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In some Bible verses it says that all you have to do is believe, and you’re saved. But in other verses it says that there are all these things you have to do. Which is it?


In some Bible verses it says that all you have to do is believe, and you’re saved. But in other verses it says that there are all these things you have to do. Which is it?

Steve Answers:

Let me see if I can come up with some of the verses you might have read or heard about from others on this topic. Then we’ll take a look at the bigger picture to figure this out. Sometimes a single text can be very helpful, but sometimes one isolated text from the Bible doesn’t tell the whole story.

Acts 16:30, 31: “He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household’” (NIV).¹

Romans 10:9: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (NIV).

Second Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (NIV).

Matthew 6:14, 15: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (NLT).²

Do these verses in the Bible contradict one another? Is salvation a matter of believing you are forgiven, or is there a list you check off first?

I think that the broader view of belief and salvation has to do with how you relate to God. If you view God as a police officer, then you’ll take a by-the-book approach. For example, you’ll want to know the date and time when you “believed.” As long as you do that, legally God has to save you, right? You may want to have photos taken and witnesses on hand so that you can prove your salvation later if you need to.

But if you view God as a positive parent instead of as a police officer, then you’ll take a long-term approach, since it’s an ongoing relationship. For example, buying groceries or paying rent to stay in your own house might not enter your mind—that’s what your parents do! But what do you have to do to believe that? As their child, that’s just the way it is.

Your parents might ask you to vacuum or take out the garbage or do the dishes. You don’t have to ask “Which one of these do I have to do in order to be your child?” Helping around the house just comes with being part of the family.

Even though your parents aren’t perfect, the things that they “make you do” are often for your benefit as you become increasingly independent. Even when you’re “on your own,” you’ll still be their child, and they will still be your parents. The relationship dynamics will change, but you will still be related.

Do you view God as someone to make an appointment to be with? Or are you with Him all the time? Do you see Him when He pulls you over like a cop, or is He involved throughout your life like your parents?

If Jesus needs to police you, He can do that. But He wants to have a friendship with you (see Revelation 3:20). In an ongoing relationship, Jesus not only forgives you but also cleanses you from sin, and your friendship keeps on going. After all, heaven is not primarily about being in a police speed trap and trying to avoid the cops. Heaven is primarily about being with Jesus, your friend.

If I were limited to one verse to respond to your question, it would be 1 John 1:9. Here’s how The Living Bible paraphrase puts it: “If we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. [And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins].”³

¹ Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
²Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
³Taken from The Living Bible, copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Ill. Used by permission.

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