The subject of salvation is fully discussed in the New Testament and it is to that book we must go for information about the salvation of our souls.
The New Testament ascribes salvation to a number of things. It is the purpose of this study to show that all of them must be considered if we are to be saved by Christ.
Well informed people do not select a few verses from the scriptures, claim them as theirs, and build a religious system upon them. Those who sincerely seek to do the Lord’s will and be saved will receive the entire Bible as a harmonious whole and endeavor to find out all that God has spoken on any subject that pertains to the salvation of their souls. Having said that, let us now consider the following:
Two Seemingly Opposite Views
Two views of salvation that seem opposed to each other are found in Ephesians 2:9 and James 2:24. The first says, “not of works,” while the latter says, “by works.” Both of these statements can be harmonized because the Bible does not contradict itself.
Martin Luther regarded these two statements as contradictory and decided only one could be right. As a result, he chose Paul’s statement in Ephesians and rejected James’ statement. Luther also held that the entire book of James was without authority.
Others have decided that the difficulty can be solved by supposing that the two writers were talking about different kinds of faith. But there are two reasons that prove this view incorrect.
Neither writer was talking about faith. That was not the subject under consideration.
The Bible knows nothing about different kinds of faith (Eph. 4:5). All faith is the same in kind, though not in the same degree. A gallon of pure water is the same in kind as a gallon of ocean water, but not in the same degree.
How then is this question to be settled? The difficulty is not about faith, but about works. Paul was speaking of the works of the Law of Moses while James spoke of the works of the gospel of Christ. Each would have assented to the view of the other (cf. Eph. 2:10).
The Case of Noah
Noah’s salvation was ascribed to three things—faith, the ark, and water (Heb. 11:7; 1 Pet. 3:20). Now, if salvation is by “faith alone” how can it be by something else too? We must be careful about taking something alone which the Lord has joined to something else, or separating that which he has joined together.
Not only was Noah saved by faith, but in his conduct we have a clear example of the strength of faith necessary to save. Notice that, “being warned of God,” he was “moved” with godly fear. To what extent was he “moved?” His faith was strong enough to move him to do exactly what God told him to do and, as a result of his obedience, he was saved. Do you think Noah would have been saved if he had refused to do as God instructed him?
One may search the Bible through, but he will not find any other principle upon which men may be saved. Each man must believe God and then do what God instructs (Heb. 11:6; Mark 16:16).
“But,” one objects, “if people must be baptized to be saved, that means the majority of them will be lost.”
That statement is absolutely true. It was also true in Noah’s day. Few people were saved then, and people today should accordingly take warning.
The Salvation Promised Through Jesus Christ
The New Testament says we are saved or “justified by faith” (Rom. 5:1). This is a general statement and is true in every case, whether specifically mentioned or not. This was also true in Paul’s case (Acts 22:16).
The New Testament also says we’re saved by the following things:
The blood of Christ (Rom. 5:9).
The life of Christ (Rom. 5:10).
Obedience to the will of God (Matt. 7:21).
Baptism is also mentioned in connection with our salvation.”The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us…” (1 Pet. 3:21). This is also a general statement and is true of everyone who is saved by Christ (Mark 16:16; Gal. 3:26-27). Those who say we “make too much of baptism” need to ask themselves, “Is baptism a command of God?” If it is—and it is—then what must be done with it if one expects to be saved?
That “too much is made of baptism” could also be said of denominations. It makes no difference how much faith a person has, he will not be received into any denomination which teaches baptism without first submitting to that which that particular denomination calls “baptism.” How essential, then, has the Lord made baptism? Just as essential as denominations have made it. Christ will not accept anyone into his church without their submission to his command to be baptized (Col. 1:18; Gal. 3:27).
The New Testament also says we are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8). Salvation is the gift of God, but it takes two parties to complete a gift—the one who offers and the one who accepts. God provides and offers salvation, while man receives and appropriates it (Titus 2:11-12).
It is true that we are justified by faith, but that faith does not justify unless and until we are willing to take God at his word and do what he commands. And that includes baptism for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38).