How To Be Saved

By Larry White
May 30, 2015

 
If I had the opportunity to give an 18 minute TED talk, this would most definitely be my topic. But of course, they wouldn't allow this subject matter to be discussed, so it would have to be in a parallel universe or broadcast from a far distant planet, both previously accepted TED topics.

I received a catalog in the mail from a Bible bookstore and was looking at the different Bibles available and I was surprised to see several "versions" that I had never heard of before. I estimate there must be hundreds of different flavors of Bibles out there now, each with their own spin on presenting the text, besides the fifty or so different translations.

My opinion on the many translations is that as long as it is a "formal equivalence" of the original languages (word for word) then I can call it the word of God. The versions who try for a "dynamic equivalence" (a paraphrase) simply cannot but inject their own church's creeds into the text, like the NIV's translation of σαρχ - flesh, as "sinful nature" which is not a translation at all but the doctrine of John Calvin and is not in any way inherent in the word itself.

However, recently in the frenzy to make the Bible amenable to "the common man" as they say, some of the versions basically dumb-down the scriptures to the level of our purposely dumbed-down society that was raised on TV, video games and the Marxist controlled school system. These questionable evangelistic tools to bring the gospel to the masses are chock-full of denominational doctrine and viewpoints, and by that I mean things not found in the Bible. Several even have addendums on How to be Saved. And this is where I become incensed. The height of corrupting God's word is to ignore what he said about being saved in the text itself and then add your own way that contradicts his and sell it to the  public as "The Holy Bible".

What they usually advise for one to be saved is the following.

"We must trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and receive Him by personal invitation.

"Here is how you can receive Christ:

  • Admit your need (I am a sinner).
  • Be willing to turn from your sins (repent).
  • Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross and rose from the grave.
  • Through prayer, invite Jesus Christ to come in and control your life through the Holy Spirit. (Receive Him as Lord and Savior.)"

Then they will give people a prayer to recite:

"Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen."

This is basic Baptist doctrine right out of the big campaigns of Billy Graham and radio broadcasts of Charles Stanley. Their advice is according to a long tradition of ignoring God's word and not preaching it as he commanded. And that is a very dangerous thing to do. What they are doing is overreacting to a Catholic opinion that God takes your good deeds into account towards your salvation and therefore teaching rather, that there is nothing at all that a man can do to merit or earn his salvation, therefore they hold that baptism is not necessary and "has nothing to do with salvation" simply because they believe that baptism is a "human work of righteousness." Hence, we see their confusion and their bone-headed decision to overrule the word of God by not believing him in his word or obeying what he told us to do.

I can dispute with them until I'm blue in the face, but what they cannot dispute with is the actual word of God.

What the Bible actually says.

We have three kinds of references in the Bible about being saved. 1. What Jesus commanded. 2. What his Apostles who he appointed taught about being saved. 3. Examples of people obeying the gospel and being saved. If the Bible is true, then all of these should be consistent. 4. Then I'll deal with a few objections that are frequently heard when teaching what Jesus commanded to be saved.

1. First, what did Jesus actually command his Apostles to do and teach concerning how to be saved.

Matthew 28:18-20
"And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. Amen. "

Mark 16:15-16
"And he said unto them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to all creation. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be condemned."

Luke 24: 46-47
"And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."

Notice first, that these commands from Jesus are not limited to the Jews but apply to all nations and every creature and it was to begin at Jerusalem.

Summarizing these three accounts then, we can see that Jesus was given all authority and that he sent his disciples into the whole world, to preach the good news to every creature. The person who believes, repents, is baptized and gains remission of sins will be saved. The person who does not believe will be condemned.

These accounts of Jesus' commission to his Apostles are straight forward and clear and like every other synoptic passage in the Gospel accounts, they add to each other for a complete picture. There is only one thing that is unclear however, the mistranslation of the word Baptism which is the Greek word βαπτισμα, to dip, plunge, or immerse. Most versions will transliterate the word instead of translating it, which gives the Catholics and Lutherans a cover to sprinkle or pour water on a believer and call it "Baptism" - which it is not.

2. Second, what did his Apostles whom he appointed teach about being saved.

► What Peter taught on how to be saved:

Ten days after Jesus gave the commands, the Jews celebrated the day of Pentecost which was 50 days after the Passover and Peter preached the gospel to many Jews in Jerusalem. When their hearts were convicted that they had murdered their own Messiah, meaning that they believed what Peter was preaching, he told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:36-38 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

So Peter preached exactly what Jesus told him to preach. Something that you very seldom hear from any preacher today. Why?

Because they are holding to a doctrinal position of their Baptist denomination formulated on what John Calvin and Martin Luther taught, even when the Bible they hold in their hand says something different. But who will they follow?

► What Paul taught on how to be saved.

The Apostle Paul gets more into what it means to believe and into the why of baptism and what it means for a person being saved.

To understand the why of baptism we need to consider that when we are saved we enter into a covenant with God - the New Covenant. (Jer. 31:31)
The Messiah was given as a covenant to the people. (Isa. 49: 8) Therefore we need to be in Christ to be in a covenant relationship with God. And it is by baptism that we are immersed into Christ which makes us part of that covenant.

Gal. 3:26-29
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christís, then you are Abrahamís seed, and heirs according to the promise."

Just as circumcision was the sign of the covenant between Israel and Jehovah, we are spiritually circumcised in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh when we are baptized.

Col. 2:11-13
"In him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he has made alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses"

By Faith when we are Baptized, we die with Jesus and become one with him in his death and united with him also in his resurrection. (Rom. 6) As the above passage states, we are raised from death by our faith in the working of God. So this is one of the things Paul says in which we should put our faith. The working of God that we have faith in is that he is forgiving us all our trespasses and is making us spiritually alive in Christ Jesus when we are baptized. Read the above passage again. That is what Paul is saying.

The working of God in the original language is his effectual power, his energetic action. This is referring to His power to forgive our sins and to make us spiritually alive in Jesus. Paul calls it "the power of his resurrection" in Phil. 3:10.

We are spiritually alive because when we are baptized God gives to us the gift of the Holy Spirit who communicates that life to us in the name of Jesus. (Acts 2:38-39; 2Cor. 3:6)

This quickening by the Holy Spirit is what it means to be born of the Spirit. When we are baptized we are born of the water and the spirit and we enter the kingdom of God. (Jno. 3: 5) We are regenerated.

Baptism is not a work of righteousness for it's own sake. Standing alone it has no significance, it's not our work. It is God's work. By faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the immersion to which we submit becomes the moment that God saves us. [more on this point shortly under Objections below]

Titus 3:5-6
"... not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,"

We must admit that salvation is had through this washing and renewing. The washing of regeneration is obviously different words for the washing of the new birth -  being born of water. The renewing of the Holy Spirit is being born of the Spirit. (John chapter 3)

Therefore, Jno. 3:5; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6; Col. 2:12-13; and Tit. 3:5-6 all agree together and tell us that Baptism is essential. It is where and when we have saving faith in Jesus Christ and God the father who raised him from the dead.

Paul the apostle, when relating his conversion experience, told of a disciple of Jesus named Ananias who told him to stop delaying and to get up and be baptized, washing his sins away and calling on or invoking the name of the Lord. Which is again what Peter commanded in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 22:16 and Acts 2:38)

So we are saved by faith alone when we are baptized for the remission of our sins, and it is not by any works of righteousness which we have done.

I'll ask my Baptist friends what did you believe when you were baptized? If you didn't believe that God was forgiving all your sins, that he was washing them away in the blood of Christ by his death in which you were being plunged, and that God was making you spiritually alive with Jesus in his resurrection when you were raised up out of the watery grave with him -- then you didn't believe God.

You believed some "pastor" who told you that it was a powerless ceremony, a religious "rite" that has nothing to do with your salvation; it's your testimony to other people, they say. When in reality it is the time and place where according to your faith, God cleanses you of your sins, and by his power regenerates you to a new spiritual life and clothes you with Jesus making you his son, his child in covenant relationship with him in his Kingdom, the offspring of Abraham and heir of the promise.

Galatians 3:26-29
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christís, then you are Abrahamís seed, and heirs according to the promise.

3. Examples of people obeying the gospel and being saved.

Thirdly we need to look at what people actually did to be saved in the Bible. The book of Acts is filled with people being saved. From all walks of life and circumstances; from a royal treasurer to a lowly Roman soldier guarding a prison cell, all of them, both Jew and Gentile, had to come to Jesus the same way. There is no preferential treatment, no respect of persons with God. While the accounts are sometimes abbreviated, the essential elements are always there - Belief in Jesus, Repentance, and Baptism for the remission of sins.

Some of the best illustrations that I have seen are charts showing each account of what people did when they were saved in the book of Acts. This is very instructive because everyone in the Bible came to Christ the same way. Why in the world would it be any different today?

When I first heard the Gospel, I searched very thoroughly the scriptures in charts like these and looked up all the verses and read them in the context of their chapters myself. When I was satisfied that I was hearing the truth, I put my trust in Jesus and then did what he said, submitting myself to his will believing his word - having faith in God's power to save me and to give me a new life.



We have already briefly reviewed Paul's example in his salvation in Acts 22 where he certainly believed after Jesus appeared and spoke to him. But he still needed to come to Jesus Christ the same way that every other Christian comes to be born again. Ananias was told by Jesus to go to Paul and heal him of his blindness and tell him about Jesus. He then is commanded to wash away his sins by being baptized. Why was this washing necessary if he already believed in Jesus? Because even though he believed and repented and actually saw Jesus, he was still in his sins and needed the same cleansing in the blood of Jesus that every other Christian has gone through. He needed to be baptized for the remission of his sins, just as Peter had preached several years before to his other countrymen.


Objections:

"Water baptism, no matter how you slice it, is a religious work. If water baptism is the basis of our regeneration, then it is a work of our righteousness or a righteous act produced by us."

Baptism is commanded by God to be saved - and you're going to argue with that? Anyone who ignores men and listens to God will not hesitate to be immersed. The basis of our regeneration is faith in the working of God's power when we are baptized. (Col. 2:12-13) It is totally by faith.

We don't wash our own sins away. We are not deserving of salvation by submitting to baptism. It is only by God's grace. We don't baptize ourselves. We are trusting in God and in his way of salvation and following him into the grave with Jesus and being raised up along with him to a resurrected life of holiness and power. That is what happens in baptism. We are immersed into Christ.

You can read my full answer to this objection to baptism, Here and Here


"Baptism is not a step to salvation but it is a testimony that one has already received Christ Jesus as Savior."

That idea or teaching is not in the Bible. This man takes away the step of baptism that God commanded and then adds his own step of "receiving Jesus" that God did not command. To receive Christ in John 1:12 means to accept his teaching with a view to following his commands and do just what Jesus and the Apostles tell him to do to be saved and be born of God.

You are accepting Jesus as the person he says he is, which is belief. "And as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become sons of God, even to those who believe on his name." In this passage you have to consider the time and audience in the context. John is talking about Jews before Jesus was crucified. The passage does not say that those who received him became sons of God, but that Jesus gave them the right to do so, which would include believing on his name and following his commands. And this would of course be after he had died for them on the cross. Those who continued in his word, listened to Peter on the day of Pentecost and believed the gospel message, repented of their sin of rejecting their Messiah and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38-39)


"In Mk.16:16,  Jesus didn't say, 'but he who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned.'  this is reading something into the passage that is not there. So why should baptism be essential for salvation?"

The person who does not believe the words of Jesus will not be baptized for the remission of sins. The person who does not teach or preach the words of Jesus will not be baptized for the remission of sins. The person who joins a church that teaches something different than the words of Jesus will not be baptized for the remission of sins. Jesus didn't have to say it - it goes without saying.

"He that believes and is baptized will be saved. He that does not believe will be condemned."

Compare it with these conditional statements:

He that comes to the United States and takes the oath of citizenship will become an American. But he that does not come to the United States will remain a foreigner.

He that comes to my dinner party and opens a gift will have a pleasant surprise. But he that does not come to my party will be left out.

He that opens a bottle of water and drinks of it will be refreshed. But he that does not open the bottle of water will remain thirsty.

Will a person who does NOT believe in Jesus be baptized for the remission of sins? Of course not.


For some reason we Americans like things to be categorically listed. So, according to the Scriptures, what are the steps in how to be saved?

1. Learn about God. Learn from him. Jesus said, "Everyone who listens to the father and learns from him comes to me." (Jno. 6:45) So read God's word.

2. Believe in him. Have faith in God. Trust him. If you are sincerely searching for him and reading his word, he will be with you and guide you to the truth and will not let you down.

3. Repent. Change your mind about rejecting Jesus to one of accepting him. Therefore change your mind about how you have lived and start living the way God would have you live.

4. Confess your faith in Jesus Christ before men and continue professing it all your life. (Rom. 10:8-10; Acts 8:35-40)

5. In faith, be baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins calling on his name, which is to be immersed in water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is when God forgives your sins, washing them away as you are buried with Jesus and then are raised to a new spiritual life with him just as he himself came out of the tomb. That is when God gives you the Holy Spirit to sanctify you and help you from then on with your struggles against sin.

Miscellaneous Questions about Baptism:

Where, does not matter. No man can live where there is not enough water to be baptized. So that is not an issue for you. You can have faith in God anywhere.

By whom, does not matter. However, I doubt that you will be able to find someone willing to immerse you in water for the remission of your sins except a Christian in Christ's church, or a church of Christ who obeys Jesus and teaches what He commanded.

How, is not a matter for discussion. Baptism is immersion; to dip, to plunge, to immerse. That's what it means. If you were not immersed, then you were not baptized - it didn't happen.

Don't let this be a stumbling block for your faith in God. Remember Naaman the leper in 2Kings 5:1-19.

I think most people can make an application to Baptism easy enough. Naaman's way of healing that he expected was not the way God works. It was not the water of the Jordan that healed the leprosy, but it was God in answer to obedient faith. Does water wash away sins? No, God does in the blood of his son when someone with an obedient faith takes him at his word and trusts him enough to do what he says. Baptism is where we are buried with Jesus and united with him in his death and that is where his blood washes our sins away; (Rev. 1:5 ) washed in the blood of the lamb. We do not have faith in our own working or deeds, and we do not put faith in what men say about how to be saved, but we put faith in the working of God which he does when we are baptized for the remission of sins, which is to forgive us all our trespasses and make us alive in Jesus.

Why, is the question we have covered in this article. To be born again by faith - a spiritual rebirth to everlasting life.

LW

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