Salvation or the acquisition of eternal life is the starting point in the
Christian life. To put it another way, there is no “Christian life” without
first becoming a Christian, which is what happens when a person is saved.
Unfortunately, God’s plan of salvation is either poorly presented or wrongly
presented by many fundamental evangelicals of today, even those who are
recognized as being at the pinnacle of their ministerial success.
I realize of course that many fundamental and evangelical ministers and
soul-winners will strenuously object to this study/commentary. Some will
summarily dismiss it as a heretical position before finishing the first few
pages; some who do stick with it to its end will avoid any serious consideration
of its contents because they have become “comfortable” in their thinking
regarding the subject. Some will take this path because they are “set in their
ways” and/or afraid of being convinced that they may be wrong about the issue
or, worse yet, have led others astray.
Then there will be those who will assign this study/commentary to the realm
of a Pharisaic endeavor of purist pride, or to someone who simply has too much
time on his hands and who embodies a “holier than thou” attitude. All of which
will be untrue.
This writer’s only desire is to be faithful to God’s Word. This writer also
realizes that he is subject to error and misunderstanding when it comes to
interpreting God’s Word. He welcomes any comments of correction or rebuttal
anytime and from anyone. All he asks of any reader is to reserve
judgment until the contents of this article are fairly and honestly considered
along with their scriptural underpinnings.
Are you aware that a diligent verse-by-verse search of the Bible will
indicate that nowhere is it found that anyone tells a lost person how to be
saved by the following methods?
- Ask or invite Jesus to come into your heart.
- Pray the sinner’s prayer.
- Ask God to forgive you of your sins.
- Ask Jesus to be Lord of your life.
- Commit yourself to Jesus Christ.
- Repent of your sins and believe on Jesus Christ.
- Open the door to your heart.
- Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Believe and be baptized.
- Walk the aisle of a church.
- Tell God you are sorry for your sins.
- Ask God to be merciful to you, a sinner.
- Confess your sins to God.
All such methods commonly used by evangelical ministers are (1) either never
found in God’s Word, or (2) are the result of a misunderstanding of a very few
verses. Biblical truth clearly shows that salvation is solely linked with
either the word believe or faith (both meaning the same) in
approximately 150 scriptural passages throughout the New Testament. In these
cases, which make up the vast preponderance of salvation scripture, no other
“requirement” is mentioned. Never once does anyone ask a lost person to pray
individually or together (“Pray after me”) some form of “programmed prayer” for
the purpose of being saved.
A sampling of scriptures illustrating this point are: John 1:12; 3:15-18;
36; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; 7:38; 8:24; 11:25, 26; 20:31; Acts 10:43, 44; 13:39;
15:8, 9; 16:31; Romans 1:16; 3:22, 27, 28, 30; 4:3-5, 24; 5:1; 9:31-33; 10:4; 1
Corinthians 1:21; Galatians 2:16; 3:8, 22, 24; Ephesians 1:13; 2:8; 1 Timothy
1:16. In these scriptures and many more (approximately 150 passages), the
Bible lists only one action a lost person may take for obtaining eternal
life, the action of exercising belief or faith (both meaning the
same thing) in Jesus Christ.
Belief or faith, as used in God’s Word regarding salvation adheres to the
- It is more than a mental consent to the existence of Jesus
Christ. An exegetical study of all uses of these words,
particularly within the original texts, clearly indicates that
“to believe” or “to have faith in” means to “trust completely
in,” “rely upon,” “rest upon,” or “to place one’s full confidence
in.” What’s more, the exercise of trust or faith is a decision,
not a prayer. It is a decision of the will within
man. It is made in an instant of time; it is made with the heart
(a genuinely honest decision)—in one’s inner being—the will. It
is the only action one may take in order to be saved according to
- It is based on the Gospel message—the death, burial and
resurrection of Jesus Christ—and, in particular, an understanding
of why Christ experienced death in man’s place on the cross (1
Corinthians 2:2; 15:3, 4).
There is a reason for the repetition of this within God’s Word. It is because
God would have anyone who reads His Word to understand that salvation is by
faith alone in Christ alone—and nothing else! In fact, in the only
place in God’s Word where the direct question is asked, “Sirs,
what must I do to be saved?” the Apostle Paul gives a concise and
complete answer by saying, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ
and you will be saved. . .” (Acts 16:29-31). Again, this is
the only place in the Bible where the question on how to be saved is
clearly asked, and the answer, formulated in very specific words as directed by
the Holy Spirit, is clearly, concisely and completely given.
What did Paul mean when he said, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”? For
certain he wasn’t asking the jailer to say a prayer. He is simply saying that a
decision must be made, a simple and willful act of faith—a genuine
decision by the jailer to trust in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for his
personal salvation, rather than trusting in any self-effort or anything or
anyone else to be saved. It was to be an act based on the Gospel, the “good
news” that Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary paid the penalty-price for his
sins, that Christ went to the grave but rose again and was now his living
Savior (1 Corinthians 2:2; 15:1-4).
The problem with the list above, which so many evangelicals use to bring
someone to Christ, is that it makes salvation a plan of works. This is
not to say that many have not been saved by praying such requests, but if they
are saved, it is because of their exercise of faith (trust) placed solely in
Jesus Christ and His sacrifice that saved them. Often this (actually) occurs
prior to or after their “prayer for salvation.” It happens only when a
person genuinely decides to trust only in Jesus and His work for
his personal salvation and in nothing else.
But if a person is trusting in the fact that he prayed the “sinner’s prayer,”
or some other parroted wordage, then he is not saved. If he only asked Christ to
be “Lord of his life,” without understanding and trusting solely in the fact
that Jesus alone paid for his sins, then he is not saved. If he only asked
Christ to “come into his heart,” without understanding and trusting solely in
the fact that Jesus alone paid for his sins, then he is not saved. Yet many,
even after taking such an incorrect path to God, eventually come to the
realization (by the continuing work of the Holy Spirit) of what Christ
accomplished on the cross and then quietly but genuinely accept it by a decision
of the will, trusting solely in Jesus and His sacrifice for their salvation.
This is usually accomplished without any fanfare or recognition, in some cases
after their “profession of faith” in some local church and, in some cases, after
they are baptized.
But then what about Romans 10:13, “For whoever calls
on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Doesn’t this indicate that a
person must pray (call) to God for salvation? No it doesn’t. It does in fact
state a fact, but it represents a believer’s prayer. In context it is
important to note that according to Romans 10:14, saving faith
precedes the calling on the “name of the Lord.” The person who has “in fact”
believed and been saved will “call upon Him” and will not be “put to shame”
(see verses 11 & 12), which is the equivalent of confessing
or recognizing Him as Lord. Certainly no Christian would believe that to
“call upon the name of the Lord while maintaining a disbelief in His
substitutionary work on Calvary” will save anyone.
The import of the verse, within context, is that anyone, both Jews and
Gentiles, may be saved and when they are, they will “without shame” call on or
recognize Him. This clarifies another often misused verse that is contained
within the context of this passage, which is misused to prove that one must
publicly proclaim Jesus in order to be saved (Romans 10:9). Verse 9
does say, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus
and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be
saved.” But the next verse (10) clarifies the matter,
establishing the fact that it is only when one believes that salvation
occurs. The emphasis is that when a person truly believes in Christ, he will
confess Christ, as covered in the following few verses (11-14) that have
previously been discussed here. The point being is that once a person truly
believes he will in fact confess (to God, not man), which is the
equivalent of “calling upon the name of the Lord.”
Another verse used to support the concept of praying for one’s salvation is
Acts 8:22 where Peter tells Simon to repent and pray for forgiveness. The
problem here, for those who advocate the “sinner’s prayer,” is that Peter is
speaking to a baptized believer and he is instructing him that he is to
change his mind and pray for forgiveness for trying to buy the gift of
conferring the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. This verse does not
support praying for one’s salvation.
Another verse often used to support praying for one’s salvation is Luke
18:13, wherein the publican (tax collector) asked God to be merciful, as he
was a sinner. This was in contrast to the Pharisee who took great pride in his
exercise of religion. Jesus declared the publican “justified” over (rather than)
the Pharisee. But this verse has nothing to do with salvation. It was a parable
issued under the Old Covenant, which was before the cross, and was a lesson
Then there is always the emphasis by many evangelicals on “repentance.” Often
they say that repentance must precede faith. Usually when the words “repentance”
or “repent” are used, the minister means a “sorrow for sins;” although, he
usually never explains one way or another what repentance means. Even so, the
meaning of “sorrow for one’s sins” is normally what is understood by the
listener. When such is the case, and if a person believes that he must generate
sorrow for his sin in order to be saved, this then borders on a “work” that he
must perform, and he will not be saved. He may indeed feel sorrow once he
realizes that he has sinned against God—this is one of the works of the Holy
Spirit as seen in 2 Corinthians 7:10—but believing that he must express
this sorrow to God in some form of prayer as part of the salvation process will
keep him from solely trusting in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for his
The word, “repent” or “repentance,” only means a “change of mind or
direction,” and it is indicative of the faith-based salvation decision (Acts
2:38; 17:30; 26:20; 2 Peter 3:9), because it is impossible to “repent”
without placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ. To “repent” is to turn from one
direction to another direction. When a person understands that no self-effort or
works or organization can save him; but that Jesus Christ alone can save him
because of His sacrifice on the cross, he then “by faith” (1) turns from self as
(2) he turns to Christ. A person cannot turn solely to Jesus Christ without
turning from self, and it is this “faith-turn” that is repentance. Both
actions are two sides of the same coin. They are actually one and the same; the
act of turning, which is an exercise of faith, is repentance.
Again, it is the turning from self to Christ, a genuine decision
of the person’s will that is repentance. As such, repentance as mentioned in the
above scriptural passages is the equivalent to salvation, which is by faith
alone in Christ alone.
And then there is always 1 John 1:9, “If we confess
our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from
all unrighteousness.” The verse is absolutely true, but it applies
only to Christians. Yet it used by so many evangelicals to present
the “plan of salvation” to the lost. The same is true of Revelation 3:20,
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My
voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with
Me”. Here Jesus is standing at the heart-doors of believers of
a local church and stating that if any believer will open his heart-door
Christ will come in and have communion with him.
To put it succinctly, salvation comes only by faith alone in Christ alone.
And what is interesting, this same key to salvation is also the key to “living
in Christ,” which is the equivalent to “walking in Christ,” which is the
equivalent to “being filled with the Holy Spirit.” Again, for more detail
regarding this aspect of Christian living, please read the commentary entitled
“The Holy Spirit in the Church Age” and “The Principle of Faith” in the topical
section of www.bibleone.net. At the same web
site, in its topical study section, other articles regarding salvation may be
reviewed, e.g., “The Salvation Formula,” “The Defining Moment of the Salvation
Experience,” and “Understanding God’s Salvation.”
Finally, it must be said that literally thousands of persons have been saved
by the preaching and teaching of God’s Word even by men and women who have not
accurately presented God’s plan of salvation as is described in this article.
But they were saved upon their realization of the substitutionary work by Jesus
Christ on the cross of Calvary and their subsequent willful decision of reliance
(trust) in Jesus and His sacrifice for their personal salvation, which decision
may have been before, during or after some formalized process or prayer.
It is by faith alone that a person is saved. Salvation is a gift from
God (John 3:16; 4:10; Acts 11:17; Romans 5:15-18; 6:23; 2 Corinthians 9:15;
Ephesians 2:8, 9; 3:7; 2 Timothy 1:9) and salvation faith,
which is a genuine and willful act to trust in and rely upon Jesus Christ and
His sacrifice alone for one’s personal salvation, is the only way a person can
say yes to God’s offer, the only way he can receive God’s gift of
This article is written not to discourage or aggravate anyone. Hopefully it
will spark one’s interest in and desire to be faithful to God’s Word. If there
is any question or any ambiguity in anyone’s mind at this point as to what to
say to a sinner regarding how to be saved, then go back to the one and only
place in the Bible where God, through His Holy Spirit, reveals the answer during
the only time within His Word where the question is asked, “Sirs, what
must I do to be saved”—Acts 16:30, 31. Peter did not answer the
question by saying to the jailor “confess your sins,” or “ask God for
forgiveness,” or “ask Jesus to come into your heart,” or “ask Jesus to be your
Lord” or “repeat after me,” or “confess with your mouth Jesus Christ,” or
“repent and be baptized,” or “walk down an aisle,” or any other step or steps
that present day evangelicals are accustomed to using in their attempts to bring
others to Christ. No! Peter’s full response, by direction of the Holy Spirit,
was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” If
there is anyplace in the Bible where God’s salvation plan is more fully
presented, this writer cannot find it.
It is critical that when you bring someone to Christ, he must not be confused
over who paid the price for his sins and what he must do about it. He must not
be lead to believe that it is up to him to be sorry for his sins, to say a
“programmed prayer,” or to do anything (work) other than to make the firm,
willful and genuine decision to place his full trust (reliance) in Jesus Christ
and His sacrifice alone for his personal salvation. Once he makes this decision,
in an instant of time, he will be saved, he will possess eternal life, and he
will be a child of God. Then, and only then, should he consider making his
decision public to others by verbal profession of faith and believer’s baptism,
both as acts of obedience to his Father and not as essential elements of
the salvation process.
Nothing in this commentary should be construed to mean that any believer at
anytime should not invite or encourage a lost person to accept Christ as Savior.
This applies to individual one-on-one situations, as well as to mass church
services or crusades. In fact this writer personally believes and strongly
encourages that at every opportunity and particularly at the end of every
Bible service message where there is the possibility of a lost person being
present, God’s salvation should be clearly presented and an invitation be given
to accept by faith alone Christ alone as one’s personal Savior. This
writer has absolutely no problem when a minister encourages anyone who makes
such a genuine willful decision to make it public by “walking the aisle”
and professing it before the church as long as the person who has accepted
Christ understands clearly that it was solely his faith-decision that
activated God’s grace to save him and not any subsequent outward display or
effort on his part.
One last thought regarding the salvation of very young children. Christ
indeed said, “. . . unless you are converted and become as
little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven;” (Matthew
18:3, 4) and, later, “Let the little children come to Me,
and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew
19:14) In both instances Jesus was attempting to illustrate to those around
Him that it takes child-like faith (reliance) on Him for salvation. This
does not preclude the fact that even a small child must at least understand that
his salvation is wholly dependent upon what Jesus did on the cross, even though
he may not understand all the theological ramifications of Jesus’ death. I dare
say that even the most astute theologians never fully understand all of them. In
any case there are countless situations where a child makes a decision, under
the guiding hand of someone else, “to give his heart to Christ,” and is thereby
declared saved. This writer maintains that this child’s salvation actually
takes place when, prior or subsequent to this decision of “giving his heart to
Christ,” he comes to the understanding of the substitutional meaning of
Christ’s death, and on his own simply relies upon the death of Christ as his
only hope of salvation.
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven
given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 3:3)
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . . and lo, I am with
you always, even to the end of the age. Amen. (Matthew 28:19, 20)