Chapter 6 - Conditions for Salvation

The mission of Christ was “to save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). We have seen that man is universally lost in sin, but that a way of restoration to holiness has been provided through Jesus Christ, and that it rests upon his atonement. Thus far our attention has been directed mainly to the divine side, but there is also a human side to the realization of redemptive blessings.
It is the uniform testimony of the New Testament that salvation is a matter of individual choice. All its offers and promises are addressed to the individual himself for decision, and all the blame for neglect or rejection is laid upon him. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” are the words of the Savior (Matt. 11:28). “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37). (See also Rev. 3:20; 22:17; John 5:40; Matt. 23:37-38; Heb. 2:3.)
Salvation is the most important subject in the world. It should concern every one of us, for without it our souls will be lost through a never-ending eternity. And since it is offered to man conditionally, how important it is that we understand these conditions in order that we may approach God in an acceptable manner and receive this greatest of gifts!

A Spiritual Awakening

Sin produces spiritual death to the soul. “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God” (Isa. 59:2), and this separation is represented as death (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13; I Tim. 5:6). Men become “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). “Even their mind and conscience is defiled” (Titus 1:15). They sink into the darkness of a sinful night until, in many cases, there seems to be “no fear of God before their eyes,” or until they appear to lose all consciousness of “the exceeding sinfulness of sin.” Such people must become awakened now from their sleep of sin, or else the thunders of judgment will arouse them when it is too late. “Awake to righteousness, and sin not” (I Cor. 15:34).
The true preaching of the gospel of Christ is designed to awaken souls. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:12-13).

Desire and Decision

The individual who is aroused to the condemnation resting upon his guilty soul is in a good condition to cry, as did the Philippian jailer, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). He must desire salvation in order to obtain it, and he must decide to meet the required conditions set forth in the Bible.

Godly Sorrow

The sinner must give up the love of sin, despise sin because God does, and feel keenly a sense of sorrow for all the sins he has committed. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (II Cor. 7:10). Here godly sorrow is contrasted with the “sorrow of the world.” Godly sorrow does not proceed from human exposure of wrong conduct, but is an internal realization of the soul’s guilt in the sight of God, accompanied by a deep sense of regret for the wrongs committed. This kind of sorrow works repentance.


The term “repentance” includes a sense of personal guilt, of grief over sin, hatred toward it, and a resolute turning from it; hence all the conditions of salvation may properly be termed the way of repentance. But the most prominent idea is that of the forsaking of sin. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). All unnatural, enslaving, and evil habits must be utterly forsaken; then God will deliver the individual from their power.
Listen to the Scripture: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps. 66:18). If we excuse sin in our hearts and lives and expect to continue in it, we may pray as long as we live, but God will pay no attention to our prayers. In Malachi 2:13 we read of some people who were “covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out,” and still he would not regard them, for their hearts were not right. But the “broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart”—the truly penitent heart—God will not despise (Ps. 51:17). When men become broken in spirit and filled with remorse and sorrow, when they realize their lost and undone condition without Christ, then there is hope for them in God. Bless his name!


Confession also is required. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). Many people tremble under the Holy Ghost preaching of the Word and realize their lost condition in sin, but are unwilling to confess their sins as the Bible requires.
To whom must confession be made? First, to the Lord. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (I John 1:9). Why should confession be made to him? Does he not know all about us before we confess? Yes, he understands us altogether. But here is one reason: God has set his standard of right and wrong, thus defining sin; but sinful men set their own standards and attempt to justify themselves accordingly. Now, if such people seek for salvation from God while setting their own standard as to what constitutes sin, God will never hear them. They must acknowledge the standard God has set.
In the second place, confession must be made to men—when our sins involve them. As the object of confession of sins to God is that we may be reconciled to him, so also the object of confession to people whom we have wronged is that a perfect reconciliation may be effected. God requires us, as say the Scriptures, “to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16).
Confession to our fellow men is plainly taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matt. 5:23-24).


But this is not all. The words of Christ were, “Be reconciled.” Now, reconciliation may in some cases require more than a mere confession of wrongdoing. If, for example, one man has defrauded another out of twenty dollars, acknowledgment of the wrong deed may need to be accompanied by the money in order to effect a proper reconciliation. This the Bible teaches. “If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die” (Ezek. 33:15). God requires those who desire life to set right their former wrongs and then to walk before God “without committing iniquity” any more.
In some cases, however, such restitution may be altogether impossible. If a man has wrongly taken so much that he is unable to restore all, it is reasonable to suppose that if he will humbly do all he can God will receive him. A text of Scripture, though pertaining directly to another subject, may perhaps cover in principle such a case as this: “If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not” (II Cor. 8:12).
Furthermore, many personal wrongs do not rest on a financial basis and cannot be made right by the mere giving of money. The guilty person can acknowledge his wrong and bitterly repent of it, but this is all he can do, and if he is ever saved, he must come in on mercy alone.


Sometimes the matter is reversed; instead of the seeker having wrongs to set right, he has been wronged by others and has treasured up in his heart feelings of bitterness and enmity toward the offenders. Unless these feelings are given up, they will forever bar the soul from reconciliation with God; for he absolutely refuses to deal with us until our relations with our fellow men are of the kind set forth in the Scriptures. Hear the words of Christ: “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”; but, “If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt. 6:15, 14). Jesus set an example of the proper attitude toward enemies. When dying on Calvary’s cross, he did not call down upon his persecutors the fiercest maledictions of heaven, but tenderly prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The salvation of Jesus Christ leaves no place in the human heart for that which is sinful; therefore every bad act must be forsaken, as well as every evil affection—bitterness, hardness, hatred, and enmity.

Prayer and Faith

The way is now open for the seeker to find access to God by asking for the pardon that the soul craves. The Lord has instructed him to ask. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7). “The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:12-13).
Our prayers for salvation must be accompanied by definite faith. “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21) is the gospel direction for obtaining this desired blessing. When the penitent Philippian jailer cried out, “What must I do to be saved?” the answer was quickly given— “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (16:30-31). But if the heart is rebellious and unwilling to measure to the requirements laid down in the Word, saving faith will be impossible. We read of one class of people who would not repent so that they could believe (Matt. 21:32). Obedience to the Word places us on believing grounds, where prayer and faith become perfectly natural. Then “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10).

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