A Biblical Look At Salvation

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God’s Plan of Salvation

The Bible tells us what we must do to be saved and receive eternal life:

  1. Hear the Gospel (John 5:24: Acts 15:7; Romans 10:17; Revelation 3:20).
  2. Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that he came to earth and voluntarily died on the cross for the sins of all mankind.  Believe that Jesus then arose from the dead in order that we may have eternal life.  (Mark 16:16; John 3:16-18; John 8:24; John 11:25-26; John 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 1:8-9).
  3. Repent of our sins (Luke 13:3-5; Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter 3:9).
  4. Confess before others that Jesus is your Lord and Savior (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9-10; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 1:9).
  5. Be immersed in baptism (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38-41; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26-27; Titus 3:5-7; 1 Peter 3:18-22).
  6. Stand firm (live a faithful Christian life) (Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:19; 1 Timothy 4:16; Hebrews 10:36; James 1:12).
And yet, as clear as God has made the plan of salvation in His Word, there are those who, for one reason or another,would like to change it into something it is not.  Consequently, we will address some of the common myths regarding salvation.

Myth #1: All We Must Do Is Believe

Some people claim that all we must do is believe, but the Bible clearly tells us that even the demons believe in God and that Jesus is the Son of God (James 2:19).  See also Matthew 8:28-29; Mark 5:6-7; and Luke 4:33-34 for specific accounts of demon-possessed people who immediately recognized Jesus as the Son of God.

The truth is we must believe and obey.  In fact, if one truly believes, he will obey.  Where would we be if the Son hadnot obeyed the Father?  To love God means to obey Him (John 14:15; John 14:23; 1 John 2:3-6; 1 John 5:3).  The scriptures make it clear that only those who obey God receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32).  Also, in the book of Matthew, we find that Jesus tells us that we must do God’s will in order to be joint “heirs” with Jesus, and to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21; Matthew 12:50).  Therefore, we can clearly see that the Bible tells us obedience to God’s will is a necessary requirement for salvation.

The “Great Commission”
As Christians, Jesus gave us a command, commonly called the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20).  We are to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded, not just part of what He commanded. Timothy assures us that all scriptures are God-breathed, not just the ones with which we wish to agree (2 Timothy 3:16).  So if we believe in Christ, then we must also believe all of the scriptures.

Belief and the Other Requirements
Many people claim that just because John 3:16 only mentions believing, then that must be all that is required.  If that were the case, then why would other scriptures mention other requirements for salvation?  The answer is simple: Because there are other requirements for salvation other than just belief.  To illustrate this point, compare the plan of salvation in the Bible to a cake recipe.  In order to bake a cake, there are several ingredients which are required.  Most would agree that the main ingredient is flour.  (In our comparison, belief would be the “flour.”) Now, if you only have flour, do you have a cake?  No.  To make a cake, you must also have eggs, baking powder, salt, butter, sugar, and milk or water.  And so it is with God’s “recipe” for salvation.He tells us what all of the “ingredients” are.  If we want to endup with the salvation that God promises, then we must useall of the required “ingredients.”

Myth #2: We Can Pray To Be Saved

So often we hear that all we must do to be saved is to believe and pray the “sinner’s prayer.” There are problems with this “man-made” plan of salvation, though.  This theory is contrary to what the Bible teaches us; it is not found in thescriptures, nor was it practiced by the church in the first century A.D. as God’s plan of salvation.  Let’s take a look at what God says in His Word about following man’s ways instead of the ways of God (Proverbs 3:5; Proverbs 14:12; Proverbs 16:25; Isaiah 55:8-9).  We must always be very careful not to blindly follow the teachings of men.  We should diligently search the scriptures to see what God directs us to do.

Myth #3: Repenting Only Means Being Sorry; God Will Forgive Me If I Keep Sinning

Even though this concept is not usually “formally” taught, it seems to be a common misconception among many church-attending people.  But “repent” means “to change one’s mind or purpose.”  If we are truly sorry about our sins,then we will do everything in our power to keep from repeating them.  And there are at least two scriptures which should be very sobering to those who believe it is okay to continue to sin.  To sum up Hebrews 10:26-31, if we intentionally continue to sin, we are only bringing God’s judgment upon ourselves.  In addition, 1 John 5:18 tells us that true Christians do not continue to sin.

Myth #4: We Don’t Have To Confess Aloud Because God Would Not Want Anyone To Be Embarrassed

Some people teach that, as long as we confess our faith to God in prayer, then we are in good standing with our Lord.However, this teaching is in direction conflict with the scriptures.  Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew 10:32 and Mark 8:38 that we must not be ashamed to confess Him before men.  Otherwise, He will be ashamed of us and not confess to know us before God the Father.

Myth #5: Baptism is Just “An Outward Expression of An Inward Change”

Contrary to what some teach, this theory that baptism is an outward expression of an inward change cannot be backed up with scripture.  However, the Bible does clearly tell us what the purpose of baptism is—for the forgiveness of sins, to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, to live a new life,and for salvation (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:18-22; John 3:5).
 We would do well to remember Naaman in the Old Testament (2 Kings chapter 5).  Naaman had leprosy and sought help from Elisha, the prophet.  But Elisha didn’t even bother to meet with Naaman.  Instead, he sent a servant out to Naaman with the command to dip in the Jordan River seven times in order to be cleansed of his leprosy.  At first Naaman, full of pride, was angry and refused, but one of his own servants finally convinced him that he should do it.  After all, it wasn’t that much to ask in order to get rid of the leprosy, was it?  Naaman was restored to health only after he dipped in the Jordan all seven times.  Was this “an outward expression of an inward change”?  Certainly not.  If Naaman had chosen to dip in a “cleaner” river, then he would still have had leprosy.  If he had stopped after dipping only six times, he would also still have had leprosy.  Simply put, if Naaman had failed to dip in the Jordan River seven times, it would have been “an outward expression of foolishness,” for he still would have been contaminated with leprosy.  Likewise, if we fail to be obedient and follow God’s true plan of salvation as clearly given to us in the Bible, then we only have an outward expression of rebellion against God.

Myth #6: Requiring Baptism For Salvation Would Be A “Work” Which Would Nullify Grace

Many try to classify baptism as a “work” or “deed,” and they claim that Ephesians 2:8-9 eliminates the need for baptism.  However, we should note that this scripture was written by the Apostle Paul who was, himself, baptized (Acts 9:18).  We must pay close attention to exactly what this scripture is telling us.  Baptism is a command from Jesus Christ Himself.  It is not “from ourselves” as confirmed in this scripture.  Once we have heard the Gospel and we choose to follow God’s requirements of salvation (believe, repent,confess, be immersed in baptism, and stand firm), then we are simply being obedient to God and accepting His gift of grace.

Our salvation is, indeed, based upon our faith in Jesus Christ—make no mistake about that important fact.  However, as James so succinctly put it, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”(James 2:26 NIV)   If we truly believe and have faith in the sovereignty of Jesus Christ and his death, burial and resurrection as the means through which we can obtain salvation, then that same faith will lead us to accept the plan of salvation which he has so generously supplied for us.  And if we accept that plan, we will certainly strive to meet its requirements.

Myth #7: “Baptism” Doesn’t Mean “Immersion” in Water

This theory is completely contrary to what the Bible tells us.  Take a look at what it clearly says about the baptism ofJesus and also of the Ethiopian eunuch (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Acts 8:35-39).  Those scriptures make it very clear that baptism requires going down into the water and coming back up out of the water.  Even a child can understand these scriptures.  It is only the work of Satan to take scriptures which are so clear and twist or pervert them into something else.

Furthermore, to confirm the correct meaning regarding the word “baptize,” we can return to the original Greek manuscripts.  The word “baptize” found in the scriptures is translated from the Greek word “baptizo” which means literally “to dip” or “to immerse.”  While some people believe sprinkling or pouring are means just as valid as immersion, the meaning of the word baptizo excludes this line of thinking.  The Greek word for “sprinkle” is rantizo, and the Greek word for “pour” is cheo.  Thus, we can see that with Christ’s command to “baptize” believers, He clearly meant to “immerse” believers.  Otherwise, He would have used another word.

Myth #8: We Don’t Have to Be Baptized, Because The Thief on the Cross Wasn’t

The people who support the “pray to be saved” theory often use the thief on the cross as a Biblical excuse for their misdirected plan of salvation.  But let’s take a closer look at the thief on the cross.  The Biblical account is given in Luke 23:32-43.  In verse 43, Jesus told the thief he would be with him in paradise that day.  But the thief was not saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus told the thief that he would be in paradise with Him before He had fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, while He was still a man Himself.  The thief died under the old law.  If we base our salvation on the thief’s “salvation,” then the death and resurrection of Jesus was in vain!  What Jesus did for the thief at the cross before his death should be compared to the miracles Jesus performed while He was on earth.  Our salvation can only be achieved through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Myth #9: We Can Receive The Holy Spirit Without Baptism, Because The People Did On The Day Of Pentecost

Let us review the scripture which describes the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).  The Holy Spirit appeared as "tongues of fire."  This was the first arrival of the Holy Spirit after Jesus' ascension into Heaven. We should note that in Acts 2:38-39, after the first arrival of the Holy Spirit, Peter clearly told the people there that day how they could receive forgiveness and the Holy Spirit and further explained that baptism was the way for everyone, then and in the future, to do so.

Specific Conversions in the Bible
To learn more about what is required in order to receive salvation, let us look at the specific examples of conversions in the Bible.  In the New Testament, all those in the church who believed also, at the same time, repented, confessed, and were baptized.  They did not wait until later for any reason at all.  They were immediately baptized.

3,000 on the day of Pentecost.  See Acts 2:14-41 for the entire account.  But note this specific verse:

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about      three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:41 NIV)
The Samaritans.  See Acts 8:9-12 for the entire account.  But note this specific verse:
But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  (Acts 8:12 NIV)
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch.  See Acts 8:26-39 for the entire account.  But note these specific verses:
As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water.  Why shouldn't I be baptized?" And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.(Acts 8:36-38 NIV)
Saul/Paul.  See Acts 9:1-19 and Acts 22:3-16 for the entire account.  But note these specific verses:
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, (Acts 9:18 NIV)

And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name. (Acts 22:16 NIV)

In this instance, please pay special attention to the fact that Saul/Paul was not saved on the road to Damascus, as some like to teach.  He was still blind (both physically and spiritually) then.  It was not until the scales fell from his eyes (again both physically and spiritually) that he was baptized (and therefore saved).

Cornelius’ Household.  See Acts 10:44-48 for the entire account.  But note these specific verses:

"Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have."  So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of  Jesus Christ. . . . (Acts 10:47-48 NIV)
In this instance, please pay special attention to the fact that God had poured out His Spirit onto the Gentiles to show Peter and the Jewish converts that the Gentiles could and would receive salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  However, it is vital to notice that even though these people had already received the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter still ordered that they be baptized, because baptism was so important.

Lydia.  See Acts 16:11-15 for the entire account.  But note these verses:

One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.  When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us.  (Acts 16:14-15 NIV)
The Jailer.  See Acts 16:16-34 for the entire account.  But note these verses:
They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.  At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. (Acts 16:31-33 NIV)
The Corinthians.  See Acts 18:1-8 for the entire account.  But note this verse:
Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.(Acts 18:8 NIV)
The Ephesians.  See Acts 19:1-7 for the entire account.  But note this verse:
On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.(Acts 19:5 NIV)
In this instance, please pay special attention to the fact that Paul spoke to Ephesian “believers” who had not yet received the Holy Spirit.  It was only after they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus that they received the Holy Spirit.

Myth #10: Baptism Isn’t Ultimately Important, Because It is Grace Which Saves Us

This line of thinking surely has no Biblical basis, either:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized      by John.  But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"   Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.  As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:13-17 NIV)

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)

If baptism weren’t so important, then Jesus, who was sinless Himself, would have had absolutely no need to be baptized in order to “fulfill all righteousness.”  If our sinless Savior had to be baptized, then how much more we, as sinful people,need that baptism!  And if baptism were not important, then why would Jesus’ last words to us before he ascended to heaven have included a command for all of His followers to be baptized?  The answer is simple: Baptism is ultimately important as evidenced by not only Jesus’ words but also by His actions.

Myth #11: “Once Saved, Always Saved”

This theory is actually quite common among Christians today.  However, scriptures clearly expose this teaching as yet one more of Satan’s great lies.  Hebrews 2:1Hebrews 6:4-6, 2 Peter 2:20-21, and 2 Peter 3:17 show us that Christians can and do fall from grace and consequently forfeit their salvation.  Otherwise the scriptures would not warn of the importance of standing firm.  Also in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul teaches that we can, indeed, be “disqualified for the prize.”


The choice is for each of us to make.  Do we presume to be smarter than God and follow a man-made plan of salvation and hope that God will somehow overlook our pride, selfishness, ignorance, and disobedience?  Or do we accept the plan of salvation as God has given it to us in His Word, the Bible, and obey the commands of Jesus and thus obtain our goal of receiving eternal life in the presence of God?

Copyright © 1998, 1999 Timothy A. & Kimberly B. Southall.  All rights reserved.