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I don't think that any Christian would disagree that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and to your inheritance. But what is man's responsibility? That's what this question is addressing.

What do I need to do in order to receive eternal life?

Answers may represent the views of any denomination or professing-Christian group, but should be backed up with scripture -- and please make answers comprehensive.

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closed as off-topic by fredsbend, curiousdannii, LCIII, Matt Gutting, Affable Geek Dec 3 '14 at 0:46

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Your replacement of "The Father" with "God" is confusing. The Master said that "no one comes to The Father, but by me." He did not say "no one comes to God ..." For Christians the path to the Father is through the Son. If one does not accept that there is a Son, then there can be no The Father. This is the case for Jews and Moslems. For them God is not The Father. Yet God has made a covenant with them (through Abram) that is eternal. As Paul said: "All the Jews shall be saved." – Waeshael Aug 9 '13 at 3:18

As you have said, in John 14:6 Jesus tells us that "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Paul and Silas tell their jailer in Acts 16 what he must do to be saved.

Acts 16:29-34 NIV
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

Man's responsibility is to "believe in the Lord Jesus". They do not mention any other acts required by the jailer to be saved. The jailer and his household did get baptized, but Paul and Silas did not say this was necessary for their salvation. (For more on believers being baptized, see If we are saved by grace, then why does Jesus say we must be baptized in both spirit and water?)

I also believe that we must commit to following Christ's lead. As mentioned in James, even demons "believe" in Christ.

James 2:18-19 NIV
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Although there should be deeds as a result of our faith and following Jesus, these deeds are not our salvation.

Romans 3:27-28 NIV
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

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what you said about deeds not being our salvation conflicts with James 2:24 "You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone." how do you reconcile that? – Ecommerce Consultant Sep 21 '11 at 17:59
@JonathonByrd While our righteousness is based on our deeds plus faith, I'm not sure if righteousness is required for salvation.… – a_hardin Sep 21 '11 at 18:23
It seems that you are struggling with the spiritual understanding of "salvation" and "eternal life." This is understandable. It is made more difficult when you read a modern translation, because the terms are defined by Roman Catholicism and the NIV does not have the same understanding as the KJV or the Vulgate (DRV) which agree on the theological meaning. Also righteousness is a declaration by God of the holy status of a person, not something earned. – Waeshael Aug 9 '13 at 3:00
You cannot be saved if you are unrighteous. As the Master said “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20, KJV. – Waeshael Aug 9 '13 at 3:00
@Waeshael Did you forget Romans 3:9-12? "9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Jesus was pointing out in your verse that we cannot go to heaven by anything we can do. Consider John 14:6. Only by Jesus is there a way to heaven and access to the Father – Noctis Skytower Jun 6 at 13:15

When Peter preached the Gospel to the crowd assembled on the Day of Pentecost, many believed his words:

Acts 2: 37-38

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Clearly belief, or even profession of belief, is not enough. It's necessary to repent of your sins, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Also, keep in mind the words of Christ:

Matthew 22: 35-40

35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.


John 14: 15, 21

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.


21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

Jesus equates loving God, the highest commandment of all, with keeping all his commandments.

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You have a good understanding. I upticked the answer. – Waeshael Aug 9 '13 at 3:03

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.

That in a nutshell is the essence of the Gospel. Confession and belief are man's responsibility.

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This is very bad doctrine, as it contradicts everything Jesus said himself about salvation, not to mention the words of Peter, James, and John, his closest and most trusted Apostles. It shouldn't be understood as a general point of doctrine. Keep in mind who Paul was writing to, when he was writing it, and what the likely consequences of being willing to publicly admit (declare with your mouth) to being a Christian were, and you'll get a better perspective on this verse. – Mason Wheeler Sep 21 '11 at 16:16
@MasonWheeler, just curious, what are your references exactly? And if this is "very bad doctrine" what is your opinion on "good doctrine?" – AmbiguousX Sep 21 '11 at 16:22
@jonathanmiller you must read deeper then just a single verse. look at 2 timothy 2:19 or hebrews 10:26-27 or the entire letter of 1 John. You've basically thrown out the entire Bible if you just read one verse and call it good. Thus, this is bad doctrine because you ignore the deeper meaning and present a translation that is conflicting with the rest of the Bible. – Ecommerce Consultant Sep 21 '11 at 17:54
The question is about Eternal Life. Salvation is another issue. They are closely related in Catholicism, but most Protestants think that salvation is an event, not a way of life. – Waeshael Aug 9 '13 at 3:07

A couple passages that I always turn to that represents the theme throughout scripture are John 3:16-18, and Ephesians 2:4-9:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. ~ John 3:16-18

God has "elected" that anyone who believes in His Son, Jesus, and follows Him will be saved. Contrariwise, He has "elected" those who reject His son to eternal death in hell.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~ Ephesians 2:4-9

Note the boldened portion (v. 8-9). We are saved by grace, through faith, not works.

I realize these are only 2 passages, but I assure that these represent a consistent theme throughout scripture in that God offers salvation to all, and that all who accept this gift (via belief in His son, having faith in Jesus alone) will live in heaven. Nothing you can do can save you (Ephesians 2:9), therefore it is faith in Christ alone that saves you.

That said, some may say the fact that you place your faith in Christ is an action you make, or in other words, placing your faith in Christ is a "work." But this is misunderstood, because it is like receiving a gift from a a loved one. They offer the gift, and you have the choice to accept or deny it. Likewise, God initiated the relationship by offering us the gift of salvation, and we have the choice to accept it through faith in His Son or deny it through rejection of His Son.

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I'm confident to think that the disciple James knew better then this. A counter argument could easily be made here: James 2:24 "You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone." I think that there's more to it. – Ecommerce Consultant Sep 21 '11 at 17:56
I believe what James is talking about here is that you can see the person's spiritual status by what they do. This is much like when Jesus told the disciples that one can see what kind of tree they are looking at by the fruit that it bears. If we are saved, naturally we will do works for Christ, but it is not the works that saves us; works are result of salvation, not a prerequisite. – AmbiguousX Sep 21 '11 at 18:23
Furthermore, I think it is clear throughout the Bible that Jesus is everything, that He is enough for our salvation-- Jesus + nothing = enough. And if we start adding anything to Jesus for salvation, that requires Jesus to no longer be enough. This is a direct insult to the cross because when you say you must add something to Jesus to be saved, you are saying Jesus' blood shed was not enough. Jesus + nothing = salvation. – AmbiguousX Sep 21 '11 at 18:25
in hebrews 10:26-27 it says that if we continue to sin we trample the precious blood of Jesus. Meaning that if we believe in Jesus through faith, but continue to sin we will still go to hell. This scripture doesn't fit your theology. In 1 John it says that if we do not obey the commands of God then the Truth is not in us. how do you reconcile with the book of 1 John? – Ecommerce Consultant Sep 21 '11 at 18:31
You are misinterpreting Hebrews 10:26-27; the author was suggesting that just because you are saved doesn't mean you can live however you want. He was suggesting that because you are saved you should live like it--not that we are perfect when we are saved, because we're not perfect, but we should strive to live as closely to Jesus as we can. What he was suggesting here was that if we are saved yet we continue to live like we lived before we accepted Christ, then that is mocking the Cross because we're basically showing that Christ didn't do anything in us to change us, but that doesn't mean – AmbiguousX Sep 21 '11 at 18:43

Salvation is actually a much simpler event that what many evangelicals make it out to be. Lutherans believe that salvation occurs solely due to the will and work of God. The sinner is a passive participant in his salvation. The sinner DOES nothing.

The Lutheran interpretation of Scripture on the Doctrine of Justification/Salvation is often confusing to evangelicals. Why? Understanding what the Bible really says depends upon your world view.

Most Christian evangelicals, and all other world religions, come from the viewpoint that: "I must do SOMETHING for God to love me and want to save me! I can't believe that God would just give me his love, his grace, his mercy, his peace, his forgiveness AND eternal life...based on absolutely nothing that I do. Can it really be true that God gives me all that, in addition to the fact that he gave his only Son to die for me...not based on any good quality, trait, or deed that I can provide to earn his good favor, and not even based on me making a decision that I want his gift??

That is INCOMPREHENSIBLE, illogical, unreasonable, and makes no sense!

But that is what the Bible says that God does: He gives us the free gift of salvation based on his love for us ...alone.

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

So if you are able to remove YOU from the act of salvation, here is how the Bible says that GOD does it:

Salvation occurs by only one means: the power of God's declaration of righteousness/the power of his Word.

In the New Testament, God says that he uses his Word to save and forgive sins in two situations: when the Word is preached, and when the Word is spoken with the application of water…Baptism.

It's that simple.

Who do Lutherans baptize? Answer: We baptize anyone who comes to us, or is brought to us, seeking God's free gift of salvation and the forgiveness of sins. Do you have to be baptized to be saved? No. But why would you refuse this beautiful act of God? Why would you refuse God's gift of the forgiveness of your sins? Do you really have true faith?

As Christ says in Mark 16:16, it is not the lack of baptism that damns, it is the lack of belief/the lack of true faith that damns.

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"What must I do to inherit Eternal Life?" was the question of the Pharisee (lawyer) which was answered by Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

What you must do to inherit eternal life is to ask the Lord to be your neighbor, and then to love the Lord as you love yourself.

For a good explanation of this, you can read this pdf I wrote, or you can struggle with the writings of the various Church Fathers who have "unbuttoned" this parable. There is a lot of reading here.

The Good Samaritan

But what is Eternal Life, as distinct from Life, as distinct from Life Eternal? Here is an answer from St. Augustine, with my commentary added.

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Could you provide a summary of your blog post? Links have a nasty habit going bad, rendering answers like this useless. – wax eagle Aug 9 '13 at 2:41
Thanks but these are not blog posts. They are links to my own web site and have been working for many years. It is impossible to summarize, as it contains many pages of exegesis. Have a look and see if I could make a meaningful summary. – Waeshael Aug 9 '13 at 2:47

What do I need to do in order to receive eternal life?

To receive eternal life, you must do whatever it takes to be known by him.

Yeah, I know...strange answer?

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt 7:21-23)

I'm not missing the clear references to "doing the will of My Father" or "you who practice lawlessness" here. But in all of this, what always sears my heart and lingers on in my memory are the words "I never knew you; depart from Me". In the sinner's moment of judgment, there seems to be no extended discourse, no lengthy verdict, no point-by-point explanation of all the ways in which the sinner failed to meet God's requirements. The verdict is swift and simple: "I never knew you". The sentencing, brief: "depart from Me". And the evidence will be undeniable: "you who practice lawlessness". But in the pronouncement of judgment, the ultimate and central reason for the sinner's condemnation is the simple but horrifying truth: "I never knew you".

I want to point out that knowing God and being known by him are not two different things, actually. Oh, knowing about God and being known by him are most definitely two different things, but truly knowing him is much more than simply knowing about him. You can know all about God, even to the extent of doing many wondrous things in his name, but still be told "I never knew you" on the day of judgment. You must know him, and you must be known by him.

Fortunately, the English language provides really simple terminology for this. It's called a relationship! And in this case, we're talking about a good relationship. Let's call it the really good kind of relationship; you know, the kind a husband and wife have who have really "gotten it" and are joyfully living in humble ministry toward each other. And the simple root of this kind of relationship is love, love, love, love, love. It's really so simple. It's love! It's God's love, the unconditional kind, the perfect kind, the only true kind.

So to receive eternal life, you must be in love with God. He is already in love with you. This is what he wants. This is what he created you for. He wants to know you. And he wants you to know him----really, really well! Eternal life begins now, at the moment you receive his love and begin living your new life in him. Forever!

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The type of belief Jesus is wanting from us is the kind that will love and obey ALL of everything that He advised us to do. ALL! We get hung up on the obedience part because most of us want to continue to hold on to the sin and use the excuse of, we dont have to obey All of what Jesus says no more because the Law is void. Gods Word still LIVES! I dont know about you, but I want to do ALL of what Jesus has told me to do. even if there is now no living examples of what He has commanded us to do. we have to hate sin and Love God enough to submit to His Holy Spirit. So to gain Eternal Life, how do we do that? Do according what Jesus The Son and God The Father and The Holy Spirit As One advise us to do. OBEY,LOVE.. and rather we agree or not, it is Work... Faith without works is dead.. so they go hand and hand.

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Welcome to C.SE. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. This answer, while I may agree with large portions of it, really isn't an academic answer. – Affable Geek Mar 20 '14 at 20:14
This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. Remember that "I believe it means..." isn't an acceptable answer, since this site isn't about personal interpretation. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? – David Mar 20 '14 at 23:33

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