Is Belief All That's Required for God's Gift of Salvation?

You are here

Is Belief All That's Required for God's Gift of Salvation?

Login or Create an Account

With a account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up


You’ve probably seen the religious tracts quoting Romans 10:9: “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: “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 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 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, 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 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). Christ’s reply, in Matthew 19:17, 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). 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 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: “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). 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; Romans 8:9). 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). 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).

In Matthew 10:22 and Matthew 24:13 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). 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). He clearly understood that through neglect he could lose out on God’s gift of salvation! (compare Hebrews 2:1-3).

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).

But God expects us to surrender our lives in return, as Jesus states in Luke 14:26-27: “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 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, 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 exhorts us, that we not “neglect so great a salvation”!


  • Jacob Hitsman
    Good job Scott Ashley, Full commitment to Christ is required and expected but with most this would entail too much sacrifice. You have made very clear that surrender of your whole life is required to follow Christ. My personal faith in Christ crucified will remain with me until death overtake me. There is no turning back as you said, but then again who wants to go back to the shallow meaningless life after you have known the Truth of Life and His Salvation from death? Many times have I said that to give my life defending His Holy Honor would be the most satisfying and glorious end to this physical life as I know it. This short time we live in the flesh cannot be compared to what we shall inherit in His Kingdom. This life is to prepare us to be children of God. Let us pray that we are found worthy to stand at the Day of His coming. Amen
  • Eric V. Snow
    How can we Christians better understand the relationship between faith and works concerning their contribution to salvation? One way to consider salvation a process over time that has three stages: justification, sanctification, and glorification. Salvation overall isn't gained all at once permanently by a single event or faith commitment. Justification, the first stage, is indeed by grace through faith alone. "Justification" means "to be declared righteous," or to be in a state without sin. As Paul explained the concept of imputed righteousness (Romans 4:5-6), "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. . . . God reckons righteousness apart from works." But sanctification, the second stage, requires some level of actual works and human participation. The Holy Spirit helps Christians to build holy righteous character. For example, in Romans 6:16, 19, 22 (NASB) "obedience, result[s] in righteousness," "righteousness, result[s] in sanctification" and "sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life." Finally, "glorification" occurs when Christians become spirit beings when Jesus returns.
  • Hypnus9
    As far as obedience goes, why isn't the verbatim saying of the Lord's Prayer taught as a teaching to obey regularly in most churches as Jesus commanded it ought be?
  • geekay
    Baptism is to be followed by the laying on of hands by a true minister of Jesus Christ, That is quite a statement, one that should be backed up by quoting chapter and verse. When was the disciple Philip so anointed before meeting the Ethiopian on his way and also Stephen before his discourse that got him killed. There are a multitude of faithful servants of God out in the world baptising genuine seekers in rivers and backyard swimming pools who have never been anywhere near "genuine ministers" of God to have hands layed on them. Are those who they baptised any less baptised?
  • Malachi 3_16-18
    Hi Hypnus, Many churches do recite this prayer, but it’s often rattled off without paying attention to the words. The “Lord’s Prayer” is an outline – Jesus said “after this manner” we should pray (Mt 6:9), & then He proceeded to give a framework to expand upon. We know it’s inadequate to simply recite these words each time we pray, because He said we shouldn’t make “vain [empty] repetitions” when talking to His Father (Mt 6:7). But I believe that using it as a guide, & expanding on each point within it – for instance, “Hallowed be Thy name” becomes a few minutes of praising & thanking our Father – is what Jesus intended. There are times we can digress from this pattern – for example, personal crisis, or intercessory prayer for a friend – but it’s good to return to it often to check we’re on track & not just praying “gimme” prayers. Talking to God from our heart as to a friend, & humbly (Isa 66:2), is the most desired form of prayer. Here are a few of the prayers the Bible shows were/are very effective: 1 Kings 18:36-39; 2 Kings 20:1-6; Lk 18:9-13; Jas 5:16. I found a very helpful article on using the Lord’s Prayer:
  • michael9776
    Hello Mr. Ashley, A few years ago, a longtime church member said to me: "If one commits sin he falls back 'under the law' until he repents." This man had a misconception about the grace of God. His notion about grace was the legal opposite to the mistaken belief of "once saved - always saved." I understand this gentleman's misconception - because I also held it for many years. When God answer my prayers (pleas) for help and comfort, I was left with a deeper discernment of our Creator's kind nature, and His grace toward us. Grace is God's long-suffering love toward man - and His endearing love for His saints. In a sense, grace IS God's relationship with us - for without it - no hope exists. Our hope is living "under grace" with God. Yet, just as in sustaining human relationships - so we must also accept our responsibility in our relationship with God. God saved us - and is saving us - by his loving grace, through our active, action-based faith that bears fruit of our love and respect for Him. As you stated: " of obedience as a result of our faith maintain our relationship with God and lead to greater faith and obedience..." Thank you for the article. Michael
  • Missyjoy
    Geekay has a very good point. "Baptism is to be followed by the laying on of hands by a true minister of Jesus Christ" is a statement that stuck out to me in the article too. It came out of nowhere and had nothing to do with the scripture reference given. I realize the Bible says Peter and John laid hands on people so they would receive the Holy Spirit in Acts 8:14-17. But that didn't happen for every new believer in the New Testament. See Acts 2:4
  • allanv
    Hi, not only belief but confessing or speaking out. Believe in the heart and speak out with the mouth. Belief in the heart to righteousness and salvation is speaking out, both must occur together. Jesus related that it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles the person because it comes off the heart. It is also what is in the mind that is the person and this presents body language and tone of the voice etc. There must be an act of being purified from the inside by the Spirit. Taking action to do this can be regarded as works. Hearing the word as an enlivened word from a mind that is receiving revelation and inspiration and speaking out with deepening belief. Going all the way to breaking inwardly and then the gentle nature of Jesus covering. He resides now as our High Priest and this Gives access to knowing God the Eternal Father and He will indwell. The mind must be cleared of all the usual thoughts and human responses to input. The kingdom of God is not about biology and human interpretation of it. The kingdom of God is about escaping the influences of a not well understood realm of the natural mind. It is very subtle because most never test it in their own comfort.
  • Malachi 3_16-18
    Hi Missyjoy, The apostles received the Spirit of God in a special way (Acts 2:1-4), as tongues resembling fire, that would make a huge and memorable impact on many at the official start of the New Testament Church on the day of Pentecost. God’s Spirit was also sent in a special way to Cornelius and his household, as it came prior to baptism (Acts 10:44). I believe this was also an unusual method or sequence used by God since Cornelius was the very first Gentile to receive the Holy Spirit. This was a historic milestone in the New Testament Church of God. Notice that Peter was quick to follow up with baptism (Acts 10:44-48). This was and is not the normal way to receive the Holy Spirit. A few Biblical exceptions do not mean we can choose not to have hands laid on us. God can tweak His own rules when He pleases, but I believe we should strive to follow the example clearly set out in Acts 8:14-17. Laying on of hands by a minister of God is used in other situations for receiving a special blessing from God: for instance, healing (Jas 5:14-15), and ordination (Acts 6:1-8). So it is right and fitting to also receive the Holy Spirit from the laying on of hands.
  • Aaron Booth

    The comments above where posted when this article was first published on the website on January 2014. The article was republished in the May/June 2015 issue of the Good News.

  • Ivan Veller

    Thank you, Mr. Ashley, for this excellent article.

    Readers might ask a follow-up question. Does Paul’s statement that "I came to you...proclaiming to you...nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:1-2, ESV 2011) - "I decided that while I was with you I would forget about everything except Jesus Christ and his death on the cross" (ERV 2008) - mean that Paul's gospel was a gospel of faith alone?

    In Romans 15, Paul clarifies this question: "For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed...according to my all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of ["the" (Coverdale 1535, NKJV, EMTV, MLV 2016)] faith" (Romans 15:18; 16:25-26 ESV).

    “[F]aith and law go hand in hand”:

    We find "God…telling us that if we want to be in His family and in His Kingdom, we have to become like Him. His law describes Him. He wants His values to be our values; He wants us to take on His character":

  • dmdk66

    The author makes an analogy that is loosely based and does not properly support his argument. He speaks of the $100 bill and that one has to do more than just believe he will receive it. He has to also send in a self-addressed envelope, according to the stipulations, to receive the free gift and then he will receive it in the mail. So what is the problems with this analogy? He is adding steps to receiving eternal life. He says that just by believing that isn't enough. While true in his analogy, it isn't true with our eternal future. Jesus makes no such stipulations. The whole point that Jesus makes is that this gift is by belief, not by additional stipulations. The author's illustration is about a material, physical world involving mailings, envelopes, stamps, etc. Jesus' gift is a supernatural one that doesn't require physical impediments. Using the author's analogy, does Jesus really need additional help in getting you this free gift? This just shows when you have a particular denominational mindset, you have to use analogies that are awkward to make your point.

  • WMB

    There are only two formulas for salvation.: Jesus Christ + Something or Jesus Christ + Nothing. Those who teach the doctrine of “Jesus Christ + Something” always fail to tell us just how many good deeds and how many good works it takes to convince ourselves and God that we are truly saved, even though John the Apostle says we can know we are saved. I admit, I cannot save myself, neither can I keep myself.
    How many on this site has obeyed the commandments of Christ? An honest answer is that none of you have kept his commandments. and you never will. All of you, including myself, are so far from God’s righteousness that you can never reach his holiness on your own, only by grace. You cannot add anything to His grace. If I can do any of it on my own, then what good is His work on the cross?
    That does not mean I have a license to sin, or that I should not strive to be like Him. It means salvation is by His grace, and other than my faith in Him, I have no right to make any claim on his gift to me. When I get to Heaven, and I assure you I am going, the first thought on my mind will be, “Jesus got me here, and there was nothing I ever did on my own to deserve it. Thank you Jesus!”

  • Scott Ashley

    I find it fascinating that some people can so easily dismiss so many plain statements from the Bible, including many from Jesus Christ Himself, stating the conditions God places on His gift of salvation. Salvation is certainly by God's grace, but many people have a sorely lacking understanding of what the Scriptures really teach about grace. Before perpetuating so many erroneous statements about grace, I'd recommend that you read our study guide "What Does the Bible Teach About Grace," which you can request or download here:
    Otherwise the first thought on your mind when you "get to heaven" should probably be how you will respond to Jesus' challenge, "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?"

  • Jordan127

    I think the article is great overall. The analogy about the envelope was okay but I think something better is appropriate. For example, as a father, my kids have requirements to do around the house and other duties they cannot neglect. Even though they sometimes mess up, they still get gifts from me all the time just because I love them. I think likewise, all who are sons of God and obey God's sovereign will, will receive gifts from God including salvation. I'm not sure if that's a good analogy but I would like to see more analogies of how gifts work but duties are involved by the receiver. Thanks.

  • Scott Ashley

    Hi Jordan,
    I think your analogy of a father giving gifts to his children because he loves them is very appropriate. This is certainly true of God. Thanks for your comment. As for you comment about wanting to learn more about how "duties are involved by the receiver" in response to receiving gifts from God, I’d recommend that you read our study guide “What Does the Bible Teach About Grace,” which you can request or download here:
    It includes a deep discussion of exactly that and how it was understood in the first century when the apostle Paul wrote so much about God's grace and gifts. I think you'll find it eye-opening.

Join the conversation!

Log in or register to post comments