When faced with the above question, I in the knowledge I received in church growing up would answer as I was taught. But as I have learned through the years, we can’t always depend on what imperfect humans have discerned. Often we allow the wisdom of man to slip into our doctrines, and completely change God’s word to mean something else entirely. I would like to go back to the Bible, and examine specifically what it says is the way of salvation.
One verse specifically outlines the way of salvation in pretty plain English. I would like to go to Romans 10:8-10:
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 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. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
This passage of scripture, I believe very plainly lays out the way of salvation. We must come before God in a humble spirit, confessing to the Lord that we believe in Him, and believe in our hearts that He was raised from the dead. Only then can we have salvation.
You notice how this passage uses the word heart? It says we must believe in our heart. The bible itself says that just merely believing that God exists is not enough. In James 2:19 it says Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble. You see, even demons believe in God, but do we say that demons can have salvation? Of course not! This idea of believing in your heart is key!
So what does this whole heart thing mean? Well, I’d like to do a little bit of a side study on the heart. I think that examining this idea will help us better understand this idea of believing in our hearts.
It says in Matthew 6:20 & 21 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The bible uses heart as a way of signifying what our whole purpose is focused on. Whatever we put first in our lives, that is where our heart is. The very center of our being, our motivation for doing things, lies in our heart.
I would like to cite another bible verse that seems to point toward this “heart belief.” Matthew 13:15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand in their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
This idea of “heart believing” I believe in my heart (pardon the pun) is where our salvation truly lies. It is that we realize deep down inside our very being that Christ died on the cross for us, and rose again on the third day. We realize that we did not deserve it, but He freely gave it.
One problem I know we as imperfect humans do, is we often like to add things to this. We like to say, well yes, you must believe in your heart, but you must also__________(insert action.). This I believe is where we get way off track!
I would like to examine scripture to support this belief. Galatians 2:16 says: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Another verse I would like to cite is a more well known passage…Ephesians 2:8 & 9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. I think those verses speak for themselves.
Along these lines I have found that some people believe that Baptism is required to have salvation. In part I agree with this. I will explain…
In Matthew 3:11 it says I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.
Here you see what I mean by in a way I agree with this belief. When we accept Christ, He bestows upon us the Holy Spirit. We are then baptized by the Holy Ghost. This idea of physical baptism by emersion, being required in order to have salvation, I must take issue with. As I have stated before God’s word clearly states that there is no righteous work that we can do to earn salvation, how then can we argue that physical baptism is required to earn salvation? The bible often refers to salvation as “baptism by the Holy Ghost,” or similar like uses, as referred to in Matthew 3:11.
The Bible overwhelmingly points toward Baptism merely being a step of obedience for the Christian. For example, Saul after he is converted is baptized. Jesus, before he begins His ministry is baptized.
A verse that I found which seems to refer to baptism directly is I Peter 3:21. It says: The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answers of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I can’t get passed that word “save” in this verse. It seems to point to baptism being required for salvation, but it also says that baptism is the answer “of a good conscience toward God. This seems to point toward Baptism as a step of obedience. I must admit, at this point I could not reason an answer, so I referred to my Matthew Henry commentary for guidance. It states: "To prevent mistakes, the apostle declares what he means by saving baptism; not the outward ceremony of washing with water, which, in itself, does no more than put away the filth of the flesh, but that baptism of which the baptismal water formed the sign. Not the outward ordinance, but when a man, by the regeneration of the Spirit, was enabled to repent and profess faith, and purpose a new life, uprightly, and as in the presence of God. Let us beware that we rest not upon outward forms. Let us learn to look on the ordinances of God spiritually, and to inquire after the spiritual effect and working of them on our consciences. We would willingly have all religion reduced to outward things. But many who were baptized, and constantly attended the ordinances, have remained without Christ, died in their sins, and are now past recovery."
This look at this verse seems to be right in line with what the rest of God’s word says. I know that God’s word says we are to search his word for the truth, but it also says to seek Godly wisdom. I have not had an adequate education in this area, and therefore, feel I must appeal to someone more knowledgeable than me to better understand portions of God’s word.
So therefore in closing, I must conclude that salvation comes from a “heart belief” that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, and rose again on the third day. We come to God and acknowledge our lack of ability to save ourselves through physical actions, and bow before Him humbly taking the righteousness he allowed to be bestowed on us through His death on the cross. Baptism does not save us, except maybe the “baptism” of putting on of the Holy Spirit which Christ bestows on us when we accept Him.