How is one saved? How can I have peace with God?
I want to answer two questions in this paper, 1) Saved from what? 2)How can I be saved (means “M”)? 3) what must I do to be saved (mode “mo”)?
Question 1: Saved from what?
Isaiah 59:2, “Your sins have separated you from your God.”
Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
Romans 3:23 (cf. Genesis 1-3), “For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.”
Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way’ and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-“
Romans 3:10-18, “as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Saved from judgment due to sin. God is holy, and will not, cannot allow sin to go without consequence.
A sin is a crime, a legal violation. It will not be, cannot be simply overlooked. God is too holy, too good for that. For the sake of clarity, and brevity, I will not dig into how we know this. Although, from these verses, we can easily and ethically extrapolate that this is the case. The separation that sin causes is clear, and that there needs to be a remedy, in order for us to have fellowship with God.
Question 2: How can I be saved?
Key verses: John 3:16-18, Ephesians 2:8-10
First, we must be logical in these verses. We must not read into them, more than what is said. Also, if a Scripture spells out how to be saved, or our part in “sealing the deal”, then we will go with that. Conversely, we will see that some Scriptures add things along with the basic means of salvation, we will make note of these, but will not include them in what we MUST do.
Second,I want to define my terms here, so there is clear communication on this primary issue. I will be using means and mode. Here is what I mean by these- “In nuance, the "means" of salvation is the initiative of God and the "mode" of salvation is the human response to that divine initiative.”
John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
1. Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and a ruler of the Jews. They are having a conversation about the heart, and Jesus immediately gets into conversion and the need to be “born again”, born of the Spirit, the Greek literally says, “Born from above”.
How is one saved? Through the Spirit, who gives the individual life.
2. Mode of salvation #1: “Born of water and spirit”- some believe that this refers to water baptism. But I disagree. The reason I disagree is that Jesus is contrasting physical and spiritual birth. Those born of flesh, and those born of Spirit. I disagree because the person receives eternal life through the Spirit, by means of belief (v. 15). It seems clear that they are talking about physical and spiritual birth.
Here we see that God is taking initiative. God so loved the world that he gave.
He gave his one and only son. Why? So that people may be pardoned, and enjoy eternal life with God.
Mode of salvation: Belief. Those who believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life. So we see that “belief” is a mode of salvation. However, is it THE mode of salvation, the only way in which to be saved?
1. God’s loving design is that people would be saved through faith in Jesus.
2. Belief in Jesus cancels condemnation.
3. Disbelief in Jesus allows condemnation on an individual to stand. It is this third point that we can say that disbelief leaves someone in a condemned state.
Luke 8:12, “The ones along the path are those who hear heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”
This passage shows that belief saves, and not believing keeps someone from being saved. In other words, they cannot be saved without belief. Belief in the Word of God. Who teaches that Jesus is, “the way, the truth, the life. And that no man comes to the Father but through him.” (John 14:6)
So the M of salvation, or God’s part in salvation is Jesus. Jesus came to save the world.
The mo of salvation, our part, is to believe. We see that our part, or our “work” is to believe in. And that this belief is manifested through walking in obedience to Christ.
Therefore, M=grace, mo=faith, S=salvation
So we will use the following equation for our study M+mo=S (salvation). An alternative way to state this fact is that G+F=S. We will see if this equation has to change as we read through these verses and think through them.
Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Context: Paul is writing to the Ephesian believers, talking about how they were dead in their trespasses and sins (in which they once walked) (Eph. 2). He is talking about God taking initiative and making us alive with Christ-save by grace! It is not through their own efforts that they are saved, it is not through their merit, pedigree, works, deeds, charity, or anything else. We are saved by God’s grace-through Christ. Now in this Greco-Roman culture, this was a new teaching. The culture lifted up the human body and the person as being perfect, and admirable. Here Paul is setting God’s perspective over culture-we are broken and need saving-of which we are too broken to do ourselves.
The M here is grace. The mo, faith.
The result of the M + mo=doing the good works that God has prepared for us to do.
God’s part is to save us through grace, or unmerited favor through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, Messiah.
I believe that these are the best passages to summarize a logical biblical teaching on this subject. Now we will get to other verses, which also teach on the means and mode of salvation.
Question 3: What must I do to be saved (mode)?
Mark 1:15, “and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;[a] repent and believe in the gospel.”
Indeed, we want to baptize disciples, just like we need to instruct them. I think it is vital to understand the background and purpose of baptism here. It is a Mikvah! A “ceremonial washing” Seeing that spiritual birth is not affected by physical means, then this mikvah is an outward sign of an inward change. It is a command in order to publically confess that you are already born again. This can even be strengthened to say that this is the beginning of discipleship, but I will not go as far as to say this. However, we cannot logically or ethically conclude that this passage teaches that baptism saves you, because this passage does not say that. It is no more a mode of salvation as is being taught. Rather, this is a command/commission give to the apostles, on how to make disciples.
“I could easily say that he who believes and goes to church will be saved. That is true. But it is belief that saves, not belief and going to church. Likewise, if you believe and read your Bible, you’ll be saved. But it isn’t reading your Bible that saves you. Likewise, those who believe and are baptized will be saved. But the emphasis is on faith not on baptism. Notice that Mark 16:16 says that he does not believe will be condemned. It does not say that he who is not baptized will not be condemned. If baptism is necessary for salvation, then we should find somewhere in Scripture where it says something to the effect of if you’re not baptized, you’re not saved. But we find no such statement.”
Using principles of logic here, I agree that the person who believe and is baptized will be saved. And that the person who does not believe will be condemned, or remain under condemnation. The disparity here is that some groups teach this verse as a verse on how baptism is a necessary mode of salvation. God’s grace is the M, but belief and baptism is the mo, thus changing the equation of M+mo=S to M+mo+baptism=salvation. However, the verse clearly holds that M+mo=S, NOT M+mo+baptism=S.
Second, repentance is granted by God, it is a mark of salvation (2 Timothy 2:25). In this context, only the regenerated, repentant person is to be baptized. Baptism is the manifestation of the repentance, that gift from God that is the sign of the circumcised heart. That is why it says, repent and get baptized.
So in this passage do we see that M+mo+R+B=S? Or do we actually see that M+R+B=S.
The Oneness argument says that the word “for” means that you are getting baptized in order to receive forgiveness of sins. However, does this word “for” mean so that you can be forgiven, or does it mean in representation that you have been forgiven? The Jewish audience would have certainly needed to change their mind about the Messiah, but this cannot be done without first belief that He is the Messiah, and this belief is granted by God. So what do we do with baptism? Can they be baptized without M+mo=S being already in their life? I suppose they could, but they were already convicted and had faith, believed in Jesus. Therefore, the repentance and baptism were acts done post-belief, these were never the mo to forgiveness. Therefore, they were actions that came out of faith. They were not a mo of salvation. Now, if they refused to repent and be baptized, this would show us that they were most likely not believing what they were hearing, and that God was not, at that point lavishing salvation upon them.
I would be remiss not to talk about circumcision here. Because circumcision was vital to being accepted by God in Jewish eyes. In fact, in Covenental circles, baptism replaced circumcision. In Acts 15, the Jerusalem council deals with the topic of whether or not circumcision was a mode of salvation. They concluded that it was NOT.
“Biblically, a work is a ritual, a law that must be followed. Circumcision was such a ritual, a ceremony. Paul condemns the Judaizers for adding that ritual, that ceremony to the grace of God. He condemns them because they added a ceremonial requirement to salvation. This is heresy and Paul rightly condemned it. Also, if we are to understand this verse to mean that baptism is necessary for salvation, then we must also understand that repentance is necessary. But this is a problem because it would require that we be good in order to be saved – but this amounts to justification by works. Of course, we are supposed to repent of our sins, but it is not the repentance of sins that brings us salvation; rather, it is salvation that brings us repentance because unbelievers don’t turn from their sins, only believers do only the saved seek to honor God.”
Conversly, Acts 10:46-48, “For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, ‘Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ,. Then they asked him to remain for some days.”
Here we witness, and we shouldn’t sweep this aside because it doesn’t fit with our doctrine, gentile believers whom have received the Holy Spirit BEFORE being baptized. In fact, they were even speaking in tongues and extolling God. God’s grace and belief clearly predicated baptism. Therefore, we see here that receiving God’s grace was not dependent on being baptized.
There’s nothing in these verses to show that baptism is necessary for salvation. It only says that the Eunuch was baptized after he believed. It shows that a person could be baptized right away after receiving believing in Christ. It also shows that in explaining the good news to Philip, baptism was a part of this. So far, from my study on this, baptism is the beginning of discipleship, and a command given to show what God has done in us! It is a stone of remembrance. It is a confession before men.
, ‘And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’
Paul taught that baptism represented identification with Christ. Consider 1 Cor. 10:1-4, Therefore we can see it to be baptized into his refrained identification not the means by which were saved.
1. Which baptism is this speaking of, the baptism of water or the baptism of the Spirit.
2. Eph. 4:5 tells us that there is “one faith, one Lord, one baptism.”
3. If this means that we get into the church by being baptized in water, and no one is in the Christian church unless he or she has gone through the ritual. This would mean that salvation is not by grace through faith, but by faith and ritual.
4. The very verse here tells us about being made to drink of the one Spirit. This is an obvious figurative usage but it tells us two things. First, it alludes to the baptism of the spirit, not of water. Second, if we must require that the baptism spoken of here means water, but why not require the literalness also of drinking the Spirit? It it makes no sense composes upon the text. Therefore, this verse is not dealing with water baptism but Spirit baptism.
5. Acts 11:16,
7. A. Water baptism is not mentioned here. This is probably a reference to baptism of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 12:13 says,
8. Paul taught that baptism represented identification with Christ. Consider 1 Cor. 10:1-4, Therefore we can see it to be baptized into his refrained identification not the means by which were saved.
9. This might be a reference to the Roman garment of the full-grown man, assumed when ceasing to be a child.
10. Baptism is the identification with Christ, signifying having come to the faith, having died to sin, and risen with the Lord Jesus Christ.
This verse does not show the necessity of being baptized in order to be saved. It simply speaks about our identification with Christ and are baptism. And nowhere here says baptism is necessary for salvation. If anything, this verse in its context equates baptism and circumcision: Col. 2:11-12, Paul is relating the ritual of circumcision with the ritual of baptism, both are covenant signs.
Still, this verse in no way says that water baptism is necessary for salvation. But it does equate circumcision and baptism together. We must be reminded of how Paul condemned the Judaizers for requiring the ritual of circumcision to be saved. We can make a strong case here at requiring the ritual of baptism would likewise be condemned.
, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,”
This verse is telling us that regeneration is the washing, not the regeneration of baptism. There is no mention of water baptism here and there certainly is no mention of water baptism being necessary for salvation.
1 Peter 1:2, This is all reference to the Old Testament ceremonies of sprinkling blood in order to cleanse the temple (Heb. 9). This is what the high priest did and Jesus, who is our high priest according to the order of Melchizedek, likewise cleanses us with his blood. This is how our hearts are cleaned, but the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, not by our bodies getting dunked in water.
This verse negates water baptism by saying the baptism that saves is not the kind that deals with the removal of dirt in the flesh. That is, it is not the issue of water which washes the body, but that baptism of the heart which is an appeal for a good conscience to God.
Some think that the baptism corresponds to the Ark because it was the Ark that saved them, not the floodwaters. this is a possibility but one of the problems with it is that this interpretation does not seem to stand grammatically since the antecedent of Baptism is most probably in reference to the water, not the Ark. But, water did not save Noah. This is why Peter excludes the issue of water baptism being the thing that saves us because he says, “not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God”. Peter says that is not the application of water that saves us but a pledge of the good conscience. Therefore, baptism here most probably represents the breaking away of the old sinful life and entrance into the new life the same way that the flood waters in Noah’s time was the destruction of the sinful way and once through it known entered into his new life.
Peter’s explanatory comment shows us that the act of physical baptism is not what saves, but the “baptism of appeal to God.” This appeal to God is by faith the same as Noah’s faith in God led him to build the Ark, enter it, and remain in it.
So, we see that the means of salvation is we are saved by grace, through Jesus.
The mode of salvation is through faith, which God gives to those He calls.
Or God’s grace + our faith= Salvation
Then, the outworking, or evidence, or fruit of this is obedience to Jesus.
What are these good works that show we are saved? Walking in the Spirit by putting to death the deeds of the flesh, loving God with your all, loving people, obeying Jesus through being baptized, celebrating the Lord’s Supper, etc… as seen in Scripture.
Baptism is a public testimony to show that a change has happened in your soul, and in your mind, and in your desires, and heart.
The Lord’s Supper is a time to remember what the Lord has done for you, that he is the M of the equation of salvation. Jesus has called us to both of these.
The secondary question is, “What if someone refuses to do the aforementioned? It would show an unchanged person, if not an ignorant person. But that is another paper.