What is salvation and what must we do to be saved?
In simple terms, salvation is being saved from spending an eternity in hell, God’s punishment for our sins, including unbelief; and once saved, Christians receive eternal life as children of God. As for what we must do to be saved, all we have to do is believe on Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
While salvation is simple, it’s important to know and understand the gospel so we can be sure of our own salvation, and also so we may carry it in our hearts, able to share it with others without hesitation.
Let’s start with one of the most well-known verses in the Bible:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
John 3:16 shows the centrality of Jesus to salvation, through whose sacrifice we are washed clean of our sins, and that by believing on him we’re granted the gift of everlasting life.
As Paul refers to it throughout his epistles to the churches and the saints (the saved), here is the gospel of Christ, the everlasting gospel (with the words of Jesus in red):
The Gospel: What You Need to Know to Be Saved
The gospel is also known as the good news.
- We are all sinners
- The penalty for sin is eternal death, being cast into the great lake of fire
- Jesus was crucified, buried and rose again for our salvation
- Jesus is the only way to God
- We are saved by grace through faith, not by living a good life
- Once saved, we have eternal life and our salvation is secure
- We must put all of our faith in Jesus Christ and call upon his name to be saved
We are all sinners and the penalty for sin is death
There is no way of getting around this as it’s clear in the Bible that sin includes not only lying (something we’ve all done) but unbelief itself. The Bible reads:
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
The sins in this verse that most of us will relate to are those of fear, unbelief and lying. While they might seem to be minor transgressions to us, they are counted worthy of eternal damnation by God. And it only takes just one of these sins to be cast into the lake of fire.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10)
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (Romans 3:10)
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)
This is the “bad news” that we all need to understand. We might think we’re living a good, moral life but that’s not the same as living a sinless life. Only Jesus lived a sinless life. If we convince ourselves that we are living a sinless life, the Bible tells us we’re deceiving ourselves:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)
Romans 6:23 concisely shows both the bad and the good news: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
In addition to showing us the clear choice between death and eternal life, the above verse also tells us that we receive eternal life as a gift. This means that it’s freely given and will not be taken away; otherwise it would not be a gift but a conditional loan.
Jesus was crucified, buried and rose again for our salvation
Jesus came into this world to lay down his life for our salvation: “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:15) “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:18)
Jesus, the last sacrificial Passover lamb, shed his blood on the cross for the salvation of all of humanity. When we put all of our faith in Jesus as our Savior we are cleansed by his blood and our sins are forgiven. As saved Christians, we are born again as children of God and, thereby, are spared from his wrath.
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. (Romans 5:8-9)
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
When Jesus died he went to hell for three days and three nights, a continuation of suffering to pay for our sins.
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40)
He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. (Acts 2:31)
Jesus is THE way
Jesus is the only way to be saved, the only way to God. It is only through our faith and trust in Jesus Christ that we are saved, and it is only through him that we come to God the Father. We cannot say we have faith in God and not believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. (John 5:23)
At this point it’s good to remind ourselves of John 3:16, this time reading it in context with verses 17 and 18:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)
The consequence of believing, or not, on Jesus Christ as the Son of God is also abundantly clear in this verse, also from John 3:
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)
Saved by grace through faith
A hugely important part of the gospel is understanding that we are saved by grace through faith, that salvation has nothing to do with us being a good person or living a good life. Or even doing great works for God. Once we know and truly understand that we all come short of the glory of God, we must also realize that there’s nothing we can do as human beings in this world that will cause us to be worthy to be saved.
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)
We must take care not to be led astray by the incorrect notion of needing to “repent of our sins” in order to be saved, as repent in the Bible is always connected with reconsidering one’s previous position. When Jesus says in Mark 1:15 “repent ye, and believe the gospel” he’s talking about turning from unbelief to belief. The following passage from Matthew 7 shows that our works count for nought, and that what’s important is doing the will of the Father.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)
Some might assume that “the will of my Father” is referring to keeping the law, which is works, but read again John 3:16-18 which shows God’s will is that the world, through Jesus, might be saved. And further into the Book of John, Jesus states:
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)
Eternal security and everlasting life
Not only is salvation as simple as wholehearted faith in Jesus, it’s also eternal. This means we cannot be forsaken once we’re saved as we are children of God, the Good Shepherd’s sheep. When we are given eternal life it’s exactly that — eternal, everlasting.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)
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. (1 John 5:13)
The above verses clearly show we are given eternal life when we’re saved. In John 10:28-29 Jesus says two crucial things: that he gives his sheep eternal life and that no man is able to pluck his sheep out of his Father’s hand. Given that Jesus is both the Word (John 1:1) and the truth (John 14:6), we know that his words are true.
Knowing that we have eternal life — now, not at some point in the future — we must also understand that, while we cannot commit any sin that will cause us to lose our salvation, this is not a license to sin as God will punish us here on earth.
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (Hebrews 12:6-8)
My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. (Proverbs 3:11-12)
As saved Christians, we are children of God and He is our Father; and like any good father, God will punish his children for their transgressions. No matter what we do, God doesn’t stop being our Father and we don’t stop being his children, just as we are always our parents’ children, and they, our parents.
Call upon Jesus Christ to be saved
The Bible is very clear about what we need to do to be saved. Once we understand and believe the gospel all we need to do is call upon Jesus’ name to be saved.
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. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)
When Peter speaks of Jesus to the rulers and elders of Israel, he states unequivocally:
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:10-12)
And in Jesus’ own words, when speaking to Lazarus’ sister Martha:
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:25-26)
If we truly believe the gospel in our heart and are willing to put all of our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we can confess with our mouths by praying a simple prayer of salvation, such as the one below.
Prayer of Salvation
I know that I am a sinner.
I know I deserve to go to hell,
but I believe you were crucified, buried and rose again for my salvation.
Please forgive me of all my sin and give me the gift of eternal life.
I’m trusting only in you Lord Jesus.
Thank you for saving me.