Jesus made the rather astonishing announcement, “It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:23). The surprised disciples replied, “Who then can be saved?” (Matt. 19:25). Salvation is not something determined by man, but belongs to the realm of God (Matt. 19:26). What, then, are the requirements of salvation which God has established? Some positive conclusions can be reached by taking a negative approach. Note that one cannot be saved…
...Outside of Christ. The only way to gain access to the Father is through Christ (John. 14:6). The orthodox Jew believes in God, but does not accept Christ as the divine Son of God. The Muslim believes in God (Allah), but also denies the deity of Christ. In that condition they cannot be saved. While it is commendable, practicing high moral living is insufficient to save man from sin. Such does not put a person “into” Christ where salvation is found. In order to be saved a person can and must believe “on” Christ (John 8:24), repent “toward” Christ and confess faith “in” Christ; however, it is only when one’s faith, penitence and confession culminates in his being baptized that his relationship to Christ changes. Prior to baptism he is outside Christ. At baptism he gets “into” Christ (Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:4).
…Outside the church. To many a relationship with Christ is essential to salvation, but belonging to the church is immaterial. Scripture does not support such a view. The church is the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23). The Bible affirms that man is reconciled to man as well as to God in the church (Ephesians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 5:20). Paul left no doubt as to the essentiality of the church when he said that Christ is the savior of it (Ephesians 5:23). How does a person get “into” the church? Does he “join” it as one does a civic or fraternal organization? Is he “voted in” by those who are already members? Does he gain entry by being physically born of parents who are members of the church? The Bible affirms that the same process by which one gets into Christ (Galatians 3:27) gets one into the church as well (1 Corinthians 12:13). At baptism God adds him to the church (Acts 2:38, 47). Thus, a person does not become a Christian by one process and a member of the church by another.
…Against his will. Man is a free moral agent and can choose to obey or disobey God (Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15). God appeals, woos, and commands man to turn from sin in order to be saved (Romans 2:4), but He will not save anyone against their will. Man’s response must come from the heart (Romans 6:17).
…As a lukewarm believer. Lukewarmness is a condition in which the cross of Jesus is not denied, but it is not perceived as being vital to salvation. In lukewarmness the fact of sin is admitted, but there is no hatred of sin. A lukewarm individual would speak of sinners as persons to be pitied, but he will not lift a finger to save them. A lukewarm person will not deny the inspiration of the Bible, but neither will he study or use it. He won’t reject the church, but he will not get involved in the work of the church. Lukewarmness is a condition that nauseates the Lord (Revelation 3:14-22) and deceives man into thinking that he is saved.
Salvation is God’s work. It is presumptuous of man to infringe upon His exclusive work by suggesting other avenues to salvation. Man is to “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).