We often hear the question, “Are you saved?” What does it mean to be saved? Is heaven the reward of the saved? When are we saved? What does the Bible really teach about salvation? Many people who attend church regularly find the answers to these most important questions unclear. Let us take a look at the Bible to see what it really says.
According to the Bible, sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Also, it tells us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The wages of sin is death, according to Paul (Rom. 6:23). The sinner faces death as a result of sin. Salvation is a matter of extreme importance for everyone because man is sinful and has incurred the death penalty. Salvation is deliverance from the spiritual results of sin.
What Man Must Do
The path toward salvation has some definite steps. The first thing man must do in order to be saved is to repent. Peter said, “. . . 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 [Spirit]” (Acts 2:38). Repent means to change, to turn around and go the other way.
But, what must man repent of?
The answer: sin. Man must stop breaking the Law of God summarized by the Ten Commandments. Sin is the transgression of God’s spiritual law. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). But, to what law is John referring? “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Rom. 7:7).
What law contains the commandment not to covet?
The Ten Commandments, of course!
Notice what Paul goes on to say about the Law. “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. . . . For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:12-14). This spiritual law is the law of love. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10).
The first four commandments of this law teach us how to love God, the last six how to love our fellow man. But man cannot be justified by keeping the law; that is, the guilty past cannot be erased by law-keeping. Only the shed blood of Christ can cleanse us of our past guilt. Justification means the erasing of our guilty past. Our present obedience does not erase that past. One who is convicted of breaking a law last week, cannot remove the sentence he received by obeying the law this week. There must be a penalty exacted. So, all our law-keeping today cannot erase our guilty past. While law-keeping is required, it does not justify us. The Law of God points out sin. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). The law was never intended to justify. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom. 5:8-9).
As noted, the purpose of the law is to point out sin. It is the spiritual mirror. But the law must be kept.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (Jas. 1:22-25).
After repentance, the next step is baptism. Baptism, according to the Bible, is total immersion of the body. It symbolizes the death and burial of the old man and the resurrected new man (Rom. 6:3-6). One must first repent of sin before being baptized. He must repent of breaking the Law of God, and he must have faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ-God’s sacrifice for sin. Following true repentance and baptism, he is then granted the gift of the Holy Spirit. He is then led to live a godly life by means of the Holy Spirit. He is now in union with the will of God and is a son of God (Rom. 8:14). If he overcomes the pulls and lusts of the human flesh and endures to the end he will be saved. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
One who conforms to the above is a converted Christian. His mind has been renewed (Eph. 4:23-24). His entire direction in life has been changed. The receipt of the Holy Spirit has now made him a begotten son of God. But notice. John wrote that it doth not yet appear “what we shall be.” He did not say “where we shall go.” What this means is that salvation is not a place but a condition. It is God “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:21). Once converted, the Christian must grow spiritually (2 Pet. 3:18). “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (Rev. 2:11). “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:” (Rev. 2:26). “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev. 3:5). Then, to insure salvation, the Christian must be sure to endure to the end (Matt. 10:22; 24:13, Mark 4:17, John 6:27, 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Heb. 10:26-27).
The Concern of Every Human Being
Every human being has a concern in this matter of salvation because all have sinned. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). This means all of us. Salvation is deliverance from the results of sin. According to the Bible, what is the result of sin? “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Notice, the Bible does not say the wages of sin is everlasting life in a place called hell. It says the wages of sin is death. What is death? Death is the cessation of life. “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psa. 146:3-4). “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence” (Psa. 115:17). “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?” (Psa. 6:5).
Death is what one earns for unforgiven sins. Eternal life, the opposite of death, is not something that can be earned. Eternal life is a gift from God (Rom. 6:23). If eternal life is a gift from God, how can some believe that man is already immortal by means of an immortal soul? Souls die. “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. . . .Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4, 19-20). See also Ecclesiastes 3:19-20. Jesus stated, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). The word “immortality” is found only five times in the Bible. In Romans 2:7 we are told to seek for it. 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 states it is something we must put on. 1 Timothy 6:16 says only Christ has it, and 2 Timothy 1:10 shows that Jesus Christ brought it to light by means of the gospel. What is clear from these texts is that we do not already have immortality. Immortality-eternal life-is the gift of God.
All have sinned. The penalty for sin is death. Man does not possess immortality at birth. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh. . .” (John 3:6). Man is of the earth-earthy (1 Cor. 15:47). Physical life is the result of breathing air which is absorbed by the lungs and transferred to the veins. Cut off the oxygen supply or the blood supply and life quickly ends. Man is only a few breaths from death-the cessation of life. Man does not have the power to give himself eternal life. Only God possesses that power. Yet, eternal life cannot be earned; it is the gift of God. What human works have brought is eternal death. Eternal life comes through Jesus Christ. “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26). But man’s sins have cut him off from contact with God. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:1-2).
Man Must Seek God
The barrier of sin stands between God and man. Man must break this barrier. He must seek God. “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isa. 55:6-8). Seeking God leads to repentance-the forsaking of our way of life and turning around to do God’s way. Man must repent of sin. He must then accept the blood of Jesus Christ as the payment for his sin. Jesus never once sinned. He did not deserve the death penalty but was willing to pay for our sins by giving His life. As Creator of all things (John 1:1-3), His life was of a greater value than all human lives combined, past, present, future. For this reason, He could take upon Himself the penalty we have all incurred. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:8-10). The blood of Christ has erased our guilty past and we can now have a relationship with God. By the acceptance of His death in our place we can have a relationship with God. The penalty for our sins has now been paid. We have been pardoned and are now under grace, which is undeserved, unmerited pardon. All this did not come about by our works, but by sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Not Under the Law-What Is The Meaning?
The sinner has now repented and accepted Jesus Christ as personal Savior. He has been justified and reconciled to God, totally forgiven of his guilty past, and is under God’s grace-free unmerited pardon. There is no longer a penalty for the past breaking of God’s law. Paul writes, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1). Sin is the transgression of the law. Shall we continue to break the commandments of God because we are under grace? Notice Paul’s answer. “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:2). While under the law, that is, the penalty of the law, death has a claim. By the acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice, the repentant sinner is no longer under the law but under grace. Does that mean one is free, then, to break the law of God? Here is Paul’s answer. “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom. 6:15-16). This means that if we turn back to sin-breaking the commandments of God-we again come under the penalty of the law-eternal death! The remission of sins applies to sins that are past, not to future sins. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Rom. 3:24-25). To repeat, our justification applies to past sins, not future sins. Grace is not license to disobey the Law of God. To teach such is condemned by Jude.
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 3-4).
Men are not pardoned for murder so they can continue murdering. Neither does God pardon us so that we may continue in sin. We must obey unto righteousness (Rom. 6:16).
The Law of Love
By means of the Holy Spirit, God’s love is imparted to the repentant believer. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy [Spirit] which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5). Jesus described this Spirit as living water. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy [Spirit] was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (John 7:37-39). God’s law is a law of love. It expresses love to God and love to our fellow man. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). The spiritual law of God can be fulfilled by the spiritual love that is imparted by the Holy Spirit. Righteousness is commandment keeping. “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Psa. 119:172). The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us by the Holy Spirit, not by our own works. It is the living power of Christ in us that makes us righteous in the sight of God. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).