Many people refer to themselves as saved. What is salvation? Is it a place, a destination, a state of mind—or what? What does the Bible say about being saved?
What is the definition of salvation for a Christian?
A concise definition of salvation can be summed up in one word: deliverance. But deliverance from what? When the Israelites came out of Egypt and reached the Red Sea, Moses told them to “stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD” (Exodus 14:13). In this case, God provided a physical deliverance for Israel from the armies of Egypt.
In the New Testament, the term salvation describes two essential components of a Christian’s life:
- Being delivered from the penalty of sin, which is eternal death (Romans 6:23).
- Being delivered from mortality and given the gift of eternal life (John 3:15).
Salvation is very important. The Bible calls it “so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). Salvation is all about how a Christian can live a better life today and, ultimately, live forever in the future!
What are we saved from?
What do we need to be saved from? To answer that question, first we go back to the time when man was created by God.
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being [soul, King James Version]” (Genesis 2:7).
Later, the prophet Ezekiel noted that all souls (living beings) belong to God. “Behold all souls are Mine; the soul of the father, as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). This is repeated again in verse 20: “The soul who sins shall die.”
Many places in the Bible human life is described as “mortal” (Romans 6:12; 8:11; 2 Corinthians 4:11). All human beings face the same inevitable fate—we will die. But the doctrine of salvation shows us we can be delivered from eternal death.
Many believe that human beings need to be delivered from eternal torment in hell fire, but is that what the Bible teaches? To learn more about what the Bible really says about hell, read “What Is Hell?”
Every human being (except for Jesus Christ) has sinned. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Sin causes every person to earn the death penalty. Once we have sinned, we earn the penalty of death and there’s nothing we can do to remove that penalty ourselves. We have to be delivered from it!
So man needs to be saved—delivered from eternal death—and to be given the gift of God, which is eternal life. That is why salvation is necessary, and why Jesus came to the earth as a human being. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
We are all lost to the penalty of sin—eternal death—and the only way to be delivered from that penalty is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
How Jesus Christ is the source of our salvation
The Bible shows that God the Father and Jesus Christ love human beings immensely. They created us in Their image and want to share eternal life with us. But in order for that to happen, God had to provide a way for us to be saved—or delivered—from sin and death.
God the Father and Jesus Christ have a plan to accomplish this. Jesus Christ came to earth and lived a perfect life—not earning the penalty of death due to sin—and then gave His life for us. Because He was “God in the flesh,” His sacrifice can pay the penalty for all human sins.
Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Jesus gave His life, a life of perfection, without sin, so that we can be saved. It is by His shed blood that salvation is now made possible for all humans.
But that doesn’t mean human beings only have to “accept” that sacrifice and—poof!—they are saved. The Bible shows we need to accept His sacrifice and also repent and turn from sin.
To learn more about Jesus Christ’s death and sacrifice for us, read “Why Jesus Had to Die.”
The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).
Changing our lives is an important part of the salvation process.
Obedience and salvation
Jesus was once asked a question about how to inherit eternal life (which is the end result of salvation).
“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’ So he answered and said, ‘“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”’ And He said to him, ‘You have answered rightly; do this and you will live’” (Luke 10:25-28).
Earlier, another man asked Jesus, “‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments’” (Matthew 19:16-17).
The Bible is clear that salvation is a gift, and it cannot be earned. But that doesn’t mean we can live anyway we want and still be saved! The Bible is clear that salvation is a gift, and it cannot be earned (Ephesians 2:8). But that doesn’t mean we can live anyway we want and still be saved! We have been called to be “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Keeping the commandments of God are some of the good works Jesus told us we need to do.
“Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4, King James Version). Transgressions are violations of God’s law and His way of life. Therefore, part of being saved from the penalty of past sin is to try our hardest to stop sinning with God’s help. Our transgressions against God’s law have to end.
As the apostle Paul wrote: “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:2). We are to leave sin and pursue a life of righteousness, which is based on God’s 10 Commandments (Psalm 119:172).
To learn more about Jesus’ teachings on the law of God, read “Jesus and the Law.”
Are you saved?
Jesus came to die for our sins, which are actions that break God’s law. He paid the penalty of death for us, so that we can have eternal life. He reconciled us to God the Father, justified us of our past sins through His blood.
Hence, after we repent of our sins and accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our salvation—our deliverance from eternal death—is possible.
But we cannot continue to break God’s laws!
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). The apostle Paul again pointed out this principle in verse 12: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.”
Paul then asked an important question: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).
The answer is obvious—sin leads to death, obedience leads to righteousness and eternal life. The apostle Paul understood that he would receive a crown of righteousness at Jesus Christ’s return (2 Timothy 4:8).
He also understood that this promise was for more than just him—“but also to all who have loved His appearing.” That means receiving eternal life when the salvation process is complete. Learn more in our article “What Does It Mean to Be Saved?”
So to recap, what is salvation?
Salvation is a process that begins when we accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. We are saved, or delivered, from our past sins and their penalty (death). We must then begin a life of change and growth—becoming more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.
If we continue to repent and change and remain faithful for our whole life, we will then receive salvation in its fullest sense—be given eternal life at the return of Jesus Christ. We will be saved from ever having to face death again.
So, the question remains for us—are we on the road to salvation? If not, we need to start! For further information, please read the accompanying articles on repentance, faith and salvation, and our free booklet Change Your Life!