verse breaks this dead in its tracks.
The consequence of sin is death.
- Rom. 6:23 wages of sin is death.
- Rom. 5:12 death enter by sin, and so death was passed upon all men for all sin.
The issue facing all humanity is the consequence of their sins, which is eternal death, which is to live forever in pain, torment, and suffering in hell.
Summary: Simply put, the person who refused to admit he has a problem will never get God’s help in solving it. Recognition of your sinful state is a first step towards salvation. This in itself does not save you, but without it, you will have a hard time coming to the point of asking God to do anything about your salvation.
II. Repentance – a moral change of attitude about your sins.
Repentance is moral remorse for what you have done wrong. It is not just feeling bad about sin, but feeling so bad that you change your disposition towards sin to reject it, dislike it, and assign a moral value of bad (“disagreeable to you”) on it.
- Acts 17:30 God now commands all men everywhere to repent.
- Psalm 34:18 Lord is near the broken hearted and those of a contrite spirit.
- Luke 13:5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Let be as clear as we can about this. Sin is the problem, and Jesus Christ is the answer. Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, but not everybody is saved, only those who appropriate His work to their particular life is saved. Jesus died to take away sin (1 John 3:5).
What repentance is not – Some people think of repentance as going forward at the conclusion of a church service and praying or crying on a mourner’s bench. There may be repentance involved in this, but this is not repentance in itself. God offers the sinner a simple choice, A or anything else. A is salvation, and if you choose anything else, you are not saved. Now we think in our own minds that we are on a righteous path to heaven before we are truly saved. Some people have lives so habituated with sin (and grievous sin at that) they understand clearly that they are on the path to hell. But true salvation means giving up (surrendering) your ideas of what is right and what will get you to heaven in order to accept God’s declarations on the issue.
What is Repentance – We can define repentance as accepting or choosing God’s will over our own will. We become submissive to what is God’s will. That is what saves us. Involved in repentance is an emotion, remorse over your sins. This is when you realize that sin is bad, and your sins caused the death of Christ. This is when you open the door to the Holy Spirit so that God can clean up your life of your sins on an actual daily level, as well as salvation.
Why is repentance necessary for salvation? – The easy-believism crowd will want to debate the necessity of placing repentance before salvation and in the plan of salvation. Jesus dealt with people on the basis of their sins, and their willingness to give up their sins in order to gain heaven. This is seen for example in the case of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17ff). The man was righteous after a fashion, but Jesus dealt with him on the basis of his sin. When he touched the life dominating sin of this man, Jesus gave him the solution, get rid of it. The man preferred his sin to God’s salvation, and he left Jesus unsaved. We need to understand that if we deal with people about their need for salvation and we do not make it clear that sin is the problem, and if they want God’s solution which is the only real solution, then God will clean their lives of their sins here on earth (sanctification) and they must take this goal seriously on their part, or else then we are giving them a false gospel.
Some may argue that only God can cause a person to leave off sinning. This is true. But God presents a pretty consist viewpoint that God works with and through our will. God never forces us to do something against our will. God rather presents God’s will in the matter, then He reveals our failure to comply with God’s will, and God waits for us to voluntarily of our own free will decide to obey God’s will. God gives the power to do His will, but our willingness is what God will not overcome by force. God changes our “willingness” or our heart by the power of the word of God. That is why being under the preaching and exposition of God’s word is absolutely essential for our Christian lives.
III. Believe and receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.
Salvation is by grace (a free gift) through the means of faith.
- Titus 3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy.
- Eph 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
This is the “centerpiece” of salvation. We are saved by grace through faith. Let’s define these terms to start with. Grace comes from the root gift. It means something that is given freely, without compulsion on the giver’s part to do so. This is like giving somebody a birthday gift when in reality you don’t have to do so, and you would not be thought of poorly if you didn’t. Grace is not buying it or trading or swapping something for the thing. Anything that you can do to obligate the giver to give the gift changes grace from freely to a business transaction.
Faith is a noun form of the word to believe. It means to treat something that is unseen, or intangible to you at the moment as if it were true, real, and definite. When you believe something, you make it personal. If you are a civil engineer inspecting buildings for damage after an earthquake, and you declare that a building is about to fall down any second, you do not really believe it if you do not change your life. If you pull out your lunch and decide to eat it in the basement of that building, you have no real faith in what you are declaring, but rather you are a hypocrite.
Faith is the means or instrument through which we are saved. It is the only thing that we can “do” to be saved. But faith in not a “do” thing, it is a treat as real thing. Hebrews 11 speaks of faith as something that the great heroes of faith had, but the things they never actually obtained in all cases the things they had faith in. It was a hope for something that they believe is true and real, even though they themselves may not see it come to pass in their live time on earth.
Salvation without works – Most all other religions on earth has some form of salvation by works. You do things in order to get saved. In true Christianity, our salvation is already done and sealed, finished, and there is nothing more to do to obtain it. If you believe this (treat it as a reality in your own thinking and life), you have faith, and you are saved. If you doubt this, you have no faith and you are not saved.
Jesus is God.
- Mateo 1:23 his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
One of the key doctrines of salvation rotates around the Savior, Jesus. We are saved because we accept in faith what God declares, and this is especially important when we deal with points relating to salvation. We accept that God sent a Savior to die for our sins, just as the Old Testament symbolism of an innocent lamb without blemish or spot had to die for the sins of who offered it. Jesus was that innocent lamb who died to provide salvation.
This makes Jesus unique, or in biblical terms “only-begotten”. No other person can be like Jesus in this respect. Part of Jesus’ uniqueness is that he embodies a dual nature, completely God, and completely man. He is God incarnate. Religions which detract from Jesus places Jesus in a more common category, and they are not saved when they remove him from his uniqueness. Jehovah’s Witness’ for example want to remove him from being God to being a god among many “gods”. They confuse themselves with this (because they deny the Trinity which is clearly taught in Scripture).
Jesus is the sacrifice in your place.
- Heb. 9:22 without shedding of blood is no remission.
- 1 Pet. 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree
- 1 Pet. 1:18-19 We were redeemed with the blood of Christ
- 2 Cor. 5:21 he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
A key element in the work of Jesus is that Jesus’ suffering and death was a substitutionary. By this we mean that Jesus suffering and died in your place. Once a criminal has suffered for his crimes, and if this means the death penalty, he cannot further be chastised for them. A man that worked on high power lines killed another man. He was caught and sentenced to the electric chair. He was electrocuted in the electric chair. But this man had often been struck by high tension currents in the course of his job. He literally died. The doctor examined him and pronounced him dead. He wrote out his death certificate. But shortly after he was taken away, he revived by himself. The case went to the supreme court, and the decision was that once a man had suffered the penalty, he cannot be further pressed for more chastisement than what the original court ordered. He was let free.
The issue here is that if the payment has been paid, and justice has been served, and penalty has been excised and fulfilled, then there can be no more suffered or penalty. Jesus did this for you, so having completed what the judge demanded, there can be therefore no more condemnation (Romans 8:1).
Jesus is the only Savior.
- Isaiah 43:11 I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior.
- 1 Tim. 2:5 there is one God, one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
- Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
- Luke 2:11 born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Here we must understand again the uniqueness of Jesus as the only Savior that there is. We do not see even God the Father or God the Holy Spirit entering into this as being the Savior. Jesus is the Savior, and Father and Holy Spirit direct all seekers to Jesus.
Roman Catholics look to Mary and the saints, even the Catholic Church, as being intermediaries. We can be intercessors for the unsaved, praying for them and carrying to them the gospel, but we are not intermediaries like Christ is. The issue here is that Jesus is the key between God and man so that man can obtain salvation.
Note that for the Jehovah’s Witness, Isaiah 43:11 says Jehovah (“LORD”) is the only Savior, and 1 Timothy 2:5 says that Jesus is the only mediator. (Luke 2:11 clearly calls Jesus the Savior.) Therefore Jesus is Jehovah, which is the point over which they stumble, and that is why they are not saved.
- 1 John 5:11 God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
- John 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
- John 3:3 Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
- John 1:12 But as many as received him… that believe on his name:
Here we return to the uniqueness of Jesus as the Savior. You must have Jesus, or you are not saved. Having Jesus is the process of believing in him, and receiving him (accepting him as your personal savior). This is the “nitty gritty” of salvation. Having Jesus, you have God’s salvation. If you do not have Jesus, you are not saved. “Having” means having a Savior-redeemed relation with Jesus.
IV. Public Confession of Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.
Rom 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
- Mat 10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
These two verses bring out an important point for every Christian. First of all, faith means treating something as if it is real. The importance of “really being saved” is something that should overwhelm us. It is something that we should announce to anybody and everybody. The person who wishes to be saved, believes Jesus as his Lord (the person who commands in his life) but refuses to make that public, refuses to confess publicly Christ, this person is not yet saved. He may be at the door of salvation, but according to these verses, his “faith” is not fully “arrived” or materialized yet. Faith means you affirm something such that you take the risk of being wrong, but you declare it anyway.
I usually make the clarification here that public confession takes many different forms. The first and most obvious form is to simply say that Jesus is your savior when somebody asks you, or there is a proper opportunity to do so. This should be the response that every Christian is prepared to give as to why they are different, or their hope for eternal life instead of eternal death.
But that is not where this ends. God has instituted a ceremony of public confession of Christ which is water baptism. This was different from John’s baptism (which was repentance or remorse over sin) and the Old Testament ceremonial cleansing (usually reserved for priests or other special cases). That is why God uses the formula of confessing Jesus Christ (Jesus is the Christ, or the special anointed one God has chosen to be the Savior).
Once we get this firmly in our understanding, verses like Acts 2:38, 41 22:16 cease to become problems.
- Acts 2:38 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. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
- Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
The act of water baptism is an outward profession of Christ as your savior. While it is not necessary to be baptized to be saved (the thief on the cross was not baptized), it is the standard way that God has given us for beginning our Christian life. We need to be clear here, water baptism does not save anybody. But public confession of Christ is the point of being saved. The requirement for water baptism is saving faith in Jesus as your Savior, the Christ. Philip made the requirement for the Ethiopian Eunuch, saving faith. He believed already before baptism that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (a “son” has the same essence and nature as his father, so this is really an affirmation of the deity of Jesus). The Eunuch publicly confesses Christ to Philip, so he was already saved before he was baptized.
- Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
This is another verse that is cleared up when we understand this issue. The person who is saved, is saved because of his believing (faith) and being baptized. But the person who does not believe, is condemned to hell. Nobody is in hell for not being baptized, because it is simply an announce of your faith. It is like baby announcements. Nobody sends baby announcements out if they are not pregnant. What a silly thing to do? They get sent out because of an event that happened (past tense), and only because of that event. Baptism is the announcement of that event.
We should not leave it there either. Our confession of Christ extends to our identification as one of the redeemed of God, and this is seen by the local church. The person who is saved confesses Christ when he attends, participates, and becomes a member of a local group of redeemed that “congregate” for the express purpose of identifying themselves as the “redeemed of God” and for the purpose of doing the will of God and the work of God. This is a local church.
Let me put it another way, when your brethren, the redeemed, meet every Sunday morning to do the work of God, and you always go out playing golf, what do those who see you playing golf understand. “Why aren’t you with your ‘brethren’?” they ask. It is hard for you to claim you are “one of them” when you refuse to associate yourself with them, or join in with them.
- 1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
- 1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
- 1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
God gives us a test to know we are saved, and this test is that we love the brethren, those who are redeemed with us. How can you possibly confess Christ without having an intimate relationship with the redeemed in your community? It would seem to be directly in contradiction to what God teaches us here.