The Condition of Salvation - For Jews and Gentiles in this Age

The purpose of this article is to answer the question, "Exactly what must one do to be saved?" According to the Scriptures, what is it that a person must do to be saved?

The key point as emphasized by the Brit Chadashah is that faith is the one and only condition for salvation. In more than 200 cases where a condition is given for salvation, faith or belief is stated to be the only condition. 

One example is John 1:12:  but as many received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name. This verse states that the ones who become the children of God are those who received him. What does it mean to receive the Messiah? The second part of the verse explains that to receive the Messiah means to believe on His name, to believe he really is the Jewish Messiah. Simply by believing what one must believe, one receives salvation. That is the way one becomes a child of God, and believing is the only condition mentioned here. 

Another example is Acts 16:30-31: and brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your house. In verse 30 the question is asked:  what must I do to be saved? The Apostle answers in verse 31, the only condition is to believe on the Lord Jesus. If they believe on the Lord Yeshua, then they will receive salvation.

Now what exactly must one believe on the Lord Yeshua?  Paul spells out the full content of faith in I Corinthians 15:1-4. In verse one he reminds them that he had spelled out the gospel to them, and in verse two he reminds them that it is by believing the gospel that they are saved.  Then in verses three and four he goes on to spell out the full content of the gospel that involves three basic points: first, Messiah died for our sins; second, he was buried (the evidence of his death); and, third, he rose again from the dead. Thus, that is the content of the gospel one must believe for salvation, and it applies equally both for Jews and Gentiles.

The Messiah As Substitute

What this shows is that faith must be placed in the Messiah as our substitute for the penalty of our sins and our Savior from the penalty of sin. Salvation is not merely believing that Yeshua existed. Some of the most pagan atheists believe that a man named Yeshua of Nazareth existed.  Merely believing that Yeshua existed, and merely believing that he died on the cross, merely believing that he rose again from the dead does not save anyone.  Rather a believer's faith must be placed in the Messiah as a substitute for, and as a savior from, the penalty of sin. 

In other words, one needs to trust the Messiah for salvation: that Yeshua has accomplished the salvation work on one's behalf. To be saved, one must believe not just that Yeshua died, but that he died for one's own sins. If one believes that Yeshua the Messiah died for his sins, that presupposes that one has confessed that he is a sinner. Thus, one must believe that Yeshua died for their sins as their substitute, was buried and rose again, and therefore, has provided salvation. By this, one trusts Yeshua for his or her salvation.

This is the condition of salvation: Faith must be placed in the Messiah as one's substitute for it and as one's Savior from the penalty of sin. 

The Greek Words Used

There are three main Greek words, which are used to emphasize what the condition of salvation is:

1.  Pistis

The first main Greek word is pistis, which is used 243 times in the New Testament. It always has the meaning of "faith," with only four exceptions: Acts 17:31, where it has the meaning of assurance; II Thessalonians 2:13, where it is translated as belief; Titus 2:10, where it has the meaning of fidelity; and Hebrews 10:39, where it is translated belief, although some translations render it  faith. Except for these four occasions, the word pistis always has the meaning of "faith."

2.  Pisteuo

The second key Greek word is pisteuo, which is used a total of 246 times in the Greek New Testament. It always has the meaning "to believe," except for nine times: once it is translated as believers (Acts 5:14); and eight times it is translated     as either commit, committed or intrusted (Luke. 16:11; John. 2:24; Rom. 3:2; I Cor. 9:17; Gal. 2:7; I Thess. 2:4; Titus 1:3; I Tim. 1:11).

3.  Peitho

The third main Greek word is peitho, which means, "to cause belief in a thing." This word is used 50 times in the Greek New Testament, and it is translated in nine different ways. It is translated as persuade 22 times; as trust ten times; as confidence nine times; as obey seven times; as believed three times; as assure one time; as yield once; as made free once; and as access once. But in spite of these nine different translations, the root-meaning of the word remains the same: "to cause belief in a thing."

By combining these three Greek words, one can clearly determine what the condition of salvation is in reference to faith. First, it means, "to believe." Second, it means, "to be persuaded of." Third, it means, "to place confidence in." And fourth, it means, "to trust in the sense of relying upon." These are the four facets of faith when a person places faith in Jesus the Messiah.

The Content Of Faith:  Past And Present

There are three facets of salvation that always remain the same.  First, the basis of salvation was always Messiah's death in the sense that from the divine viewpoint, God was always saving people based upon what Messiah either will do or did do.  Second, the means was always faith; one had to actually believe in order to receive eternal life. Third, the object of faith was always God, as was the case with Abraham who believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

But what changes based upon progressive revelation, what God had revealed up to that point of time, is the content of faith. What exactly did a person have to believe to be saved.  That was based upon God's progressive revelation, ie., how much God had revealed up to that point of time. 

So what was the content of faith under the Law?  This is spelled out in Isaiah 43:10-12.  One had to believe two things for salvation: first, that the God of Israel was the only God (and if one believes that it would rule out both polytheism and idolatry); and, second, that this God of Israel is the only Savior (and if one believes that it would rule out works as a means of salvation).  Thus, it was not essential to convert to Mosaic Judaism per se and take the obligations of the Law, though that would give the person the privileges of enjoying the blessings of the Jewish covenants. The "men of Nineveh" and others did not need to undertake the obligations  of the Law, but they had to believe these two basic points.   However, with Messiah's coming, and with Messiah's death the content of faith that one must believe now is clearly spelled out in the I Corinthians 15:1-4 passage. 

The Jewish Question

Does this apply to Jews today, including Orthodox Jews? Can they not obtain salvation by means of the practice of their own Judaism? After all, Jews did not need to believe in Yeshua prior to his coming and were still able by grace through faith to receive salvation. Is that now still possible for Jews today? On this issue the New Testament gives a decisive answer, and the answer is no.  A key verse is Acts 4:12:  

And in none other is there salvation:  for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved. 

Peter clearly declares to the Sanhedrin that there is no other name given under Heaven by which one could be saved than Yeshua, and therefore, they must put their faith in that person for their salvation. It should be noted that he is speaking to Jews and not Gentiles, and furthermore, he is speaking to religious Jews and not secular Jews. Thus, even the most religious Orthodox Jew who claims to believe in the God of Israel, who does not also believe in the Messiahship of Yeshua and Messiah's death for his sin, is just as lost as any pagan Gentile. Hence, in Acts 2-9, the gospel is consistently declared to those who are Jews or those who are proselytes to Judaism who would certainly affirm their belief in the God of the Hebrew Bible, yet apart from Yeshua they had no salvation. 

Is it true that while the Bible affirms that those who believe in Yeshua are clearly saved, it leaves silent the question of those Jews (and Gentiles) who do not believe?  Here again, the opposite fact is true. In John chapter three he does affirm several times that only those who believe have eternal life. Is he silent about those who do not believe? Not at all. Therefore the one who believes not has already been judged because he did not believe on the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18). Therefore, the one who fails to believe simply has the wrath of God abiding on him (John 3:36).  Here again, he is addressing Jews and not Gentiles.

The same truth is taught in many other passages. John the Immerser declared that  those who believe in the one he identifies as the Messiah, will be baptized by the Spirit; but those who do not believe will be baptized into unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11-12). 

In John 5, clearly identifying himself both as the Son of God and the Son of Man, Yeshua points out it is those who believe on this Son of God and Son of Man who will undergo the resurrection of life and those who have not done so will undergo the resurrection of judgment (John 5: 25-29). Furthermore, their failure to recognize him as the Messiah was their failure to believe what Moses actually wrote, because had they truly believed Moses, they would also have recognized who He is and what He teaches is truth (John 5: 46-47). It should be noted that he is addressing a Jewish audience and not a Gentile audience in this context.

In John 6:40 it is those who believe on the Son that have eternal life and they are the ones that will be resurrected into the immortal and glorified state. This promise simply does not apply to those who do not believe on him. 

In John 10, still addressing a Jewish audience, he declares, I am the door of the sheep.  Those who enter through him are the ones who are saved and those who come in may have life, may have it abundantly.  But those who do not enter by that door are the ones who do not have this life (John 10: 7-18). Luke 10:16 declares that those who reject Yeshua also reject God the Father who sent Yeshua; again, that is still strictly a Jewish context.

In John 10:22-39, the Jews who believe in him are the ones who are his sheep and therefore, only they have eternal life and therefore they shall never perish. The promise is simply not applied to that part of the Jewish audience who did not believe on him.  In John 11:26, Yeshua declared that those who believe on him, even though they die physically, they have the promise of the resurrection.

The above examples of course could be multiplied many times over, but I chose to limit our discussion within the gospels (even then it is not exhaustive) to keep it within the Jewish context. For example, Paul writes in Galatians 2:21, ...For if righteousness is through the law, then Messiah died for nothing. The fact remains, whether one is a Jew or a Gentile, without faith in the person of the Messiah who died for our sins, there is no salvation, there is no eternal life. 

False Additions to Salvation

The second major category concerning the condition of salvation consists of various false additions, which have been added throughout Church history. We will discuss five false additions.

Repentance

The first false addition to salvation is repentance. Some groups make a distinction between repentance and faith and claim that not only does a person have to believe on the Messiah and trust Him for one's salvation, but that one must also repent. Usually what they mean by repentance is that "they must truly be sorry for their sins."

{josquote}the actual meaning of the Greek word for "repentance" simply means, "to change one's mind."{/josquote}

First, the actual meaning of the Greek word for "repentance" simply means, "to change one's mind."  That is all that biblical repentance means. Repentance does not mean, "to feel sorry for one's sins."  Second, when it is used as a synonym for believe, then yes, it is a condition for salvation. For example, one has to change one's mind about who the Messiah is in order to be saved. If repentance is meant as a synonym for belief and faith, then yes, repentance is necessary for salvation. Third, it becomes a false addition when it is taken to mean "sorrow." If by repentance one means "sorrow" and, therefore, one has to feel sorry for the sins to be saved, then it is a false addition to salvation. Fourth, the reason for this is that if repentance in the sense of being sorry for one's sins is necessary, salvation then becomes two things. First, salvation is now placed on the basis of works, and secondly, salvation is based upon feeling, not upon the facts and promises of Scripture. Fifth, in salvation repentance is never a separate act from faith or believing.

Belief as a condition to salvation appears about two hundred times; repentance as a synonym for believing appears thirty‑five times. Repentance is a synonym for believing and only as a synonym for believing is it a condition for salvation. But if one redefines repentance as "being sorry for one's sins," then it is a false addition.

The New Testament uses the word "repentance" four different ways.  First, it is used as a synonym for believing, and means nothing different than believing in Yeshua the Messiah. (Lk. 24:47; Acts 17:30; Rom. 2:4; II Tim. 2:25; II Pet. 3:9). Second, repentance simply means to "change one's mind." (Acts 8:22; 11:18; 20:21; 26:20; Heb. 6:1, 6; 12:17; Rev. 9:20). It never carries the sense of feeling sorry. Sorrow may accompany repentance, but the word itself does not mean "sorrow." It simply means, "to change one's mind" Third, the word "repentance" is used is in reference to Israel when speaking of Israel's need to repent, that is, Israel's need to change its mind about Jesus. Here again, it merely means "a change of mind concerning who the Messiah is." (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31) Fourth, the word is used is as a reference to John's baptism, which was called a "baptism of repentance." In this sense, it is simply a part of God's covenantal relationship with Israel (Acts 13:24; 19:4).

Insofar as repentance is concerned, there are two things to note. If repentance is used merely as a synonym for believing in the Messiah¾the way the Bible uses it¾only in that sense is it truly a condition for salvation. But if¾as some groups use it¾repentance means, "to feel sorry for one's sins," then it indeed becomes a false addition to salvation.

Confession of the Messiah

The second false addition to salvation is known as "confession of the Messiah." Where this becomes a false addition is the teaching in some circles that there must be a public confession of the Messiah for one's salvation. This teaching is based upon two passages.

First is Matthew 10:32:

Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven.

The second passage is Romans 10:9‑10:

. . .because if you shall confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and shall believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved: 0for with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Based upon these two passages of Scripture, some groups have made a false addition to salvation and teach that there must be a public, verbal confession for a person to be saved.  The answer is that in both of these passages, confession is not a separate act from faith. In the case of Matthew 10:32, the context is dealing with Israel's having rejected the Messiah, and those individual Jews who want salvation must confess the Messiah, meaning that they must confess that Yeshua is the Messiah. But in this case, the word "confession" is simply part of the act of faith; it is not a separate act in any way. As far as the Romans 10:9‑10 passage is concerned, Paul uses a Hebraic poetical form known as "inversion." Paul interchanges the terms "confession" and "believing" to show that both these terms are used synonymously. For example, in verse 9, he first spoke of confession: with your mouth [the Lord Jesus], and then secondly: believe in the heart that God raised him from the dead. So in verse 9, there was confession followed by believing. Then in verse 10, he reversed the terms. In verse 10, he first spoke of believing: for with the heart man believes unto righteousness, then he spoke of confession: with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. This inversion of confession and believing and the interchangeableness of the two terms show that he used them synonymously. Confession in this verse equals calling upon the name of the Lord. Calling upon the name of the Lord is simply exercising faith in Him. Confession is not a separate act from faith.

There are three problems with this false addition of confession for salvation. The first problem is that confession is omitted in all passages that speak of a condition of salvation with these two exceptions. In the other two hundred‑plus cases where the condition is given for salvation, confession is not one of them. Even in these two cases, confession is used only synonymously with believing in the Messiah. The second problem is that if a public confession is necessary for salvation, then salvation is on the basis of works. Salvation would be based upon works if a person must actually publicly confess the Messiah.  The third problem is that the circumstances for many people who are saved preclude a public confession. Many people are saved merely by reading a gospel tract or by reading a New Testament. They believe on Yeshua the Messiah and they indeed experience salvation without having any opportunity to make a public confession right then and there. A public confession is not part of salvation, and those who teach it make it a false addition to the condition of salvation.

Confession of Sin

The third false addition is confession of sin. The verse, which is used, is I John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

People sometimes use this verse and make it a condition of salvation: you must confess your sins before you can be saved.

First of all, I John 1:9 is not a salvation verse. In fact, the writer is writing to those who already are believers; they have already been saved. Notice the pronouns: If we confess our sins. The pronouns we and our include the Apostle John and his readers. Both John and his readers were already saved. Again-this is not a salvation verse-it is simply a verse, which deals with the sins committed by people who already are believers. Second, if the confession of sin were a necessary addition to the condition of salvation, how many people remember every sin they commit? It would literally be impossible to remember every sin that one has committed. If this condition were true, it would mean that unless one has confessed every single sin ever committed, then one cannot be saved! Since this is impossible, no one would have hope of salvation.

Imploring God for Salvation

The fourth false addition which some teach is that one must implore God to save him or her, and without such salvation does not occur. The picture is that God is somewhat reluctant to impart salvation and, therefore, one must implore Him as a precedent for receiving it.

Two main passages are used to teach this. First is Isaiah 55:6:

Seek ye Jehovah while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near: . . .

The admonition to seek ye Jehovah is interpreted as "imploring God to save." While the admonition is to seek the Lord, they ignore the fact that Romans 3:11 teaches that no one seeks God on his own. If this were a condition of salvation, it would mean that no one would be saved since no one will ever seek God on his own!  Another passage used is Luke 18:13, which speaks of praying for salvation. What is ignored here is that this passage does not actually say that one must implore God to be saved, nor does it teach that one must seek God and seek God and seek God until one finds Him. The passage is dealing with the believer's prayer-life, not with salvation. Luke 19:10 states that it is the Messiah who actually does the seeking.

The problem with the teaching is that in the two hundred‑plus places where the condition for salvation is discussed, imploring God is not a condition for salvation. It is never written that one must implore, seek, and pray for God for salvation before God will impart it. Furthermore, this is salvation by works. Salvation is emphasized as being by grace through faith. The salvation, which God offers, is simply received by faith; one does not have to implore God in order to be the recipient of salvation. God is more than ready to save.

Surrendering to the Lordship of the Messiah

The fifth false addition to salvation is that before one can be saved, one must surrender to the Lordship of the Messiah. This view states that one must not only accept Yeshua as one's Savior or Messiah, but also accept Him as Lord of one's life; then one can actually be saved.

Passages like Romans 12:1‑2 are used for this argument. However, this passage is not speaking of a condition of salvation, but of something which follows salvation. In fact, Romans 12:1‑2 is a good argument against what is called "Lordship Salvation." Paul writes to those who have already been saved. In light of their salvation, Paul implores them to make the Messiah the Lord of their lives by the dedication of their bodies. It is only after a person becomes a believer that he or she needs to make the Messiah the Lord of his or her life. This is not a condition of salvation; rather, it is a condition of discipleship.

Another passage used for this argument is Romans 10:9, which speaks of confessing Jesus as Lord. In this context, Paul is not dealing with the fact that the Messiah must become "the Lord of every aspect of one's life." The word Lord is used in the sense of the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Only God can save, and the aspect of the Lordship of Jesus which one needs to be saved is His salvation Lordship. One does not have to accept Him as the Lord of one's life to be saved, but Yeshua needs to be the Lord to be able to save. The Messiah must be Lord in the sense of Jehovah to be a qualified Savior.  Romans 10:9 then does not teach that one must make Messiah the Lord of one's life in order to be saved. Rather, it teaches that the Messiah must be Lord in order to be the Savior. In order to be saved, one must merely believe that the Lord Jesus died for one's sins, was buried, and rose again. One must trust Him for one's salvation, but in order for Him to save anyone, He must be LORD (Jehovah). Contrary to this false addition to salvation, He becomes the Lord of our lives some time after salvation, when the believer dedicates his or her body to the Messiah for His permanent use (Rom. 12:1‑2).

When the Bible talks about the Messiah being Lord to save, it does not mean His personal Lordship of the believer's life. For example, Acts 10:14 states:

But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unclean.

In this verse, Peter called Jesus Lord, and yet he said to the Lord, Not so, Lord. Peter proceeded to rebuke the Lord. In fact, one can accept the Lordship of Messiah like Peter did, and yet immediately act contrary to something that this Lord commands. Acts 19:8‑19 will also bear out this same point.

Baptism

"Is baptism necessary for salvation?" In this study, we will address this topic in a brief, three-part comment on the passages, which people use to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.

Mark 16:15‑16

Mark 16:15-16 does not say that one who is not baptized will be lost, nor does it teach that one who believes, but is not baptized, will be lost. The negative is not stated. It simply says to believe and be baptized. In those days, baptism immediately followed salvation. Furthermore, this verse is not even found in the best and oldest Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark.

Acts 2:38

The second passage used is Acts 2:38, which states: Repent ye and be baptized... [for] the remission your of sins. The Greek word here is eis, which can also mean "because of" or "on account of," as is its meaning in Matthew 12:41. Therefore, Acts 2:38 simply states: "repent and be baptized on the basis of the remission of sins" or "because you have been saved, therefore you should be baptized."

Acts 22:16

The last passage is Acts 22:16, which, in the Greek text, contains two imperatives and two participles, and literally reads: "arise, having been baptized, wash away your sins, having called upon the name of the Lord." What this verse is saying is that baptism follows the arising just as the forgiveness of sins follows the calling upon the name of the Lord. The two parts of the verse must be kept distinct. Just as after calling upon the name of the Lord, one is then saved; having been saved, one should arise, and be baptized.

Conclusion

If it is possible to be saved in any other way, especially if one provides a way of salvation for Orthodox Jews who do not accept the Messiahship of Yeshua, then we, Messianic Jews, have no special message to give. In a different context Paul writes that if we do not believe in the resurrection, then we are chosen to believe for nothing. The same applies specifically to us as Messianic Jews: those of us who have chosen to believe in the Messiahship of Yeshua, chosen to be rejected by members of our family, by the Jewish society, especially by Orthodox Jews, have believed for nothing. The whole reason for establishing Jewish ministries is that there is only one way of salvation for both Jews and Gentiles-faith in Messiah Yeshua. This is a message that simply cannot be compromised. 

 

Arnold Fruchtenbaum is founder and director of Ariel Ministries. Before receiving his doctorate from New York University in 1989, Dr. Fruchtenbaum earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary. His graduate work also includes studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

 

 

 
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