Answering the Question, Are You Saved?
IT WAS a bleak and chilly Saturday afternoon, late in autumn. Along the sidewalks in the business section of Brooklyn, New York, were to be seen Christian witnesses offering the Watchtower and Awake! magazines to passers-by. A stranger of earnest mien approached one of them and asked, “Brother, are you saved?” The witness endeavored to explain but was interrupted with “Are you saved, yes or no?”
Such persons generally evince intense concern over the destiny of their fellow man because they labor under the religious delusions that the soul is immortal and that eternal torment is the fate of all those not saved, whereas the Bible plainly states that the soul that sins dies, and that the wages sin pays is death. Death is the absence of life. (Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 6:23) However, not fear of eternal torment, but love of God, love of righteousness and love of life should make us concerned as to whether we are saved or not and cause us to ask the question, “What must I do to be saved?”
From the Scriptures we learn that Jehovah God alone has the answer to our question. And he has the answer not only in that he has the true and reliable information on the subject, but also in that he has the means by which we may get saved. Foreknowing the desire of honest persons to get saved from present evil conditions and to a righteous new world he purposed to provide that salvation before ever a child was born to Adam and Eve. This is clearly to be seen from the prophetic promise God made immediately after our first parents rebelled: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”—Gen. 3:15.
While Jehovah God thus purposed to provide salvation because of his love and mercy, he did it primarily to show that he holds the right to sovereignty over all the universe and that his purposes can never be defeated. (Ps. 106:8; Isa. 55:11) Incidentally, that transgression of our first parents, which occasioned the utterance of that prophecy, was not so insignificant as it might seem; for it fastened Satan’s rule upon mankind and led to the condemnation and death of their offspring. Yes, all the sorrow, evil and wickedness that the earth has seen since then can be traced to it.—Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12.
Now, by all the signs predicted in God’s Word and by world events in fulfillment of them, we can see that the time has at last come for God to completely fulfill that Edenic promise by ridding the earth of the oppressive organization of the serpent, Satan, in vindication of his universal sovereignty. In ridding the earth of Satan’s organization no vacuum will be left, because God has provided for a perfect government under Christ Jesus to take its place. A glorious salvation, therefore, awaits all those who now seek Almighty God’s mercy and favor. And since this is so the question of what we must do to get saved has increased meaning and importance for us.
“What must I do to get saved?” was first asked of Paul and Silas, two Christian missionaries, by a certain prison-keeper in the first century of our Christian era. These missionaries had been put in prison under the care of this jailer because they had expelled a demon from a slave girl that kept following them and shouting to the people: “These men are slaves of the Most High God.” At midnight Paul and Silas were singing praises to God when suddenly a great earthquake shook the jail and loosed all the prisoners from their bonds. In those days a jailer losing his prisoners was put to death, and so this jailer, fearing that all his prisoners had fled, was ready to commit suicide, when Paul cried out to him, “Do not hurt yourself, for we are all here!” Hurrying to the inner chamber where Paul and Silas were, the jailer, gratefully and on bended knee, asked what he must do to be saved.—Acts 16:16-30, NW.
Paul and Silas told the jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will get saved.” Why is it necessary to believe on the Lord Jesus to get saved? Because he is the Seed, the instrument chosen by God to vindicate His sovereignty and bring salvation to mankind. He is the Chief Agent of life. That is why we are told “there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved”. His is the only name by which we can come to God. Therefore, neither the name of Mary nor Mohammed’s is necessary to salvation.—John 14:6; Acts 3:15; 4:12, NW.
Missionaries sent from Christendom to “pagan” lands tell their converts to believe on the Lord Jesus and they will be saved, as though that were the sum of God’s requirements. However, we may not take one text to the exclusion of others. In the case of the jailer, note what else took place: “And they spoke the word of Jehovah to him together with all those in his house. . . . and, one and all, he and his were baptized without delay. And he brought them into his house and set a table before them, and he rejoiced greatly with all his household now that he had believed God.”—Acts 16:31-34, NW.
For us to get into the way of salvation we must, first of all, repent of our past sins, and be converted or turn from this world’s course; we must do so because we have heard God’s Word and because we believe his Word concerning the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. Then, on the basis of that belief, we must dedicate ourselves to Jehovah God through Christ Jesus and get baptized in water in order to confess openly our belief and dedication to God.—Acts 3:19, NW.
Having taken these steps are we saved completely beyond all possibility of losing out? Far from it! These steps have only brought us upon the way of salvation. For one thing, we must call upon the name of Jehovah, and that means more than merely calling upon him for deliverance in times of stress. It means confessing him with our lips, for “with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation”. In fact, the very purpose for which we have been brought into the way of salvation is that we might bear much fruit by declaring the excellencies of God. And we must also confess Christ Jesus before men; otherwise he will not confess us before his Father in heaven.—Matt. 10:32; John 15:8; Rom. 10:10; 1 Pet. 2:9, NW.
WHO POSSIBLY CAN BE SAVED?
That getting saved is not as simple as many in Christendom would have us believe is apparent from the account of Jesus and the rich young ruler who asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life. To his sorrow he found that even keeping all the commandments was not enough, for Jesus said to him: “There is yet one thing wanting about you: Sell all the things you have and distribute to poor people, and you will have treasure in the heavens; and come be my follower.” Upon hearing this the rich young man “became quite sorrowful, for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said: ‘How difficult a thing it will be for those with money to make their way into the kingdom of God! It is easier, in fact, for a camel to get through the eye of a sewing needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.’” Hearing those remarks some wondered, “Who possibly can be saved?” Jesus answered, “The things impossible with men are possible with God.”—Luke 18:18-30, NW.
In this matter note the example that Jesus set for us. From his study of the Scriptures Jesus clearly saw the way that God had marked out for him. When telling his apostles about this, Peter tried to dissuade him, “Be kind to yourself, Master; you will not have this destiny at all.” But Jesus rebuked him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumblingblock to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.” (Matt. 16:22, 23, NW) And when impaled, not even the taunt “If you are a son of God, come down off the torture stake!” caused Jesus to turn back. His was no easy course: “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the one who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.”—Matt. 27:40; Heb. 5:7, 8, NW.
The same is true regarding his followers. Having taken all the preliminary steps of repentance, conversion, dedication and baptism, thereby denying ourselves, we must take up our stake, of suffering reproach and pain for righteousness’ sake, and follow Christ Jesus. And we must keep following him, enduring as he did, not seeking to preserve our lives or save our earthly souls. “For whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it.”—Matt. 16:24-26, NW.
Satan the Deceiver is the one who is responsible for some Christians’ thinking that once they have believed on the Lord Jesus, have been baptized and have entered upon the way of salvation they are saved for all time without any possibility of losing eternal life by unfaithfulness. However, not the one putting on his weapons may boast, “but he that has endured to the finish is the one that will be saved.”—1 Ki. 20:11, AT; Matt. 24:13; 2 Tim. 4:7, 8, NW.
If by having taken the first steps we are saved why would Jehovah God have caused to be recorded in his Word so many warning examples? Consider Lot’s wife. God had warned Lot to flee and not even to look back, and sent his angels to escort him and his family out of doomed Sodom and Gomorrah. In vain Lot tried to persuade his sons-in-law to go with him. To them it was all a joke. So Lot, his wife and his two daughters followed the angels out of those doomed cities. Yes, Lot’s wife started out on the road to getting saved from the wrath of Jehovah, but she might as well have stayed behind like the two scoffing sons-in-law, for she looked back and perished. Not only may we not turn back, but even to look back will prove fatal. “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.”—Gen. 19:12-26; Luke 9:62; 17:32; Rom. 15:4, NW.
Another warning example that God caused to be recorded driving home the point that not all those who start out on the way of salvation will reach their destination is that of the nation of Israel. About “six hundred thousand men on foot, besides the dependents”, together with a great crowd of non-Israelites left Egypt, and even passed safely through the Red sea. (Ex. 12:37, AT) Concerning them the apostle Paul states: “Now I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea and all got baptized into Moses by means of the cloud and of the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink. . . . Nevertheless, on most of them God did not express his approval, for they were laid low in the wilderness.” Between one and two million adults left Egypt; and yet out of all that number only Joshua and Caleb, and Eleazar and probably some other Levites entered the land of Canaan.—1 Cor. 10:1-5, NW.
The apostle Paul took this warning to himself and drew it to the attention of his brothers, lest, for lack of self-control, they fall to the same temptations as those Israelites did and thereby ruin their opportunity for eternal salvation. “Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air; but I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27, NW) Yes, even though Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles; was one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; had the privilege of writing fourteen of the books or letters of the Christian Greek Scriptures; and was a performer of great miracles; there still was danger of his not realizing eventual and complete salvation because of the possibility of his failing to exercise self-control.—Acts 19:11; Rom. 11:13; Rev. 21:14.
The same warning holds true for us today. Having exercised faith and dedicated ourselves to the service of Jehovah God, we have, as it were, left Egypt and are on the trek to the new world. But bodily we are still in this old world although no part of it. So the temptation to desire injurious things is ever with us. What injurious things? Idolatry or greediness, overindulgence in food, drink and other pleasures, fornication, murmuring and complaining. It was for these things that all those Israelites perished in the wilderness. “Now these things went on befalling them as examples and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the accomplished ends of the systems of things have arrived. [Paul’s day and ours] Consequently, let him that thinks he has a firm position beware that he does not fall.”—1 Cor. 10:11, 12, NW.
However, let no one become fearful, discouraged and quit because getting saved is no easy matter, but requires all we can muster. Remember Jesus said, “The things impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27, NW) After all, “no temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13, NW) So we can gain salvation.
Thus we have the answer to our question, “What must I do to get saved?” If we love God, righteousness and life, not only will we take in knowledge of Jehovah God and Christ Jesus, exercise faith in them by dedicating ourselves to God and symbolize that dedication by baptism, but we will continue to make public declaration of Jehovah’s name and will resist temptations and endure persecution until this old world ends. Until the end of our testing we cannot take for granted our being saved; and therefore when someone asks, “Brother, are you saved?” we do not give a categorically affirmative reply, but qualify our answer, “Thus far, yes!”