What do you have to believe to be saved?

By Robin Schumacher

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If you ever wondered what makes up the gospel, as well as how people before the cross were saved, here you go. Notice some very key points in the story:

The one Jesus points out as being saved makes three important acknowledgements: God, his own sin, and faith in God to have mercy on someone who lacks the ability to make things right.

The word Jesus uses for "justified" (dikaioo) is the exact same term used throughout the New Testament to describe a Christian's salvation (e.g. "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law" — Rom. 3:28). If you are not aware, justification is a forensic or legal term and means the act of God whereby He declares the sinner righteous before Him while the sinner is still in their sinning state. It is the legal imputation of the righteousness of Christ to the new believer.

On this last point, you might ask, "But the man didn't know about Jesus — how was Christ's righteousness then given to him?"

Good question.

Progressive Revelation

Theologian Dr. Charles Ryrie answers this important question in the following way: "The basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various dispensations [ages or times]." [1]

The salvific work of Jesus is the basis of everyone's salvation, regardless of when they lived. Christ's sacrifice was foreshadowed through animal sacrifices for sin in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament we hear Paul say, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:3031).

Faith has always been the requirement for everyone's salvation, regardless of when they lived. Those in the Old Testament heard, "whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Joel 2:32) and "the righteous will live by faith" (Hab. 2:4). Those after the cross hear, "For by grace you have been saved through faith" (Eph. 2:8).

God has always been the object of faith for everyone's salvation, regardless of when they lived. The writers of Hebrews tells us, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

Depicting these truths graphically ends up looking something like the following:

Believe the Gospel

What does a person have to believe to be saved? They need to believe the gospel. That God exists, that the wrongs they have committed are beyond their ability to make amends to their Creator, and that they need a Savior (Jesus) to deliver them from those wrongs and help them live a life that is infinitely better than the one they have now.

You may not be a Protestant Christian from the Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, but the good news is you don't have to be to stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

You just need to believe that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, one of which is you.

1. Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody, 2007), pg. 115.

TagsBiblical-Salvation  |  Biblical-Truth  |  Controversial-Issues  |  Theological-Beliefs

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Published 2-17-14