part of the what is truth? series

If the message of God’s word is mankind’s redemption and salvation, shouldn’t it include information about what saves you? This is a really BIG question with an eternally-weighted answer. Unfortunately, we can find lot’s of different answers out there among different church leaders and religious “experts”.

When it comes to what saves you there is actually little consensus. Some will highlight one thing, but in doing so they could be neglecting other things that might play a part. It’s not always clear if this is intentional or not. There is a song by Matthew West entitled, “Grace Only.” The chorus is as follows:

There’s only grace
There’s only love
There’s only mercy and believe me it’s enough
Your sins are gone
Without a trace
There’s nothing left now
There’s only grace

Regardless of what others think, let’s examine what God’s word has to say about what saves you.

how Scripture answers "What saves you?"

If we are to follow all Scripture without Scripture weighting, we understand that our salvation is not simply one thing. It’s not grace3 (alone). It’s not faith1 (alone). It’s not baptism5 (alone). It’s all of these and more!! All working together, which is the very point James is making12.

It’s all made possible with God’s grace3 and the sending of His Son1. But even in the immediate context of these “anchor” passages1,3, we see that it’s more. There and other places we see the necessity for obedience to His word1,2,3,6,8,9,11,12,13,14,15. We see the working/setting apart by the Holy Spirit7,8,13,14. We also repeatedly see the critical role that baptism plays5,15. Scripture does not present anything optional or ceremonial about baptism, but rather connects it directly with grace and faith – it is, in a sense, the very first act of obedience4,7,8,15. Just as Paul emphasizes grace in one passage3, Peter (and Jesus15) emphasizes baptism in another5.

God has made provision for our salvation1,2,3,6,7,8,10,14; things we can only understand from His word2,9,10,11,13. It’s up to each of us to respond1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,13,14,15.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.

God loved the world so much that He offered His Son, that whoever would believe in Him would not die but have eternal life.  God sent Him because He wants all to be saved through Him.  If anyone believes in the only Son of God, they will not die.  But if they refuse, they are dead already.  The judgement is the light coming into the world and people clinging to the darkness instead because they practice evil.  Those practicing evil will stay in darkness so they won’t be exposed by the light. But those that practice righteousness come to the light so that they what they do is easily seen to be of God.

Nicodemus, a pharisee, has come to Jesus at night acknowledging that he is from God because of His miracles (vs 2). Jesus responds by telling him a truth, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and concluding with this well-known passage.

How does it inform?

God’s great love provoked the giving of His Son (e.g. grace). His was the light to the world (e..g judgement) to which anyone could “come to” (e.g. faith, obedience).

Does it apply? Yes


Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

Paul reminds the Corinthian brethren of the word, the Gospel of Christ, that they believed and is currently saving them. It will continue to save them as long as they remain in it (“hold fast”).

Paul is about to make his great defense of the resurrection of Christ.

How does it inform?

Our belief in the word and our continuing to “hold fast” to it saves us.

Does it apply? Yes


even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

God made us alive together with Christ (i.e. saved us) by his free gift (“by grace”).

Paul reminds the Ephesians of their past lives in sin (vss 1-3) and the great gift they received in Christ. He further qualifies the saving grace as received “through faith” (vs 8). Finally, he says it wasn’t a result of their works (vs 9) but that “good works” are the result (vs 10).

How does it inform?

God’s free gift (grace) of Jesus Christ is fundamental in saving us. The grace is received by us through faith (belief) and should result in us doing good works in His name.

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

Then he brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.
Answering a direct question about what he [the jailor] must do to be saved, the answer is to believe in Jesus.  They then spoke the word of the Lord [the Gospel] to them and in the same hour they were baptized.

Paul and Silas are in prison and miraculously set free, but after witnessing their praise and confidence in God the jailor is convicted to obey the Gospel.

How does it inform?

Belief in Jesus saves us.

Does it apply? Yes

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Baptism, like Noah being saved through the water, isn’t a bath in the physical sense of bathing. It “saves you” and is your commitment to God for a good conscience by Jesus’ resurrection.

Peter is comparing the way in which Noah and his family were saved (through water) to the way baptism now saves (also through water).

How does it inform?

The saving element in both instances is the water, therefore water baptism saves us spiritually.

Does it apply? Yes

And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

And being made perfect/complete – designated by God to be High Priest after the order of Melchizedek – He [Jesus Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for anyone that obeys.

Arguing for those things that are better under the new covenant, the writer is pointing to the better priesthood of which Christ is the High Priest.

How does it inform?

Christ saves you if you obey (which obviously starts with believing).

Does it apply? Yes


But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

God appeared in the form of Jesus and saved us, not based on our merit but by His mercy, by the “washing of regeneration” and by renewal of the Holy Spirit, poured out fully through Christ.

Paul’s letter of encouragement to a young preacher, Titus.

How does it inform?

A concise summary of the “saving process” – God’s free gift, our baptism, the Holy Spirit’s renewing. (Close parallel to Peter’s answer to the crowd in Acts8 – repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.)

Does it apply? Yes

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

When they heard these words, they were pierced in the heart and asked Peter and the other apostles what they should do [to be saved].  Peter told them that they each should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins, and they would then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This “gift” was the promise made for all that the Lord calls to himself, even those far off.

Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Clearly, they believed his message (that Jesus was the Christ). More were continuing to be saved and they began meeting together as the Lord’s church (

vss 41-47

How does it inform?

They asked what to do and were told to repent and be baptized.

Does it apply? Yes


The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

The lawless one’s coming is thanks to Satan’s wicked deception and activity with all power and false signs.  His followers are perishing since they refuse to love the truth and be saved.

Paul’s letter to encourage the Thessalonians to remain strong during coming difficult times. Specifically here warning them about “false delusions” that Satan (or even God, Himself – vs 11-12) will instigate to lead them astray.

How does it inform?

Connects loving truth (God’s word) to being saved and the lack of loving truth to condemnation.

Does it apply? Yes

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
Lydia from Thyatira and a seller of purple goods and worshipped God.  God opened the heart of Lydia in order for her to truly listen to Paul’s words.

Paul and his traveling companions are in Philippi and have sought out worshippers of God in order to teach them about Jesus. Lydia is one among a group of women they found at a known place of prayer (so presumably she was praying to God). She responded to their message and was baptized.

How does it inform?

God was active in her salvation. Importantly, it doesn’t say that He acted on her in some way (impelled her) or entered her heart. It simply says He “opened her heart” – she still had to listen, comprehend and respond.

Does it apply? Yes

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
Souls that have been purified by obeying the truth should earnestly and sincerely love one another from a pure heart.  They should be doing this since they were born again of an imperishable seed through the enduring word of God. Unlike grass which grows, blooms and dies, God’s word remains forever and it’s this same word that was preached to them.
Peter is writing to the “elect” of the “dispersion” – Christians that have been scattered throughout Galatia and Asia Minor.  He is encouraging them to stand firm in the face of current persecution and reminding them of the promise they have in and through Christ.

A portion of this passage is quoted from

Isaiah 40:6-8
How does it inform?

Christians have been born again (saved) through the word of God.

Does it apply? Yes


What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

It’s worthless for someone to say they believe but then don’t obey.  Faith can’t save by itself.  We understand that someone lacking clothing or food isn’t cared for by simply telling them to “be warmed and filled.”  We must give them the things they need.  Likewise, belief without obedience is dead.

James, the brother of Jesus, is writing a very practical letter to Christians of the “dispersion” (dispersed) when encountering trials and the testing of their faith.   He goes on to point out that even demons believed, calling those “foolish” that would consider themselves saved with “faith only”.

How does it inform?

Faith alone can’t save. Someone must act on their faith, or as Paul puts it in Romans, “the obedience of faith”.

Does it apply? Yes


But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Give thanks to God, since He chose you to be saved through the setting apart by the Spirit and belief in the gospel – to this He called you by “our gospel” in order that you may obtain glory shared with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica where he is warning them about coming destructive forces to the faithful – those that succumb even being helped by God who “sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,” (vs 11).
How does it inform?

They were saved by the Spirit setting them apart and their belief in the gospel (“truth”).

Does it apply? Yes

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Therefore brethren, as you have been even now – obey!  Not only because I was with you, but even more now that I’m away.  Each of you work out your salvation with careful reference, for it is God who works in you for His glory and honor.

Paul is transitioning into a long closing in an otherwise short letter to the church in Philippi.  He has expressed his deep fondness for them (1:6-7) and encourages them throughout to have the “mind of Christ.”  His encouragement here is to remain strong in their “partnership in the gospel” (1:5) so they continue to “shine as light in the world” (vs 15).

How does it inform?

Our salvation is “worked out” through our diligent obedience and God that works in us.

Does it apply? Yes

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Go out and make followers of all the people, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to abide by all that I [Jesus] have commanded.  Behold, I will remain with you to the end of this age.
The very close of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life on earth.  This address was made to the eleven apostles (vs 16) and similar accounts are given at the end Mark (
Mk 16:15-16
) and Luke (
Lk 24:45-47
How does it inform?

Jesus stipulates observance of “all that I have commanded” (including being baptized), as a condition of discipleship (e.g. being saved).

Does it apply? Yes

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