In 2005 the top world religions were ranked by size. Christianity: 2.1 billion, Islam: 1.5 billion, Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion, Hinduism: 900 million, Chinese traditional religion: 394 million, Buddhism: 376 million, primal-indigenous: 300 million, African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million, Sikhism: 23 million, Juche: 19 million, Spiritism: 15 million, Judaism: 14 million, Baha’i: 7 million, Jainism: 4.2 million, Shinto: 4 million, Cao Dai: 4 million, Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million, Tenrikyo: 2 million, Neo-Paganism: 1 million, Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand, Rastafarianism: 600 thousand, and Scientology: 500 thousand.
Of the Christianity group there are seven major divisions. Catholicism – 1.9 billion, Protestantism – 699 million, Eastern Orthodoxy – 260 million, Oriental Orthodox Church – 81 million, Anglicanism – 77 million, Nontrinitarianism – 36 million, and Nestorianism – 1 million.
In the Catholic Church group there are 46 divisions and in the Protestant Church group there 54 divisions.
Each group with in each division of the top world religions has their own path to God’s Salvation for mankind. So it is no wonder why the topic of salvation is confusing to people in the world seeking God’s Will in this area.
Take the two basic Protestant teachings that to be saved a person must “Ask Jesus into their Heart” and or say the “Sinners Prayer” before they are saved. Are the concepts and steps outlined in the “Sinners Prayer” approach to salvation or the “Asking Jesus into Your Heart” approach to salvation really in the Bible? Are these ways to salvation that God approved and set into motion for mankind?
The majority of the Protestant world says that there are four steps to salvation.
1. Admit your need (I am a Sinner)
2. Be willing to turn from Sin (Repent)
3. Believe that Jesus Christ Died for you (On the Cross)
4. Through Prayer, Receive Jesus as your Personal Lord and Savior
I have personally searched for this approach to salvation in the New Testament and can not find authority for it at all. Because I can not find this path to salvation in the New Testament, I must logically conclude that this is not authorized by God as the way to salvation.
So what is the way God says leads to salvation and therefore heaven? What does the Bible really say about being saved?
1. First one must realize that there is a problem and they are not in a safe saved relationship with God as shown in the example of “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). If we do not see a problem then we do not desire a solution.
2. We must hear the solution which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
3. We must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). Jesus said: “…if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).
4. One must repent of our sins in order to be saved (Acts 17:30, 31). Jesus commanded that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).
5. One must confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). This is the truth that the foundation on Christ own church is built. (Matthew 16:18; Acts 4:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 3:11).
6. One must be baptized. Peter told those who asked what to do to be saved to “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized…” (Acts 2:38). One cannot be truly baptized who has not truly repented. Jesus said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Baptism is “for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). Just as Jesus shed His blood for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28), so we are baptized in order to receive the remission of sins. In baptism, the sinner’s sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus (Acts 22:16). And in John 3:5 “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” It is at baptism that a person comes in contact with both water and Spirit at the same time, therefore fulfilling the truth of Jesus’ statement here. (Acts 2:38).
When a person does these things, he is then added by the Lord Jesus to the Lord’s Church (Acts 2:41, 47). He is born again (John 3:3-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17). He is in Christ where all spiritual blessings are to be found. (Ephesians 1:3; Galatians 3:26, 27). In short, he is a Christian (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16).
So this brings up the questions as to what really is baptism according to the New Testament. Baptism is a burial in water (Romans 6:3, 4; Colossians 2:12). Therefore, sprinkling and pouring are not proper baptism. Baptism is in order to be saved (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). One is not saved before he is baptized! Baptism is “for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). Just as Jesus shed His blood for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28), so we are baptized in order to receive the remission of sins. In baptism, the sinner’s sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus (Acts 22:16).
Now because of Ephesians 2:8, 9 “For by Grace are ye saved through faith; and it is not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Many religious people say that a person does not need to be baptized because then that would be a “Work” and this single passage seems to say that we are not saved by “works.”
Is the New Testament then in contradiction with itself? Not at all.
Is it a work to win the lottery and go pick up your winnings? You are not a millionaire until you pick up and cash the check? The works Paul is talking about in Ephesians has to do with earning your way to heaven by doing things so God will somehow owe you salvation. This we can not do because heaven is our gift when we obey the steps set up by God to receive salvation.
God has provided in Jesus Christ the ONLY way of salvation. Jesus said that “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21).
The will of God is to be baptized because Jesus said “…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” in John 3:5 and Jesus gave the authority to Peter to set the standard for entering the Kingdom of heaven when Jesus said, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19). Then we see on Pentecost where Peter bound the submission to baptism as the way to heaven when he said, “…Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).
If being baptized was not important to God for people to do when they believed in Jesus then why in the book of Acts is baptism linked with belief thirteen time and none of those thirteen time is the requirement for only a prayer to receive forgiveness of sins and salvation?
Conversions from sin to salvation in the book of Acts.
1. Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
2. Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
3. Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
4. Acts 8:13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
5. Acts 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
6. Acts 8:38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
7. Acts 9:18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
8. Acts 10:47, 47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
9. Acts 16:15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
10. Acts 16:33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
11. Acts 18:8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.
12. Acts 19:3-5 “And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
13. Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
So now the only question which remains to be answered is:
“Have you obeyed God and therefore been saved if you have not yet repented and been baptized for the forgiveness of sins?”