Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about salvation.
Who needs it?
Most people seem to think God grades on a curve. If you try to be a good person and don’t make too many serious mistakes, you’ll probably be given an average or above-average grade when you die, pass the course of life, and go to heaven; if you’re below average, you fail, and, well…
That might sound like a fair enough arrangement—especially if you consider yourself a better-than-average person—but according to the Bible, it doesn’t work that way.
None of us deserve to go to heaven. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “There is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) Anyone who thinks they’re good enough to make it to heaven by their own good works is only kidding themselves—and they will miss out on God’s greatest gift. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)
You can’t be good enough. You can’t earn salvation or work your way to heaven. “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (2 Ephesians 2:8-9) “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5)
So who needs it? Everyone!
What’s it going to cost me?
“Surely there’s a catch,” you’re probably thinking. “Surely I have to give up something, work hard, or do something to deserve salvation.” No, you don’t—and that’s the beautiful thing about salvation! “It is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) When have you ever had to earn or pay for a gift someone gave you? A gift is a gift. If you had to earn or pay for it, it wouldn’t be a gift.
Salvation is not a reward for good works. Your good works can’t get you into heaven any more than your bad deeds can damn you to hell once you’ve received God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice. You’re saved purely by faith in Jesus. You just have to accept the fact that you couldn’t possibly pay enough to buy your way into heaven, and then humbly accept God’s gift. It’s as simple as that.
Are there any sins too bad for God to forgive?
God wants to freely forgive everyone for every wrong they have ever committed. He says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon,” (Isaiah 55:7) and, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17) He wants to forgive everyone, and the way to experience His forgiveness is to believe in Jesus. (Acts 16:31) “He who believes in [Jesus] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
When people hear the truth—God’s plan of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice—in a way that they can understand, the Holy Spirit speaks directly to their hearts and brings them to the point of decision. If they believe and accept Jesus as their Savior, their sins are forgiven; but if they willfully refuse His forgiveness, God’s hands are tied. “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) God has given every person the majesty of free choice, and He will not override their decision to reject His offer.
Of course, just because someone rejects the truth the first time they hear it doesn’t mean they’ll never be given another opportunity to make the right choice. Many people get more than one chance. Still, the Bible tells us, “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) “For you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14)
How much faith does it take?
God doesn’t expect you to have great faith in something you know so little about and understand even less, and it’s impossible to understand or appreciate salvation, really, until you’ve experienced it. All it takes is enough faith to concede that Jesus could possibly be the way to salvation, and a sincere desire to let Him prove Himself to you. If you only have enough faith to pray, “Jesus, if You are real, and if You really are the way to salvation, show me,” He will! If you’re convinced enough by what you’ve heard about salvation to give it a try, He’s given you all the faith you need to be saved.
What does it mean to be “born again”?
“Born again” is another term for being saved. It comes from this passage, found in the Gospel of John:
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [physical birth] and the Spirit [spiritual rebirth], he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (James 4:14)
You are born again spiritually the instant you receive Jesus as your Savior. “As many as received Him were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” ( John 1:12-13)
What is “eternal life”?
Our earthly bodies will eventually die and return to the dust from which they came. Salvation won’t change that—it’s not the fountain of youth for your mortal flesh and bones. But your spirit, the real you, will live on forever. And where your spirit spends eternity is much more important than where you spend your comparatively short life on earth. When you receive Jesus into your heart, He promises that you will spend eternity with Him in heaven—that beautiful world of the spirit where there is no more sorrow or pain, only joy and love and life ever after! Salvation is your free ticket to heaven. That is what the terms “eternal life” and “everlasting life,” which are often used in the Scriptures, refer to.
If you choose to reject God’s gift of salvation, your spirit will still live on when your body dies. There are various different states or levels in the spirit world, and the Bible isn’t specific about each of the different states and exactly who goes where. But it is very clear on one thing, and that is that only those who receive salvation through Jesus will be able to enter and enjoy the beauties, pleasures, challenges, and bliss of God’s heavenly kingdom, and live life eternally.
Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth and died for our sins so that we can have eternal life in heaven with Him and everyone else who believes in Him. He told us when He was here that “I am the door”—into His Father’s house, the kingdom of God. “If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” (John 10:9) To get to heaven, we can walk through Jesus, the open door. He also said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
Anyone can go to heaven, no matter what their religion—or lack of one—if they receive Jesus. Accepting Him is the one sure way to get there, and doing so is easy and free with no other preconditions. It is an offer too good to ignore.
Can I lose my salvation?
No! One of the most marvelous things about the gift of salvation is that once you have received Jesus into your heart, He is there to stay. He has come into your life, and He will be with you forever. Jesus has said that He will never leave you nor forsake you, and that He will be with you always, even to the end of the world. (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20) There is nothing you could ever say or do that would nullify these wonderful promises.
Jesus knows you’re not perfect and never will be—and He loves you just the same! When He forgave you for your sins, He not only forgave your past sins but your present sins and those you will yet commit as well.
True, you can keep yourself in line for more of God’s blessings by trying your best to please Him and do what’s right, but you can’t keep yourself saved! Jesus did that once and forever. Eternal life is not a sometimes thing—saved and lost and saved again, every time you make a mistake and say you’re sorry. There’s no such thing! Once you’re saved, you’re saved forever!
Nevertheless, if you willfully do wrong once you’re saved and don’t repent and make things right, you’ll suffer for those sins in some way. The Lord will likely let you reap the bad results so you’ll learn a lesson. “For whom the Lord loves He chastens.” (Hebrews 12:6) But even then, you won’t lose your salvation.
What’s the difference?
What’s the difference between this “accept Jesus and be born again” form of Christianity and other religions— or even other Christian denominations’ beliefs regarding salvation, for that matter?
David Brandt Berg once explained it this way:
The most raging religious controversy the world has ever known has been between the do-it-yourself religions and the God-alone-can-save-you kind. Man has always been trying to save himself, to work his way to heaven, with just a little help from God thrown in. That way he can give himself most of the credit and go his own way.
They work so hard at trying to earn salvation, they figure they deserve it—with or without His help—and are quite offended if He doesn’t seem to appreciate their goodness. They say, “Why, look at all I’ve done for You, God! You ought to give me a medal! I really deserve to be saved. If You’re ever going to save anybody, You should save me. If anybody’s going to make it to heaven, I should certainly make it.”
This conflict has resulted in some of the greatest misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Scriptures that have ever existed. Most people have been trying to save themselves ever since, with as little thanks to God as possible, and they have twisted the Scriptures to try to prove they could do it. But God can’t help them to save themselves. He does not help those who think they can help themselves, but only those who know they can’t. They can’t save themselves, no matter how much they try to get His help to do it their way.
As a young Christian, I was deceived for a time by the delusive doctrine of “on and off, now it’s here, now it’s gone” eternal insecurity taught by some churches and “works” religions. But then one day as a teenager, I was thrilled to discover the simple truth of John 3:36, where Jesus said, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life”—right now! No ifs, ands, or buts about it! After years of discouragement and defeat and lack of assurance of my own salvation, I found that all I had to do was believe. That was enough!
What if someone dies without ever having a chance to get saved? Do they go to hell?
God is all loving, just, and merciful. He takes into consideration those who have never had a clear-cut chance to hear and receive His truth. The Bible says, “He is not willing that any should perish.” (2 Peter 3:9)
Those who have ample opportunity to receive God’s gift of salvation in this life, yet willfully choose to reject it, will be judged accordingly. But if God is not willing that any should perish, then there must be a chance in the next life for those who pass on without sufficient opportunity to fully understand and make the choice to receive His salvation on earth.
Heaven is full of sinners
You cannot save yourself by your own works, your own goodness, your own attempts to keep God’s laws and to love Him, or even your own endeavors to find and follow His truth. You cannot save yourself no matter how good you try to be. There’s nothing you can do to get it except just receive it by faith—that’s all! You have to humble yourself and acknowledge that you don’t deserve it, that you’re just a lost sinner, and that there’s no way you can be saved except by the grace of God.
The worst sinner in the world can go to heaven by faith, and the best person can go to hell because of unbelief. Heaven is full of sinners, saved by grace through faith.—D.B.B.
God never stops loving you
What is God like? Some people picture Him as an angry God, an all-seeing eye carrying around a big stick, ready to clobber them; or as a cruel tyrant, some kind of a monster who is trying to frighten them into hell. But actually, He is love! He is a loving God who is trying to love everyone into heaven. He’s so close, so intimate, so personal, so loving, so kind, so tender, so gentle, so concerned—and He’s waiting with open arms. The only reason He follows us around is that He’s hoping we’ll turn around and meet Him with open arms.
He never stops loving us no matter what we do. He never rejects us or withdraws His love. He always has hope for us no matter how far we’ve strayed. So if you feel far from God, maybe it’s because you haven’t opened your heart to receive His love and forgiveness.
You need not continue to feel condemned for your mistakes and sins; only be sorry, ask for God’s forgiveness, and be forgiven. (Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:9)
If you’ll even start going God’s way, if you’ll just turn toward Him and start trying to find your way home, the Father will come running toward you and receive you with open arms of love. (Luke 15:18-24) —D.B.B.
Nobody can fully understand salvation. That’s why Jesus said that you must be like a little child and just accept it by faith. Does a baby understand the love of his mother? Does a little child under- stand the love of his father?—No, he just receives it, feels it, and accepts it. Even before he understands language, he understands love. He feels love from his parents and sees it in their actions, and he trusts them. Likewise, you don’t have to understand all about God to know His wonderful love and salvation in Jesus. All you have to do is receive it!—D.B.B.
A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works; indeed, he certainly won’t know how it works until he’s accepted it.—C. S. Lewis
The light breaks in
(At the time of this experience, Virginia Brandt Berg was a helpless, hopeless invalid. Paralyzed from the waist down in an accident, she had been confined to bed for nearly all of the previous five years. She also had life-threatening heart and lung problems, and suffered various other side effects from numerous unsuccessful operations to try to restore the use of her legs. Her condition had steadily deteriorated until she weighed only 78 pounds [35 kg].)
One evening as I [lay alone on my sickbed] there suddenly came into my heart an intense longing; I felt compelled to cry aloud to some unseen power for help. I could not raise my voice above a whisper, so in an earnest whisper I pled, “If it could be possible that there is a God out there somewhere, reveal Yourself to me. If You are there, reveal Yourself to me.” I seemed driven by some power beyond myself to call and call, and so, over and over I repeated, “If You are there, please, oh please, for mercy’s sake, reveal Yourself to me.”
As though in response to my plea, a deep conviction of sin came over my heart. I felt as though I were the vilest of sinners. This was unusual for the simple reason that I had always been rather self-righteous. I had lived a very moral life and was quite proud of it—very self-satisfied. It was as though my eyes had suddenly been opened and I saw myself in my true condition for the first time in my life—my past [good] works appeared as nothing. The burden of sin and self increased until it seemed greater than I could bear, and at length I began to weep.
I wish I could tell you just what took place at that time in my heart, but it is absolutely impossible. The new birth is a mysterious, supernatural work which is done by the Lord Himself, and I cannot tell you how He did it, but He completely changed my heart! That evening, lying there on that bed alone, I was born again. It sounds so simple, so trite, to just say, “I was changed … I was born again,” but I would belittle the wonders of God’s working and the miraculous transformation that took place that evening if I were to attempt to describe them in detail. I can only say, as did the blind man whom Jesus healed, “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25)
I was not alone any longer, for I felt His presence in that room as real as if some member of the family were standing by my sickbed, and I was talking to Him as naturally as a little child talks to a parent. I told Him all about it, and I knew He heard and understood, for a sweet, indescribable peace and a cool restfulness came over my troubled spirit. I had seen no vision, heard no voice, nor otherwise evidenced anything with the natural senses, but had heard the “still, small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12) in my heart and had come into such a real, personal contact with Him that I could truly say, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him.” (2 Timothy 1:12) All my unbelief had fled. God was real, indeed, and I was a “new creature” in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV) The light had broken in! —From The Hem of His Garment, the life story of Virginia Brandt Berg
A no-lose situation
You don’t need to worry about whether or not you are going to lose your salvation or how you are going to manage to stay saved, because eternal salvation by grace means once saved, always saved. Once you’ve received Jesus Christ as your Savior, there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it—you are a saved child of God! “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.” (John 3:36) That one verse should be enough to end all your worries. You have eternal life right now, and you can’t lose it.
Besides, you can’t keep yourself saved any more than you could save yourself in the first place. Even though you’re not perfect and you’re bound to make mistakes, God is going to save you anyway. Once you’ve received Jesus, you are completely purified and redeemed in the eyes of God by the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. You’re saved right now because God has promised it, and God’s Word is true. He cannot go back on His Word.
Salvation is forever. He’s already given it to you, and He’s not going to take it back. It’s yours!—D.B.B.
The Devil’s message has always been: “Save your- self! You’re your own god, your own savior. Why depend on another?” But God’s message is: “Only I can save you! You cannot save yourself. Worship Me!” God doesn’t save those who think they can save themselves, but only those sinners who know they can’t!—D.B.B.