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  • Writer's pictureJulie Branstetter

Salvation Essentials

Salvation Essentials

Acts 16:29-34

“Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all of his household.”

It sounds so simple doesn’t it? Simply “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Well, it really is that simple. Salvation cannot be earned or obtained by any degree of effort. It’s not something for which you can qualify to receive or something you can ever deserve. Notice though, that the disciples then “spoke the word of the Lord to him” and his family and, as a result, “he and all his family were baptized.” In this passage of scripture we can see a wonderful illustration of a transformed heart. From the time one hears the word of the Lord and begins to believe on the Lord Jesus and receive them willingly as their Savior, the believer undergoes a spiritual transformation. God imparts to them a new set of desires. What follows this transformation is a series of natural responses. But before I go into those, look at this next verse which explains why it is important that the word of the Lord be shared.

Romans 10:12-15, 17

“For there is no difference between Jew and Greek: The same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call on Him, for, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” So then {belief} faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Who can believe on Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior without hearing and who can hear without preaching? Finally, believing (faith) comes by hearing what? The word of God! What is it that a person needs to hear? They have to hear the gospel, the good news. But how can it be good news if they do not know the need or cost of salvation? It is only good news to those who hear it and know that they had a great need, were facing a great disaster, and were saved by a great Savior. Our punishment for sin was to die and be separated from God forever, but Christ dies in our place. And Christ rose again to life so that we can be made alive as well. That is being born again. The word tells us we must be born again to be saved. That Christ died for us is good news, but it will never be of much good to anyone who doesn’t first recognize that they are a sinner and that their sin has separated them from the Lord. So the preaching of the word of God is what reveals our need for salvation, the punishment that was paid for us in Christ, and that we must repent, which means to “turn” from sinning and follow after Christ. The preaching of the word teaches us how to follow Christ. So the good news is that the Lord has taken our place and paid the price of our punishment and if we make Christ the Lord of their life by repenting from sin and following Christ, we WILL BE made alive and holy and righteous in God’s eyes. He will change our hearts by giving us a desire for holiness. He will teach us the way to go AND give us the power to walk after Him. He will give us the strength to turn from sin and temptation and to live an upright life.

It is at this point, people begin to get confused about their (part) participation in salvation. There are two misconceptions and I would be reckless not to address them now. One is that you have to live right to be saved. And the second is that you cannot be separated from God again after you’ve been saved. (referred to often as “losing one’s salvation”) You do need to live righteously, but the idea that you must do that in order to be saved is completely backward thinking and it will draw you into a works based faith and that is not how to be saved. Your only part in being saved is to genuinely make Christ your Lord (believe) and to follow after Him regardless of how good or bad you are at it. I know that probably sounds funny, but I need to make it clear. You aren’t being saved because you are following Christ, you are able to follow Christ because you have been saved. And you must understand it in that order only or else you will be tricked into trying to earn your salvation. You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit which gives you the power to work out your salvation as a very real part of your life, but there is nothing you can do to earn salvation. In regard to the first misconception, read the word and pray without ceasing so you can do your best at doing what is right according to God, but know this, you will make mistakes along the way. And those mistakes do not disqualify your salvation. If you get in the habit of trying to be saved by being good, you will be so discouraged when you make a mistake that you will be tempted, if not overcome with, turning away again from following Christ. I have heard people say it before, “It’s just too hard to be a Christian.” But Christ said, “My yoke is easy, My burden is light.” There is a yoke and a burden to being a Christian, but it is not too hard. It becomes too heavy when we take on the responsibility of earning salvation by works and deeds. When we do that, we are carrying a job that only God can carry, and that will be too heavy. That’s not your part. If you keep messing up, you just keep going to God with it. Soon He will have you standing over it. Do not cast away your confidence in the Lord’s ability to finish the good work He has begun IN you. He is making you new, day by day, word by word, and as you work out what he teaches you from one thing to the next, you are being reformed into His perfect image. The word is so deep and applies in such complex ways, it is impossible to know it all at once. God wants a relationship with you and you will get to really know Him personally as you pray and discover Him in His word. I have listed some verses next to reconfirm for you some of the things I have said in this last paragraph.

Remember earlier, I told you I would go through the natural responses of the Philippian jailer which was a perfect picture of salvation? I will address the second misconception, and then finish by closing up with the Philippian jailer.

The second misconception is rooted in a failure to make a distinction between sinning accidentally and working that out with the Lord verses practicing a life of sin without repentance or even attempting to follow Christ. Those are two different kinds of sinning. The wages of all sin is death, but one of them is being done by a believer who is sealed for salvation and is working out their salvation with the Lord. That believer has received Christ as their Lord and Savior. The other is by a person who mentally ascends to the idea that Jesus is the Savior and that they must follow after Him, but they have not made the decision to repent of their sins and their following of Christ is only in part because they also continue to follow after sin as well. They willfully practice sin on purpose, knowing it is unpleasing to the Lord, and do not repent. Remember Jesus said in Matthew that He would turn away those who followed Him if they continued to also practice lawlessness. That means even though they do good things and call Him their Lord, they have not made Him Lord truly, because they have willfully gone on sinning. The good is never good enough to earn salvation because salvation cannot be earned. Repentance (turning from willful sinning) is an extremely important part of the decision we make when we decide to make Christ the Lord of our lives. Not the Lord of part of our life, but of all of it. It’s not about how good you are, it is whether or not you have made the decision to reject sin and when God leads you away from temptation, He provides a way out, and you take the way out because you have made the decision

Can you lose your salvation? No, because the word, “lose” implies something that has happened to you against your will. No one can separate you from God against your will. Can you throw your salvation away? Yes. You can willfully walk away from God and to choose to live a life of sin knowing God has called you to follow His son Jesus instead is to make that choice. Some have tried to explain this away by saying that if you walk away from God after being saved then you were never really saved to begin with, but that’s not true. It’s not biblical or true. When someone comes to the Lord for salvation and is truly repentant, the Lord is faithful to receive them. The person still has freewill and can choose at any time to change their mind and to walk away. I know it is said that no one can walk away from God who has ever truly been changed by Him, but His word tells us something different. 2 Peter chapter 2 describes the false doctrines and teachings of false believers and how they will, “with great swelling words” allure some believers away because of the unrepentant sin that still lies within them (lusts of the flesh) that they willfully feed.

2 Peter 2:18-22

“For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

Notice there is a distinction between those who have escaped the pollutions of the world and from those who live in error. If they who have been made free are entangled in them again and overcome (meaning willfully practicing sin again), then it would have been better for them if they had never known Christ in the first place. They were lost, set free, and then return again to sin.

Now, finally, the perfect picture of receiving Christ as Lord and Savior.

Acts 16:29-34

“Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”

The Philippian jailer runs to Paul and Silas and asked what he must do to be saved. What did Paul and Silas do? They shared the whole Gospel with him and we know this because of the natural reaction he had to it. Then they commanded him to believe in Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior. Upon hearing the Word of God, and the call to believe, the jailer believed and he responded with repentance. He took Paul and Silas to his home and washed their wounds. So here is the simple and complete picture of a true transformation of salvation. The full gospel is preached, including the call to repentance and to believe in Christ alone. The believer makes the decision to believe and repents from sin. The believer receives the Holy Spirit and is changed. Not only is God working in him to do good works, He works in the new believer to desire to do good works. (See Phil 2:13) The desires of the believer’s heart become new and that changes everything about him, his thoughts, his hopes, his needs, his desires, and his actions. And when the lost who know you see a true change in your life they too are more prone to believe that you have really been changed. It is very easy to say the right words, but speaking the right words will not save you, but only to repent from sin and to give oneself to Christ as Lord, then your life will change. You are a new creation in Christ, old things have passed away and all things have been made new. Does this mean you will never be tempted to sin again? Of course not, because you also still have a flesh nature to contend with, but the Holy Spirit will guide you and teach you and God will never allow you to be tempted beyond what you can resist. He will always make a way out for you and the Holy Spirit gives you the strength and ability to resist the devil (your tempter) so that He will flee from you. If you fail, you continue to contend until you succeed, but this is not the same as ‘wanting’ to sin or practicing sin willfully. The more you learn and walk with God, the stronger you are to walk in the righteousness God has given to you.

Here are some important verses to back that up.

Philippians 2:12-13

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Psalms 37:4

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Matthew 4:17, 19

“Repent”, “Follow Me (Jesus) and I will make you fishers of men.”

Romans 7:14-25 (Read)

In this passage of scripture, Paul describes the battle between the two natures within each believer, the flesh nature and the renewed inner spirit man (a changed mind).

1 Corinthians 10:13

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide an escape, so that you can stand up under it.”

Ephesians 6:10-18

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”

Philippians 1:6

“For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Hebrews 10:35-36

“So do not throw away your confidence; (in the Lord) it holds a great reward. You need to persevere, so that after you have done God’s will, you will receive what He has promised.”

Matthew 24:13

“He who endures to the end shall be saved.”

Remember, you cannot earn or deserve salvation. It is a gift given freely to you from God. And every gift that is given is not always received. It has to be opened up and used. The Holy Spirit enables you to open up your gift of salvation and use it, work it out, put it on. You must receive it (believe), you must repent (turn) from sin, you must follow Christ (even if you struggle at doing so), and the work of righteousness God will do. You will be made Holy in Christ Jesus and saved.

Believe, Repent, and Follow Christ. Do not turn back, and you will be saved.

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