In 1982 I worked on the staff of a large church in New Castle, Delaware. One of my duties was to go door-to-door visiting in the community on Thursday evenings.
One evening, a church member and I ended up in a living room talking with the host about salvation.
"Tell me in a few sentences how to get saved," the host said.
The church member responded, "First, you need to realize that you are a sinner. Everyone has sinned...."
Fifteen minutes later, he finished his explanation.
"Can't you just tell me in a few words what I must do to go to heaven?" the host asked again.
The church member started into another fifteen minute discourse.
Eventually, we left with no clear answer for the host.
That got me thinking about what it is that the Bible says a person must do to be saved.
In Acts 16:30-31, the Philippian jailer asked a similar question, "What must I do to be saved?" KJV
Paul's answer was short and simple, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."
That sounded easy enough.
John 3:16 agrees with this. "Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish" KJV.
Four times, the Bible lays it out even clearer than that: the people who believe are saved, those who do not believe are not (Mk 16:16; Jn 3:18, 36; 1 Jn 5:10). How much clearer can it be said?
In Acts 15:11, it says, "We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved." KJV
In John 6:47, Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." KJV
Romans 10:9 says that if you "shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." KJV
In 1 Corinthians 1:21, it says, "...it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." KJV
I could go on and on with similar verses. At least 81 times in the New Testament alone, believe or faith is linked with salvation. In addition to this, 50 times Christians are identified as people who either believe or have faith.
What the Bible says is clear and frequent. A person is saved by believing in Jesus.
Weeks later on a Thursday evening I talked with a young man on his front porch. He admitted that it had been years since he had gone to church and that God would not approve of his lifestyle. He said that he does not consider himself to be a Christian.
When we started talking about salvation, I decided to depart from the normal protocol. I would follow Paul's lead. I said, "To be saved, you must believe in Jesus Christ."
"I believe in Jesus," he replied. "I have believed in Him all of my life. So I am saved."
Once he knew that the Bible says he must believe to be saved, I could not convince him that he was not saved. He knew that he believed in Jesus. Therefore, according to the Bible, he was saved.
But his lifestyle proved that he was not saved. The Bible says that when a person is saved, he is a new creature, the old things are gone (2 Corinthians 5:17). This young man's life had never seen that change.
He believed, but he wasn't saved. The Bible's way of salvation had not worked for him.
In the following weeks, I told a few others that they must believe to be saved, and I received the same type of response.
As I looked at my own life, I could understand what they were saying. I was raised in a Christian home. As far back as I can remember, I had believed in Jesus. But I was saved much later than that.
You most likely had the same experience: you started believing in Jesus long before you actually were saved.
I say this cautiously (I will explain later) and yet sincerely. Despite what the Bible says, a person is NOT saved by believing in Jesus Christ.
Most ministers agree with me on this point even though they will not admit it.
Look at what they say about salvation. They do not even mention the word, believe, even though the Bible is very clear and frequent in using it. When they read a verse with the b-word (believe) in it, they go quickly past it and never comment on it. Instead they teach a different way of salvation supported only by a few verses twisted from their real meaning.
Their actions show that they believe the Bible is wrong when it says that a person is saved by believing in Jesus.
Years later, I found out that the Greek word behind believe (pisteuo) means trust, not believe. The noun form of pisteuo is pistis (faith). It also means trust.
The Greek words for believe and faith are the same. They just have different endings (a noun ending and a verb ending). They have the same meaning: trust.
So the message that the Greek text of the New Testament tells (this is where the English New Testament comes from) is that a person is saved by trusting in Jesus, not by believing.
I recently listened to a young seminary student preach a message on salvation. He spent 45 minutes explaining what a person must do to be saved. To his credit he did explain that a person is saved by believing in Jesus, that believe does not mean believe, and that it means trust, rely, or depend upon. He did a good job on that. But the audience left confused because after everything was said and done, the Bible version projected on the screen behind him still said believe. Who is the audience going to believe, a Bible version or a seminary student? Who would ever think that their Bible version is wrong?
Why do today's Bible versions use two different words (believe and faith) for what is the same word in the Greek text? This practice goes all the way back to the first English Bible published in 1395. John Wycliffe, its translator, did not know Greek. He wrote his Bible by translating from the Latin Vulgate. The Latin Vulgate has one Latin word for believe and a different Latin word for faith, and so he translated them as two different words (believe and faith). Back then believe meant trust. But Bible versions written since 1395 have followed John Wycliffe's word choice even though believe no longer means trust. This ends up pointing people in the wrong direction.
People complain that there are too many English Bible versions. I agree. But we need one more Bible version. We need a Bible version that has the right way of salvation in it.
That is why I spent nine years translating the New Testament from Greek. I did not revise an older English version. I went straight to the Greek text and translated it word-for-word into today's words. It is called the New Testament: Breakthrough Version (there is also the New Testament: Breakthrough KJV for those who want a translation of the Textus Receptus). It tells over 81 times that a person is saved by trusting. It has the right way of salvation.
Why would anyone use a Bible that tells the wrong way of salvation? Yet they do.
If this is true, how does anyone get saved? But for the Holy Spirit.
Despite the wrong instruction of our Bibles, the Holy Spirit leads people to Jesus in the right way.
When I was 5 years old, I prayed a prayer for salvation. As I grew up, I knew that that was when I became a Christian. But when I was a sophomore in high school, the Holy Spirit started speaking to my heart. After two weeks, I was convinced that I was not saved.
At the end of a Sunday morning church service, I found myself gripping the pew in front of me as everyone sang "Just As I Am." I knew I should go forward for salvation, but I couldn't. Then the youth director turned in his pew and looked directly at me. I broke down in tears and went out to the aisle to meet him.
We walked forward and knelt at the altar. "What did you come forward for?" he asked.
"I want to be saved."
That was not what he was expecting. He regained his composure and started showing me verses from Romans.
After a couple of verses, he turned to me and said, "Ray, you know these verses. You know how to get saved. Just pray."
I prayed a prayer, and we were done. He started filling out a decision card, but I didn't feel saved. I interrupted him, "I don't think it worked."
We knelt and tried again. I closed my eyes tightly and prayed as sincerely as I could. When I finished, he looked at me with a questioning look. I shook my head.
We prayed two more times. Finally, we just gave up. By this time, the service had ended and everyone was getting in their cars to go home.
I went home dejected and confused. After dinner I went to my room and looked up all of the verses I could find on salvation. When I got to John 1:12, I found what I was looking for. "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." KJV
I latched onto this verse. I received Him. That is what it said to do. I pictured myself in front of the pearly gates after I died with this page of the Bible clutched in my fist. If they wouldn't let me in, I would show it to Jesus and say, "It says that if I receive you, I will become God's son. I received you as best I could. You must keep this promise and let me in."
At that time, I didn't realize that that verse reads more like this in Greek: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave authority to become God's children, to the people trusting in His name" (John 1:12 BV). I didn't realize that believe meant trust and that I was trusting Jesus. But I was. The Holy Spirit had led me to do the right thing.
My life changed. Everyone noticed it. I was not the same as I used to be. I was saved.
What must a person do to be saved? The answer is clear and frequent in the original language of the Bible. Trust Jesus.
Are you trusting Jesus for your salvation? If not, you are not saved. Trust Jesus and you will be saved.