Who saves us? The answer is Jesus Christ. A couple weeks back we inquired as to what must WE DO to be saved. Our response – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31) Yes, yes, but how do we RECEIVE IT? Must we repent, confess and be baptized in addition to belief to receive salvation? Yes? No? Only the first two? That is where the rub comes for many people. Disagreements abound.
Does salvation (justified before God) only happen internally to us or are there external actions required as well? If we place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and believe that He alone can save us; do we have to cartwheel five times around the room to seal the deal?
Cartwheels, no, what about repentance? Many of us understand that to mean we must stop sinning; to cease and desist. Or we must turn from sin in the east and go west young man to receive salvation. If repentance is changing one’s mind, the meaning of the familiar verses most often cited, then it is, in fact, an internal action and not the commonly thought of external act of penance or cessation of sinful behavior. An inner resolve to turn from sin may be there, but it is the changing of our mind from unbelief to belief that saves us.
Do we need to announce “Jesus is Lord” loud and clear; shout it to the rooftops? Is that what it means to confess? Confession has the idea of agreeing with what God said about Jesus and what Jesus said about Himself. When we have believed in Christ unto salvation, it will spill out verbally, but are audible words necessary to turn the key in the door to salvation itself? What of the person who is mute; are such people doomed by a sealed tongue? Has the cat stolen their possibility of eternal salvation? Or is confession an internal agreeing with God about my sin and His “God so loved me” solution? The words follow as a result of not as a cause.
Do we need to be baptized to receive salvation? There are verses that seem to say just that in the New Testament. Does a great belly flop from the high dive finally justify us before God? Be careful, those “water baptism for salvation” verses come up far short of a much larger body of doctrine concerning our reception of salvation/justification. (See our blog “Just WHAT must we do to be Saved?” posted on July 21st to consider the truths presented there about water baptism). What of those with no access to water? The thief on the cross died dry. Or those too infirm to enter the water? Are they doomed to perish for all eternity because they were not able to complete the final external necessity for salvation? Baptism (external) follows what has already taken place internally.
Red flag any teaching that excludes someone who sincerely seeks salvation in Christ from freely receiving such.
In our opening scripture above, Jesus is referring to the events of Numbers 21:5-9. God answered the opposition of the people to Himself and Moses by sending fiery serpents among them. That got their attention! God then instructed Moses to make a fiery serpent and place it on a pole. If one got bit, he or she were to look up at it, and they would live. Jesus likened this to the Cross. We can do NOTHING but believe in Him to be saved. Hmm…do we not have to look? That is an external action. Was it the internal belief in what God said about the serpent on the pole that saved the people or the looking that saved them? Could one look at the pole not believing and live? The text in Numbers does say anyone who looked lived. If a blind person was snake-bit did they perish?
The Son of Man was lifted up. Were we there? Did you or I look? Externally, with our eyes? No. Internally by faith? Yes.
My religious upbringing taught there is a process for receiving salvation. Step one was internal, to be followed by three external steps. 1] Believe (Internal); 2] Repent/ Meaning Turn from Sin/Stop Sinning – how does a sinner do so prior to having a new nature? (External); 3] Confess with the mouth (External); 4] Be Water-Baptized (External) = SAVED!!!
When I began to read the Bible myself, I questioned my pastor at the time about this “process.” It didn’t ring right. It red-flagged. Those last three steps seemed to be more post-justification than part of justification itself. They seemed to be more about what we do than what He has done for us. He assured me we must follow these steps because the Bible tells us we must. (Does it?) With great enthusiasm, he boasted that if God told him to roll a peanut down Main Street with his nose to be saved then he would roll a peanut down Main Street!
I wonder when he stands up at the end of Main Street with scraped knees, and a scuffed nose – is he any more saved than if he just simply believed in the Lord Jesus Christ at the beginning of Main Street?