Am I saved? That has been a burning question on the minds of millions of people throughout the years. What is salvation? How does one achieve salvation? What do I need to do to be saved? These questions and many more permeate the minds of Christians and many non-Christians who are seeking “something greater than themselves.” Those who grew up in an evangelical tradition more than likely heard that salvation was a gift from God by grace alone, while for those who grew up in the Catholic church, this idea would be a foreign idea. I want to briefly look at two different ideas of salvation (there are more, but for now, let’s examine two very popular views), but before we get there, let’s take a look at a few relevant Scriptures.
Ephesians 2:8-9 is certainly one of the most referenced Scriptures with regards to this topic. Here Paul states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (NIV84, Eph 2:8-9). Paul’s desire is that his readers know that they cannot earn salvation; there is nothing they can do to earn it! Salvation does not come by any work but rather by the grace of God through faith in Christ. The statement “and this not from yourselves” helps emphasize that the individual person can not earn it.
A second Scripture worth mentioning is that of Romans 3:21-28. Here it is equally clear what Paul’s message is. Let’s look specifically at verses 23-24: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (NIV84, Ro 3:23-24). The wording is slightly different than Ephesians, but the focus is the same. Here a believer is justified by grace through Christ. Later in this pericope, Paul speaks of the Law and how that one is saved by grace, not by observing the Law. This is a great example that even the works of the Law were not sufficient to save.
The third and fourth Scriptures of interest are those of Romans 4:5 and 4:22-25. Paul states, “However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness” (NIV84, Ro 4:5), and later, “This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (NIV84, Rom 4:22-25).
These Scriptures speak of faith in God as the cause of them being granted righteousness, not any work. And that this gift was not simply for the patriarchs, but for all who trust in the Lord … including us.
Now that we have a basic view of the Scripture related to this topic, we can look at our two views. The first view that I want to share is that of sacramentalism. This view does not hold to the idea of salvation by grace alone. It is also a very common view, one held by the Catholic Church. The basis of this view is that the sacraments, properly conferred (only by the Catholic Church), are absolute requirements for salvation. One may ask then, “what is a sacrament?” It is simply a combination of three distinct items: the Grace of God, the Catholic Church, and a visible element (water in Baptism, the bread and wine in communion, etc.). The belief is that these sacraments are what causes, maintains, or conveys saving grace.
In comparison, the evangelical position maintains that salvation is through grace alone. This takes the Scripture as noted above quite literally. As we noted in the discussion on Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul was quite clear about the gift of grace. In his mind, salvation was something that could not be attained by any human means; it was only possible through faith in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross. Grace, therefore, is a free gift that cannot be earned by any type of work. As Erickson states, “A person is declared righteous in the sight of God, not because of having done good works, but because of having believed.”
In any discussion on the topic, one must note that there are Scriptures that, on the surface, may appear to promote works; however, in looking closer, one will find that the works that are spoken of are generally produced because of one’s salvation and not in order to gain salvation. A prime example of this is Matthew 25:31-46. In context, the works follow salvation and are evidence of one’s faith in God.
Based on the biblical texts, salvation comes through faith in God. It is truly by grace alone that we are saved. There is nothing that any human can do to earn his or her salvation; however, once a person comes to know Jesus, he will do good works because of his transformed life! Let’s let our lives shine before men so that they will worship the one and only God.
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.
Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology, Volume Three: Sin, Salvation. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2004.
 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 935. Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Three: Sin, Salvation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2004), 276.
 Ibid., 934.
 Ibid., 938.