New Testament Salvation
In the context of Scripture, salvation means deliverance from all the power and effects of sin, and it has past, present, and future aspects.
Salvation by grace through faith.
A person can do nothing to save himself. No amount of good works or adherence to law can save him. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is a free gift from God, which man cannot merit, earn, or deserve. The atoning work of Jesus Christ has made this free gift of salvation available, and the only way to receive it is to believe in Jesus and in the sufficiency of His sacrifice (Romans 3:24-28; 4:22-25).
To believe on Jesus includes believing His Word, and truly believing His Word includes obedience. Faith is more than mental assent, intellectual acceptance, or verbal profession; it includes trust, reliance, commitment, appropriation, and application. We cannot separate saving faith from obedience (Acts 6:7; Romans 1:5; 2:6-10; 10:16; 16:26; Hebrews 11:6-8). Obedience to God’s Word is absolutely necessary to salvation (Matthew 7:21-27; John 14:15, 23; Romans 6:17; 15:18; II Thessalonians 1:7-10; Hebrews 5:9; I Peter 1:21-23; 4:17; I John 2:3-5; 5:1-3). Faith is alive only through response and action (James 2:14-26). It is possible to have an initial degree of faith in Christ and still not be saved if there is not complete acceptance, commitment, and obedience (Matthew 7:21-23; John 2:23-25; 12:42-43; Acts 8:12-23; James 2:19). Faith is the means of appropriating God’s grace. It is the means by which people yield to God, obey His Word, and allow Him to perform His saving work in them. Saving faith, then, is;
- Acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the sole means of salvation and
- Obedience to that gospel (application or appropriation of that gospel).
The gospel and the new birth
The gospel of Jesus Christ is His death, burial, and resurrection for our salvation (I Corinthians 15:1-4). A person responds to the gospel, or applies the gospel to his life, by repentance from sin (death to sin), water baptism by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ (burial with Christ), and receiving the Holy Spirit (new life in Christ) (Acts 2:1-4, 38; Romans 6:1-7; 7:6; 8:2). Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). When someone believes on Jesus Christ and obeys Acts 2:38, he experiences the birth of water and the Spirit. He is “born again,” actually becoming a new creation (John 3:3, 7; II Corinthians 5:17). At repentance and water baptism, he buries the old sinful lifestyle, the record of past sins, and the death penalty for sin. When he receives the Holy Spirit he begins to live a new, godly life.
On the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the New Testament church, the apostle Peter preached the first gospel sermon to the crowds who had gathered to observe the newly Spirit-filled believers as they spoke in tongues and worshiped God. Convicted of their sins by his simple yet powerful message, the audience cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter gave a precise, complete, and unequivocal answer: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
Those saved in the Gospels were saved under the Old Covenant while they awaited the New. The New Covenant did not come into effect until after Christ’s ascension (Luke 7:28; 24:47-49; John 7:39; 16:7; Acts 1:4-8; Hebrews 9:14-17). Thus Acts 2:38 is the comprehensive answer to an inquiry about New Testament conversion, expressing in a nutshell the proper response to the gospel. Not only did the Jews on Pentecost receive the Acts 2:38 experience, but so did the Samaritans, the apostle Paul, the Gentiles, and the disciples of John at Ephesus (Acts 8:12-17; 9:17-18 with 22:16; 10:44-48; 19:1-6). In short, the New Testament message of salvation is repentance from sin, water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and receiving the Holy Spirit with the initial sign of speaking in tongues.