In the deep South, in most churches, people talk about being “saved.” But, when you ask them what they mean by that, the answers vary—sometimes quite radically. Some groups say you must be baptized by them and join their church to be saved. Others claim that you must walk down an aisle. Still others say things like “take Jesus into your heart and He will save you.” What is it to be saved, and how does the Bible say that you can be?
The biblical usage of the word translated “saved” is precisely the same as ours. A newspaper headline that reads “Child Saved From Drowning,” means he was rescued. To be saved is to be rescued—rescued from sin and its consequences. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (that’s what Romans 3:23 has to say about everyone, including you). When God saves someone He rescues him from the penalty of sin, which is eternal punishment in hell. He also gradually rescues him from the power of sin in this life. And, ultimately, He rescues him from the very presence of sin by taking him to heaven. That is what it means to be saved.
But, it is of the greatest importance to know how to be saved. About this matter, as I have already indicated, there is no unanimity. What does the Bible say?
In Acts 16:31, in response to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved and your house.” Salvation is received by faith. When Scripture says that you must believe “on” (or “in,” or “upon”) Jesus Christ, it is talking about something more than mere assent. The Bible is clearly saying that you must depend upon Jesus Christ. But, what does that mean? It means that you must entrust your entire life, here and hereafter, to Him. It means that you must depend wholly upon what He has done, to be saved.
But what has He done in order to save? Jesus Christ died on the cross, bearing the punishment that was due to all who throughout the ages will believe on Him. He rose from the dead, giving evidence that God accepted His penal, vicarious sacrifice. The wrath of God fell on Him instead of them. All who trust Him as Savior have their sins forgiven. This is the “good news” that the apostles proclaimed around the Mediterranean world and that you are now learning in this blog. If you depend upon the saving work of Christ on the cross you will be saved.
Notice, the “gospel” is good news to be believed; not good deeds to be done. News has to do with something that has already happened; not with something yet to be done. You cannot be saved by depending upon your good works, on ceremonies like baptism, or church membership. Nothing you have done or ever could do will save you. You must look away from yourself and others and look in faith to Christ alone. It is depending on the Lord Jesus Christ alone that saves. You cannot be saved by some vague invitation to “come forward,” or to “let Jesus come into your heart.” There must be an understanding of the good news that Christ died on the cross for guilty, condemned sinners like you, and a willingness to depend on His death and resurrection to save you from your sin.
And, in trusting Christ as Savior, you must be willing to admit that you are a sinner. When the Bible says that you “have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” it means that, apart from God’s forgiveness, there is no way in which you can have eternal life. He will not allow unforgiven sinners to live in His perfect heaven. You must change your mind about yourself (apart from Christ you are unacceptable to God), about God (He is not a Santa Claus who accepts all into heaven) and about Christ (He isn’t just a great man; He is God come into the human race to save sinners).
Is God at work, convicting you of your sin and the need for a Savior? Then repent, change your mind; submit yourself to Jesus Christ and He will make you a new person and change the direction of your life. Trust Christ today.