How Can I Be Saved?
The Bible reveals that sin causes separation from God. Because God is both the source of life and true life itself, the inherent result of sin is death. All people sin, so eternal separation from God and the finality of mortal death are the natural consequence. To save humanity from this consequence, God made Himself into a Man, Yeshua (Jesus). In His humanity, he lived a sinless life and sacrificially gave Himself to be crucified on behalf of those who had sinned. This is summarized by the Apostle Paul: "For the death He died, He died to sin, once for all" (Romans 6:10). Three days after Yeshua died, He came back to life and was witnessed by hundreds before ascending to heaven where He currently resides.
Salvation hinges on two truths in which Christian faith is rooted: The crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. In the former, the condemnation of death is satisfied; in the latter, the finality of death is overcome. By the giving of one's life to Christ in a covenantal union, His death substitutes one's own. Likewise, His power over death, as demonstrated by His resurrection and continued eternal life, become one's own. This is what it means to be "saved." It starts and ends with unifying one's life with Christ, so that His death and life reconcile the separation caused by sin and eternal life is received.
To be saved is to receive the assurance of life after death in the presence of God. It is an assurance Christians receive and hold presently in this lifetime. As such, to be saved is both a present reality and a promised destiny. This salvation exists solely through Yeshua, the Messiah. In Him, all are able to partake in eternal life, now and in the world to come.
In the Gospel of John, Yeshua speaks of eternal life in terms of knowing God: "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3). This knowledge is not mere intellectual comprehension but a deep, loving relationship and devotion to God and His incarnation, Yeshua. This is saving knowledge isn't merely intellectual, rather it is intimate fellowship and covenantal union with God, as reflected in the natural metaphor of a husband and wife.
Eternal life is not simply an extension of our earthly existence but a transformation of our very being, an everlasting, intimate communion with God. In our present lives, this transformation is spiritually realized from the very beginning of our faith. Practically and intellectually, the transformation occurs throughout our natural lifetimes. Upon the return of Christ, salvation will grant believers the fullness of eternal life, including resurrection for those previously deceased.
To understand the prerequisites for this salvation into eternal life, we must turn to the words of our Lord and His first Apostles.
1. The Lordship of Yeshua
First and foremost, Yeshua emphasized faith in Himself as the cornerstone of eternal life.
In the Gospel of John, we find this profound declaration: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). This verse encapsulates the heart of the Christian message. Belief in Yeshua is the foundation upon which eternal life is built. It is faith in Him, wherein our wholeness of being is placed into His hands. It is not mere intellectual assent but a profound trust and absolute surrender to Yeshua as our supreme, eternal Lord.
True faith is not a passive belief; it is a transformative force. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, wrote, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Here, we discern the truth of salvation — it is an unmerited gift from God that is received only through faith in Yeshua. Salvation is a gift extended by the nature of God's own love and mercy; it cannot be obtained autonomously nor can it be earned through human effort. Salvation is a gift given because of God's grace and received through our faith.
The Apostle Paul explained what one must truly believe to be saved: "If you confess with your mouth that Yeshua is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). What's required is to fully agree that:
- Yeshua (Jesus) is Lord, the Supreme Ruler of Heaven and Earth; and
- Yeshua remains alive and active, as the Scriptures describe Him.
The confession of one's belief in these truths, starts with an honest confession of prayer to God. There isn't a specific script, but a model of this form of prayer is:
"Heavenly Father, with all my heart I believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth. I believe He died for my sin. I believe He rose from the dead and is alive forevermore. I take Jesus as my Lord and give Him full authority over my life, present and future. Forgive my sin. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Teach me to love you and to follow you. Speak to my heart, teach me to notice your presence, and hold me close to you. Thank you for the gift of your forgiveness, love, and friendship. Amen."
Lifelong fidelity to that confession is then required. Yeshua said, "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven." (Matthew 10:32-33). As such, those who are saved must never deny their belief and ought to express their faith to others.
The notion of grace resonates with another key element of the Christian perspective on eternal life: Repentance. The Gospel of Luke records the words of Yeshua: "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32). Repentance is the turning away from sin and to the embrace of God's mercy. It is a realization of our need for a Savior, an acknowledgement of the goodness of God, a humble admission of our imperfections, and a sincere intent to turn one's life back to God and His ways.
To receive eternal life, one must acknowledge their fallen state and seek the cleansing and renewal that Christ graciously offers. This is signified through the sacrament of Baptism, wherein a new believer is submerged in water and rises to begin their new life in Christ. Baptism is both a spiritual rite and an initial act of obedience. In the Book of Acts, the Apostle Peter instructs: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
3. Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
Throughout the Bible, we encounter the concept of transformation through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the immaterial but all-powerful Spirit of God that extends throughout heaven and creation. Following the profession of the Lordship of Yeshua (Jesus), the Holy Spirit lives within Christians. He guides us toward God's will. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, writes, "But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (Romans 8:10). The Holy Spirit is seen as the agent of regeneration and sanctification, guiding believers in compliance with the will of the One that is true Life, Yeshua. The result of the Holy Spirit's generation of Yeshua's presence and will within Christians' lives is summarized by the Apostle Paul; "it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
4. Heart Transformation
Christ's teachings underscore the significance of love in the quest for eternal life. In the Gospel of Matthew, Yeshua reiterates the foremost instruction from the Old Testament, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, [and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-39). Love for God and love for one's neighbor are pivotal principles in the Christian faith. They reflect the transformation that takes place within the believer, as the love which God has given is reciprocated to Him and extended to others. This love is the very nature of God, imparted by the Holy Spirit.
5. Expectation of the Lord
Finally, the Biblical perspective on eternal life includes the anticipation of Christ's return. In the Bible, we find the promise of resurrection and the fulfillment of God's plan for humanity. The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, writes, "Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The same longing for the full presence of God is reflected throughout the Bible, from the Garden of Eden to the final chapter of Revelation. In His return, our salvation and eternal life will be fully realized, and we will be with Him forever. The longing of all who are saved is captured in the closing words of the Bible, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"
In conclusion, the Biblical perspective on what one must believe and experience to receive eternal life is grounded in faith in Yeshua as the once-crucified and now-ressurected Lord, repentance from sin, the transformative work of the Holy Spirit, love for God and others, and the hope of Christ's return and the resurrection. These elements form a tapestry of salvation, woven from the threads of grace, faith, and love. While the journey toward eternal life may vary from person to person, the beginning and end remain the same — salvation is from Him and to Him. It's a timeless union with God, in the presence of the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Yeshua.