Welcome to Red Bricks. In this first part we will be looking at what salvation actually means and what we have to do to receive it. What salvation is not is a moment in time when we respond to a sermon or an altar call in some church meeting. That is our conversion. We are converted when the Holy Spirit opens our spiritual eyes and ears so that we might understand what God is saying to us. It is impossible to be converted without the help of the Holy Spirit. Salvation refers to the rescue which God has provided from the judgement which is to come on what is known as the Day of the Lord. Because of our sins against God, we deserve to face an eternal death. But, in His mercy, God has provided a way out, or a deliverance, from that punishment for all who accept His way of salvation.
God’s salvation from the punishment which is due to everyone is only available through believing in the person of Yeshua. Yeshua is Jesus’ Hebrew name. We have to accept that trusting in Yeshua and all that He said and did is the only way to avoid the coming judgement on all mankind. This salvation is a gift from God and there is nothing we can humanly do to attain it under our own strength. It requires, firstly, the Holy Spirit to convert us, and once we are converted, then the Holy Spirit will convict of the things we have done wrong against God. When we are aware of these things we have done wrong, these sins, the Holy Spirit will teach us how to repent to God.
To repent means to say to God that we are sorry for our sins and to purpose in our hearts not to do those things again. We do this in the knowledge that Yeshua has taken the punishment due to us when He died on the cross. This means, because Yeshua took the punishment in our place, we can be reconciled to God. This reconciliation is only available through the person of Yeshua. So, in order to receive this salvation, we should believe that Yeshua was sent by God to save us. The name Yeshua is a Hebrew word which means Yehovah Saves. Yehovah is God’s unique and personal name.
Here is an example of how one man and his family came to hear of the salvation of Yeshua:
Read Acts 16:16-34
Notice that Paul and Silas were being harassed by a girl who was possessed by a demon. The demon, or evil spirit, was causing her to shout out that Paul and Silas had a message from God about how to be saved. Whilst it could have been seen as ‘good advertising’ for what Paul and Silas were doing, it evidently became a frustration for Paul. He shows us clearly how to deal with such manifestations whilst we are preaching the gospel. As a result of Paul expelling the demon from her, he and Silas find themselves beaten and then thrown in jail. Despite that fact that they had been severely beaten, they were assured enough of God being with them to be praying and singing songs throughout the night. There is an important lesson for us here – if we accept suffering with the same approach that Paul and Silas did, we will also see chains fall off and doors open supernaturally.
At the sight before him, the jailer was ready to kill himself. Paul stopped him. Paul and Silas could clearly have escaped but they must have felt that God’s purpose in allowing them to be imprisoned was, at yet, unfinished. The jailer, I am sure, would have heard of Paul and Silas before they were imprisoned. He may even have heard the demon-possessed girl announcing that they had the secret of salvation. Whatever prompted the jailer to ask the question ‘What must I do to be saved?’ we may never know. But, we can be sure that when any of us ask the same question, it is because we have either heard something of the Word of God, or something of the nature of Jesus beforehand, and that the Holy Spirit made it real to us.
Note the reply of Paul and Silas to the jailer’s question. It is the same answer that we must give to everyone who inquires of us about salvation – ‘Believe in the Lord Yeshua, and you will be saved‘. It doesn’t matter the situation, or who is asking, the answer will always be that we need to believe in Jesus for salvation.
Notice that Paul and Silas are using the name of Yeshua, and not one of God’s other names. The reason why is that there is no other name by which men can be saved (Acts 4:12). The name of Yeshua literally means Yehovah Saves. Of all of the names and titles by which God is known, Yehovah is the highest of them all. It is this name which He has given to His Son, Yeshua. This is what gives the name of Yeshua its power to bring about our salvation. In Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome, he states that:
“Whoever calls upon the name of Yeshua will be saved.” [Romans 10:13]
And this is what we all do to receive salvation – we call upon God to save us. His response is to send His Son Yeshua to us. Only He can save us.
So, why is it that simply believing in Yehshua, or trusting that He is exactly what His name suggests, will save us? In truth, we don’t really know. But we do know that God wants us to be like little children and trust Him for everything, including our deliverance from a life of sin and death.
It is important to note that simply believing in the name of Yeshua isn’t anywhere described as a one-off event. Believing or having trust in Yeshua is just the beginning of the process. Yeshua describes faith or trust as being like a mustard seed. He says that if we have even a small amount of trust that anything will be possible (Matthew 17:20-21). He also describes this same seed as being something that grows into a tree big enough to support birds (The Parable of the Mustard Seed Matthew 13:31-32).
How then do we believe? The Bible teaches us that each one of us has been given a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). It also tells us that faith or trust comes from hearing (or reading) God’s message, or His Word (Romans 10:17). So what Yeshua was saying about our faith or trust is that we can make it grow in the same way a mustard seed grows. We just need to feed it with God’s Word.
The process of our salvation starts with us hearing or reading something from the Bible (God’s written Word), or seeing something of the nature of Yeshua (God’s Word in human form). In the case of the jailer from the book of Acts, it may have been both that convinced him of his need to be saved. Many can hear God’s Word but it will always take the Holy Spirit to give understanding to the hearer before the need for salvation makes sense to us.
My own experience was that I heard repeatedly God’s Word from my father (then, a recent convert), over a five year period. It never once made any sense whatsoever. And then, one day, when I needed it most, that very same message made sense. My eyes and ears and heart were opened by the Holy Spirit.
The moment at which it makes sense to us, used to be called our conversion, but for some reason this term is no longer fashionably in modern church circles. They prefer to sell the idea of ‘once saved, always saved‘ and that your salvation happens when you put your hand up for an altar call. The truth is, when you first believe that is simply the first day of your journey towards salvation. Calling that moment of understanding conversion is right. It is then that we first see our need for forgiveness; the need for leading a life led by Jesus; and the need to say sorry to God. It is at that moment that the world’s way of doing things stops making sense. Conversion is right. This is not salvation. Salvation can never be described as a single event in our past, but instead it is an ongoing condition as we move from a life dominated by worldly thinking to one led by the example that Yeshua left us.
So, what example did Yeshua leave us?
Throughout the gospels Yeshua repeatedly encouraged us to follow him. His first act when He came into the time of His ministry was to be baptized. Read Matthew 3:13-17. The word from which we get baptize, literally means to dip. John’s baptism wasn’t a new invention – the Hebrews were big on ceremonial washing. But John was offering cleansing from sin in exchange for repentance. In the dialogue between John and Yeshua, John was right in saying that it should be Yeshua baptizing John, not the other way around. However, Yeshua reassures him and tells him that it must be done that way to fulfil all righteousness. This is an interesting phrase that offers a wide range of possible explanations, but it is best to look at it serving two purposes. Firstly, it was as a sign to John that Yeshua was the one he was expecting; the Messiah. And secondly, in connecting the act with righteousness Yeshua linked it to faith and trust in God. The Bible says that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). If Yeshua had to be baptized by John, even though He had no sin in Him to repent of or be cleansed of, then it could have simply been a matter of obedience, and therefore part of His example to us to do the same – believe, and be baptized, even if we don’t understand why it is important. In other words, it is an act of faith.
Please note that the word repent means to turn and walk in a different direction, and the word sin is actually an archery term which means to fall short of the target. With that in mind, the original answer to the jailer was to believe. If we are to be saved, we need to believe that Yeshua died for the sins we committed; we need to trust that His sacrifice means that God will not punish us for our sins; and we need to continue to believe in Yeshua for our ongoing salvation, after all, just because we start believing doesn’t mean we will stop sinning.
What must we do to be saved?
We must first believe, and continue to believe, and we must be baptised.