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Terms of Salvation

Dr. Grant C Richison



The Condition

Salvation is conditioned solely on faith in Jesus Christ.  Faith or belief stated is used nearly 200 times as the single condition in the NT (John 1:12; Acts 16:31).

The object of our faith is Christ’s substitute for and Savior from sin. Faith in faith cannot save the soul. 

False Additions to Faith

Through the ages, other requirements in addition to faith have been wrongly added.  Some of these are:

  1. Surrender to the lordship of Christ.

Christ must be the Lord in the sense of God to be a qualified Savior (Rom. 10:9), but Christ’s personal lordship over the individual’s life is not a condition for salvation.

Lordship should be a consequence of salvation and is a condition for dedication in full discipleship.

2. Baptism.

Baptism is the visible testimony to one’s salvation but not a condition for it.

Acts 2:38 should be translated as “Repent and be baptized on the basis of the remission of sins.”

Acts 22:16 teaches that baptism followed the arising, just as forgiveness followed the calling on the name of the Lord.

The two parts of the verse should be kept distinct.

Mark 16:16, the manuscript in Greek is not a genuine part of Mark’s gospel.

3. Repentance.  

This is a valid condition for salvation when understood as a synonym for faith. 

It is a false addition to faith when understood as a prerequisite, requiring the cleansing of life to be saved.

Note definitions of Greek words below. 

4. Public Confession. 

Confession is a normal result of being saved, though it may also accompany the initial act of believing if it is understood as faith.

Public Confession is nowhere required in Scripture.

In this connection, prayer may help clinch a decision, but it is not in itself a requirement for salvation.



QUESTION – On what terms is the Gospel made available to man?

Repent, confess, believe, and be baptized are false conditions for salvation.  Some even go so far as to say that one must be baptized in their church by one of their preachers.


New Testament words.

NT words (there are 2 words translated “repent” in the NT):


 This root occurs about 8 times – Mt. 21:30-32; Mt. 27:5; 2 Co. 7:8; Heb. 7:21. These words mean to “regret“; or literally “to be a care to one afterwards.”  It emphasizes the negative retrospective and emotional elements.  Those elements are always present in this Greek word for repentance but are not in itself sufficient for salvation.  The Greek word for “to be sorry” is metamellomai.


This root means to change the mind or literally “to have a thought afterwards.”  This word emphasizes the intellectual and volitional aspects of repentance.  The word comes two words:  “to change” and “mind.”  It is unfortunate that the English text rendered this word by the meaning “repent.” The translators took the meaning from the Latin word meaning “sorrow.”  However, the Greek very definitely states that it is a change of mind.

Nature of Repentance — Repentance is essentially a change of mind.

1)  Negatively – turn away from rejecting God.

2)  Positively – it is a positive change of attitude towards God by faith.

Repentance is a change of mind that is proceeded by a knowledge that convicts.

However, all such knowledge does not always result in repentance. Luke 16.

Repentance (metanoia) is sometimes followed by a genuine godly sorrow (metamellomai).

1)  Godly sorrow does not mean weeping and crying necessarily. However, it may be accompanied by weeping. This sorrow depends upon the person’s emotional make-up.

2)  A man may have a sense of the wrongness of sin without crying over it.

3)  Biblically, we cannot impose human conditions (weeping and crying) as necessary conditions for repentance.  Repentance is a change of mind and no more.

Repentance is a change of mind given by God (Acts 5:31; 2 Ti. 2:25).

Repentance is given under the influence and power of God through the use of various means (Luke 13:5).

Repentance will produce a changed life.  (Mt. 3:8).

Relation of Repentance to Faith and Conversion.

Logical order: Repentance–faith.

The problem in NT Usage.

The words for repentance are most prominent in the Synoptics and Acts.

Why is it stressed in these books?

Probably the term repentance is more suitable to a people who have had a relationship with God (a covenant people). The word occurs most often in connection with Israel; it refers to Israel and their call to respond to God (Mt. 3:8; Acts 2:38).

Roman Catholic Error.

Roman Catholics believe repentance is composed of 4 elements; Contrition, confession; satisfaction; absolution.

Preaching of Repentance.

Can repentance be preached today?  Yes. But repentance must be defined properly and distinguished from wailing and weeping at the altar (Acts 20:21; 26:29; 2 Co. 7). We need to make it clear that sorrow for sins is improper because it puts the onus of salvation on the individual and not on the finished work of Christ on the cross. 

Repentance should be used in its proper relation to faith. Repent is used infrequently as a comparison with believe.

Repentance must never be made a separate condition of salvation. Repentance is used as a parallel to faith (compare Mt. 3:2 with Jn. 1:6).  It is obvious from this comparison that John interprets John the Baptist’s message as a call to faith.


Some attempt to make public confession necessary for salvation. They base their view on Romans 10:9-10. This is a synergism (a works salvation).

The solution to this claim lies in James 2:14-26. A true faith results in a confession of that faith; faith and confession go together like faith and works.  Faith is the cause; works are the result. The man who truly believes will confess (ultimately) but only as evidence of faith; his salvation has already been applied.


A.  Supposed Scriptural Support for Water Baptism

Mark 16:16; John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21

B.  Objections to the Teaching

1. This view says that baptism is necessary for salvation.

This means that men such as Spurgeon, Moody, Wesley, Calvin, etc., are lost; all these men were not members of the Church of Christ.  One of the reasons false teachers give this false doctrine so much attention is that man’s tendency is to worship symbolic truth to emphasize works.

2. Supposed Scriptural position for water baptism

Texts used for baptismal regeneration:

1) Mark 16:16 He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.”

Mark 16:9-20 are not part of Holy Scripture in the oldest manuscripts.  It is reliable history but not inspired.

2)  John 3:5

a.  In Jn. 3:8, the apostle talks about the Spirit in figurative terms.

b.  If the author uses both “spirit” and “water” in a figurative sense. 

c.  He doesn’t say that man is born of two things, water and of the wind, but of one thing, water and wind (“spirit”).

d.  This verse could better be translated as “except a man be born of the cleansing spirit.” 

e.  There is no reference to water baptism in the context.

3)  Acts 2:38

a.  Some think it means Spirit baptism (Dale).  This is incorrect.  There is no command in the Bible to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  Early history shows that the baptism in Acts was usually water baptism.

b. The word “for” means “upon” or “on account of” as in Mt. 12:41. We are to be baptized as the result of “remission of sins.” 

c. The majority of texts must interpret the minority of texts.  The argument of the books of Romans, Galatians, and John, for example, all argue justification by faith alone (Ro 3-5).  

4)  Acts 22:16  “Arise, baptize yourself, (or get yourself baptized) and get your sins washed away.”

The grammar indicates that our sins are washed away by “calling on the name of the Lord.” “Calling” here is a synonym of faith.

The participle should be translated “by calling.”  This is a participle of manner and may be translated with a “by.”  See Php. 3:10.

5)  1 Peter 3:21

Some people say that just as Noah was saved by water, so are we saved by water.

a.  The text says that Noah escaped passing through water. Also, Noah escaped into the ark. The object of the ark was not to save Noah by water but from water.

b.  Noah’s ark was the type, but the point of this passage is the anti-typeHeb. 9:24 says that a type is an earthly counterpart of a heavenly reality. That which against the type is the reality, the One who paid for our sins. 

c.  Hebrews 11 says that Noah was saved by faith, not by water.

d.  Peter also adds that he is not referring to literal water, “not by the putting away of the flesh.” 

3. Objections to the teaching

a. Historical objections:

(1) Early church fathers did not accept baptismal regeneration; however, the doctrine of salvation by faith was perverted very early.

(2) Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp have no reference to baptismal regeneration.  Polycarp, who died 115 AD, points specifically to Ephesians 2:8,9 as the way of salvation and omits any reference to baptism.

(3) However, the doctrine of grace through faith was corrupted by some early false teachers– Justin Martyr speaks of “bringing people to water where they were regenerated.”

b. Theological objections:

(1)  The NT does define work in that it gives us specific illustrations of what is a work:

1)  The rite of circumcision is called a “work.”  Cf. Acts 15:1; 7:11; and Gal. 2:1-5, 15.

2)  Characteristics of circumcision:

a)  a rite is a physical act – involves the body.

b)  a rite is performed by human agony.

c)  a rite is performed with material instrumentality–knife.

d)  a rite is an act visible to others.

(2) Baptism has all four of these features at work. 

The new birth, however, is not a physical act, as a human instrumentality, not performed by humans, not visible to others.  In the new birth, one may see the results but not the act.  John 3:8.

c. Scriptural objections:

(1)  Way of salvation in the Old Testament

Salvation is always by faith (Ro. 4; Ga. 3; He. 2:4).

(2)  Way of salvation in the Gospels

1)  Salvation is by faith in the gospels;  Luke 22:43 gives the thief’s account on the cross.

2)  Romans 1:2-3, the gospel message of Paul proclaims that it was first promised in the Old Testament writings.

(3)  Way of salvation in John

There is no command to be baptized in the gospel of John. This gospel was written to show that eternal life comes by faith (John 20:31). “Believe” occurs 98 times in John. 

(4) The Book of Acts

Acts 16:31 would be a woeful understatement if baptism was necessary.

(5)  The use in Romans, which is used to explain the Gospels.

Romans refers to baptism but never is it linked with salvation. 

Water is not mentioned in Romans 6.

(6)  Use in Corinthians:

First Corinthians 4:15; 15:3,4.  How could he say, “I thank God I didn’t baptize any of you” (1:14) if baptism is necessary for salvation? Paul would have baptized people for salvation if water baptism is so essential.

(7)  Use in Revelation 7:14.


A.  Reasons for this false doctrine.

Disharmony of 1 John and current Christian living. See below. 

Confuse salvation passages with discipleship passages. 

Failure of preachers to define terms.

B.  The wrongs of this teaching

The term “surrender” is never used in the New Testament for salvation.

The promoters of this error are not realists in the matter of the local church, for we know that very few Christians are surrendered.

If this argument is carried to its logical conclusion, no one would be saved, for no one is completed surrendered.

C. Reasons for this false doctrine.

Disharmony of 1 John and current Christian living.

See my studies on 1 John 3:9; 24. 

First John 4:16 says that persistent sin in a believer’s life may lead to physical death. Denial of person sin makes God “a liar” (1 Jn 1:8, 10). 

Confusion of salvation and discipleship passages (Luke 14:25-35)

John 15:3 “now ye are clean because of the Word.”  The disciples were saved but never surrendered until after Christ’s resurrection.  Discipleship is not sonship.  The disciples were never fully surrendered, yet they were saved and cleansed before the cross.

Failure of preachers to define terms

These false teachers fail to distinguish between genuine faith and the living reality of that faith in one’s (saved) life. Cf. Jn. 2:23 with 12:42.

The answer to the problem is to explain the problem, not to produce false teaching.

These teachers fail to properly interpret James 2 and Ephesians 2:10 as the result of salvation, not the cause. 

D. The failure of this teaching:

Compromise depravity of man – how can a natural man surrender? We are not saved by surrender but for surrender!

Confuses saving work of Christ with the sanctifying work of Christ. 

They say, “See, we must make Him Lord of our life.”  But He is the Lord, and He is Lord whether we acknowledge it or not.  Acts 2:36 God has made Jesus Lord and Christ.

It eliminates the category of the carnal Christian (1 Co. 2:14). Would this be true? What would we do with 1 Corinthians 3:1-4?  Why does Paul write letters to saved Corinthians if they must make Him Lord to be saved? He assumes that they are saints but also that they are carnal.  Also, what about Lot?  He certainly was not surrendered.

It renders irrelevant the doctrine of Divine chastisement. Why have chastisement if Christians are completely surrendered?  It would not be necessary!

It prevents assurance and hinders growth. 1 John 5:13.

It sacrifices the reality of free grace. “Surrender emphasizes works.”

It substitutes a new terminology for Biblical terminology. The word “surrender” is never used in the New Testament for salvation. The word “yield” is used for believers (Ro. 12:1-2; 6:13).


The proper term for salvation is “believe.”

The terms should be properly explained as an act of trust. It means to entrust oneself to the Person and work of Christ.

A Biblical illustration — Abraham was not a surrendered man (Ge. 16 and 20), but he was certainly a believer!

The products of true faith should be emphasized. Preach to believe and emphasize the true results of believing (1 John 3:15,16).



God gives us eternal life at salvation, not temporal life (Jn 6:47; 10:27,28; Ro 6:23; He 5:8,9; 9:12).

Greek tenses:

Acts 16:31  “shall be saved” is aorist tense [at one point in time, not at many points]

Eph 2:8,9 “are you saved” is perfect tense. The perfect tense in Greek means that it happened at one point in the past with the results going on from that point – we are eternally saved at the point of salvation.

Jude 1, “preserved in Christ Jesus” is in the perfect tense again.

Our eternal salvation is kept by the power of God (Jn 10:29; Ro 8:31,32,38,39)

Our salvation rests on the promises of God, not on our belief (Jn 3:16,36; 5:24)

The love of God sustains our salvation (Ro 5:9,10)

The immutability of God keeps our salvation (2 Ti 2:12,13)

It is the responsibility of God to preserve our salvation (1 Pe 1:4,5; Jude 1).

God keeps our salvation (Jude 24).

Our position in Christ Jesus gives us eternal status with God [outer circle] (Ro 8:1; Eph 1:3; 2:6)

Jesus pleads our case as our Defense Attorney (He 7:25; 9:24; 1 Jn 2:1,2; Jn 17).

The Christian receives the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit at salvation (1 Co 6:19; Eph 2:22).

The Holy Spirit puts the believer once and for all into the body of Christ at salvation (1 Co 12:13 – this is aorist tense – at the one point of salvation).

The Holy Spirit seals our salvation at the point of belief (Eph 1:13,14; 4:30).

Once born spiritually, we cannot become unborn (Ga 3:26).

God guarantees that He will complete the work of salvation in us (Php 1:6; He 12:2).