What Must I Do to be Saved?
by Alex Bernárd
“ARE YOU SAVED?”
This is the question we often hear but at times we do not know how to respond to this question. In the first place, do we even know what are we being saved from?
According to the Scriptures, we need salvation because of sin:
Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned.”
1 Corinthians 15:22 “For just as in Adam all die, even so too in Christ all be brought to life.”
1 John 2:2 “He [Jesus Christ] is the expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.”
Okay, so because of the defiance of our ancestors death came to all, up to us. We call this instance as the original sin. And we need salvation from this sin as well as our personal sins, the sins we actually commit.
How then shall we be saved from this sin?
Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved.”
Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”
(see also: Acts 15:11; Rom. 3:24; 2Thes. 2:16; Ti 2:11, 3:7; 2Tim. 1:9)
So we are saved by the grace of God and by the grace of God alone (Sola Gratia). But what is this “grace”? As it is theologically defined, it is a favor. Grace is something we do not deserve but yet it is free. It is a help that God gives us to his call to become his adoptive children so we may partake eternal life.
Let’s put it this way, since according to the book of Revelations “nothing unclean shall enter heaven”, we need grace. We cannot breathe underwater unless we have underwater breathing apparatus. We cannot breathe into outer space unless we have space suit. Hence, we cannot live in heaven unless we have grace.
The question now is what is our response to this grace? Similar to acquiring a free movie ticket, we can enter a movie house for free because we have a free ticket. But having a free ticket is just the start. There are things we must do, our response, to get the free ticket, like writing down some contact information or liking something on facebook.
The question now is what must we do to be saved? We are saved by the grace of God…initially, but we have to respond to this.
This question was asked in different forms throughout the New Testament:
Acts 16: 30-31 “Then he [the jailer] brought them [Paul and Silas] out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your household will be saved.”
Matthew 19: 16, 18-19 “Now someone approached him and said, ‘Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?’ And Jesus replied, ‘you shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (cf Mk 10:17-19; Lk 18:18-20)
John 3:3,5: “Jesus answered and said to him [Nicodemus], ‘Amen, amen I say to you, no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above…without being born of water and Spirit.”
We are saved by the grace of God which we first receive at baptism (i.e. John 3: 1-7):
Romans 6:3-4 “Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”
Col. 2:12 “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”
But we have to respond or cooperate to this grace as we grow up through our faith (i.e. Acts 16:30-31) and good works (i.e. Mt. 19: 16-19).
Titus 3:5-8 “not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we may be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these points, that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others.”
We need faith to be saved.
Romans 3:28 “For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.”
However, we are not saved by faith alone.
James 2:14-26 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone may say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘the friend of God.’ See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route? For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
1 Corinthians 13:2 “And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.”
As explained by Jimmy Akin, “Salvation is a process that begins when a person first becomes a Christian, continues through the rest of his life, and is completed in the future.”
1 Cor. 1:8 “He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus [Christ].”
2 Cor 2:15 “For we are the aroma of Christ for God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing”
Phil. 2:12 “So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
Rom. 13:11 “And do this because you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
1 Cor. 5:5 “you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”
To sum it all up, what then is the theological, biblical, and logical response to the question “ARE YOU SAVED?”
As preached in the Bible, all of us are already saved, initially. Since salvation is a process, we are also being saved and at the same time, we are hoping that we will be saved. As written in the letters of St. Paul the apostle, we should be working out our salvation in fear and trembling and confidently hoping in the promises of Christ.
(see: Rom 8:24; Eph 2:5-8; 1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Cor 2:15; Phil. 2:12; Rom. 5:9-10; 1 Cor. 3:12-15; Phil. 2:12 Rom. 5:2; 2Tim 2:11-13)