“What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). This question, asked by the first century jailer in Philippi but echoed by every human heart, has been answered in many conflicting ways throughout history:
- Work harder
- Work less
- Be better
- Be yourself
- Negate the self
- Follow your heart
- Accept oblivion
The true answer is as simple as it is beautiful. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
That’s it. There’s nothing we have to do; it’s already been done.
Jesus died in our place, paying the full penalty for our sins, and our believing on Him is all it takes for that salvation to be ours.
So what does it mean to believe in Jesus?
Believe that He is who He says He is: the Savior
First, we must believe that He is who He says He is. He is the savior. When the angel spoke to Joseph of the baby soon to be born, he said, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21).
And when the prophet John saw Jesus he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
The disciple John, writing after Jesus had ascended into Heaven, put it this way: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him... And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:9,14).
Jesus became the savior by dying for us. We deserved to die because of our sin, but Jesus – who lived a life without sin – took our sins on Himself and died for them so that we could live.
The apostle Paul wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
The prophet Isaiah said, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all” (Is 53:5-6).
Believe that we need a Savior
Clearly then, the next aspect of believing in Jesus is not only believing that He is the savior but that we need to be saved. Romans 3:23 tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
None of us can live up to the standard of perfection that God in His very nature requires. And the penalty for that sin is death (Rom 6:23).
But we also know that Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
Believe that we can come to Him and be forgiven
Once we realize our sin, and that we deserve death, all we must do is come to Jesus and repent. 1 John 1:9 is very clear that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
We don’t have to do anything to pay for our sins; Jesus already did it. We just turn to Him and ask for that free forgiveness and it’s ours.
Belief in Jesus is our Salvation
That’s all it is: simple faith that Jesus is our savior, and an accepting of that salvation.
Perhaps one of the best-known verses in the Bible, John 3:16 makes this clear: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Paul, knowing mankind’s tendency to complicate things, or feel that he must earn what he gets, reminds us “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” (Eph 2:8-9).
We are not saved by what we do, or by what we are; we are saved because of who Jesus is and what He did. Salvation is a free gift – it is grace – it is unearned and undeserved, but it is freely given.
John, in writing out his gospel account, explains his motivation for writing this way: “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
What happens when we accept Jesus’ salvation?
Jesus’ salvation changes everything.
First of all, our sins are forgiven. “In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7).
And because of that forgiveness, we are brought back into relationship with God. “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1).
Peace with God.
What a wonderful truth! “But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off are have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13).
Indeed, that close relationship is described in many parts of the Bible as the relationship between father and child.
When we are saved, we become God’s children. John writes, “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). And Paul agrees, writing, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal 3:26). We have the perfect Heavenly Father caring for us.
What’s more, Jesus’ salvation means that we have new life now, and can look forward to eternity in Heaven with Him!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).
Our salvation means that our old life, our old sinful self, is gone, and we have a new heart, a new life, a new way of living.
Paul said it like this, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.”
And that life doesn’t end when we die. John wrote very clearly, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life” (John 6:47).
This salvation is no small thing. By simply believing in Jesus’ free gift of grace, we are saved from death, we become God’s children, we get new life, and we have the promise of eternal life with Him.
But there’s even more! This salvation gives us access to the power of God in our day to day lives!
Paul describes the gospel as “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). The prophet Isaiah wrote, “God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid: for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Is 12:2-3).
That well of salvation is deep beyond comprehension, and it contains an abundant supply of power and grace which His children can always access.