This is the most important question a person could ever ask. Thankfully, we are not left on our own to "imagine" what the answer might be. God has clearly TOLD us what we must do in order to be saved. The question is answered in the Bible! The Philippian jailer asked this very question to the apostle Paul in Acts 16:30-31. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."
Men have invented their own answers. Some have said we must "make a commitment" to Christ. Some say we must try to "be good", "stop sinning", "obey" the ten commandments, or join a church. God says, "BELIEVE" on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved! God gives the sinner but ONE requirement in order to be saved. He must believe on Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:31) [see also Rom. 5:1; 10:9; John 3:15,16,18,36; 5:24]
But what does it mean to BELIEVE?
The Scriptures make it clear that ALL a man has to do to be saved is believe. The Bible also makes it clear that there is a real kind of faith and a phony kind of faith. Is your faith real? Put your faith to the test.
1.) True faith includes knowledge.
One must know the correct FACTS of the gospel message. Faith placed in the wrong facts will never save. The "facts" of the gospel are recorded in I Cor.15:1-4. "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel … by which also ye are saved…how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures."
The New Testament makes it clear that no one is saved apart from a knowledge of the facts included in the gospel. An incomplete or inaccurate gospel will not save anyone! (II Cor.11:3-4) A vague belief in "a Higher Power" will not do. Today God requires that a man know that Jesus Christ is the only Savior. (Acts 4:12; John 14:6) Knowledge is an important part of saving faith. But saving faith is much MORE than simply KNOWING the truth about Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.
2.) True faith includes assent.
There must also be an assent to the reality and truthfulness of the gospel! We must believe in our heart that the gospel message is true. (Rom.10:9) Saving faith is more than having information in the head. It must include a deep inner conviction and persuasion concerning the reality of the gospel and all it implies. Faith must exist in the head and heart. The fact that Jesus died for our sins implies that we are condemned SINNERS, unable to save ourselves, and desperately in need of a Savior! (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5) No one is ever saved apart from knowing the correct facts concerning the gospel, AND being fully persuaded of the reality of those facts.
But even so, it is possible for a man to know the correct facts of the gospel, believe them to be true, and STILL not be saved! James makes that clear in his epistle. "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." (James 2:19) Satan has that kind of faith. He believes the "facts" of the gospel message. He KNOWS those facts are true! He is well aware that Jesus died and rose again. But having the correct information and being fully persuaded of its reality is NOT saving faith! That is the point James makes in his epistle. It is perfectly possible (it happens often!) for a person to genuinely believe that all of the facts of the gospel are true, and yet in his heart want nothing to do with Jesus Christ! He may believe that Jesus died and rose again, and yet, he may at the same time, enjoy his life of sin and have no desire whatsoever for a new life! Thousands of men today have heard the gospel message, have assented to the truthfulness of it, and yet have said, "No thank you!" to God's gracious invitation to salvation.
3.) True faith also includes the will. Faith that saves must also involve a "choice", an act of the human will. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." (John 1:11-12) In this passage, John says that saving faith is synonymous with the choice to "receive" Christ. That is an act of the will, and is a deliberate choice on the part of the sinner. It is one thing to believe intellectually that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. It is another thing to make the choice to "receive" Him personally!
Choosing to "receive" Christ goes beyond intellectual faith to personal faith. Christ becomes MY personal Savior! It goes beyond a cold, intellectual belief in facts to TRUST in a Person.
Consider the passage in John 3:14-15. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament book of Numbers. In that passage, the children of Israel were bitten by serpents and were dying. Moses was told by God to erect a pole and put a brass serpent upon the pole… and whoever would look upon the brass serpent would live. In John 3:14, Jesus uses this as an illustration of "saving faith". As condemned sinners, we are like those who were bitten by the serpents. That "bite" was poisonous, and left to themselves, they would perish. The wages of our sin is death, and apart from Christ, we too will perish - forever cast into the torments of the Lake of Fire! (Rom.6:23; Rev.20:11-15) The children of Israel were told to "look" upon the brass serpent and live! That's all they had to do! Look and live! If one bitten by the serpent did not believe the "facts" told to him [that looking at the brass serpent would cure him] he would not bother to go to the pole and look. But what would PREVENT the one bitten from looking on the serpent? Stubborn pride, self will, and rebellion would! Can't you just imagine some of those men saying to themselves, "I will not look to that serpent for a cure. That's the most foolish thing I have ever heard! It's too easy! I will never submit to anything so foolish"! The Bible tells us that "the preaching of the cross is to them who perish, foolishness!" (I Cor.1:18a) Yet it "pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe". (I Cor.1:21b) The cross, God's way of salvation, humbles the sinner. Because of our sinful pride, we refuse to submit to GOD'S METHOD of salvation. It seems foolish to the proud heart of man. It is offensive to sinful flesh to be told that our own efforts to save ourselves are like worthless, filthy rags, (Isa.64:6) and that we must trust in Christ's work for us or perish! Most men WILL not come to Christ. They choose not to. (Matt.22:3; John 1:11; 5:40)
Believing is easy in the sense that it is the ONLY requirement God has given us. But it is NOT easy to believe in the sense that true faith is humbling and offensive to our proud, sinful human nature. It is hard to admit that we really ARE condemned (John 3:18; Rom.3:9-19), that in our flesh dwelleth "no good thing" (Rom.7:18), and that we must trust in Christ alone to save us or we perish forever. The act of believing is simple. It is as easy as drinking water (Rev.22:17; John 4:14), stepping through a door (John 10:9), or receiving a gift (John 1:12; Rom.6:23). But the choice to believe may be quite difficult. It is a big decision, and heaven and hell hang in the balance!
God's only requirement for the sinner is to believe on Christ. But saving faith must involve the head (knowing the facts of the gospel and my desperate need as a condemned sinner), the heart (assenting to the truthfulness of the gospel message), and the will (choosing to call on the name of the Lord to be my Savior and to save me! -Rom.10:13) It is a deliberate, personal, knowledgeable, choice to receive Christ. You KNOW that Jesus died for your sins and paid your penalty. Perhaps your heart has even been stirred by that truth, but have you decided to receive Him personally? Is your faith real? BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Do it today!