Published: 13 September 2021

At What Point Are We Saved?

Saved

The Bible teaches that we transition from lost to saved when the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. 

6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Rom. 8:6-9 NIV)

This passage in Romans is quite clear on the matter. If the Holy Spirit does not govern or influence you, he doesn’t dwell in you! If you do not have the Spirit, you do not belong to Christ. Either the Spirit lives in you and influences you, or you are lost! There are no saved people who do not have the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit saves us at the exact moment He comes to live within us. The Scriptures teach that His indwelling is simultaneous with our sins being taken away. This conclusion is not controversial with most Bible students. The controversy comes into play when we attempt to pin down when the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. The Bible does give us clues as to when it happens.

When do we receive the Holy Spirit?

There are several passages indicating that it is during immersion when the Holy Spirit indwells us. These same passages suggests this is also when our sins are taken away. It should be clear to everyone that the water itself is not responsible for bringing about such a change. The agent that is active in cleansing us from sin is not water, but the Holy Spirit. What I understand the passages to teach is that it is during immersion that the Spirit does His work. 

The question isn’t about what/who does the cleansing, but the timing of the cleansing. What’s more, this isn’t a question that anyone would have even asked in the earliest days of the church. More about that in a future blog post.

The day of Pentecost

Under the Old Covenant, the Spirit was only given to prophets, kings, judges, etc., and not permanently at that. Acts 2 records the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. Namely, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to all of God’s people. Peter said that what those present on the day of Pentecost witnessed was Joel’s prophecy being fulfilled (Act 2:16). 

In response to his listener’s questions as he preached the first sermon under the New Covenant, he tells them how to be free of their sin and receive the promise of the Holy Spirit for themselves.

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “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. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:37-39 ESV)

It is evident that Peter is connecting the gift of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins with immersion. Many have observed that, grammatically, we cannot tell if the gift is the Spirit Himself or something which the Spirit gives. It seems to me that both are true. The gift that the Spirit gives us is the remission of our sins, but it is also true that we receive the indwelling of the Spirit. 

We receive the Spirit during immersion

In the context of chapters 1 and 2, “the promise” is the outpouring of the Spirit (in other words, the Spirit is the gift). Luke (the author of Acts) uses a number of phrases all describing the same event which Peter equates to the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy.

  • Act 1:5 – baptized with the Spirit
  • Act 1:8 – when the Holy Spirit has come upon you
  • Act 2:4 – filled with the Holy Spirit
  • Act 2:17 – pour out my Spirit
  • Act 2:18 – pour out my Spirit
  • Act 2:33 – the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this you are seeing
  • Act 2:38 – receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
  • Act 2:39 – the promise is for you

Many people try to make a distinction between the “indwelling of the Spirit”, the “baptism of the Spirit”, being “filled with the Spirit”, etc. However, Luke uses all of these phrases throughout the book of Acts to describe the very same thing. Peter says that all Christians are recipients of the promise. The promise is the outpouring of the Spirit (indwelling). The Spirit gives gifts as He decides (some miraculous) and these gifts are for the common good of the church. (1 Cor 12:7, 11)

So, in other words, Peter is telling his audience that if they will repent and be baptized, they can also receive what they saw being poured out. The promise in verse 39 refers to the outpouring of the Spirit, which according to Rom 8:9 is synonymous with salvation. Jesus gives us the Spirit during immersion.

Jesus takes away our sins during immersion

What indicates that taking away of sins occurs during baptism? Peter says that immersion results in the remission of sins, “be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

Many argue that “for” in verse 38 means “because of”, but this is not the case. The word “for” in this verse translates the Greek word “eis” (εἰς) which means means unto or towards. The Bauer–Danker–Arndt–Gingrich (BDAG) dictionary of Biblical Greek defines eis as “indicating motion into a thing or into its immediate vicinity or relation to something.” In other words, eis refers to a goal that has not yet been achieved.

Comparing “for” with “for” (eis vs. gar)

There is a different Greek word that means “because of”; it is the word “gar” (γάρ). Let’s look at two different passages that use both of these words. Compare the following.

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for (unto, moving toward – eis) the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 “For (because – gar) the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39 NKJV)

27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for (because – gar) this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for[1]The word “for” is found three times in Mat 26:28, but the second occurrence is translated from a different Greek word than either eis or gar. many for (unto, moving toward – eis) the forgiveness of sins. (Mat. 26:27-28 ESV)

As you can see from the passage from Matthew, Jesus’ blood wasn’t to be poured out because sins had been forgiven, but in order that they might be forgiven. Likewise, we aren’t immersed because our sins have been forgiven, but in order that they will be forgiven.

Belief, repentance and baptism – all part of the same “package”

Acts 2:38-39 binds together belief, repentance, immersion, forgiveness of sins, and receipt of the Holy Spirit. In the next blog post, we’ll use Saul’s conversion in Acts as a case study.

References

References
1 The word “for” is found three times in Mat 26:28, but the second occurrence is translated from a different Greek word than either eis or gar.