You’ve probably seen the religious tracts quoting Romans 10:9 Romans 10:9That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.
American King James Version×: “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.” Or maybe they quoted Acts 16:31 Acts 16:31And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house.
American King James Version×: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”
We must look at a number of verses scattered throughout the Bible to get the whole picture and look at all the Bible says on the subject to come to a proper understanding.
Do this, the tracts assure us, and we have the promise of eternal life. But is this all there is to it? Is belief all that God requires of us for salvation? Some assume these two passages are the final word on the subject. But is that true?
If you’ve studied your Bible much at all, you probably realize that we must look at a number of verses scattered throughout the Bible to get the whole picture. We must look at all the Bible says on the subject to come to a proper understanding. And few things could be more important than understanding what we must do—or not do—if we are to receive God’s gift of eternal life.
Belief is a clear requirement—but is there more?
Certainly belief in God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son, as They are described in Scripture, is crucial. As Hebrews 11:6 Hebrews 11:6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
American King James Version×tells us, “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 diligently seek Him.” So belief in God and having living faith in Him is vital to pleasing God and receiving His gift of salvation.
And salvation, eternal life, is God’s gift by grace—His loving disposition of favor and acceptance toward us—as Ephesians 2:8-9 Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
American King James Version×explains: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Salvation is God’s gift, unearned and undeserved on our part. No one will ever be able to boast that he or she has earned or deserves the gift of eternal life.
But it doesn’t stop at simple belief and grace. Can we do things—or not do things —that disqualify us from receiving that wonderful gift from God? The answer is crucial to your relationship with God and to your future!
The fact is, the Bible shows that God sets certain conditions for receiving salvation. Meeting these conditions will enable us to receive that gift, while disregarding and failing to meet them will disqualify us from receiving it. What are these conditions?
If there is an authority on receiving eternal life, it has to be Jesus Christ. After all, He is the One through whom we receive it!
In Hebrews 5:8-9 Hebrews 5:8-9 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him;
American King James Version×, Jesus is called the author of our salvation: “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (emphasis added throughout).
Can gifts have conditions?
Since salvation is God’s gift, what does this passage mean when it speaks of “eternal salvation to all who obey Him”? If we must do something to receive God’s gift of salvation, how can it be a gift?
To use an analogy, if someone offered to send you a $100 bill if you would send him a self-addressed stamped envelope, he would be offering you a gift. Simply believing that he would send you the money would not actually get you the money. And if you failed to send the envelope, you likewise would not receive the money. You might complain, but you still would not receive the gift because you had not met the conditions.
On the other hand, if you sent the required envelope and received the $100 bill, this does not mean you earned the gift. You simply met the necessary conditions. Without the offer of the undeserved gift, you could’ve sent hundreds of envelopes and received nothing, as you would have been entitled to nothing. The fact that conditions are attached to receiving a gift makes it no less a gift. Millions of people fail to understand this simple fact, and as a result don’t realize that they risk missing out on God’s priceless gift of salvation!
What must we do?
Since Jesus is the author of our salvation, let’s examine a few of His statements that tell us what we must do to receive that gift of salvation—eternal life with Him.
In Matthew 7:21 Matthew 7:21Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Jesus made it clear that merely acknowledging Him as Lord and Master—saying “Lord, Lord”—is not sufficient. To inherit the Kingdom of God, we must do something. We must do the will of the Father, as He clearly stated.
Jesus wants us to understand that there is more to receiving eternal life than just belief or mental acceptance. Our conviction that He is our Savior must be more than just a warm, comforting thought or intellectual concept. Jesus warns that simply calling on His name or recognizing Him as “Lord” is not enough.
At one point a wealthy young man asked Jesus how he could receive eternal life. “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 Matthew 19:16And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
American King James Version×). Christ’s reply, in Matthew 19:17 Matthew 19:17And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
American King James Version×, might shock some who think obedience to God’s law is unnecessary—that He has done that for us so we don’t have to do anything. Jesus responded, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Jesus didn’t answer that nothing is required other than believing in God or in Him. He told the young man he must obey the commandments of God to receive the gift of eternal life. How plain!
As the apostle James points out, belief is pointless unless it is backed up by action and obedience: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe —and tremble” (James 2:19 James 2:19You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
American King James Version×). If we think that belief is all we need for salvation, we are sorely mistaken. As James tells us, the demonic spirits fully believe in the existence of the one true God. They further know that Jesus is the Son of God raised from the dead. But the demons’ belief in this regard doesn’t mean they are saved!
James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, goes on to explain that faith—belief and trust in God—and obedience go hand in hand: “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:20-22 James 2:20-22 20 But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar?
22 See you how faith worked with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
American King James Version×).
James thus explained that works of obedience as a result of our faith maintain our relationship with God and lead to greater faith and obedience, as God requires. Without works as evidence of our faith, that faith is dead—worthless and useless.
Baptism and laying on of hands
Jesus gave another condition for God’s gift of eternal life in Mark 16:16 Mark 16:16He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.
American King James Version×: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Water baptism—by full immersion—is a symbolic act representing the death and washing away of our old sinful self and the beginning of a new life of serving God and striving to avoid sin (Romans 6:1-23 Romans 6:1-23 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died to sin once: but in that he lives, he lives to God. 11 Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin: but yield yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity to iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness to holiness. 20 For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had you then in those things whereof you are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version×). Through this act we symbolically put to death and bury the old person with his or her sins and rise from that watery grave to a new life as a new person.
Baptism is to be followed by the laying on of hands by a true minister of Jesus Christ, which allows us to receive God’s Holy Spirit and truly belong to Him (Acts 8:17 Acts 8:17Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×; Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
American King James Version×). Unless we surrender our lives to God through baptism and the laying on of hands to receive His Spirit as instructed, we fail to meet—whether knowingly or unknowingly—His prerequisites for receiving His gift of salvation.
The apostle Peter also affirmed these conditions for receiving God’s Spirit, declaring, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×). Repentance means to turn from disobedience to God to obeying Him. So again, committed obedience and baptism are shown as requirements in the salvation process.
To those who would brush aside these and other plain biblical instructions Jesus replies, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?’” (Luke 6:46 Luke 6:46And why call you me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
American King James Version×).
In Matthew 10:22 Matthew 10:22And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved.
American King James Version×and Matthew 24:13 Matthew 24:13But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
American King James Version×Jesus gave another condition we must meet to receive God’s gift of salvation: “He who endures to the end will be saved.” Some believe in the unbiblical teaching of “eternal security” or “once saved, always saved.” But as Jesus plainly and directly implied here, we can lose out on salvation if we fail to endure to the end .
Once we have committed ourselves to obeying God and surrendering ourselves to Him, we must stay the course to the end and not look back (Luke 9:62 Luke 9:62And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×). Even the apostle Paul realized that he needed to discipline himself to be in total subjection to God—“lest, when I have preached to others,” he wrote, “I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27 1 Corinthians 9:27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
American King James Version×). He clearly understood that through neglect he could lose out on God’s gift of salvation! (compare Hebrews 2:1-3 Hebrews 2:1-3 1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him;
American King James Version×).
Salvation is free, but not cheap
You may have heard the expression, “Salvation is free, but not cheap.” God’s gift of life to us cost Jesus Christ His life. He, the very Son of God, willingly surrendered His life so that we might receive God’s wonderful gift of eternal life. And it cost the Father, who “gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×).
But God expects us to surrender our lives in return, as Jesus states in Luke 14:26-27 Luke 14:26-27 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
27 And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
American King James Version×: “If you want to be my follower you must love me more than your own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, more than your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And you cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your own cross and follow me” (New Living Translation, 1996).
Our love for and commitment to Jesus Christ and God the Father must be more important to us than any other relationship. Each of us must be willing to bear his “cross,” to faithfully follow Jesus even through life’s most difficult challenges.
Luke 14:28-33 Luke 14:28-33 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
29 Lest haply, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sits not down first, and consults whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand?
32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an ambassador, and desires conditions of peace.
33 So likewise, whoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.
American King James Version×carry on that thought, warning us to consider carefully that accepting the gift of eternal life comes at the highest cost we can imagine. “So no one can become my disciple without giving up everything for me” (Luke 14:33 Luke 14:33So likewise, whoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.
American King James Version×, NLT, 1996). As Jesus Christ gave His life for us, we must be willing to give our lives to follow Him!
So returning to the title of this article, is belief all that’s required for God’s gift of salvation? Clearly the answer is no. His Word spells out certain conditions for us. Let us be sure, as Hebrews 2:3 Hebrews 2:3How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him;
American King James Version×exhorts us, that we not “neglect so great a salvation”!