Discover What We Must Do to Be Saved
A recurring theme in Jesus’s biographies is people asking him what they must do. What’s frustrating is Jesus doesn’t always give the same answer. Jesus tells different people to do different things. (For this discussion, we’ll understand “kingdom of God, “kingdom of heaven,” “eternal life,” “salvation,” and “saved” as synonymous.)
Learn What Jesus Said about Salvation
Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell everything and give the proceeds to poor people (Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, and Luke 18:22).
For Zacchaeus, giving away half was enough (Luke 19:8-9). Jesus doesn’t tell him to do anything else but deems that what Zacchaeus had already done was enough. He welcomed Jesus gladly, stopped doing wrong things (repented), made restitution, and gave away half his wealth.
Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again, that is born of water and the Spirit, a spiritual birth (John 3:3-7), and then to believe in him (John 3:15 and John 3:36).
Jesus asked the Jews to listen to him and believe in God the Father (John 5:24 and John 12:44).
Another time Jesus promised all who have done good will rise to live (John 5:29). Still later, he instructed them to believe he is the Son of God (John 3:16-18 and John 9:35-37; the “Son of Man” is a euphemism for the “Son of God” and mean the same thing).
Jesus advised the Greeks to serve him, follow him (John 12:26), and trust him (John 12:36).
Jesus encouraged his disciples (John 6:29, 6:40, 6:47, and 14:1), and later Martha (John 11:25-26)—the sister of Lazarus—to believe in him.
Later Jesus prayed that people would know God the Father—the only true God—and his Son, who he sent (John 17:3).
Jesus told the people along the road to work hard to enter the narrow door before it is too late (Luke 13:24).
Jesus taught a large crowd to put him before everything else, including their family and themselves (Luke 14:26 and Matthew 19:29), and to give up everything (Luke 14:33)—even their own life (Mark 8:34-35 and John 12:25)—to be his disciples.
Once Jesus implored another crowd to change their ways (Luke 13:3 and 5). A more common word is “repent,” which means to change your path and alter your behavior, to do a U-turn with your life.
Jesus affirmed what a teacher of the law said: to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love others too (Luke 10:25-28).
Jesus told those in the temple to persevere to the end (Mark 13:13).
And he instructed a crowd gathered on the mountainside to obey his Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21).
Jesus reminded the remaining eleven disciples to believe and then be baptized (Mark 16:16). Though Jesus also mentions baptism, the focus is on belief; baptism is an expression of that belief.
Jesus also taught his disciples to accept him with childlike simplicity (Luke 18:17 and Matthew 18:3).
Jesus commended the woman who cleaned his feet with her tears and hair, “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50, multiple versions). The woman did not confess anything or request anything but merely worshipped Jesus the best she could.
Jesus assured the criminal next to him on the cross. It was enough for the man to simply affirm God and admit his guilt (Luke 23:40-43).
Jesus instructed the crowd to tell others about him, that is, to publicly acknowledge him (Luke 12:8)—so that they will follow him too.
Jesus commanded his disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow him (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23; also Matthew 10:38 and Luke 14:27).
Jesus told Peter to leave everything and follow him (Luke 18:28-30).
But much of the time, Jesus simply said, “follow me” (Matthew 4:19, 8:22, and 9:9; Mark 1:17 and 2:14; Luke 5:27 and 9:59; John 1:43, 21:19, and 21:22). It’s up to each of us to do this in our own way, to the best of our ability, as the Holy Spirit leads us.
Learn What Jesus Didn’t Say about Salvation
Jesus didn’t tell people to:
- pray a prayer,
- be confirmed,
- go to church,
- come forward,
- do good things,
- raise their hand,
- fill out a pledge card,
- ask Jesus into their heart, or
- jump through any of the hoops his well-meaning followers insist upon.
Most of these unbiblical actions, though well-intended, seem to have originated with revivalist preachers and evangelists over the past couple centuries. Their conclusions, however, seem to be quite a stretch from what Scripture says.
Jesus didn’t give them Four Spiritual Laws, walk them down The Roman’s Road, or give them the ABCs of Salvation.
Jesus Simply Said to Follow Me
His answer was easy.
Jesus’s most basic instruction for salvation was “follow me.”
To follow Jesus carries two implications. First, we wouldn’t follow him if we didn’t believe in him. Second, to follow him means to make a change in direction, to make a U-turn with our lives, that is, to repent.
So this means that to follow Jesus includes to believe and repent.
If you’re not following Jesus—even if you’ve done some of these other (unbiblical) steps—why not start today?
[This post comes from the book How Big Is Your Tent?]
Read more in How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.