If inviting Jesus into your heart is not the phraseology or formula which Jesus, the Apostles, or the Bible used as the means to getting a person saved, then what is? This is the question that is at the heart of the issue. Exactly what must a person do to be saved?
There is at least one place in the New Testament in which a person effectively asks precisely that question. It is found in Acts 16. The Apostle Paul and Silas were in jail in Philippi of Macedonia for preaching the Gospel. They were singing and praising God openly in jail in the middle of the night, making their faith known to all who could hear when God did a great miracle. An earthquake occurred and every cell in the whole prison was opened! The jailer, seeing what had happened, prepared to take his own life, knowing that that’s what the Roman authorities would have required of him if all the prisoners had escaped. However, Paul called out and stopped him while noting that all the prisoners were still in their cells. The jailer then rushed in and when he had brought Paul and Silas out, asked them the oh-so pertinent question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30b).
Paul and Silas answered simply, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31).
What Paul and Silas were saying was that if this jailer would believe on, or put his faith, trust and reliance fully and solely upon the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible, he could be assured of the forgiveness of his sins and eternal life. (What he was not saying was that if the jailer did so he could be assured that the rest of his family would be saved based on his own confession of faith. Rather, Paul and Silas were teaching that each person who personally puts his faith, trust, or belief in Christ and Christ alone as His savior could be assured of salvation—and that as each member of the jailer’s family came to faith in Christ personally they could also be assured of salvation).
This is just one example in Scripture, but we must necessarily ask if mere belief, faith, confidence, or trust in Christ is consistently all that the New Testament indicates is necessary for salvation.
The answer, with some qualifications, is a dogmatic yes!
Jesus Himself says so repeatedly, especially in the Gospel of John. For instance, there’s John 6:47, where Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, He who believes has eternal life.” A few verses earlier, when the religious leaders asked what work they must to do be saved, Jesus tells them, “This is the work of God, to believe on Him whom He has sent” (John 6:29). And in everyone’s favorite verse, to believe is the sum total of all that Jesus says is necessary for a person to “do” to be saved— “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 7, Jesus says much the same thing to the sinful woman who came and washed his feet with her hair and her tears— “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:49b). In the Gospel of Mark, it’s when Jesus sees the “faith” of the young men who have lowered their paralyzed friend through the rooftop of the house in Capernaum that he announces their sins have been forgiven (See Mark 2:1-12). Consistently, Jesus Himself indicates belief and its synonym, faith, in Him is what is necessary for eternal life and the forgiveness of sins.
The Apostle Paul agrees not only in Acts 16:31, but in his epistles. The Book of Galatians and the Book of Romans both indicate faith alone in Christ alone is all that is necessary for salvation—and these two letters were written expressly to define what does, and what does not save. (See Galatians 5:6 and Romans 3:21—5:11). In fact, almost everywhere in the New Testament we see the words “believe, believing, faith and trust” used synonymously as the attitudes which a person must place in Jesus Christ alone to be assured of salvation. Other words are sometimes used, and various figures of speech are used by Christ and others, to explain and illustrate that it is faith, trust or belief in Christ alone that saves. Sometimes words such as “repent” and “receive” are used as synonyms for faith in Christ, but clearly at the very heart of the message which saves—which is the Gospel that Christ, the God-Man, died for our sins and rose again—is the good news that it is an attitude, a mindset of belief, trust or faith in Christ alone, that saves us.
It’s all a matter of Biblical discernment.
At this point, someone might say they know of many people who claim to believe in Christ, but there is no fruit indicating they have really been saved. More than that, some might object, “What about the passage in James which says the demons believe and shudder?” These are excellent questions, which we will deal with in our next post on the question, “Can inviting Jesus into your heart save?”