What Is Salvation?
Salvation is a way to describe a right relationship with God. Salvation includes three stages:
- First, having our sins forgiven and becoming God’s child (justification)
- Second, becoming more Christ-like during this life (sanctification)
- Third, ultimately spending eternity with God (glorification)
Our relationship with God begins by trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. This “justification” is the first stage of salvation. Then we spend our lives becoming more like him by his power (sanctification). And in the end, we will be able to spend forever worshiping God in his presence (glorification).
Salvation in Early Christianity
“Christians” (or “Little Christs;" Acts 11:26) was the name given to first-century believers in Jesus. Although meant as an insult, Christians have embraced that name.
Early Christians believed that Jesus rose from the dead. And they followed him as their living Savior and God despite persecution. That same belief today is the source of our hope. And it is the foundation of our salvation.
We know that only through his death and resurrection he made our salvation possible.
Jesus is the Source for Salvation
It is a good thing that you are investigating how to become a Christian. This critical decision is life-altering. So take some time to get to know who Jesus is.
Why? Because, after becoming a Christian, you are committing to a different way of life.
Salvation brings you a new life. And your new life will place you in the center of God’s will. God indwells you with his Spirit and changes you more and more into the image of Jesus.
Take time to read about Jesus. He is the source for salvation (Heb. 5:9). The place to start is in one of the first four books of the New Testament, called the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).
The Gospels are historically reliable documents. They will tell you about Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. You will read his miracles and teachings.
Salvation Was Necessary Because of an Initial Mess
We all know we live in a broken world. And we’ve all experienced this brokenness in our hearts and actions. But where did this brokenness initially arise?
God created humans in his image (Gen. 1:26-27) to have an intimate relationship with him. But the first humans, Adam and Eve, freely chose to disobey God.
Their actions introduced sin and death into the world (Gen. 3). That sin and death spread to every human (Rom. 5:12–21), leaving us separated from God (Rom. 6:23).
But God is perfectly holy and righteous. He is also eternal and infinite. So every sin requires an eternal response. And this means an everlasting quarantine of sin and sinners apart from God forever (Heb. 9:27).
Only sinless perfection can please God. Meaning our sinfulness cannot please God. We cannot follow his ways (Rom. 3:23) or do enough good deeds to earn a place in heaven (John 15:4-6).
Is Our Situation Hopeless?
But there is good news. Jesus provided a way for our salvation. God is not only a righteous judge but also a loving and forgiving Father.
The Apostle John writes, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
God solved this problem of our sin by sending Jesus to earth. Jesus was fully God and fully human. He lived a sinless life. And he chose to sacrifice himself on the cross as our substitute (2 Cor. 5:21).
By dying for us, Jesus took God’s punishment for our sin. He appeased God’s anger at us, paid the debt we owe God, and covered (or “atoned” for) our sins (Rom. 5:8; Titus 3:5–7).
What Proof Do We Have That God’s Plan Worked?
Christ dying for humans is “substitutionary atonement.” An innocent dying for the guilty.
But how do we know that God approved Christ’s sacrifice? Because he raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 4:25). And through his death and resurrection, Jesus is victorious over sin (Rom. 6:10), death (Rom. 6:9), and the devil (Heb. 2:14).
How Are We Saved?
God offers the free gift of salvation to every human. Why? Because he is gracious.
And grace means to receive something we don’t deserve. It is God’s unmerited favor toward us. Jesus said salvation is only through him (John 14:6) by placing faith in him alone (Eph. 2:8-9).
What does that mean? This interaction involves two ways of “turning”:
- Turning away from your sin (called “repenting; Mark 1:15)
- Turning toward Jesus to receive his forgiveness and follow him (called “faith”; Eph. 2:8-9)
Repentance is a motion, not emotion!
It’s not merely feeling sorry for your past sins. But it is choosing to turn one hundred eighty degrees away from your current sinful life. And turning to Jesus with your complete faith that he can forgive you and make you his own forever.
As the apostle, Paul summarizes,
“[I]f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. … For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:9-13).
In doing this, you become:
- God’s child (John 1:12)
- Forgiven of your sins (Eph. 4:32)
- “Born again” (John 3:3) as a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17 )
- Indwelled by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26)
- Able to have open access to God (John 14:6)
What are My Next Steps for Salvation?
Are you still trying to figure out how to understand your sin and God’s forgiveness?
Then spend time reading Psalm 51, one of David’s most poignant prayers to God.
Do you genuinely desire to turn from your sins and place your faith in Jesus? Then communicate that to God through prayer.
Realize that you have the Creator of the universe listening to your every word. How?
- Admit your sinfulness and repentance from your rebellious life
- Thank Jesus for his sacrificial death on the cross that makes your salvation available at no cost to you
- Commit to believing in Jesus as both your God and Savior
- Ask him to come into your life and be the leader of your life
One Way to Pray for Salvation:
“Dear God, I come to you in the name of your Son, Jesus. Thank you for this unmerited gift of salvation that I do not deserve.”
I confess I am a sinner in need of forgiveness and unable to work my way into heaven.
I turn now from my sins and, with all my heart, declare that Jesus is God and the resurrected Lord. Jesus, please come and live within me as my Lord and Savior. Amen.”
Welcome to the family of God!
What’s My Next Step as a Christian?
If you have become a follower of Jesus, your spiritual life in him has just begun. You are now his follower or “disciple.” You can spend the rest of your life becoming more like Jesus step by step with the indwelling Holy Spirit’s help.
During this week, find another Christian to let them know that you have decided to follow Jesus. And check out our article about spiritual disciplines that change you.