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Things Essential to Salvation: Grace, Faith, Works, Baptism?

Things That Are Essential to Salvation
Are We Saved by Grace, Faith, Good Works, or Baptism "Alone"?

What is necessary to our salvation from sin? Are we saved by grace, Jesus' death, and faith alone? What about obedience, confession, repentance, good works, baptism, church membership?

Sometimes people think we are saved simply by one or a few things alone: grace, faith, good works, Jesus' death, baptism, etc. Surely we can agree that the crucifixion, believing, and God's mercy are necessary. But is obedience also essential to salvation and forgiveness of sins? What about repentance and confession? Are people saved just by "good works"? What about people who do not obey God's commands, are not baptized, or are not members of Jesus' church? Does the Bible teach justification by "faith only" apart from works? 

Introduction:

The Bible teaches that all people need to have their sins forgiven so they can receive eternal salvation.

1 John 3:4 - Sin is transgression of (disobedience to) God's law.

Romans 3:23 - Everyone has committed sin. [1 John 1:8,10]

Romans 6:23 - The consequence of sin is eternal death, unless the sins are forgiven. Without forgiveness there is no hope of eternal life.

The question to be studied in this lesson is this: What does the Bible say is necessary for people to be forgiven and then receive eternal life at judgment?

What has to happen in one's life in order for him to receive forgiveness and then continue in God's favor.

* Some say: We are saved by the grace of God. Yes, but is that all? Is that the only thing we need?

* Some say: We are saved by the death and blood of Jesus. Yes, but is there nothing else that must take place?

* Some say: We are saved by faith. Yes, but is that all? If in your heart you have a faith in Jesus, will you necessarily be saved, or is something else needed?

Let us consider a number of things the Bible says are essential in order for a man to be saved or forgiven. We will see then that many people hold mistaken ideas about salvation.

We are especially concerned about people who take PART of God's word, but omit other Divine requirements. Sadly, they believe they are saved, but their lives are missing many things the Bible says are necessary.


I. A List of Things Essential to Salvation


A. God's Provisions

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all active in our salvation. They had to do certain things for us to be saved. Consider some things that were necessary on God's part for us to be saved: [Rom. 8:33; Heb. 7:25; Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 6:11]

1. Grace and mercy

Titus 2:11 - For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

[Titus 3:5; Rom. 3:24; Eph. 2:8,9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:7; Acts 15:11]

2. Death and blood of Jesus

Romans 5:9,10 - We have been justified by His blood, reconciled by His death.
Hebrews 10:10 - We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus.
Ephesians 1:7 - We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

[1 Cor. 15:3; 1 John 1:7; Heb. 9:14,22; Rom. 3:25; 1 Peter 1:18,19; Rev. 1:5]

3. The resurrection of Jesus

1 Corinthians 15:17 - And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Without the resurrection, Jesus' death would have been a victory for Satan!

[Rom. 5:10; Heb. 7:25; 1 Peter 3:21]

4. The gospel, God's word

Romans 1:16 - The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
1 Peter 1:23-25 - We are born again by the seed, which is God's word.
Acts 11:14 - Peter told Cornelius words whereby he would be saved.

These verses do not state what the word does in our salvation or why it is essential, but surely it IS essential, just as God's mercy and Jesus' death are.

[James 1:18,21; 1 Cor. 15:1,2; John 8:31,32]

God's blessings and provisions were essential in order to make salvation available to us. Without them, we could never have achieved salvation by our human ability. Some people, however, seem to believe that God's provisions are all we need and nothing is required on man's part. However, note the following:

B. Man's Response

Some speak as though, if man must do anything to be saved, then that makes man, not God, the source of salvation.

Philippians 2:12 - Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

God's provisions are freely offered to all men (Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:4,6; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9; etc.). But not all people will ultimately be saved (Matthew 7:13,14; 25:31-46). So there must be something in the life of each individual that determines whether or not he will receive God's forgiveness. What is it?

1. Hearing and learning God's word

John 6:44,45 - No man can come to Jesus without hearing, learning, and being taught.
Romans 10:17 - Faith comes by hearing the word of God.

This is the role the word plays in salvation. We cannot be saved until we learn from God's word what He requires of us. The Spirit does not work directly on man's heart to lead to salvation, but works through the word (Ephesians 6:17).

[1 Cor. 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:16,17; John 8:31,32; Matthew 13:23; Romans 1:16; 10:13,14; Mark 16:15,16; Acts 8:26,29,35; 9:6; 11:14; 18:8; Luke 6:46-49; 11:28; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; Revelation 3:20]

2. Faith

Hebrews 11:6 - But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Romans 5:1 - We are justified by faith.

The Bible describes different kinds and degrees of faith. Some believe God exists and Jesus is the Savior, but will not obey Him. This is not saving faith (James 2:19; John 12:41,42).

Saving faith is a conviction and trust in Jesus that leads one to obey Jesus in the other steps listed below (Galatians 5:6; James 2:14-26; Hebrews 11).

[Rom. 10:9,10; Gal. 3:26; John 3:16; 8:24; Mark 16:16; Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:8; Heb. 10:39; Hope - Rom. 8:24; Love - 1 John 4:7,8; Gal. 5:6; 1 Cor. 13:1-3; 16:22]

3. Repentance

2 Corinthians 7:10 - For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.
Acts 2:38 - Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.

Repentance is a change of mind in which one determines to turn from sin and do what God says (Matt. 21:28,29). Without this decision, God will not save us.

[Luke 13:3,5; 24:47; Acts 17:30; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 20:21; 2 Peter 3:9]

4. Obedience to God's commands

To be forgiven, we must follow through on our repentance and do what God says. Many people will agree with everything to this point, but deny we must do anything. But note:

Hebrews 5:9 - Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
Romans 6:17,18 - When we obey from the heart the teaching delivered, we are then made free from sin.
1 Peter 1:22 - We purify our souls in obeying the truth.
Acts 10:34,35 - Whoever fears God and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

It is simply not true that nothing man does is necessary to salvation.

[Matthew 7:21-27; 22:36-39; John 14:15,21-24; Acts 3:20-23; Romans 2:6-10; Hebrews 10:39; 11:8,30; Galatians 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9; James 2:14-26; I John 5:3; 2:3-6]

5. Confession of Christ

Romans 10:9,10 - With the heart man believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.

Note that faith alone is not enough. Here is a physical act that must be done with the mouth to be saved - one must confess. To deny we must do anything to be saved is to deny confession is necessary.

[Matthew 10:32; 16:15-18; John 1:49; 4:42; 9:35-38; 11:27: 12:42,43; Acts 8:36-38; I Timothy 6:12,13; I John 4:15]

6. Baptism (immersion in water)

Many deny this step is necessary to be saved. Yet the Bible lists is as necessary, just as plainly as it does the other steps:

Mark 16:16 - He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. Is a person saved before or without baptism? No more so than he is saved before or without faith!

Acts 2:38 - Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. Are sins remitted before or without baptism? No more so than they are remitted before or without repentance!

Peter was not talking to saved people, telling them what to do because they had been saved. He was talking to people in sin, telling them how to receive remission. The fact he told them to repent makes that clear.

Acts 22:16 - And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Were sins washed away before baptism or without it? A person is in sin until he has been baptized!

1 Peter 3:21 - Baptism doth also now save us.

The Bible says baptism is necessary to salvation just as clearly as it does the other conditions. The source or power to forgive is not in the water, or in faith, repentance, or confession. The power is in Jesus' blood, but that power is applied to the individual when he meets the conditions.

[Romans 6:3-7; Galatians 3:26,27]

7. Faithfulness, endurance

Matthew 10:22 - He who endures to the end will be saved.
Revelation 2:10 - Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

[1 Cor 15:1,2,58; Matt. 28:20; Titus 2:11,12; 1 John 2:1-6]

Again, some folks teach "once saved, always saved," denying faithfulness is necessary. Yet these verses affirm it is just as essential as the other conditions.

8. Church membership

Again people say, "The church doesn't save you. Christ saves you." So they conclude we don't need to be members of the church to be saved. But the Bible says:

Acts 2:47 - The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. The church does not save, but those who are saved are in the church. If we are not in the church, what is our condition?

Acts 20:28 - Jesus purchased the church with His blood (that which saves us).

Ephesians 5:23,25 - Jesus is Savior of the body (church), and gave Himself for the church. How can one be saved if He is not part of that which Jesus died to save?

Clearly there are many things God did to make salvation available to man, and there are several things each person must do to receive the salvation God offers.


II. Making Proper Application of These Scriptures


People often are mistaken about salvation because they isolate certain passages from the total context of God's will. They pick a few things the Bible says, and rest their salvation on those things, ignoring other things the Bible elsewhere states are essential.

I once heard a preacher tell a man, "The only passage you need to know and accept to be saved is John 3:16." Then what is the rest of the Bible for? And if other passages say something else is essential but I neglect it, how can I be saved? Consider some applications.

A. Some Folks Say We are "Saved by Grace Alone."

This is found in many denominational creeds.

Universalists carry this to its logical conclusion and claim that everyone will be saved.

The grace of God is available to all men. If grace is all we need, then all will be saved! But we know some will be lost, so something must be wrong with the doctrine of salvation by grace alone!

The problem is that the doctrine ignores the OTHER things the Bible says are essential to salvation.

If we take only the verses that show we need grace, we will reach conclusions that contradict other passages. The solution is to realize that, although the Bible says we are saved by grace, it never says we are saved by grace ALONE. Instead it says other things are needed.

Unfortunately, even though grace has been extended to all, some folks will be lost because they fail to meet the other conditions.

B. Other Folks Say All We Need Is the Death of Jesus.

When told that there are things we must do to be saved, they say, "Jesus blood is all you need. You don't have to do anything."

Again, this leads to a contradiction in Bible teaching. Jesus died for everyone, just like God's grace is for everyone (Heb. 2:9; 1 Tim. 2:4,6). If Jesus' death is all we need, then everyone will be saved. But that contradicts the Bible teaching that not everyone will be saved.

Again, the problem is that people are ignoring other things the Bible says are essential.

The solution is to realize that, though the Bible says we are saved by Jesus' death, it does not say His death alone saves us, with nothing else needed on our part. Instead it shows that other things are necessary.

Unfortunately, although Jesus died to save all men, some will be lost because they will not meet the conditions.

C. Other Folks Think They Will Be Saved Just Because They Are Good Moral People.

When told they need to obey the gospel, they appeal to their good moral life and think that is all they need.

Again, this contradicts Bible teaching, since the Bible describes good moral people who were lost, like Cornelius (Acts 10:1ff; 11:14).

The problem is that people are ignoring other things the Bible says are essential.

The solution is to realize that the Bible does say that a good moral life is necessary - this is part of faithful living. But it does not say that a good moral life ALONE will save us. Instead it says other things are necessary.

Unfortunately, many good moral people will be lost because they failed to meet the conditions to be forgiven of their sins.

D. Many Folks Believe They Will Be Saved by "Faith Alone."

When told they need to be baptized and live a faithful life, they say that's not necessary as long as one believes in Jesus as His personal Savior.

Again, this contradicts the Bible, since it describes many people who believed in Jesus but were not saved (James 2:19; John 12:42,43; Acts 22:1-16; Matt. 7:21-27).

The problem is that people ignore the Bible teaching about other things that are necessary to salvation.

If faith is all we need, then we do not even need repentance and confession, let alone baptism! Some may say these are part of faith, but the Bible lists them separately from faith (Rom. 10:9,10).

The solution is to realize that the Bible says we are saved by faith, but it never says we are saved by faith only. Instead, it expressly denies we are saved by faith only (James 2:24), and states other things that are necessary.

Unfortunately there are many people who have faith in Jesus, who yet will be lost because they have not met the other conditions (see examples above).

E. Some People Think We Are Saved by Baptism Alone.

Some people baptize babies to save them from original sin. Others act as though faithful living is not necessary because they have been baptized.

This contradicts the Bible teaching that people must believe, repent, and confess before they are baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; etc.), and that many baptized people became unfaithful and were lost (Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 10:26ff; Acts 8:12-24).

The problem is that people are ignoring the other things the Bible says are necessary.

The solution is to realize that, though baptism is necessary to salvation, the Bible nowhere says we are saved by baptism only. Instead it says other things are needed.

Unfortunately, there are people who have been baptized, who will yet be lost because they have not met the other conditions of salvation.

Conclusion

Acts 3:22,23 says we must give heed to all things that Jesus teaches.

Salvation may be compared to following a recipe. To have the desired result, it is not enough to follow some or most of the steps. One must include all the ingredients.

Are you willing to give heed to all that Jesus teaches?

[James 2:10; Revelation 22:18,19; Acts 20:27; Matthew 28:20; 4:4-7]

Note: You may want to learn more about topics related to this study, such as baptism or salvation by faith. If so, please see the links below for a list of other related topics available on our web site.

(C) Copyright 1997, 2006, David E. Pratte
Local churches and individuals may, within limits, distribute this Bible study guide for free, but not for sale.  Web sites may link to this page but not reproduce it. For details click here for our copyright guidelines.

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Topics for further Bible study

Why We Need Forgiveness
Things that Are Essential to Salvation
Is Obedience Essential to Salvation?
God's grace and mercy (law & works)
The Purpose of Baptism
Individual Responsibility in Salvation
Importance of Repentance
Should Babies Be Baptized?
Is Baptism Sprinkling, Pouring, or Immersion?
Salvation by "Faith Only" vs. Obedient Faith
What Must We Believe to Be Saved?
Confessing Christ in Conversion
How to Benefit from Jesus' Blood

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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.

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