When one is confronted with the law of God, or the Ten Commandments, conviction of sin is the natural response. Who could claim they have never lied, envied, or disobeyed their parents? The Scriptures teach,
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 KJV)
Once the heart is convicted of sin, the natural question is “What must I do to be saved?” Christian churches exist for the purpose of answering that all-important question. Sadly, there seems to be confusion among Bible teachers as to the correct answer. On any given Sunday morning one could walk into several different churches and hear several different explanations of how to be saved. Here are three of the most common:
1. “Repent or turn from your sin” 2. “Ask Jesus into your heart” 3. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”
One might argue that all three answers are basically the same. But are they? Are these all valid gospels for today? Does each of these messages have the power to save a lost person from the penalty of sin? Only the Word of God can shed light on these questions, so let’s examine what the Scriptures say about each of these statements.
“Turn from your sin” Our human nature likes to think that the answer to sin is simply to stop sinning. The assumption is that we must prove ourselves worthy of salvation before God will extend forgiveness. However, according to Scripture, it is impossible for an unsaved person to turn from his sin. Look what the Scriptures say of man’s original condition:
“And you hath he quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1 KJV)
The unsaved condition of every man is dead in sin. And more than that, all unsaved men are “the servants of sin.” In and of ourselves, there is no hope of freedom from bondage to sin. (Romans 6:17 KJV). “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:8 KJV).
That is why God had to intervene for us:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love for which he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ…” (Eph. 2:4-5)
Only when a man is in Christ can he be free from the power of sin:
“Knowing this, that our old man [our sin nature] is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:6 KJV)
Prior to salvation, man is incapable of turning from sin. The victory over sin is a result of salvation, not the means to salvation. Therefore, the exhortation to “turn from your sin” is not only a false gospel, it is an impossibility for an unsaved man.
“Ask Jesus into your heart”
This “gospel” cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. It is derived from a misunderstanding of Revelation 3:20:
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
Two things must be understood about this passage of Scripture. First, Revelation is a book of future events foretold by the Old Testament prophets and Jesus Christ in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Second, the context of Revelation 3 is the Second coming of Christ to the nation Israel. At that time, those in the nation that recognize him as their messiah and king will sit with him in his kingdom and sup with him. He explains this in verse 21 when he says, “…To him that overcometh [the Great Tribulation] will I grant to sit with me in my throne…” Revelation 3:20 has nothing to do with us who live in this Age of Grace. Further, it is not teaching us, or anyone, to “ask Jesus into your heart” to be saved. This idea is a false gospel not found anywhere in the Bible.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved
The original question “… what must I do to be saved?” was asked by a jailor to the Apostle Paul as recorded in Acts 16:30. Paul’s reply was simple:
” … Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, …” (Acts 16:31 KJV)
What exactly is it that one must believe about Jesus Christ? The Apostle Paul explains:
“I declare unto you the gospel … how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (1 Cor 15:1-4)
Clearly, the only message for today that has power to save a sinner from the penalty of sin and the wrath of God is the message preached by the Apostle Paul, as the Scripture verifies:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;” (Romans 1:16 KJV)
Note that the gospel of Christ does not say to “endure,” “confess,” “repent,” “ask,” or “beg.” The salvation of God through Christ Jesus is offered to “all them that believe” (Romans 3:22).
“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…that he [God] might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus…” (Romans 3: 24,26)