Salvation—What It Really Means
‘ARE you saved?’ Oftentimes, those who ask this question feel that they are saved because they have ‘accepted Jesus as their personal Savior.’ Yet others feel that there are various paths to salvation and that as long as ‘Jesus is in your heart,’ it does not matter what you believe or even what church you belong to.
The Bible says that it is God’s will that “all sorts of men should be saved.” (1 Timothy 2:3, 4) Salvation is thus available to all who will accept it. But just what does it mean to be saved? Is it really something that simply happens to you with little or no effort on your part?
The word “salvation” means “deliverance from danger or destruction.” True salvation thus involves more than a serene mental state. It means being saved from the destruction of this present wicked system of things and finally from death itself! But just who is it that God will save? In answer, let us examine what Jesus Christ taught on this subject. The results of our investigation may surprise you.
Salvation—Found in All Religions?
On one occasion, Jesus had a conversation with a Samaritan woman. Although she was not a Jew, she quite correctly believed that the Messiah would come “who is called Christ.” (John 4:25) Was such belief sufficient for her to be saved? No, for Jesus boldly told the woman: “You worship what you do not know.” Jesus knew that if this woman were to gain salvation, she would have to adjust her way of worship. Jesus therefore explained: “Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him.”—John 4:22, 23.
Another occasion on which Jesus revealed his view of salvation involved the Pharisees, a prominent religious sect of Judaism. The Pharisees had built up a system of worship and believed that it had God’s approval. But listen to Jesus’ words to the Pharisees: “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”—Matthew 15:7-9, New International Version.
What about the many religious groups today that claim to believe in Christ? Would Jesus endorse them all as legitimate ways to gain salvation? We do not have to guess in this regard, for Jesus clearly said: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matthew 7:21-23.
Accurate Knowledge of Jesus Vital to Salvation
These words of Jesus have sobering implications. They indicate that many devout people are failing to ‘do the will of the Father.’ How, then, can one gain true salvation? First Timothy 2:3, 4 answers: “[God’s] will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—Compare Colossians 1:9, 10.
Such knowledge is critical to gaining salvation. When a Roman jailer asked the apostle Paul and his companion, Silas, “What must I do to get saved?” they replied: “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will get saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30, 31) Did that mean that all the jailer and his family needed to do was to have a certain feeling in their hearts? No, for one thing, they could not truly “believe on the Lord Jesus” unless they had some understanding of who Jesus was, what he did, and what he taught.
For example, Jesus taught the establishment of a heavenly government—“the kingdom of God.” (Luke 4:43) He also set forth principles on Christian morality and behavior. (Matthew, chapters 5-7) He outlined the position his disciples would take when it came to political matters. (John 15:19) He established a global teaching program and commissioned his followers to share in it. (Matthew 24:14; Acts 1:8) Yes, to ‘believe on Jesus’ meant understanding many things! No wonder, then, that Paul and Silas “spoke the word of Jehovah to [the jailer] together with all those in his house” before these new believers were baptized.—Acts 16:32, 33.
Accurate Knowledge of God Also Vital
A necessary part of truly believing in Jesus involves worshiping the God that Jesus himself worships. Jesus prayed: “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.
During his earthly ministry, the Son of God always directed attention to his Father and not to himself. He never claimed to be God Almighty. (John 12:49, 50) On numerous occasions Jesus made his position in God’s arrangement clear by stating that he was subordinate to his Father. (Luke 22:41, 42; John 5:19) Why, Jesus declared: “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) Has your church taught you the true relationship between God and Christ? Or have you been led to believe that Jesus himself is Almighty God? Your salvation depends upon having the correct understanding.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus urged his disciples to pray: “Let your name be sanctified.” (Matthew 6:9) Most translations of the Bible have obscured God’s name, rendering it “Lord.” But in ancient copies of the “Old Testament,” God’s name appeared over six thousand times! Psalm 83:18 thus reads: “That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” Have you been taught to use God’s name, Jehovah? If not, your salvation is in jeopardy, for “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved”!—Acts 2:21; compare Joel 2:32.
With Spirit and Truth
Jesus Christ also directed attention to God’s Word, the Bible. When expounding God’s view of certain matters, he would often say: “It is written.” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; 11:10; 21:13) The night before he died, Jesus prayed regarding his disciples: “Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth.”—John 17:17.
Having an understanding of the teachings of God’s Word, the Bible, is thus another requisite for salvation. (2 Timothy 3:16) Only the Bible answers such questions as: What is the meaning of life? Why has God allowed wickedness to continue for so long? What happens to a person when he dies? Does God really torture people in a fiery hell? What is God’s purpose for the earth?* One cannot worship God properly without the correct understanding of those issues, for Jesus said: “True worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23.
Faith Moves to Action
Salvation involves more than simply acquiring information. In a responsive heart, accurate knowledge of God produces faith. (Romans 10:10, 17; Hebrews 11:6) Such faith moves one to action. For example, the Bible admonishes: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah.”—Acts 3:19.
Yes, salvation also involves conforming oneself to God’s standards of conduct and morality. Under the transforming influence of God’s Word, lifelong habits of lying and deception give way to honesty and truthfulness. (Titus 2:10) Immoral practices, such as homosexuality, adultery, and fornication, are abandoned and replaced by chaste moral conduct. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) This is not a temporary abstinence based on emotion but a permanent change resulting from careful study and application of God’s Word.—Ephesians 4:22-24.
In time, love and appreciation for God moves an honesthearted person to make a full dedication to God and to symbolize it by water baptism. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Romans 12:1) Baptized Christians are saved in the eyes of God. (1 Peter 3:21) During the coming destruction of this wicked world, God will save them completely by preserving them through that tribulation.—Revelation 7:9, 14.
What Salvation Can Mean to You
It is clear from this brief discussion that gaining salvation involves more than ‘having the Lord Jesus in your heart.’ It means taking in accurate knowledge of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ and making needed changes in one’s life. Doing this may sound formidable, but Jehovah’s Witnesses are willing to help you in this endeavor. By means of a free home Bible study, they can help you to begin walking on the path to true salvation.*
In view of the nearness of God’s coming day of judgment, doing so is more urgent than ever before! Now is the time to heed the prophet’s words: “Before there comes upon you the day of Jehovah’s anger, seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth, who have practiced His own judicial decision. Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”—Zephaniah 2:2, 3.
For a discussion of these subjects, please see Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
If you would like a home Bible study, please contact the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Or you may write to the publishers of this magazine.
[Box on page 6]
Salvation Results From . . .
□ Gaining accurate knowledge of God and Jesus.—John 17:3.
[Pictures on page 7]
Studying the Bible, applying what is learned, dedication, and baptism are steps leading to salvation