What Does God Require For Salvation?
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6.
First, we must believe that God is -- that he exists. The universe is one of the best sources of evidence in proof of such. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead" Romans 1:20.
Two broad solutions are offered for the origin of our universe: naturalism/materialism [usually identified as evolution] and creationism. In the previous verse, creationism is specified as the correct answer [see also: Genesis 1:1; Exodus 20:11; Psalms 19:1-3; 33:6-9; Isaiah 45:18; Jeremiah 27:5].
By a study of the universe and a logical search for its origin, you and I can know that God exists, that he is powerful and that he is divine. Without this intellectual acceptance, it is impossible to please him.
Second, we must believe that God is a rewarder of those who seek after him. -- Where is he? Who is he? What is he like? What does he want? Without some kind of revelation, we have no answer. 1 Corinthians 2:10.
That's where the Bible comes in. For "all scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" 2 Tim. 3:16. By turning to "the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" James 1:21, we learn about God and the life he requires of us.
Now, let's assume that you and I both accept the existence of a divine being based on the existence, the size and the intricate design of our universe. Let' s also assume that we accept the Bible as his divinely inspired revelation.
That being true, let's turn to his revelation to see why we have to seek him and what we must do to have a relationship with him. Let's turn to the Bible to see what we must do if we really want to go to heaven and live with him.
"Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." James 1:13-15.
First, the above passage teaches us that temptation and sin are personal. -- NOTE: "each man is tempted...by his own lust, and enticed." If we are not careful, our own desires seduce and lure us away from God! When that happens, we are guilty of giving birth to sin in our lives.
That makes sin something we must take personal responsibility for. We are not made to sin, forced to sin, or "blind-sided" by sin. In the final analysis, sin is invited into our lives when we yield to some personal desire that is out of harmony with God's revealed will. The guilt is something we must shoulder as individuals.
Second, the above passage teaches us that sin reaps bitter consequences. -- The word used was "death."
After his creating man, there was only one thing God told man not to do...only one negative command: "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." Genesis 2:16,17. But man disobeyed (Genesis 3:1-19) and, thus, "through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin" Romans 5:12. Did you see the word "death"?
Since that day, "all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23. "All." That includes you and me. AND NOTE: "all have sinned." We are not born with sin in some kind of depraved condition. We do not inherit sin. We sin. We choose to transgress and cross the lines God has drawn (1 John 3:4). When we do, we invite some awfully dark consequences into our lives. Consequences such as:
The plight of "separation" from God: "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you" Isaiah 59:1,2.
The prospect of eternal "damnation": "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23); that is "the lake of fire and brimstone; which is the second death" Revelation 21:8.
Now, let's assume that you and I, based on our belief in God and the Bible as his word, accept our status of guilt in sin. Let's also assume that we want that status changed from guilt to spiritual innocence; "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation" 2 Corinthians 7:10.
That being true, let's turn to the Bible to see what we must do to be cleansed of our guilt. Let's turn to the Bible and continue to see what we must do if we really want to go to heaven.
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)...that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Ephesians 2:4-9.
First, the above passage teaches us that we are saved by grace. -- Did you happen to see the three elements that make up God's grace? They are (a) mercy, (b) love, and (c) kindness. In our escape from the darkness of sin and its consequences, all three are involved.
Salvation is possible because God is merciful and has feelings for man. -- In fact, God "is longsuffering...not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Indeed, "your heavenly Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36).
Salvation is possible because God is loving. -- How many times have we heard it, read it, quoted it: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16; cf. Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9,10)? The entire ministry of Jesus is the product of God's love, his grace (cf. Hebrews 2:9).
Salvation is also possible because God is kind and concerned about doing what man needed to have done. -- In fact, this kindness is one of the things that can motivate us to make the necessary changes needed for salvation (Romans 2:4).
Mercy...Love...Kindness! That's grace. That's what made salvation possible and available. No one served as God's counselor, advising him to save man (Romans 11:33,34). No one put God in debt, forcing him to save man (Romans 11:35). He provided man a way of escape from the darkness of sin and its consequences because he is a God of grace. What a thought!
Second, the above passage teaches us that we are saved by faith. -- From the example of Abraham, we learn that faith is accepting God at his word and submitting to his guidance. "Looking unto the promise of God, he wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what he had promised, he was able also to perform. Wherefore also it was reckoned unto him for righteousness" Romans 4:20-22.
This "accepting God at his word" is the kind of faith we are also to possess in that we are to "walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had" (Romans 4:12). And what kind of faith did Abraham have? When he accepted God at his word, his faith was obedient. He submitted to the guidance of God because he accepted God at his word (Hebrews 11:8).
Now, let's put it together. We are saved by grace in that God's mercy, love and kindness made it possible. At the same time, we are saved by faith in that we accept God at his word, yield to his guidance -- as did Abraham -- and do what he has commanded. So, to escape the guilt of sin and its dark consequences, we must rely on the grace and guidance of God.
Now, let's assume that you and I believe in God, accept the Bible as His word and humbly accept the guilt of our sinful status. We're in sin, separated from God, damned to perdition and we want to do something about that. Let's also assume that we have gratefully turned to the grace of God for help and are willing to accept him at his word, submissively yielding to his commands with an obedient faith.
That being true, let's continue to turn through the Bible to see what God would have us to do to be cleansed of our guilt. Again, let's continue to turn through the Bible to see what we must do if we really want to go to heaven.
Remember, Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" Hebrews 5:9.
The Savior of whom? Those "that obey him." If we want to go to heaven, we must -- out of an obedient faith -- give in to his commands. And what commands does he attach to our being freed from the guilt of sin?
First, our obedient faith must believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God: "if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." (John 8:24). -- On one occasion a woman of Samaria said to Jesus, "The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). " Jesus' response? “I who speak to you am He." (John 4:25,26). So, if you and I want to go to heaven, we must believe that Jesus is "He," the Christ, the Messiah. See also: John 3:16-18; Acts 16:30; 1 John 5:1-3,11-13.
Second, our obedient faith must repent of the past: "Unless oue repent, you shall all...perish" (Luke 13:3,5). -- To repent, as evidenced by the men of Nineveh, is to turn from evil (Matthew 12:41; see, Jonah 3:10). So, if you and I want to go to heaven, we must stop doing what is wrong and start doing what is right. We must turn from evil. See also: Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 26:18-20; 2 Peter 3:9.
Third, our obedient faith must confess Jesus: "Everyone therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32,33). -- The word translated "confess" means to say the same thing as another. If we want to go to heaven, we must say what Jesus said about himself, we must say what God said about Jesus, we must confess our faith in his being the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. See also: Romans 10:9,10; 1 Timothy 6:12; cf. Acts 8:35-37.
Fourth, our obedient faith must submit to baptism for the remission of sins: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16). -- Further study will prove this baptism to be an immersion (Romans 6:3,4) in water (Acts 8:35-39) for the purpose of taking away one's sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). If I want to go to heaven, I must be baptized; that is, immersed in water for the purpose of having my sins taken away See also: Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 10:48; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26,27; Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Peter 3:21.
Now, again, let's put it all together. Out of his mercy, love and kindness, God sent Jesus to die for our sins (cf. Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 20:28; 26:28; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:20). In response to such a gracious gift, you and I are commanded to possess a faith that accepts God at his words and yields to his commands. We, thus, yield to the command to:
- Believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah of Old Testament prophecy, the Son of God.
- Repent of our sins in a deliberate choice to turn from evil in our lives.
- Confess our faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.
- Be baptized, immersed in water to have our sins taken away.
"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" 1 Peter 2:21.
We must never put a period where God has placed a comma. Becoming a New Testament Christian via the active grace of God coupled with our obedient faith [an obedience of faith, repentance, confession and baptism for the remission of sins] is only the beginning of an abundant life.
After becoming a Christian, we are blessed with the challenge to think like Jesus (Philippians 2:5) and become as much like him as possible. "What would Jesus do?" "How would Jesus respond?" "What would Jesus think? What would he say? What would he decide?"
Using the New Testament as our standard for day to day living, knowing that he will judge us in keeping with the same (John 12:48), we are to use him as our great example and echo the words of Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me"! Galatians 2:20
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"What must I do..." is the most important question you and I will ever ask.