“Who then can be saved?” – Matthew 19:25
Have you ever wondered what it means when someone speaks about “getting saved”? Your initial response might be “Saved from what?” One day a smart rich young ruler came up to Jesus and asked Him the question, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus then entered into a conversation with this smart and rich young man. Jesus asked him if he had kept the commandments of God. The smart rich young man said he had. But then Jesus instructed him to “sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:16-21). The smart rich young man didn’t like what Jesus said. It states, “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22).
As the smart rich young man walked away, Jesus commented to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23). This blew the disciples away because to be smart and rich was a winning combination and the measure of success even in their day. All they could do was be astonished and respond, “Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25). Thankfully Jesus answered them the truth and heart of how to get saved. Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
The heart of the issue wasn’t that this smart rich young man didn’t want to give up all his wealth. That was only the surface issue. The root of the problem for this smart rich young man was that he had allowed his wealth to be a god, an idol, something that he worshipped other than God. He was curious about God, but not willing to be committed to God. For him it seems that asking Jesus a question about eternal life and salvation was just another curious trifle in a life filled with things and curiosities available to those of privilege. He was interested, but not interested enough. If he would have followed through and done what Jesus told him to do, he would have discovered that fulfillment and purpose in life are not bound up in youth, or smartness or riches but in a relationship with God. He would have found that you can give away your riches and with God be wealthier than ever before. He would have found that God is enough. Instead he walked away and no matter what riches or standing he was able to procure from that point on, he would still have an emptiness. He would still, for the rest of his life, ponder that conversation with Jesus and the consequences of having walked away.
The Bible states that God has created humanity with “eternity in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). That’s a beautiful way of saying God has created humanity with an inherent desire to know Him and have a relationship with Him. One saint of old stated, “Thou has made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” The purpose of every human being is to have a relationship with God. Having a relationship with God is what we were created for. Therefore, until we enter into a relationship with God we will be restless, we’ll feel something is missing; incomplete.
If that’s the case, why don’t we have a relationship with God? Why aren’t we just born into a relationship with our Maker? The reason we aren’t automatically born into a relationship with God is because of sin. Our first parents were created by God and placed in a perfect habitat, the Garden of Eden. They were the objects of God’s affection and love.
God freely and fully loved Adam and Eve. He created them in love and placed them in a loving environment. But for them to be truly complete and fulfill their intended purpose, they had to learn what love is. To learn what love truly is, would require they be placed in a situation where there was an option not to love. That was necessary in order for them to discover what love was. They would only discover what true love was when they chose to love. True love is volitional. True love involves a decision to love. True love involves the will. This test or proving of their love involved a situation where they made a decision to lovingly trust God and obey Him or, to unlovingly not trust God and disobey Him.
The account of this first test of love is found in Genesis 3. And unfortunately, when tempted by the serpent of old, the devil, Adam and Eve chose to distrust and disobey God; to not love God. This had historic effects for all humanity since their disobedience to God and rejection of His love was the first sin. And that sin was then passed on to all humanity as a sinful nature. All creation was impacted by that decision against love. We live in a fallen world because of that decision. From that point on all humanity was born estranged from God. Sin separates us from God.
Life without God is lonely. Life without God is confusing. Life without God is empty. Life without God is just not right. And life without God if lived to its end, will lead ultimately to a permanent state of eternity without God. If in this life a person rejects God and refuses to have a relationship with Him, God will follow through on this life’s decision with allowing such a person to live eternally in a state of separation from God. This final destination for those who reject God is called hell. It is an eternal place of torment over what has been lost and what might have been. It is a place of punishment. It is a place of fire (Revelation 20). It is a destination and a place which we need to be saved from.
Eternity without God is called “Hell.” It is like living an eternal death. Those who enter this dark eternity do so based on their own decision to reject God. Their sentence is just in light of God’s incredible continual efforts to draw each person to Himself in love. The continued sinful persistent rebellious rejection of the outstretched hand of God is justly punished by an eternal death sentence to hell. But there is an alternative. As bad as this sinful predicament is, there is an incredible opportunity to spend eternity in a place called heaven with a Person who loves you stupendously.
So far, we have discussed the bad news of the plight of all humanity. All humanity is like a person drowning in a sea of sin. All humanity is lost in sin and needs to be saved from their sinful state. There is a way to be saved from the consequence of your sin. There is a life preserver. How do we get saved? How are we saved from sin? Our life preserver is a Life Preserver. Our Life Guard Who comes to our aid to save us is Jesus Christ.
The alternative to eternal death is eternal life. Eternal life is all about knowing Jesus. What does that mean? Jesus spoke very clearly about this saying:
- John 17:3 (NKJV) – 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Sin is really about whether or not you “know” Jesus. The word “know” here is translated from the Greek term ginosko. The idea of this word “know” in the original language meant to become aware, perceive (as in “seeing is believing”), to understand, to be conscious of, to see something or someone as it/they truly are (not merely opinion or speculation).
When this word is used in the sense of knowing someone it means:
- To know someone personally
- To be personally acquainted with someone
- To trust someone
- To have a friendship with someone
- To have an intimate personal relationship with someone
In light of this the question arises, do you know Jesus?
How can we come to know Jesus in a saving way? Jesus said it was necessary for a person to be “born again”; to experience a spiritual birth similar to the way they were physical born. This isn’t a matter of mere religious activity. Proof of this is seen in a conversation Jesus had with a Pharisee (the most religious people of His day). To this religious pharisee named Nicodemas, Jesus said the following:
- John 3:1–7 (NKJV) – There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
Later in the conversation Jesus says some very famous well-known words about salvation from sin:
- John 3:16–17 (NKJV) – 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Belief in Jesus is the basis for God’s forgiveness of sin for those who ask. The reason for this is that all people are sinners and sin is the cause of death in life:
- Romans 3:10 (NKJV) – 10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;
- Romans 3:23 (NKJV) – 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
- Romans 6:23 (NKJV) – 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The reason why belief in Jesus is necessary for our sins to be forgiven is that Jesus paid our death penalty. The consequence or “wage” of sin is death. This death is not annihilation but death penalty existence of torment as described above. But God has provided us a free gift in Jesus. A gift is not something worked for, it is something simply received. We receive a gift by faith. What is the gift bound up in Jesus? Jesus, as a Perfect Human Representative (a Second Adam) paid our death penalty for us on the cross. This is what we call Atonement.
Atonement means Jesus died to make a way for us to be AT-ONE-MENT with God. The Apostle Paul described the holy transaction in one verse saying:
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) – 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
That is the holy saving transaction in a nutshell. To believe that, to trust in that holy truth, results in our being forgiven of our sins and given spiritual life – being “born again.”
How do we appropriate or receive such a gift of salvation? First, we “confess” our sins to God.
- 1 John 1:9 (NKJV) – 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
To “confess” our sins (Greek homologeo) means to say the same thing as another, to agree with, assent, to concede. To confess our sins means to acknowledge and agree with God’s assessment of them. When we do that in conjunction with believing in Jesus, God forgives our sins.
How do we know this is true and sufficient for salvation before God who is Holy? By the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus proves that He has defeated death. The resurrection is evidence and proof that the atoning work of Jesus was completely sufficient and acceptable to God’s holy standards of justice. The resurrection fo Jesus is God’s stamp of approval on His atoning work. Therefore, believing in the resurrection of Jesus is an essential part of this saving faith.
- Romans 10:8–10 (NKJV) – 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
When we trust in Jesus as our Savior we are given spiritual eternal life by the Holy Spirit Who indwells us:
- Titus 3:4–7 (NKJV) – 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
When we experience this eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ we receive an assurance, a calming influence from God concerning death. Hear the soothing comforting blessed words of God concerning this magnificent truth:
- Romans 8:11 (NKJV) – 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
- 1 Corinthians 15:20–21 (NKJV) – 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.
- 1 Corinthians 15:56–58 (NKJV) – 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
- 2 Timothy 1:8–12 (NKJV) – 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.
- Hebrews 2:9 (NKJV) – 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
- Hebrews 2:14–15 (NKJV) – 14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
- Romans 8:37–39 (NKJV) – 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These are truly beautiful words from God to us. We need no longer fear death.
Coming to Jesus and dealing with your sins is as simple as ABC. First Admit your sin. Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). And we all have sinned and fall short of what it takes to enter heaven (Romans 3). If we acknowledge and admit our sin before God and turn from them to Him, we’re headed in the right direction. The next thing to do is Believe on Jesus; trust in Him and His redeeming death on the cross. The wages or consequences of our sin is death, but God offers us salvation from our sins freely through Jesus’ death on the cross (Romans 6:23). Jesus paid our death penalty on the cross for us. He’s the only One qualified to do that. Jesus took our sins on Himself on the cross and in exchange offers us His righteousness to be put to our account (cf. Isaiah 53; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Lastly, Confession is involved. We confess our sins to God and receive His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). But we also confess Jesus to those around us; we tell others about Jesus. The Bible states, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). Look up the verses in this study and pray over them. “So, then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Get into God’s word and let Him minister to you more and more. That’s what getting saved is all about. In His service, by His grace, for His glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.