To be saved, in Biblical terminology, means to be saved from sin and death and hell, and to be saved unto righteousness and heaven and everlasting life. Salvation has past, present, and future aspects: we are saved from the penalty of past sin though Christ’s atoning death on the cross, from the power of sin through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives right now, and ultimately from the very presence of sin in Heaven.
This question was asked by the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30, and was forthrightly and simply answered by the Apostle Paul when he said: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." (Acts 16:31) Jesus himself said: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Thus, personal faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the victorious Savior from sin and death is the means by which salvation is received. The substitutionary death of Christ for our sins is the basis on which God is justified in saving us through faith, and this is demonstrated and guaranteed in the victorious bodily resurrection of Christ from the grave.
But the natural man is proud and tends to resist the idea that there is nothing he can do to save himself and that he must trust in Christ to do it all. Accordingly, he has invented many substitutes for this simple way of salvation, and these substitutes have led multitudes down the road to eternal destruction. Biblical refutations of some of these false ideas are outlined below:
* One cannot be saved simply by believing and sincerely practicing any religion he chooses. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
* We are not saved by keeping God’s laws, for no one can keep them perfectly. 10All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." (Galatians 3:10) As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10)
* No one can be saved by doing good works. “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5)
* Baptism is not the means of salvation. Paul said: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1st Cor. 1:17). The gospel, by definition, is the "good news" of Christ's atoning death and resurrection, and it is by believing the gospel, not by baptism, that men are saved. (1 Cor. 15:1-4) The thief on the cross was saved, but never baptized (Luke 23: 42,43)
* We are not saved by joining a church. There are multitudes of unsaved church members. To the members of the church in Laodicea, for example, Christ said: “16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:16)
There are numerous other false ideas about salvation that are prevalent, but all of them, like the above, consist in man’s doing something which he feels will help earn his salvation. Thus, they all contribute to the upbuilding of human pride and the downgrading of God’s marvelous gift in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)