What Must I Do to Be Saved? That’s a Tough Question

Well, what’s so tough about answering that? Paul and Silas gave the Philippian jailor the answer in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

The difficulty resides in identifying the meaning of the word “believe.”

The Struggle

We encounter this difficulty in our attempts to apply this term in practical situations, especially related to salvation.

When I was in college I had a Bible study with a person who was not a believer. As this Bible study progressed I asked this person if he would like to receive Christ, and he responded affirmatively. So I took him through the typical evangelical approach of praying a prayer confessing that he was a sinner, acknowledging that Christ had died for his sins, and inviting Jesus into his heart.

This same approach is used in countless churches across the nation during any given week, by campus groups, by evangelists, and by individual Christians leading their friends and neighbors to the Lord.

The challenge began, though, when after a brief time he drifted away, never again to my knowledge showing any interest in spiritual things. That development caused me to question whether he had been saved. Since he did what evangelicals tell people to do in order to be saved, it seemed to me that he should be saved. This was especially the case since he was a sincere person, and not someone that would take a spiritual decision lightly. On the other hand, his lack of spiritual interests seem to reveal a lack of spiritual life.

The Question

Pondering the situation prompted me to wonder what exactly a person needed to do to be saved. I knew that a person needed to believe in order to be saved based on the verse cited above, John 3: 16, and various other passages. But this left me to wonder, what did it mean to believe?

From a practical perspective the answer seemed to be to pray the prayer that I described earlier that included confessing one’s sinfulness, acknowledging that Jesus had died to pay for the sins, and asking Him to enter one’s life. Or as one perspective of the gospel expresses it, the gospel includes the human problem, the Divine solution, and the human response.

The problem for me was that this sincere young man seemed to do all that and yet it appears that he was not saved. This left me to ask whether I should have asked him to do something other than pray that prayer, or whether the content of the prayer in which I led him was accurate.

The More Specific Question

I sensed that the prayer was on target in terms of the cognitive content of belief, that is, acknowledging that Jesus died for his sins. However, I wondered whether or not belief also included a volitional dimension. Maybe if I would have described faith as also including a commitment to Christ he would either not have been willing to receive Christ or he would have done so with more substantive results. I found this practical issues perplexing.

It was about that time that the Amplified New Testament became popular. Perhaps the aspect of that version that caught the attention of most people was the expansion of the concept of faith to mean “believe in, trust in, rely on,” or at least that’s how I recall it. That seemed to be saying that believing in Christ meant trusting in Him or relying on Him.” Did that mean that believing entailed trusting or relying on Him to save you, or did it encompass a broader sense of trusting and relying, such as trusting Him with your life?

A Relational Question

Often the gospel is expressed in terms of receiving Christ as Savior. Does saving faith only include receiving Him, trusting Him, as Savior?

In the previous post we reflected on the many relationships believers have with Christ. Is faith limited to one of those relationships, Savior, or does it encompass the others also?

So I found myself struggling to answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” I find many today struggle with answering that question accurately, and many who do not struggle with it perhaps should.

I plan to continue this discussion in tomorrow’s post.

2 comments on “What Must I Do to Be Saved? That’s a Tough Question
  1. Martin Pagano says:

    The question you see to be asking is what must someone else do for me to believe they are saved. Some may talk about their fruit or their works or any number of issues. Personally I don’t think we can know about someone else even those that may do exactly what we expect. It is easy to appear to be a believer because we focus on the outward actions of a person. Acting like a believer is not difficult especially when that is what we expect. I have stopped trying to figure out the spiritual condition of others. The Bible tells me to work out my own salvation.
    “To use an expression . . . , we must ‘preach the gospel to ourselves every day.’ For me that means I keep going back to Scriptures such as Isaiah 53:6, Galatians 2:20, and Romans 8:1. It means I frequently repeat the words from an old hymn, ‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.’”
    (Jerry Bridges in “Gospel-Driven Sanctification”)

    • Paul Brownback says:

      Marty, thanks for your insights. For so me reason this comment did not come through my inbox, so I just saw it. Trust all is well. Paul

Have a comment?