Key verse – Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast”.
Our theme – Salvation comes to the sinner only through God’s gift of faith in the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The One Condition of Salvation
Can you imagine anything worse than giving the wrong directions to a rescue squad, the driver of a fire engine or ambulance? However, there is something much worse going on today and that is giving a person the wrong directions to Heaven. Proper directions are always important, and this is especially true of the way of salvation. No question of greater importance has ever been asked than the one voiced by the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Following the wrong advice can have tragic eternal consequences and because of the eternal consequences you must refuse to rest on the uncertain opinions of men. These opinions have so confused and added to the gospel that it is little wonder the unsaved have such a variety of answers to the question, What must I do to be saved? What do some preachers, cults, and religions say a person must do to be saved? Be baptized, be born into a Christian family, have some kind of born-again experience, do good, give up the material world, accept their doctrine, die, practice self-denial and even self-torture, become more god like.
My friend, the Word of God is where you can find the right answers. God’s Word points us to His Son, Jesus Christ, as the only way to Heaven. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6). To believe that there is another way, or many other ways to Heaven, is following the wrong advice, and therefore will have eternal consequences. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved …” (Acts 16:31). God has completed everything that is necessary to provide salvation from sin. What remains is for each person to respond in faith as the Holy Spirit works in heart and lives. The person must appropriate the work of God, by faith, before it benefits him or her. No one else can do it. God’s plan is so simply clear, that even a young child can understand the way to heaven is accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.
Past Dispensation – Those who believe God has ruled His people under different economies, or rules of life, are called dispensationalists. True to Scripture, they believe there is a distinguishable difference between God’s rule of life today, in what they call the Church Age, and in that which prevailed under past dispensations or era, of Mosaic Law. Most dispensationalists believe there are seven dispensations, which are:
(1) Dispensation of Innocence – (Genesis 1:28 to 3:24)
(2) Dispensation of Conscience – (Genesis 3:22 to 8:14)
(3) Dispensation of Human Government – (Genesis 8:15-11:9
(4) Dispensation of Promise – (Genesis 12:1-Exodus 12:42)
(5) Dispensation of the Law – (Exodus 19 to Acts 7)
(6) The Present Dispensation of Grace
(7) The Kingdom Dispensation
The Present Dispensation of Grace
This dispensation is called the “Church Age” or the “Age of Grace”, and began after the death and resurrection of Christ and will continue until Christ comes the second time. This dispensation or Age of Grace is distinguishably different from the dispensation of law, which preceded it. Throughout all the dispensations the Bible presents only one condition whereby a sinner may become a saint and that is through a personal faith and belief in Jesus Christ as Savior. Grace is an important word and we need to understand what it means. The Grace of God means “the favor of God.” It is often defined as God’s “Unmerited Favor”. God’s favor towards man which man did not merit or earn or work for in any way. The word Grace is also defined as “Undeserved Kindness”. God’s amazing love and kindness towards those who do not deserve it at all. The theologian Lewis Sperry Chafer pointed out “… there are one hundred and fifteen passages at least wherein the word believe is used alone and apart from every other condition as the only way of salvation. In addition to this there is upwards of thirty-five passages wherein its synonym faith is used.” True, man must know he is a sinner (Romans 3:23) and that Christ, the Savior, died for him and for his sins (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3). He must know these things; they constitute the essentials of the gospel. But knowing them does not bring salvation. It is the personal reception and acceptance of Christ as his/her own Sin-bearer that brings a person into the family of God (John 1:12; Acts 16:31).
The Way of Salvation is Faith
The mother, tired of waiting for the youngster to make up his mind which piece of candy to buy, said to him, “Hurry up, son, spend your money. We must be going.” “But Mama, I only have one penny and I’ve got to spend it carefully.” The lad already had learned a great lesson of life. If each of us had ten lives to live instead of only one, we perhaps could afford some changes, but we have only one. If you are born-again, invest it carefully because it is the only life you have until eternity with Christ arrives. There is a famous Chinese proverb which states, “If there is righteousness in the heart there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home; and if there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation; and where there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.” True righteousness is found ONLY in Jesus Christ.
It is wonderful when greatness and goodness are united, and only in our Lord do both of them exist absolutely and essentially. Thankfully they both exist in Him to an equal degree. Being GOOD, He is ready to forgive; being GREAT He works great wonders. And there is no wonder as wonderful as forgiveness of sins. All that God does or makes has wonder in it. Only fools find anything that God made uninteresting. The world is a world of wonder. – Charles H. Spurgeon. What must a person believe for Christ’s sacrifice to be effective in their life? (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). What is the difference between “knowing” and “believing”? While faith is necessary for salvation, it isn’t our faith that saves us. However, faith is the means through which salvation comes to the sinner. The Scriptures never say we are to be saved on account of faith; it is always through faith that salvation comes. It isn’t our faith that saves us; Christ and Christ alone saves. We must present the gospel accurately and be extremely careful in this regard. Often we tend to present the gospel as though some special kind or amount of faith is required for salvation.
The Scriptures tell us that God simply requires the faith or trust one has. It is true that a person must be sincere when trusting Christ, but it is also true that Christ saves, not one’s faith. Our receipt of God’s great gift of salvation adds nothing to the completed work of Jesus Christ. So it is not Christ’s substitutionary atonement plus faith in Christ that saves. Christ’s work alone saves; but unless His Person and work are received by faith, God’s provision does not benefit the individual sinner. Faith in Christ is never considered a work in Scripture. This may be illustrated by our receiving a gift from someone or our giving a gift to someone. A gift does not cease to be a gift just because the one to whom it is given receives it. Salvation is a gift – God’s gift – and it remains a gift even after it is received by faith. Thus, God has done everything, and we can make no contribution to the finished work of Christ or to our own salvation.
Those who lived before Calvary (Old Testament saints had faith in God and His promises), knew very little about the finished work of Christ, which is so vividly portrayed in the New Testament. Many of the sacrifices and offerings were types of the Savior and the final and complete work He would do, but it is doubtful that the Old Testament saints understood that. However, even though the people may not have known all that was involved when they believed God and His promises, yet He accounted their faith to them for righteousness because He accepted the work of His Son at Calvary as already finished. In Genesis 15:6 Abraham believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness; Daniel 6:23 says, “Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God” and in Jonah 3:5 we find that the people of Nineveh believed God.
False Conditions of Salvation
Sincere as a person may be, there is no excuse for adding any form of human work to God’s free gift of salvation. God has made this very clear in His Word. The only responsibility man has is to believe, and that is not a work. Furthermore, even that responsibility will not be met without the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. We will be discussing five false conditions of salvation, beginning with:
(1) Is Water Baptism necessary for salvation?
No doubt many people today are depending upon ritual baptism, either as an infant or as an adult, for their salvation. This is an entirely false hope. All the water in the world could not take away even one sin or fit a person for Heaven. Although the Bible does teach that an obedient believer will obey the Lord and the Word and be baptized, identifying himself with a Bible believing church, nowhere does Scripture make water baptism a condition for salvation. Since the consistent testimony of Scripture makes faith the sole condition for salvation, and since there are Biblical examples where baptism was not performed for salvation (e.g., the thief on the cross). Or Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned”. In no way does this verse establish baptism as a condition for salvation; it is merely the declaration that those who believe and are baptized are saved. Baptism is a distinct act of obedience, apart from salvation. While we should preach that all people are commanded to repent and be baptized adding any other requirement to salvation by grace becomes works in disguise. Even though numerous Scriptures speak of the importance of water baptism, adding anything to the work of the cross demeans the sacrifice of the Savior. It implies that His finished work wasn’t enough. But the Bible makes clear that we are saved by grace, and grace alone. Ephesians 2:8-9,”For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
A man in the Midwest became angry with his wife, lost his temper, shot and killed her, and dumped her body in the woods. For many years he hid the truth, but eventually law enforcement personnel put pressure on him, and he confessed. Although he feels sorrow for taking his wife’s life and depriving his daughter of her mother, he is not truly repentant, for he will not admit that he murdered his wife. He prefers the term “responsible for” his wife’s death. He also holds his wife partially responsible, for she drove him to such anger that he shot her! That is not repentance! The Scriptural meaning of “repentance” is “to change one’s mind”. It involves an about-face. Too often people think it means “sorrow for sin.” Surely one who turns from his sin to Christ will be sorry for his sin. But like the man who murdered his wife, it is possible to feel sorrow for wrongdoing yet not turn to Christ for salvation. Many have read into the meaning of the word repentance the idea of sorrow and have thereby implied that sorrow for sin is the same as repentance. Genuine repentance will be accompanied by sorrow, but it is also true that one can be sorrowful without repenting. The word repentance means a change of mind. Because of the confusion described above, many make repentance a separate and additional condition of salvation. This is not true to the Word. There is no question about it; repentance is necessary to salvation. However, Scripture views it as included in believing and not as an additional condition for faith. Obviously, all who have trusted Christ as Savior have changed their minds regarding Him and their sin.
(3) Public confession
Frequently, it is said that a public confession of Christ is necessary to salvation. Romans 10:9-10, is the verse used most frequently in this connection. There is nothing said in these verses concerning a public confession. The confession referred here could just as well be a private confession to God. It has to do with one’s acknowledgment of his need of Christ’s salvation. To confess Christ to others is the normal result of new spiritual life within. One who has received Christ will want to make his faith known to others, not as a requirement for salvation, but rather because of it. If public confession is a condition of salvation, what of the many who have been saved under circumstances that made a public testimony impossible (e. g., the deaf and dumb)? The condition of salvation must be the same for all men, women and children. Verse 10 clarifies the whole matter. It is through faith alone that the sinner is declared righteous. Confession is not for salvation, but because of it, the mouth will confess what the heart has believed.
The clear teaching of the Bible is that the believer needs to dedicate his life, as well as his future destiny, to Christ. But never in Scripture is dedication of life made a condition for salvation. These matters of dedication and salvation suffer much abuse and confusion today. The two must be kept distinct. Salvation has to do with beginning the Christian life and dedication with living the Christian life. If complete and absolute surrender of one’s life to God is a prerequisite to salvation, it is doubtful whether anyone would qualify. After the sinner has trusted Christ as his Savior, his Substitute for sin, then and only then is he in a position to surrender his life to Him in dedicated service. Even the great apostle Paul, years after he was saved, admitted to times of failure in his dedication (Romans 7). He even fled from stoning; perhaps indicating that he was not always willing to die for Christ.
Sincere Christians often tell the unsaved to beg God for mercy and cite as an example the prayer of the publican, God be merciful to me a sinner (Luke 18:13). It must be remembered that this prayer was uttered before the accomplishments of Calvary. The publican was really asking God to provide for Himself a satisfaction for sin. God has done just that in the Person of Jesus Christ. God can be no more merciful than He was at Calvary. The work is finished. All that remains now is for man to believe. Prayer must never be viewed as a condition for salvation. The newborn child of God will likely express his faith in prayer, but it is not prayer that saves him. Multitudes of people pray who are not saved. Prayer is for the child of God. It is his means of communing with his Heavenly Father. The calling in Romans 10:13 need not be understood as an audible prayer. Rather, in the context it refers to the call or cry of the heart of God in faith. Isaiah 55:6 is sometimes used to stress the need of seeking the Lord for salvation. This was said to the nation of Israel and meant that they, as God’s Chosen People, were to return to Him. The New Testament reveals that Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). Along this same line of prayer as a condition of salvation, the unsaved are often told to confess their sin to be saved. John’s advice in 1 John 1:9 is often used for Scriptural support. This text relates to Christians only. The unsaved are never told to confess their sins to be saved. They are called upon only to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is said they shall be saved (John 3:18; Acts 16:31, “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house”).
The Biblical condition of salvation is personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. This, of course, involves recognizing our personal sin and lost condition. It means the sinner is willing to trust Christ alone as his Substitute for sin. It means he is willing to commit his eternal destiny into the hands of the Savior. Mere mental agreement to the existence of God and of Christ or even to the historic fact of His death is not enough. By way of illustration, in the span of seven days he won the hearts of a busload of people. We were visiting the Holy Land, and the personable man was our tour guide. Each day he greeted us with his winning smile, clever sense of humor, and incredible knowledge of Israel. From the story of Abraham and Isaac to the account of Jesus’ resurrection, our guide had it all down. Yet, as the week went by, people began to ask, “Is he a believer?” “Does he know Jesus Christ?” Sadly, the answer was no he didn’t. He knew the Bible better than most of us. He daily walked where Jesus had. He had been giving tours to Christians for years, but he didn’t know his Messiah. My friend, this is the situation of countless individuals today. They have knowledge of God and His Son Jesus in their head, but not in their heart? It’s not all that unusual. The words in 1 John 2:22 seem harsh, “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?” But the truth is that knowing about Jesus is not the same as knowing Him.
John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Peter said that the full weight of our sins fell upon Jesus (1 Peter 2:24). The apostle Paul explained, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). My friend, we all have been born in sin, but on the cross Jesus took the punishment for our sin upon Himself. He now offers eternal life to all who will personally put their faith in Him (John 3:1-16). The question remains:
(1) Have you been saved by the blood of the Lamb?