Rethinking the Requirement for Salvation

Perhaps the salient question facing evangelicals today is the one asked by the Philippian jailer: “What must I do to be saved.” (Acts 16:30)

The answer given by Paul seems simple enough: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” This response, however, requires that we accurately identify “believe.” Since belief comprises the operative element in Paul’s statement, it is crucial that we get the answer right.

Concern regarding ambiguity is aroused by assertions that salvation requires not only a head belief but a heart belief. That distinction is not obvious.

Concern is heightened by scriptural statements such as that of Jesus in Luke 14:27, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” This suggests that believing in Jesus Christ entails a commitment to bear our cross and come after Him.

Some contend that this verse does not describe the condition for salvation but for discipleship—that there are two levels of believers: ordinary and disciples. However, this distinction between garden-variety believers and disciple does not enjoy scriptural support. Consequently, this verse suggests that saving faith includes a commitment to follow Christ regardless of the cost.

The popular gospel presentation offering salvation by asking Jesus into one’s heart comes nowhere close to conveying this concept of faith. Consequently, this presentation may be giving seekers confidence that they are headed for heaven when in fact they are destined for damnation. This gospel also leaves those responding unaware of their obligation to follow the Lord regardless of the cost, resulting in spiritual immaturity and unfruitfulness. These two outcomes are producing confusion and weakness in the contemporary evangelical community.

Evangelicals need to rethink the definition of faith before running a special on salvation.

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