It seems that often we find answers to "What must I do to be saved?" that haul out a long laundry list of things to be done that could take hours-- weeks if the word "daily" is part of your answer. Yet there is little controversy when one talks about a "deathbed conversion" or other cases (such as mental retardation) where someone could be saved without knowing, for example, the full doctrine of the Trinity or creation.

Consider the good thief on the cross in Luke 23:

40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 "And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42 And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" 43 And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."

He repents of his deeds and expresses hope in Jesus as being able to provide some kind of salvation. He gets one of the nicest confirmations of salvation in the bible.

There are other bible passages that lay out other criteria for salvation:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 10:9 "[I]f you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved"

Mark 16:16a "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved"

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Now it's easily the case that the Thief wasn't baptized, he didn't confess Jesus as Lord. Now all of the above bible passages could be authoritative and literally true if they were to be taken as having an "OR" between them. That there is one condition with several ways of getting there, or several ways of outwardly demonstrating the internal condition to be true.

Q: What have Christians said about the complexity of criteria for salvation? Are the ones with the long list confusing "criteria for salvation" with "syllabulus for teaching a new convert"?

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    This is a little broad. Many denominations specify pretty unique formula for salvation.
    – Mawia
    Jul 11, 2013 at 5:36
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    "One could possibly find others" I compiled such a list once and came up with 41 ways to be saved. I have found no doctrines that encompass them all; most focus on a few pet verses and maneuver around the others. Jul 11, 2013 at 20:11
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    @GeorgeCummins I know I'll be crucified by my peers for saying this, but that is precisely why the Protestant delusion that every Christian should interpret the Bible for themselves is so flawed. If you had some training in exegesis, most (if not all) of those alleged discrepancies would be quickly cleared up. (E.g. "saved" has a semantic range, Biblical faith involves action, both God and man have a role in salvation, etc.)
    – Jas 3.1
    Jul 12, 2013 at 19:53
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    You're asking two (or three, or more?) different questions. Though some of those questions are seemingly lumped into the general question of how salvation works, it's not nailed down to a denomination or explicitly deferring to a well-established pan-Christian belief if one exists. And the bit about catechesis and new members makes it all the more confusing and broad. I'm voting to close. I'm not confident this question can be salvaged without a lot of effort.
    – svidgen
    Jul 16, 2013 at 15:45
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    Ok, I've gotta say, you've got a lot going on here, is it possible to narrow this a bit?
    – wax eagle
    Jul 16, 2013 at 16:09

4 Answers 4


Yes many groups believe that the initial salvation experience is easy. Others make it more difficult.

Some Evangelical Christians teach salvation through a 1 minute or less prayer based on Romans 10:9, 10:13 as well as Acts 2 and a general mesh of the other verses you mention. After the salvation experience a person may be baptized.

Act 2:38 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.

Non-evangelical groups tend to place special emphasis on baptism and family (Acts 16:31) or church membership (1Ti 3:15).


What is "belief"?

First, we need to clear up the common misconception about what it means to "believe." Biblically speaking, faith (believing) is the proper response of man to God's revealed word. You hear, you recognize, you acknowledge, you embrace, you respond (i.e. act on it.) So it is quite a bit different than our typical modern English usage of the word "believe," which essentially just means "to consider correct";

So if we're going to consider passages from Scripture about how to get right with God, we need to understand what the Biblical authors meant by the words they used. And the Biblical authors did not mean that you simply have to acknowledge that Jesus died 2,000 years ago, and you suddenly receive an irrevocable ticket into Heaven!

What is the invitation?

Second, we need to clear up the common misconception about what the Gospel "offer" actually is. The invitation is back into relationship with Him. The Good News is that we can be reconciled back to God. Not just in terms of your eternal destination, but now! You can be reunited to God today! You can know Him! That is why we have verses like the following:

what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. -1 John 1:3

Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ -Matthew 7:22-23

The Good News... the Gospel invitation... is to be reunited with your God. Mankind can know God once more. That is what was lost with the Fall of Genesis 3. That is what Christ purchased for us. That is why He sent the Spirit.

What is the cost?

Third, we need to clear up the common misconception about what it costs to follow Christ. There is a really dangerous theology going around these days that teaches that God just wants you to make some silly one-time decision to think a certain thought and then suddenly your eternal destination will be changed from Hell to Heaven, and you're good to go. The truth of the matter is: It costs you everything! So count the costs carefully! The Gospel message is that the course of your life can be reversed (hence "repent") and you can live a life led by God rather than your old life apart from God.

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. -Romans 8:14

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. -Luke 9:23

He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. -2 Corinthians 5:15


All of these verses, along with those you referenced, are all referring to the same thing. But you can't explain this in a single sentence, because any word (like "believe") can be misunderstood. (That's why the Bible is so long!) But here's the simplest I can explain it:

Mankind was created for relationship with God. When man sinned, mankind became separated from God in relationship. Christ came to make a way for us to be reunited with God. Being reunited with God means Him being God / Lord / King / Leader / Etc. in your life once more. (Do you really want that?!) When we turn from our lives of independence to follow Him, that is called "repentance." That is an outworking of "faith." We are then reunited to God in relationship, by the Spirit, and are able to follow Him again. (Which, incidentally, is called "baptism.") So:

  • Do you have to repent? Yes.

  • Are we saved through faith? Yes.

  • Do you have to be baptized? Yes. (At least, in the Spirit.)

  • Do you have to follow Him? Yes.

  • Do you have to view / confess Him as your Lord? Yes.

  • Am I saying the same thing over and over here? No. But each of these things describes a different part of the same process.

It's probably impossible to capture the entire doctrine of soteriology in a single, unambiguous sentence, because it is not simple. But it is coherent.

  • There is no "daily" in the context of which this question is asking.
    – pterandon
    Jul 13, 2013 at 13:49

Here is an interesting verse about Salvation

Psa 119:155 Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.

I think we have to love Him more than anything or anyone and in loving Him learn to live the way He instructs us to...setting ourselves apart from worldliness. Sometimes I think we have taken a casual stance to our own destruction...even Moses didn't make it to the promise land. Yes we are forgiven for our sins...but it also says go and sin no more. And He will return with fire to destroy those who live in iniquity saving only a few.

Also since we are not the judge, we don't know who will and will not make it until He has judged, including ourselves. But we do know that workers of iniquity, (lawlessness) will not make it.

  • 1
    Welcome to the Christianity Stack Exchange! I realize both the SE platform and this site in particular have a very steep learning curve that we'll try to help ease you into. Have you seen our tour page and the help center section yet? One of the things we insist on is a strict pairing between the way a question is framed and the allowable answers. I don't think you've actually answered the original question here. You've given your version of how salvation should be but you haven't answered where Christianity's various traditions lie on this issue which is really the only thing we do around here.
    – Caleb
    Jul 11, 2013 at 9:25

Catholic Perspective, as I understand it:


Why the selective reading of the bible? Why did you only select these four? What about the last judgment story that favors DEEDS?

Salvation is a profound mystery.

Can you possibly explain how a Good, All-powerful God could possibly create a creature that he may have to condemn to hell? Clearly for this person it would have been better to not exist.

If God does not condemn, and it is we who choose heaven or earth (an understanding advanced by many mystics), can you possibly explain how can someone choose eternal suffering?


So, since salvation is a mystery, Jesus gives us a glimpse of its nature in each passage.

ALL passages are a "formula"

So it is not ANY of them [verses as formula for salvation], but ALL of them, are a formula for salvation. All passages give you a glimpse of what is necessary for salvation.

And, as expected, all of these are related. And Jesus speaks to that. If you truly believe, you will follow, you will act correctly, you will confess with your mouth and life.

There is no "Formula"

I will go further and claim that there is no formula, as a formula presupposes or implies that it is something we understand, know how to execute, etc. We clearly do not. Hence no formula.

not convinced? Can anyone of us truly say they know what it means to "believe" in Christ? No; hence no formula.

Does a person need to show all of these to achieve salvation?

NO. (this may seem contradictory to what I said above, but please read below for explanation)

You say that it may be impossible to show all evidence of salvation if all are needed.

I think you are making a critical error here - Jesus describes A SAINT.

IF you are a saint, all of the above will be visible. Ie, a saint is one that is ready to enter heaven. It does not mean he WILL enter heaven since the journey is not yet over.

So a person may exhibit all signs of achieving salvation, and maybe not. Probably not all, which is a good sign that we should struggle more to be better :)

So all are necessary. The reason Jesus list so many, is to help us discern how far from Sainthood we really are.

So you do not need to exhibit all to "achieve" salvation, because that occurs at the moment of your death, a time where you may be asked if you truly believe, and if you answer correctly, all of the other signs of sainthood would be visible (if your journey here was not over)


I think you are mixing the terms "getting saved" and "salvation"

"We also see people (Matthew, in Matthew 9:9 just up and follow Jesus), seemingly getting saved on the spot, without showing any immediate evidence of being able to explain all of these doctrines."

Jesus "saves" many - by forgiving their sins. Ie, they RETURN, again, to a point of crossroads. they can again CHOOSE the right path. They are not saved in terms of eternal salvation which is only determined after the journey is over.

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