How to Get to Heaven
The Gospel Plan of Salvation
You seem to be looking for more help in understanding how to get to heaven, which is often referred to as the “Gospel Plan of Salvation” by Christians. Well, we’d like to try and help, so we’ve prepared this section to try and make it easier to understand. Let’s start with the overview from the top level and work our way down at the appropriate level for your position in life (that is, where you are in your spiritual journey), even if you’re not sure where that is.
- Hear the words of Jesus Romans 10:17; John 8:32
- Believe in Jesus and His words Romans 1:16; Acts 16:31; Acts 18:8
- Repent of your past sins Acts 3:19; Acts 17:30
- Confess to people that you believe in Jesus Matthew 10:32,33; Romans 10:9,10
- Be Baptized (immersed) Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38; Acts10:47,48; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-6; Galatians 3:26,27; Colossians 2:12; I Peter 3:21
- Continue to live a Godly life Revelation 2:10; II Peter 1:1-11
Most people have probably already completed one or more of these “steps” and may be more interested in the ones they are unfamiliar with or have not completed. If you find yourself in that situation, feel free to go directly to the link for that “step.” Otherwise, you can certainly start at “Hear” and then continue from there.
We have taken each of the “steps” and broken them down for more detailed consideration one at a time. If you have questions, please contact us.
- Romans 10:17 “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
- John 8:31-32 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
In order to be saved, you must hear the words of and about Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament. This can be achieved in a variety of ways. You can read His words for yourself (reading is equal to hearing in this case) in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You need only read one in order to learn about Jesus and what He says to those who would follow him. Luke and Mark are good choices for many people unfamiliar with this material.
Alternatively, you could simply listen to someone tell you of the teachings of Jesus. This is often called preaching, teaching, or evangelizing. While this is enough to start you down the road to salvation, you will want to read the Bible yourself to be sure you can trust what you may hear someone teaching you. Many people teach incorrect things in the name of Jesus either out of ignorance or for personal motives. You may also obtain audio recordings of someone reading these Bible passages for you to listen to.
To consider this “step” completed, you should have a pretty good idea of who Jesus is, what he expects from you, and why that should matter.
Does it matter which version of the Bible I read or study?
Possibly. There has been an explosion in the number of Bible translations and versions available in the past few years. Some are more reliable and/or accurate than others. Some do not accurately communicate the original message of Jesus. For English speakers, the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible and the Worldwide English Bible are all suitable for accurate study of God’s Word and the teachings of Jesus. While the King James Version is excellent in many ways and sometimes more accurate than newer versions, its use of outdated words and meanings make it harder to understand and potentially more confusing. It is best used to study along side one of the newer versions just mentioned. All can be read for free on the internet and all can be purchased easily at little cost depending on where you live. When we offer links to Bible passages or quote Bible passages, it will be from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.
- Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
- Acts 16:31 “They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.'”
- Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
In order to be saved, you must believe that God exists and that Jesus is the human son of God and that he has the power and authority of God to forgive your sins and raise you to everlasting life even as he arose to everlasting life.
To consider this “step” completed, you should have a pretty good idea of who God is as documented in the Old and New Testament. Likewise you should understand who Jesus is, what happened to Him and why. On both counts, you should accept those biblical teachings as true.
- Acts 3:19 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…”
- Acts 17:30 “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
- Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'”
In order to be saved, you must feel bad about your sin (disobedience of God) and take steps to stop sinning further. Tell God you are sorry for disobeying him and seek out His Word to show you how you can do better, and then work hard to obey His commands.
To consider this “step” completed, you should have a pretty good idea of what sin is, why it’s bad for you, why God hates it, and how to get away from it.
- Matthew 10:32,33 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”
- Romans 10:9,10 “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
In order to be saved, you must communicate to someone that you believe that Jesus is who He said He is (the son of God and savior of mankind). This is sometimes called the “good confession.” 1 Timothy 6:12
To consider this “step” completed, you need to express your belief in Jesus’ claims to others. Often, this is done just prior to baptism so that those gathered to witness your baptism can also witness your confession of faith in Christ Jesus.
What if you’re all alone on a desert island and there’s no one to confess to?
Unless you are in such a situation, don’t let this kind of thinking distract you. Find someone (anyone, really) and confess to them your belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God. In rare cases where there really is no one to hear your good confession, you could express your faith to God in prayer. And then when the opportunity arises when you can confess Jesus to someone, be sure to do so.
- Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
- Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
- Acts10:47,48 “Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’ So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.”
- Acts 22:16 “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.”
- Romans 6:1-6 “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…”
- Galatians 3:26,27 “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
- Colossians 2:11-12 “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”
- I Peter 3:21 “…and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”
In order to be saved, you must willingly choose to be dipped into water so as to be entirely submerged as a result of and sign of your faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God and savior of mankind. It doesn’t matter who you choose to help you into and out of the water.
To consider this “step” completed, you must have chosen of your own free will to be buried in water and raised up out of the water again, just as Jesus was buried and then arose again to the newness of life. Matthew 28:6
I said the “sinner’s prayer” so I don’t need to be baptized.
- If that were all there is to it, God wouldn’t have bothered to bless us with all 27 books of the New Testament. He could have stopped at the end of the Old Testament, added “Now just say this sinner’s prayer to make everything ok…” The End.
- Have you found the sinner’s prayer anywhere in the Bible? There are certainly prayers made by sinners (some more pleasing to God than others), but no examples of someone uttering a specific combination of words, and as a result of that prayer alone, instantly becoming part of Christ’s church. The concept of using a “sinner’s prayer” as a sufficient means of becoming a Christian is a very recent (20th century and later), man-made, and patently anti-Biblical notion.
- If you have said the “Sinner’s prayer,” it hopefully indicates a desire on your part (at some time or other) to become a Christian. That’s wonderful! Now put that desire to good use, consider the gospel plan of salvation as outlined here and in the Bible and be baptized in obedience to the Lord’s teachings. Don’t let someone else’s false teaching keep you from joining Christ’s church by joining in his death, burial and resurrection symbolized by baptism.
I was baptized as a baby. I don’t need to be baptized now.
- Most likely, you were too young to remember that event, much less to have had a say in it, understand its supposed purpose, or to have had the faith in Jesus that makes baptism truly meaningful. Please read Colossians 2:11-12 above carefully. Note the sharp contrast between the Old Testament concept of circumcision which adults performed on infants to bring them into covenant with God and the New Testament concept of circumcision performed by Christ on those with the faith that produce the obedient response of baptism into his burial and resurrection. The baptism of infants is no more meaningful than the 16th century practice of forcing native Americans to be baptized by threatening to kill them if they refused. Without the obedient faith needed to make it meaningful, it’s just a fancy bath.
- If you were baptized as an infant without your faith, understanding or even choice but you still follow the teachings of Christ and want to go to heaven, nothing prevents you from being baptized now, in faith, in obedience to the Lord’s teachings. Please do so and rightly claim your salvation.
I was sprinkled. That counts, right?
- To casual readers, the Bible may not seem explicit on this point; however, it is worth noting that “immerse” is the primary definition of the koine Greek word, baptizw, from which we get the english word “baptize.” A less common interpretation used in a very limited number of passages is “wash.” Rather than selecting one meaning or the other and thereby creating conflict between various proponents, many English language translators have simply chosen to leave the word essentially untranslated, so that readers must choose for themselves how to interpret it.
- Was Jesus only sprinkled with dirt or was he completely buried in the tomb? As baptism symbolizes union with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection, do you wish to only be partially united with him, or fully so?
- It seems likely that Jesus’ emphasis on baptism rested on earlier, Mosaic laws which in some cases specified that full immersion in water was required to regain ritual purity after ritually impure incidents had occurred. Under the old law, most forms of impurity could be nullified through immersion in any natural collection of water. In more ritualistic, urban settings (such as in Jerusalem), this instead frequently involved the use of a mikvah, the ancient Jewish equivalent of a modern day baptistry or immersion tub.
Faith alone is sufficient to save me.
- The Bible specifically says otherwise.
- James 2:14-26 “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
- It is also worth noting that many passages used to suggest that salvation is accomplished through faith alone (such as Romans 3:21-28) are taken from letters written to people who were already baptized Christians, and so it would be kind of silly for the author (in this case Paul) to remind the recipients of the need for baptism. This sentiment is echoed in Hebrews 6:1-3. Perhaps the most famous such passage is John 3:16. Worth noting is that this passage is taken from the context of Jesus appearing to teach Nicodemus of the need for baptism and from accounts of John, Jesus and His followers baptizing people.
- Taking Mark 16:16 at face value, it is very clear that both faith and baptism are required for salvation. Having one without the other is insufficient.
- The Bible specifically says otherwise.
- Revelation 2:10 “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.”
- II Peter 1:10-11 “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
In order to be saved, you must continue to work to obey the teachings of Jesus and maintain your faith in him as your personal savior.
This “step” won’t be completed until you die, but helping others, personal study of the Bible, frequent prayer, regular church attendance and confession of your sins to others are good indicators that you are continuing in your walk with God.
But My Preacher/Neighbor/Friend/Parents said (something else).
- Beware of false teachers and false teachings. Satan uses them to confuse people and keep them from accepting the truth. Trust the Bible, which you must study for yourself.
- Our honest goal is to teach Christ’s message as recorded in the Bible. If that is the honest goal of your preacher, then there should be little disagreement. If there is disagreement, we encourage you to study the Bible yourself so that you may rightly learn what the Bible teaches on this or any other topic pertaining to your faith and salvation regardless of what we or anyone else may say.
- The apostle Paul taught, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Keep in mind that on judgement day, you will be responsible for your own actions or inactions and your own faith and obedience to God’s Word. It will not matter what anyone else told you.