Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 12, 1950

By What Are We Saved?

Wilburn Whittington

If we are to find what saves us, we must go to the source of all information, which of course is the Bible. We must not be content until we have found all the Bible has to say on the subject, and, as far as humanly possible, obeyed every single command. Anything short of complete obedience to the commands of God does not give one ray of hope.


Consider first some of the things that do not save us. In the Bible we do not find where the Lord ever promises to save us by any one thing, separate and apart from everything else. The Bible does not teach, for example, that we are saved by faith only. To the contrary, it teaches that we are not saved by faith only. (Jas. 2:24.) The idea of faith alone saving the soul of man is false, since the only place in the New Testament where the expression "faith only" is mentioned is where we are told that we are not saved by "faith only."

Another false idea is the theory that we are saved wholly by grace, separate from obedience. Now without the grace of God there is no salvation. It is only through the loving favor of God that we will finally be saved, if saved at all. But Paul says, "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." (Titus 2:11.) It is almost universally agreed, however, that not all men will be saved. The grace that saves is sufficient to save all, and has been offered to all, and is in reach of all. But unless man accepts the salvation offered, he can never enjoy heaven. Therefore the "grace alone" theory must be eliminated.

The third false belief we mention is salvation by prayer. If someone asks, "Don't you believe in prayer?" we certainly do. And prayer has a definite place in the salvation of souls. But sinners may pray till the Lord comes, and unless they do something more than just pray, they can never be saved. The Bible says, "We know that God heareth not sinners, but if any man be a worshipper of God and doeth his will, him he heareth." (John 9:31.) Solomon said a sinner's prayer was an abomination to God. The objection might be raised that Cornelius prayed before salvation. Yes, but prayer did not save him. Saul also prayed for three days and nights before he was saved. Saul's obedience—not his prayers—brought about his salvation. The same was true with Cornelius. Prayer has a place in the salvation of the soul, but to depend on prayer and prayer alone is to cling to one strand of the golden cord that God has extended to bring man out of the clutch of sin.


Now consider, on the other hand, what does save a soul from sin. Forgiveness takes place in the mind of God. Unless we believe that God is, we can have no hope of salvation at all. Our faith in God, and in his word, plays a part in our redemption. But simply believing that God is does not constitute a faith that will save. James says, "The devils also believe and tremble." (Jas. 2:19.) And Paul says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by love." (Gal 5:6.) The faith that saves is the working faith—the faith that leads a man to obey what God has commanded.

Again we are saved by grace. Grace is favor, and we cannot have the favor of God while living in disobedience to him. It was by the grace of God that Christ came into the world and suffered the shameful death on the cross; by grace the world was given a Savior. But not all the world is going to be saved until and unless all the world comes to the Savior in humble obedience to his word.

We are saved by faith, and we are saved by grace; but Paul also says we are justified by the Spirit. Without God and his grace there would be nothing, as all things come from him. Without Christ there would be no salvation, as he is the Savior of the world. But without the Spirit there would be no revelation from God. We would not have the Bible. We are saved by the Spirit, not in some mysterious, miraculous way, but by His telling us through the Bible exactly what God wants us to do.

Again, Paul says we are saved by the blood of Christ. (Rom. 5:9, 10.) Since there was no other way to redeem man from his sin, God sent his Son to shed his blood to redeem us. But the blood of Christ saves us when we contact that blood, and not before. His blood was shed when the Roman soldier pierced his side in his death. Therefore, when the Bible tells us how to get into the death of Christ, we know exactly how to come into contact with the blood. But Paul says we are "baptized into his death." (Rom. 6:1-4.) Since the Bible does not tell us any other way to enter the death of Christ, we are forced to the conclusion that God has ordained baptism as the way—the only way—to enter that state.

We are saved by the death of Christ, because in his death his blood was shed. We are saved by the life of Christ, because by his life he set us the example, showing us how to live. His life was one of perfect obedience and righteousness, and when we have patterned our lives after his perfect example, we will be saved.

Consider now these passages that will forever banish from your minds the idea that we are saved by any one thing separate from everything else. We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8) ; by faith (Heb. 11:16, Mark 16:16) ; but this must be a working faith (Gal 5:6.) We are saved by the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11) ; we are saved by the gospel (Rom. 1:16); we are saved by obedience (Rom. 6:17-18) ; we are saved by the blood of Christ, by his life and death (Rom. 5:9,10.) Peter says that baptism saves us (1 Pet. 3:21); and Jesus says we must be born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5.)

These are not contradictory statements, but are all parts of the perfect plan' presented by God for the salvation of the souls of men. God does the saving, but he does it through the means of his own choosing. God saves; Christ died; the Holy Spirit reveals the truth. And when man obeys, turning in penitence from every sin and being baptized into Christ, he has the promise of salvation. When we have obeyed, we are made free from sins. Just as long as we live in disobedience we are unsaved and without hope. God is willing to save; he is ready to save; he is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all should repent. If we fail to repent, and fail to obey his will, and reject the plan he has given, we can never be saved.