What Is Needed for Salvation?
SO YOU want life! You can sense that this whole system of things is headed for its Armageddon end, and you do not want to die. You want to survive and gain everlasting life under a new and righteous system of things. You want to know what you must do. In effect, you are posing the same question put to the apostle Paul and his companion nineteen hundred years ago: “What must I do to get saved?”—Acts 16:30.
That question needs a clear and positive answer, and that is just what the Bible furnishes. Indeed, God’s Word plainly sets forth the steps that must be taken by each one who desires salvation. There is need first to cast aside any attitude of complacency or idea that, if you sit tight, all will be well. There is no easy road to salvation. It is gained only by strenuous endeavor, for the Bible’s exhortation is: “Keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) And Jesus Christ counseled those who would be saved: “Exert yourselves vigorously.”—Luke 13:23, 24.
Such vigorous endeavor is altogether in contrast with the easy view many persons take of Christianity. They feel that what they learned in their younger days in Sunday school is all they need to know about the will of God. They reason that if they lead a blameless life from the human viewpoint, that is all that is required of them. They have not even taken the first step essential to salvation.
BIBLE STUDY VITAL
Taking in knowledge is the first essential, and on this point Jesus Christ declared: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) So the first step on the way to salvation is study of the Bible, because it is God’s book and in it he tells us what he, the Provider of salvation, requires of us if we are to benefit from his provision.
There is need for intensive reading of the Bible, along with the giving of serious consideration to it, before you can fully grasp the fact that it is truly of divine authorship, an authoritative guide for you in all the affairs of life. The apostle Paul refers to the Bible as “the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus,” and adds: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.”—2 Tim. 3:15, 16.
To make time for personal study of the Bible will take determination and genuine desire to know God and Christ. Perhaps nonessential activities such as some relaxation time, time spent watching TV programs or going to movies will have to be redeemed in order to carry out a well-scheduled program of personal Bible reading and study. Time, too, should be found to discuss the Bible with other mature and knowledgeable Christians, preferably having someone come and conduct a Bible study with you in your home for an hour each week.
The objective of such Bible study is not merely knowledge, but faith. Multitudes today are aware of much that appears in the Bible, can even quote it fluently, but few have faith that the Bible is the Word of the Sovereign God who has it in his power to grant or deny salvation. If people truly believed this they would be anxious to bring their lives into harmony with God’s requirements.
EXERCISE OF FAITH
A mental acknowledgment of the truths learned from the Bible, therefore, is not enough to bring one’s salvation. A man may be reported as having good judgment, but unless he exercises it, how can we know? Likewise, faith based on Bible knowledge cannot be distinguished unless it produces results. “As the body without breath is dead,” said Bible writer James, “so also faith without works is dead.” (Jas. 2:26) So, whatever knowledge we gain from Bible study should be applied in a practical manner to our lives.
The effect of Bible study should be to convince one that he has been a selfish sinner, wandering far from the requirements of the righteous God. (Rom. 3:23) It should impress one with the need to be genuinely sorry about his past course of heedlessness, his indifference to the will of God. It should bring home to the reverent student that forgiveness and restoration to divine favor are possible only through the ransom sacrifice made in behalf of sinful mankind, the sacrifice of Jesus’ perfect human life.—Rom. 5:8; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 4:10.
Faith in Jesus Christ as the ransom for our release from sin means that the Christian must recognize he has been “bought with a price” and now belongs to Christ as his slave. (1 Cor. 7:23) He is therefore duty bound to please his Master in everything and seek to imitate Jesus’ example of complete submission to the Father in heaven.—Heb. 12:1-3.
There are other works of faith to be considered and acted upon. For instance, some of the practical questions that should come to the mind of the seeker after salvation are: What kind of companionship shall I seek? Upon self-examination, what habits, customs, practices and attitudes must I change? Apart from my living a life of godliness, does God have some particular service for me to perform at this time? The sincere life seeker will be anxious to have the Scriptural answers to these questions.
Certainly one would not want to keep company with wicked persons, ridiculers of God and his Word. (Ps. 1:1) It may be that till now you have associated with “passive Christians,” those who take the name “Christian” but who are not willing to undertake the responsibilities of the Christian. Their attitude could rub off on you. Truly, as the apostle Paul warned: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:33.
Association with the congregation of Christians who recognize that God is pleased, not with rites and meaningless ceremonies, but with worship that is offered “with spirit and truth,” is vital to your salvation. (John 4:23; 1 Sam. 15:22) If at all possible you should gather with, train with and serve with those who put God’s kingdom first in their lives. (Matt. 6:25-34) Even if you are a shut-in, confined to your home by reason of age or infirmity, you should seek to be in regular communication with God’s congregation, for through it he is instructing and directing his worshipers on earth.
Companionship of the right kind is all the more urgent now since we are living in the “critical times hard to deal with” foretold by the apostle Paul. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) The same apostle was also inspired to write these words of timely advice to fellow Christians: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24, 25) This kind of healthful, spiritual association you can find at the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s witnesses. As one seeking salvation, you will be welcome there and aided in your quest.
A NEW PERSONALITY
Another indispensable requirement for salvation is pointed out by the apostle Paul in these words: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires; . . . you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will.” (Eph. 4:22-24) So the fleshly, materialistic aims so common to worldly people need to be put away, and the Christian’s mind filled with thoughts that are in harmony with Jehovah’s will.
This great changeover will not come easily. It will take time. It will be a gradual process. It will also take much effort and unremitting vigilance so as not to slip back into the old way of thinking and acting. The Bible is explicit about the practices of the “old personality” that must be put away by those who would gain salvation: “The works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. . . . those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”—Gal. 5:19-21.
Only with the help and encouragement of good Christian associates will you be able to adopt the Bible’s counsel on how to go about ‘putting on the new personality’: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” (Phil. 4:8) Gradually this kind of thinking will crowd out wrong thoughts and desires and replace them with thoughts producing fine fruitage, namely, “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”—Gal. 5:22, 23.
How vital, then, for each one who wants eternal life to clean up his life and “quit being fashioned after this system of things [controlled by Satan, its god], but be transformed by making [one’s] mind over”! (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 4:4) The “new personality” is a must for salvation.
THE PREACHING REQUIREMENT
Having begun to make his mind over through study and application of God’s Word to his life and by means of godly companionship, the seeker after salvation next needs to turn his attention to the service commanded by Christ Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matt. 28:19, 20.
Participation in preaching and teaching God’s Word is vitally related to your salvation. This is why the apostle Paul could declare: “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” (Rom. 10:10) True, the weakness of the flesh may incline you to shrink back from making such “public declaration” of your faith. But call to mind the justice of Jesus’ words at Mark 8:38: “Whoever becomes ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will also be ashamed of him when he arrives in the glory of his Father.”
To help you combat that tendency to shrink back, call to mind the strengthening example of the apostle Paul, for he could truthfully exclaim: “I am not ashamed of the good news; it is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith.” (Rom. 1:16) However, to gain that same boldness and fearlessness you need to undergo training in the Christian congregation. (Eph. 4:11, 12) Is it not most loving and considerate of Jehovah that he has made such provision, so that you do not have to step out on your own to make public declaration of his message? He has organized his congregation of witnesses for this very purpose.
THE STEP OF DEDICATION
After you have studied the Bible diligently and applied its principles toward making a great change in your life, and after you have been meeting and studying regularly with others of the same faith, and after you have tasted and appreciated the privileges of the preaching and teaching work, your faith should lead you to take another important step necessary to your salvation. Yes, it is the step of dedication. What does it mean? It means that gratitude to Jehovah for all his loving provisions for your salvation moves you to offer yourself to him, without any restrictions, to do his will.
In taking this course you follow the perfect example of God’s beloved Son, Christ Jesus, who also offered himself to the heavenly Father, ready to carry out the special will of God for him. (Matt. 3:13-17; Heb. 10:5-10) And as he did, so you also mark this offering of yourself to God for his service by an outward ceremony, giving testimony to others of your decision. You offer yourself for baptism. That symbolic act speaks eloquently of your becoming dead to your own selfish former course of action (when dipped below the water), and henceforth to live in harmony with God’s will (coming up out of the water). Many others before you have taken this step of dedication and baptism.—Acts 2:41; 8:12; 18:8.
Of course, for the dedicated one there is now no turning back. “Whenever you vow a vow to God, do not hesitate to pay it,” is the inspired counsel, “for there is no delight in the stupid ones. What you vow, pay.” (Eccl. 5:4) Jehovah takes no pleasure in those who go back on their word. That dedicated relationship to God must always be kept in mind. What worldlings do or fail to do is no longer the Christian’s guide. He must seek to be guided by God’s written Word in everything.
ENDURE FOR THE REWARD
The reward of salvation in all its fullness surpasses our fondest imagination. It means more than survival through the fast-approaching end of this wicked system of things. It embraces the marvelous joys of living in a New Order here on earth under the beneficent rule of the heavenly Kingdom. Imagine a thousand years during which the King, Christ Jesus, will be wiping out all the dreadful effects of sin and selfishness! (Rev. 20:4; 1 Cor. 15:25, 26) Yes, you will be privileged to behold even the dead arising from the tombs at his command! (John 5:28) And finally, there will be the opportunity to withstand the final test of integrity after the close of the thousand-year reign and, if faithful, you will receive salvation, yes, everlasting life as God’s gift through Christ!—Rev. 20:5, 7, 8.
With such a glorious reward ahead, there is reason to suffer, if need be, and to endure patiently. This wicked system of things under Satan is arrayed against God’s true worshipers. It will seek to have you break integrity with God, to treat your dedication vow lightly. Persons near and dear to you may even be used as its instruments to pressure or persuade you to turn aside from the narrow way of true worship. (Matt. 10:35-37; 7:13, 14) But hearken to this divinely inspired word of counsel: “You have need of endurance, in order that, after you have done the will of God [taken all these vital steps], you may receive the fulfillment of the promise.”—Heb. 10:36.
Keep in direct communication with your Refuge and your Shield, Jehovah. (2 Sam. 22:2, 3) Pray that God may support you by his spirit, for he is able to make you stand. (Rom. 14:4) And Christ Jesus, the faithful Leader and Commander of his followers, encourages you: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”—Matt. 10:22.