Jesus Christ offers salvation. He says plainly in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” He says in John 10:9, “I am the door. He who goes in and out by me will be saved.” Thus, the apostle Peter boldly declared that there is no other name, but the name of Jesus Christ, given under heaven by which men “must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Salvation is an important part of the Gospel message. Cornelius was told by God to send to Joppa for Peter, who would give him “words” by which he and all his household would “be saved.” (Acts 11:14) Peter preached the Gospel to that house, the words of Christ. Concerning the word of God, Paul reminded Timothy that it was able to make one wise unto salvation (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15), and elsewhere he declared to the church at Rome that the Gospel of Christ was the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16)
With all that in mind, a question comes… when exactly is one saved through the Gospel of Christ? There is a great deal of confusion about this in the minds of some, and there are those who will tell you they have been saved, but who, when they begin reading and studying the scriptures have to wonder if such is actually the case.
One of the things that we should probably note first is that there are at least two senses in which Jesus provides salvation. This is because there are at least two things that Jesus saves us from.
In the first place, Jesus saves us from sin. Sin is a blot on our soul and separates us from a right relationship with God (cf. Isaiah 59:1-2). Through the blood of Christ there is the forgiveness of sins (cf. Ephesians 1:7). Thus it was prophesied that Jesus would save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21). Whenever we read about forgiveness in the Gospels, we are reading about a very important aspect of salvation.
In the second place, Jesus saves us from death. Not from physical death, but from an eternal and spiritual death. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God in Christ Jesus is eternal life (Romans 6:23). By removing sin, Jesus also removes the penalty from sin. For this reason, the Bible says, “he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20) This salvation from death and judgment is at the heart of the resurrection message. Jesus took on flesh, died on the cross and then rose from the dead so that we might know that He had destroyed the power of death. (cf. Hebrews 2:14) In Jesus, those who are saved from sin are subsequently saved from death and have the promise of a home in heaven (cf. John 14:1-3)
Noting then that there are two different kinds of salvation offered by Jesus, though again they are very closely related to one another, when we ask the question, when does Jesus save you, we might recognize that there are two possible ways to answer the question.
Concerning the salvation from sins, Jesus saves us from our sins when He forgives us of our sins. So long as a man is still under the burden of sin, that man cannot have said to be saved from sin. Once the man is forgiven, he has found the promised salvation.
Jesus said concerning this, that the man who believes and is baptized will be saved. (Mark 16:16) Peter, preaching the first gospel sermon, told his listeners they needed to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. (Acts 2:38) Ananias, another inspired man, told Saul that Saul needed to, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away [his] sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16) If we understand that it is in baptism that a man has his sins washed away, and that this forgiveness is salvation, we can then understand why the Bible says that baptism saves us (cf. 1 Peter 3:21).
But what about the second salvation — the salvation from death? When does that happen. Jesus said once to His disciples, “But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22b; NKJV) This is in harmony with what Jesus says elsewhere, “He who is faithful unto death will receive a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) That crown of life is the promise of eternal life.
So the Bible teaches that Jesus saves us from our sins and brings us into a right relationship with God when we obey the Gospel and have those sins washed away. Then, as we remain faithful to the Gospel, we later, sharing in the resurrection, have a part in an eternal salvation from condemnation.
Which is why Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you …” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2a; NKJV)
If you want to learn more about what the Bible has to say about salvation, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.