How Can a Lost Person Be Saved?

The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)

 

God wrote the book on salvation! That should not surprise us, seeing that He is "the God of our salvation" (Psalm 68:19). Thank God that He gives each one of us the opportunity to have our sins forgiven. How can a lost person be saved from his/her past sins? Let us see what the Bible teaches about this great topic.

GOD HAS MADE PROVISION FOR OUR SALVATION

What is there that God has done to make salvation from sin possible? The Bible points us to God's mercy, God's grace, and God's love. These three great concepts are linked together in the following Bible passage: "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)" (Ephesians 2:4,5, NKJV).

God's Mercy - What a sinner deserves for his/her sin against the Lord is eternal punishment, because "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). However, by His mercy, God allows us to escape such punishment; He permits us to avoid the horrors of hell. Would it be correct, then, to think of salvation being by mercy? Yes, for the Bible says that "according to his mercy he saved us" (Titus 3:5).

God's Grace - This is kindness or favor that we do not deserve. Again, by His mercy God allows us to escape that which we do deserve, and by His grace He allows us to receive that which we do not deserve. So, is it safe to conclude that sinners are saved by the grace of God? Absolutely. In Titus 2:11 it is written, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." The Bible is plain in showing that without God's grace, not one person would have a chance to be saved. Is it possible for you and me to earn our salvation? No. Can we be saved by our good moral deeds? Never. Would it be possible for us to devise our own scheme or checklist of actions whereby we might save ourselves? The answer is still "no."

God's Love - What is there that motivates our Creator to make a way for all humans to be saved from sin? His love. Because of God's great love, He "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4, NKJV). In addition to God's desire for our salvation, we must not miss the action which He has taken to bring about such salvation. The good news for us is that "the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world" (1 John 4:14). It was God's love that made it happen: "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him" (1 John 4:9).

Any person that is saved from sin owes the God of heaven a debt which he/she could never repay! Thank God for His mercy, His grace, and His great love. The Bible tells us that redemption or salvation is available in and through Jesus (Romans 3:24; 2 Timothy 2:10). Why? Because that is God's plan. Even before the foundation of the world, that plan for our redemption was in place (1 Peter 1:18-20). What a great, loving God He is!

BEING SAVED - OUR GREATEST NEED!

The Bible says that sin is "lawlessness" or "transgression of' God's law (1 John 3:4). It also reveals that all people have sinned, making everyone of us a sinner (Romans 3:23). The awful consequence of sin is that it separates a person from the God of heaven, and sin keeps him/her separated from Him. "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2).

Does this not mean that all of us are in a hopeless situation? Without Jesus, yes. But, through Jesus there is hope! Remember, Jesus came into the world to save sinners, to give us life, and He accomplished it by shedding His blood on the cross of Calvary. Through Jesus' blood we can have our sins washed away and be reconciled to God (Romans 5:9,10).

WILL ALL PEOPLE BE SAVED & GO TO HEAVEN?

Jesus taught that there are two possible paths that we might take in life, and two possible destinies to which those paths lead. One path leads to destruction, while a second leads to life. According to Jesus, those that enter the gate to destruction are "many," but those that enter into life are "few" in number (Matthew 7:13,14). The Christ further taught that while some will go into "life eternal," others will go into "everlasting punishment" (Matthew 25:46). Thus, while it is true that God's grace makes salvation available or possible for all, not everyone will be saved eternally.

WHAT ABOUT "REALLY BAD" SINNERS?

As humans, we may tend to think that there are some sins that are worse than others. There is no doubt that some sins have greater earthly consequences than others do. Yet, in truth, any sin is horrendous and condemns the sinner. Still, there are a lot of people that express the following or similar sentiments: "I have done such wicked things that there is no way that the Lord would/could ever forgive me." The problem with such reasoning is simple: the Bible does not teach it. Instead, the Bible teaches that God is willing to forgive us of any and all past transgressions, regardless of what they might be.

Before he became a Christian, Saul of Tarsus, later known as Paul, greatly persecuted the Lord's church, even causing some of its members to be put to death (Acts 26:9-11). Yet, this evildoer was later saved by the grace of God. We also read in the New Testament that thieves, drunkards, adulterers, homosexuals, idolaters, and other immoral people were saved from their past life of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). So, yes, even those that some may count as "really bad" sinners can be saved by the blood of God's Son. God's salvation is available to all.

SALVATION: CONDITIONAL, OR UNCONDITIONAL?

There is no doubt that the Bible calls salvation a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). We know that some gifts or blessings in life are conditional, while others are unconditional. What about salvation from sin, is it a conditional gift, or an unconditional one? It is conditional, which simply means that God saves a person only when he/she complies with the terms or conditions that He has set forth in the gospel. The Bible teaches that Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9). Jesus saves. Jesus saves lost people. Which lost people does He save? According to Hebrews 5:9, Jesus saves those lost people that obey Him. No obedience means no salvation. Therefore, salvation is conditional. Jesus Himself taught that only those that do the will of God the Father shall enter in to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21).

WHAT MUST A LOST PERSON DO TO BE SAVED?

We know and agree that redemption is made possible only through the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 1:7). Thus, if the question is, "What can wash away my sins?," the answer is ''the blood of Jesus." However, if we ask, "When does Jesus' blood wash away a lost person's sins?," that is an entirely different question. Here is the scriptural answer: the blood of the Christ cleanses a person of past sins when he/she obeys Jesus ("obeys the gospel"). [Please stop, read, and pray about Romans 10:16 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9].

What does this obedience include? Just what must a lost person do in order to become a saved person? Many people of our generation have never heard the correct answer to this question. Why? Because they have only listened to and been influenced by those that give a man-made answer instead of stating what the Bible teaches. Maybe you have heard or read something like this: "In order to be saved from your sins, all you need to do is pray to Jesus, confess your sins to Him, and receive Him into your heart as your personal Savior." This is an extremely popular and widespread idea that untold millions of people have accepted. It is sometimes called "the Sinner's Prayer." But, do you know what? Such an idea is nowhere to be found in the Bible. It is just not in there! "Pray to Jesus and confess your sins to Him" is one answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?" The problem, though, my friend, is that this answer is not from the Bible, but rather comes from the imagination of man's heart.

In order to be saved, having faith or believing is certainly required, for "without faith it is impossible to please him" (Hebrews 11:6). In whom or what must one believe? The Bible teaches that a person must believe in God's existence (Hebrews 11:6). It also teaches that in order to be saved, a person must believe in Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus said, "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 ... 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).

How does one become a believer? The Bible says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God' (Romans 10:17). So, one must hear or read the gospel before he/she can become a believer in Jesus. Let us be clear in stating that the Bible clearly teaches that a person is saved or justified "by faith" (Romans 5:1), but it just as plainly shows that a person is not justified "by faith only" (James 2:24). There is a huge difference in declaring that salvation is "by faith," and stating that it is "by faith only." [Above we have already shown that one cannot be saved without God's mercy, grace, and love. How then can anyone say one is saved by "faith only'?] 

In addition to believing in Jesus as God's Son and our Savior, what else must one do in order to be saved from sin? A person must repent of every past sin. In the first century, sinners were told, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19). Jesus said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3, 5). God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). "Repent" does not mean simply to say, "I am sorry," but rather it means to change one's mind. In the process of genuine repentance, after one has sinned against God, he will: (1) Regret what he has done/be sorry for it; (2) Determine in his heart not to repeat this mistake (i.e., he will change his will); and (3) Change or reform his life.

Confession of faith in Jesus is also required. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10). We read in the Bible of some that believed on Jesus, but out of fear and pride, would not confess Him (John 12:42,43). Jesus said that He will confess a person that confesses Him before men, but He will deny in the Father's presence anyone that refuses to confess Him (Matthew 10:32,33).

Baptism in water is another condition of salvation. The Bible does not teach that one should be baptized after he is already saved. Nor does the Bible teach that a person ought to be baptized as an outward sign to show that he has been saved already prior to baptism. Jesus Himself said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). According to these words of Jesus, who shall be saved? One that just believes? No. One that is just baptized? No. Rather, one who believes and is baptized. If Jesus said it, how can it be wrong?! In the New Testament, we also read that a sinner (Saul of Tarsus) was told, ''And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).

No, water cannot save a person. It is not water that washes away sins. It is the blood of Jesus that has the power to remove sins (Colossians 1:14), not water. Yet, and this is important, if God has made water baptism a condition of receiving the forgiveness of sins, then a lost person must comply with that condition. Water baptism is a command of God (Acts 2:38; 10:48), and we remember that only those who obey Jesus' commands are saved (Hebrews 5:9). Baptism is no more important than hearing the gospel, believing in Jesus, repenting of sins, and confessing faith in Jesus, but like these other matters, it is required in order to be saved. In fact, it is only through baptism that one can get into the Christ (Romans 6:3).

We hasten to emphasize that in the New Testament, the word "baptism" means an immersion or plunging, not a sprinkling or pouring of water. Baptism involves a burial (Colossians 2:12) and requires going down into the water and coming up out of the water (Acts 8:36-39). Scriptural baptism is an immersion.

Once a person has been saved from past sins and is a Christian, what then? The Bible teaches that the Lord adds saved people to His church (Acts 2:47), so a saved person is a member of the Lord's church (Matthew 16:18). One that has been baptized into the Christ is now a new person with a new Master, new desires, new priorities, and new obligations (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Being "baptized into Christ" (Galatians 3:27) is not the end of one's spiritual life in the Christ, but only marks the beginning of it. After water baptism, one must live a life of faithful service to the Lord. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Jesus wants His followers to obey Him in all things (Matthew 28:20). He wants all Christians to put the Lord's Cause first in their lives (Matthew 6:33). The Lord wants us to live a holy life, one in which we are distinct from the world in the way that we think, talk, act, and dress (Romans 12:1,2). Attending the assemblies of the local church is an important aspect of a Christian's life (Hebrews 10:25), as is personal Bible study and prayer (1 Peter 2:2; Philippians 4:6,7). In order for the church to grow in number, it must actively teach the gospel to lost people, so teaching others ought to be part of the life of every child of God (Acts 8:4).

Christians are going to make mistakes. They were forgiven of all past sins when they obeyed the gospel by being baptized for the remission of sins, but how do they obtain the cleansing of the sins that they commit after baptism? A child of God that sins must repent of his/her sins, confess such sins to God, and pray for Him to remove those sins from His record (Acts 8:21,22; 1 John 1:7-10).

Friendsí, following Jesus is no small matter. It is a life-long commitment that requires our greatest effort and sacrifice (Luke 13:24; 14:33). Being a Christian is not just one type of lifestyle, but rather it is the greatest life in the world! May the Lord bless you as you strive to live for Him.

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