By Don Koenig
I think over the many years that I have been a believer in Jesus Christ I have heard it all on what one has to do to get saved or stayed saved. Contrary to what some preachers imply, the way to salvation is not something that you can earn. Nor, do you need a degree in theology to understand how salvation is received. Salvation is a free gift of God for those that believe in the Messiah that God sent to save mankind that was bound in sin and death. You are saved by God Grace through faith in the Messiah that God sent.
Let me explain. As the Kinsman Redeemer and second Adam from God, the Messiah/Christ paid the penalty for sin brought into the world through the sin of the first Adam. His fall into a cursed fleshly nature infected all of his descendants with sin and sin brought about death. The second Adam also had no human Father. He came directly from God. He was incarnated in the womb of a virgin named Mary. Because God was His Father, the Messiah had no original sin nature, because the Messiah came from the egg of a woman He was also a Son of Adam. In fact, Jesus liked to call Himself the son of man. As the promised Kinsman Redeemer of the Adamic Race, Jesus paid the price for sin through His wrongful death on the cross. He had no sin, so sin and death was defeated through Him. He proved this when He rose from the dead.
By the disobedience of the first Adam sin and death came into the world, and through the obedience of the second Adam, even until death, sin and death is taken away. The sinless God/man defeated death when He rose from the dead. Those that believe in God's righteousness to save mankind through His risen Messiah/Christ will be saved into a new spiritual creation. This is the simple truth that was taught by Peter on the feast of Pentecost when over 3000 heard, believed, and were saved to become joint heirs with Christ.
Salvation is not achieved by reciting some words, or by the obedience of being baptized in water in the name of Jesus. It is achieved by believing that God is righteous and merciful and gracious to save those that trust in Him. Those confessing in Jesus Christ are also confessing to the actual meaning of His name. The name "Jesus Christ" actually means "the anointed Savior of Jehovah" The gospel of John said that God came into the world in the form of a man (Jesus). The worldly did not know Him, but as many as did receive Him, He gave the power to become sons of God (John 1:12). So, John said salvation comes by receiving Jesus.,
When people say they believe in Jesus but then they describe attributes that are not those of the holy anointed Savior from Jehovah, they do not know God's Christ even if they think they believe in the Jesus that true Christians confess. On the other hand, someone not knowing the name Jesus but understanding that God/Jehovah is righteous to save may actually know Christ even if they never actually heard His name in their own language.
I defy anyone to show me from scripture where something besides belief in God's Savior is required for salvation (God's Savior as defined in the Bible). The Old and New Testament are full of passages that say we are saved by God's grace through our belief in His Messiah. The biblical truth is that we are saved by God's grace through our faith (believing and trusting) in God's Savior (Jesus).
Abraham was saved because he believed God.
Noah was saved because he believed God.
The thief on the cross was saved by asking the Lord to remember him when He came into His kingdom - showing that He believed that Yeshua was the promised one sent by God.
All the apostles were saved by believing that Jesus was the Messiah (the anointed one) sent from God.
All in the book of Acts were saved by hearing and believing that Jesus was the "the Christ - the anointed risen Savior from God.
The list of examples in the Bible that salvation comes by believing in Jesus + nothing is almost countless. Some say you must also have good works because it is the measure of faith but I say scripture teaches that some saved will not have many or any spiritual good works. Some believers living in flagrant sin in the time of Paul were turned over to the Devil for destruction of the flesh so that their soul would be saved when they appeared before Jesus.
1Co 3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
1Co 5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Some will say that this is cheap Christianity (actually it is free for us and costly for God). They "LOVE" to quote the single passage where it says that even devils believe as some kind of "proof text" that it takes more than just belief in Jesus to be saved but they ignore the scores of passages that say we are saved by our belief in Jesus Christ. This passage they quote does not even say what they insinuate it says. The passage says:
"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19).
No one is questioning the fact that devils also believe that there is "one God" but where in this passage does it say that devils believe or trust in the Savior that God sent for redemption? Scripture reveals that the only thing devils trusted the Son of the most high God for when He was on earth dealing with them, was their eventual sentence to the pit!
Belief in the Son of God for salvation is the requirement. Devils can not meet that requirement because they already know that they are under condemnation. Neither do Devils meet another requirement of salvation. They must be part of the Adamic race that Jesus died for. Jesus as the second Adam died to save and free mankind from sin and the deception of the Devil. Jesus did not die to deliver devils from the condemnation that they willfully earned. Satan and his angels willfully rebelled against the God that was fully known to them. They committed the unpardonable sin and are awaiting the day of God's final judgment. Furthermore, believing there is one God and believing God are two different things. Devils obviously do not believe God's plan for the world or they would not oppose Him.
The Devil and the sons of the Devil believe that there is one God but they rebelled against God's Son - the Lord God of all Creation. The Devil knew Jesus was God's Son, but he wants God's Son to worship him (Matt 4:9). The devils do not accept Jesus as their Lord and neither do other world religions which deny the Son. This says wonders about from where world religions originate.
John told us that all Spirits from God confess that the Christ has come in the flesh and all those not from God deny it. Even the classic Antichrist denies that the biblical Jesus will come back in the flesh again and succeed in saving mankind. Bible prophecy makes it clear that Satan has his own Christ in mind for the earth. Yet, we know that Satan believes that there is one God in heaven because scripture makes it clear that Satan reported to Him (Job chap 1).
Thus, it should be apparent that the passage in James was not given to be quoted as an example that belief in Jesus Christ is not sufficient for salvation. It simply was telling us how we are to test the spirits. If they do not confess that God's Christ has come in the flesh, these spirits are not of God, they are of the Devil and antichrist.
1 Jo 4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
Obviously then, James 2:19 does not imply that devils believed that God's Savior had come in the flesh to save mankind. It should be clear then that this passage cannot be used to refute that salvation comes by believing in God's Savior alone.
Other passages they might claim supports them in their view also do not imply what they think. These are the five passages where some call Jesus - Lord Lord - but Jesus condemns them. These passages indicate that many will give the Lord lip service in the day that He comes back but it simply proves that Jesus will not be deceived by them. Jesus points out in the passages that prior to His coming they were working against the will of His Father. They had no Holy Spirit and they did not do the will of God. Jesus was not adding obedience or works to salvation. He was simply pointing out that they were not of His Father and their evil works proved it.
So when pastors/teachers quote the passage that says that even devils believe, they should be honest and say it is talking about the belief that there is only "one God". They should not use this passage as some kind of proof that it takes more than belief in Jesus Christ to be saved. Scores of Bible passages make it clear that salvation comes by belief in Jesus Christ. The Bible does not contradict itself.
James tells us it is not enough to just know there is a God. He in effect says, you believe in one God, that is great, so do devils, but believing in one God is not what is required. You must believe in the Savior He sent for forgiveness of sins. You must believe God. James implies that true believers will show their faith by not just believing there is one God but by living through the power of the Holy Spirit to do His works. The apostle John tells us God's commandment is that we should first believe on the name of God's Son, Jesus Christ (1 Jo 3:23). For only by believing in Jesus will the laws be written in our hearts so we can obey God's commandments.
Some will spin this by saying yes, all that is needed is belief, but they will add that this belief has to be more than simple belief. It has to be deep heartfelt belief - otherwise it was not true belief at all. How does someone who is dead in sin come up with this deep heartfelt belief before He even receives the Holy Spirit?
Those in the Calvinist camp would say he got the Spirit first and he cannot deny the Spirit within him so his belief will be a deep heartfelt belief from the Spirit of God. Thus, even a person's salvation is not of man's own choice but is God's choice and those elected have no choice and will be saved. So in final analysis, in this theology, the deep heartfelt belief comes from the Spirit so why do some Calvinist's preachers teach that confessing believers need to conjure up more heartfelt belief before they can be assured that they are true Christians? It is not logical.
On the other hand, some in the Armenian camp may also say that belief must be a deep heartfelt belief but they would say that man by free will had to choose to have this deep heartfelt belief. So in the final analysis, they are saying man is saved by his own self-determination and thus salvation come from man's own will. This also is not logical.
I wonder how anyone quantifies how deep a belief has to be to be truly heartfelt anyway? The scripture clearly says no one can come to God unless the Spirit draws him, so it is all of God's doing. The only question becomes, does man have any part in the acceptance of this free gift or does that even come from God's Spirit? We can debate these two theologies until the cows come home but the plain truth is man is still saved by belief and belief by any definition is just believing.
As I implied previously, belief is nothing more than believing in Gods righteousness. It is trusting that because of God's righteous merciful loving nature He sent a Savior for salvation of men's souls that believe that their Creator will keep His promises to save those that trust in Him.
If there was a different word to describe this deep heartfelt belief, other than the word belief it would have been selected by God and the Bible translators. You either believe or you do not! Each person examining their own heart knows if they truly believe that Jesus is their Lord and Savior or not. If they are uncertain they are uncertain. People who are uncertain can not truly believe. There is simply no way to define belief in Jesus Christ outside of trusting that God sent His Savior Son to redeem mankind.
So please do not confuse someone that confesses Jesus as Lord with the statement that they have not been truly saved because you think that their outward lifestyle does not reflect what they confess. What about our own inward lifestyle that others have not had the privilege to really know about? When our secret sins and motives come before the true Judge who will be without fault? Yet, if we believe in Jesus we will all be saved. Do not say that a confessing believer cannot be assured of their salvation because scripture clearly says otherwise.
Ro 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Joh 3:16 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.
Luk 8:12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
Joh 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Joh 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
Joh 7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Joh 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
Joh 10:26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
Joh 12:36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.
Joh 17:20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
Joh 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Act 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Act 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
Rom 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
Rom 4:24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
Rom 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
1Co 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
2Co 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Gal 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
1Th 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
1Th 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
1Ti 1:16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
Heb 10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
1Jo 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
1Jo 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
This scripture list is just the tip of the iceberg. I can assure you from the word of God if you believe that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved despite what all the legalistic teachers in the world say. If you believe that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead, you do not have to doubt your salvation, but if you search your heart and know you do not trust in God's Savior for your redemption, you are not saved even if you claim to be a Christian.
Countless times I have had to endure pastor/teachers who quote the passage in James about even devils believing to their flock and then insinuating that something more is required for salvation other than belief in Jesus Christ. No devils believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and no scripture says that they do. There are scriptures that acknowledge that demons knew that Jesus was the Son of God, but their only request of Him was not to be tormented (Mark 5:7). So why are pastors saying that even devils believe in this path to salvation?? They do not! This path of salvation is not given to them nor is it possible for them. Those who quote this passage out of context are teaching against God's clear teaching of salvation by faith in God's Son and they need to stop making scripture say what they want it to say instead of what it really says. It is hard to believe that they would be truly ignorant of the many clear scriptures on salvation. Therefore, I have to believe that some do it to put their flock under some form of legalistic control.
I also get tired of teachers telling people that if they were truly saved they would not be in bondage to sin. They then insinuate that these people were never truly saved and they need to come down again at their altar call or rally, but this time "really mean it" when they confess Jesus as Lord, and this time "really get saved"!
I have news, in most cases the only reason these people are at your church or rally at all is because they are not really living like they want to live. This is evidence that they most likely have already been saved since they find themselves doing "what they do not want to do" (Rom 7:19-20). The Spirit in them is at war with the flesh. Why would any unbeliever even care to go to your rally if they already heard the gospel, confessed Jesus, and nothing happened? It is not logical.
I have also heard some preachers tell people they never truly got saved even though they confess belief in Jesus. They tell these people to come down and make a commitment for Jesus to be Lord as well as Savior. How do you separate the two? By what authority? By what scripture? How does one that you claim is still unsaved even do that? Some say they should make a 100 percent commitment this time. How does anyone give one hundred percent commitment to someone they do not trust in yet? I say this because these same teachers asking for 100 percent commitment also claim that these people have never been born of the Spirit.
Further, should even a believer promise God 100 percent commitment when we know that this is impossible while living in the flesh? It is one thing to strive for it, it is quite something else to make a promise to God that you know you will not keep. Do you teachers really believe that a believer can reach perfection while still in the flesh? The last one I know that did that was Jesus and He was perfect in the flesh to begin with. Have you ever met anyone who was perfected in the flesh? If we come down and made this commitment like some of you ask, we will soon find out that we have fallen short and that we have made a commitment to God that we cannot keep in the flesh. So why are you asking people to make this "oath" to God contrary to scripture that tells us not to make oaths to God (Jas 5:12)? It only will end up putting most under condemnation and on guilt trips that will make some doubt their own salvation. Then they will be back for your next service or rally to get saved all over again!
The truth is, there is absolutely nothing a person can do to earn salvation. Contrary to what some national Christian leaders have said, there is no greater amount of selling out to Jesus or commitment to make Him Lord of your life that can bring about salvation. The sanctification process that brings us to reject sin and to do His will comes after we are saved. It comes by works of the Spirit as we allow Him to work in us through our own free will. If salvation is a free gift from God, it is free, with no strings attached. That is what the good news is all about!
I get fed up with those in our Evangelical and Pentecostal churches who do not even understand salvation theology but who build large followings by coercing believers to come and give their lives to Jesus over and over again. Time after time there are revivals or rallies that re-save the saved. Some obviously confuse Christians that are not living victorious lives with unbelievers. They also confuse unbelievers that went through a ritual of salvation with true believers. They teach salvation comes by commitment or selling out which is really an act of one's own will. They even confuse more mature Christians who should know better by confusing salvation theology with sanctification theology.
If they were preaching that believers need to get serious and quit living in sin and that they need to give it all to Jesus, I would have no problem with them. However, when they make some emotional altar call experience or tongues the litmus test for the salvation of a believer's soul, they are not teaching the true gospel. Further, in most cases, the emotional experience fades and the person becomes only more confused about his salvation. It then becomes likely that the whole process will be repeated sometime in the near future. After enough of this, some become like the Catholics and like some Pentecostals who have no assurance of their salvation because their salvation is based on their recent performance, or their feelings, or other unbiblical proofs and not on what God promised.
The scriptures are clear man is saved by believing that Jesus is God's Savior plus nothing.
Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.