Salvation is a wonderful thing, but how can a person be saved? We believe the answer is found in God's Word.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
Which of These Saves Us?
Imagine a man walking through a desert. Don’t imagine just any man, but someone who knows nothing about the desert. Someone who has lived far from the blowing sand that invades his clothes and stings his face as the hot wind races across the empty landscape. Surely, his clothes are tattered, his skin is burnt, and his lips are dry and blistered. The only sound that escapes him is the soft wheezing noise from his dried vocal cords, as he suffers from dehydration. Despite his dire situation, he continues forward as he clings to the fading hope of finding water, civilization, or someone who could rescue him. On and on he walks, hoping for salvation.
The man's strength begins to fail as he climbs sand dune after sand dune. Finally, he drops to the ground from exhaustion, barely able to crawl. As he reaches the top of the next dune, he sees something in the distance. Is it real or just another mirage? Exhausted, he lays on top of the dune, gasping for air, staring into the distance.
After a few minutes, he realizes that the object is still there, unlike the mirages he had seen in the past. The man is confident that what he is seeing is real. Onward he goes, believing that salvation awaits him. As he gets closer and closer, he realizes that the object is a village, and more importantly, he sees people! If people are there, water must be there as well! Unable to yell or make any other noise, he drags himself forward knowing that if he can reach the village, he will be saved.
Like the man in the desert, many people have found themselves in similar situations. Whether stranded, lost, or something else, each has a desire for salvation. The salvation of our physical lives is a wonderful thing, but spiritual salvation is even better. Whether we realize it or not, each of us are traveling through the “desert” of life. We are on a journey from birth to the afterlife. Where we will spend that afterlife depends entirely upon whether or not we find salvation in this life.
The good news is that God sent someone into this “desert” to rescue us – He sent Jesus. Jesus came and died on the cross to rescue us from eternal punishment. Why? It is because of God’s amazing love for us. Romans 5:8 says, “…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ died “while we were still sinners”, not because we were/are so good, but because we were lost and needed salvation.
In fact, the Bible says we simply could never do enough good things to earn salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “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.” God offered salvation to us as a gift, but we certainly did not do, nor cannot do, enough good works to earn that gift of salvation. Think of it this way, it is impossible for our souls to be saved without a rescuer, and our rescuer is Jesus. God’s gift to us is the rescuer of our souls... His gift is Jesus.
The man in the desert knew that he would only be saved if he reached the village. At some point, we must reach the rescuer of our souls to be saved. At some point, we must accept that gift of salvation that God has offered us. What is that point? How do we cross the line that separates us from being lost to being saved? God has offered us the gift of salvation, but how do we accept it? How do we go from not having the gift to having the gift? Thankfully, God gave us a roadmap to find salvation, an instruction manual that includes instructions on how to accept the gift of salvation, and that is the Bible.
So what does the Bible say? What must we do to cross that line from being lost to being saved? There are a few things that the Bible tells us to do in order to find salvation, but which one is it? Is it just one thing? Is it a combination of some of them? Or is it a combination of all of them? Thankfully, the Bible answers these questions.
The Bible clearly teaches that believing in Jesus is absolutely necessary to be saved. Perhaps the Bible verse that is most often quoted to support this idea is John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This beautiful verse tells us plainly that everlasting life is only possible if we believe in God’s Son, Jesus. There are many other verses that say believing in Jesus is necessary for our salvation. Here are a few of those verses: John 5:24; John 6:47; Romans 10:9-10; Mark 16:15-16; 1 John 5:1. Without a doubt, we must believe in Jesus to be saved.
The Bible also says that we must confess Jesus to be saved. Romans 10:9-10 says “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” These wonderful verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans are quite powerful, and most certainly say that to be saved we must confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus. Other verses in the Bible talk about the importance of confessing Jesus in order to be saved. For example, Matthew 10:32-33; 1 John 4:2-3; 1 John 4:15. For us to have that free gift of salvation that God offers, the Bible clearly says we must confess Jesus.
God tells us through the Scriptures that salvation is only possible if we repent of our sins. The word “repent” means to make a change. Spiritually speaking, to repent we must change the way we are living and who we are living for. To put it another way, we have to stop serving Satan and start serving the Lord. Jesus certainly taught that we had to repent if we wanted to be saved. In Luke 13 Jesus was talking to a group of people and He emphasized the importance of repentance when He twice said, “…unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). Jesus was very serious when He demanded that we must repent to be saved. Here are some other verses which also say we must repent to be saved: Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. The Bible plainly says that we must repent of our sins if we want to receive salvation.
God’s word also tells us that we receive salvation when we are baptized. The apostle Peter wrote about how Noah and his family were saved through the water of the flood by being on the ark. Then Peter writes, “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). Peter very directly and plainly says that baptism now saves us. How could being covered in water save us? Peter says it is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter isn’t the only person in the Bible to say that we are saved by being baptized. Here are some other verses which say baptism is necessary for our salvation: Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:11-13. The Bible says, without a doubt, that we must be baptized into Christ to be saved.
So, Which of These Saves Us?
How do we cross over that line that separates being lost from being saved? How do we accept God’s gift of salvation? The Bible says we have to believe in Jesus. It also says we have to confess the Lord Jesus. It also says we have to repent of our sins. And it also says we have to be baptized into Christ. Which of these actions takes us from being lost to being saved? Which of these do we have to do to accept that gift of salvation? Do we have to do just one of these things, two of them, three of them, all four of them? What does God want us to do to cross out of the desert of despair and enter the village of salvation?
If we say just one of these actions saves us, then that means we must ignore the other three. Since God has said that all four of these actions save us, which one should we choose and which three do we ignore? Likewise, if we say that only two of those actions save us, which two do we choose and which two do we ignore? Or, if we say that only three of the four save us, which three do we choose and which one do we ignore? Is there any evidence in the Bible that would clear up this dilemma? The answer is, yes.
If you have read the verses listed above, you will notice that some of them say a combination of things saves us. For example, Romans 10:9-10 clearly say that confessing AND believing saves us. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to put the word “and” in those verses, not the word “or”. That means God commands us to both confess and believe to be saved. Likewise, Mark 16:15-16 say that we must believe AND be baptized to be saved. Here, Jesus Himself used the word “and”, not “or”, which means our Lord and Savior commands us to both believe and be baptized to receive salvation. Another combination is put together in Acts 2:38 when Peter said we have to repent AND be baptized to be saved. While he was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4), Peter said the word “and”, not “or”, which means we have to repent and be baptized to be saved.
The combinations found in these verses are important in helping us find an answer to the above questions. In the three passages mentioned in the previous paragraph, notice that belief, confession, repentance and baptism are all linked together. Taken in the same order as they appear above, we see the following connection: confess and believe – believe and be baptized – repent and be baptized. Confession is coupled with belief, belief is then coupled with baptism, and baptism is then coupled with repentance. All four actions that the Bible says saves us are connected together. The evidence in the Bible shows that all four actions together save us, not just one action by itself, nor any combination of just two or three. Rather, it is a combination of all four together.
Then how do the four things work together, and how do we know when we have crossed that line from being lost to being saved? How do we know when we have left the desert and entered the village?
We have already seen from the Bible that we are saved by all four actions (believe, confess, repent, baptize). However, there are other promises and blessings that the Bible attaches to only one of those actions. The following verses explain which of the four actions it is.
Romans 6:3-7 says, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.” Notice that it is only through baptism that we are buried with Christ in His death, from which we are raised to walk in newness of life. Furthermore, when Jesus died, He took our sins upon Himself (1 Peter 2:24), but when He was raised from the dead, He was no longer carrying our sins. He had been freed from our sins in His death. The Bible says in Romans 6 that when we are raised from the waters of baptism, we are raised to walk in newness of life. Why? Because our old man (the sinful man) was crucified with Christ so that our sins could be taken away, thus we are raised in the likeness of Christ’s resurrection. In other words, when we are raised from the grave of baptism, we are raised without sins because we were freed from our sins when we put our old selves to death in baptism. Only baptism can unite us in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, the other three things cannot. Galatians 3:26-27 says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” To “put on Christ” means we are clothed with Christ. But which of the four actions clothes us with Christ? The Bible says it is baptism. There are no verses of the Bible which say that believing, or confessing, or repenting can do that.
Some might argue that Galatians 3:26 is saying we are sons (children) of God through faith alone. However, notice that vs. 27 explains why we are sons of God. The word “for” at the beginning of vs. 27 indicates this connection. Notice: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. FOR as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Why are we sons of God through faith? For, or because, we were baptized into Christ, where we put Him on. These verses show that faith and baptism work together, because we cannot be children of God, nor can we be clothed with Christ, if we don’t have faith in Him and if we are not baptized into Him.
Another promise and blessing that is associated with baptism is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” The Bible says that we are baptized into Christ’s one body. We are told in Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:18 that Christ’s body is His church. So when 1 Corinthians 12:13 says we are baptized into one body, we are baptized into Christ’s church, meaning we become members of His church at our baptism. The Bible never says that we become a part of His church through believing, confessing, or repenting. Only baptism can do that.
In baptism, and only in baptism, our sins are removed enabling us to walk in “newness of life”. In baptism, and only in baptism, do we become children of God by putting on Christ. In baptism, and only in baptism, we become part of Christ’s body, His church. According to the Bible, then, when do we cross that line from being lost to being saved, from being in the desert to being in the village? The Bible says that dividing line is baptism. Before we are baptized into Christ, we are outside of Christ. Only in Jesus can we be saved (2 Timothy 2:10), therefore if a person is outside of Christ, then that person is not saved yet. But once a person is in Christ, then that person is saved.
But please understand this—baptism alone cannot save us. The Bible clearly says that believing, confessing, repenting, AND being baptized saves us. Baptism works together with our belief, our confession, and our repentance. Think back to Mark 16:15-16 which makes it clear that a person must both believe AND be baptized to be saved. Also, Acts 2:38 says we must repent AND be baptized to receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Romans 10:9-10 says we must confess AND believe to be saved. All four things must be present for a person to be saved, because if even just one of those things is left out, then we are not saved.
Think of it like a recipe for a cake that has four ingredients. All four ingredients must be present for the cake to turn out right. If you leave out even just one ingredient, then the end result will not be a cake because it won’t turn out right. Salvation is similar because all four “ingredients” must be mixed together. Our belief, confession, and our repentance must be mixed together with baptism, but the Bible makes it clear that only in baptism do we cross that line from being lost to being saved. To put it another way, the “cake of salvation” is only done right if our belief, confession, and repentance is mixed together and then baptized.
Let’s go back to the title of this study – “Which of These Saves Us?” Is it belief? Is it confession? Is it repentance? Is it baptism? It truly is all of them combined together, but it is at the moment of our baptism that it all comes together and we are saved.
We hope you will think about what God’s word says about salvation. We want everyone to go to heaven, and that will only happen if we are truly saved. We would love the opportunity to talk more with you about this. It is our desire to follow the word of God and His word only. So we simply want to share with you what we believe the Bible says, we won’t put any pressure on you, we will simply give you the information, and then let you decide. That is all anyone can ask.
If you would like to know more about salvation, or anything else we believe, we would love to talk with you. Actually, to be more precise, we would love to open the Bible with you and let God talk to us through His word. We would just like to have the opportunity to share God’s word with you, and we’d like to have the opportunity for you to share with us. Perhaps you don’t agree with the conclusion that was come to in this study, would you be kind enough to share with us why? We should all be willing to discuss God’s word in a spirit of love and care for one another’s soul, and to help each other have a better understanding of God’s word.
Please feel free to contact us, and may God bless you!