A number of years ago, one of my sons started dating a girl whose father was an “evangelist” in a religious group not considered to be in line with a mainstream, evangelical confession of faith. Donna and I really liked the girl and her family. Even though their beliefs were not in line with our way of thinking we all seemed to get along fairly well.
After a few months, however, we noticed that my son became increasingly frustrated in his relationship with the family, particularly the father. Evidently the father began making my son the target of his evangelistic outreach, telling my son that he was not saved because he had not been baptized using a specific formula, or set of words, that were in line with their religious group’s doctrinal position. My son would come home and ask me about what we believed, telling me that his girlfriend’s father was making him worry about his own Christian faith and his eternal fate. We discussed numerous doctrinal positions, examining what the Bible said about the various points of disagreement that were becoming obvious.
The one passage that settled the issue of salvation for my son was this one in Romans:
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Romans 10:8-10, ESV
It is as simple yet as profound as this. Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead. At one point in His earthly ministry Jesus said “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Formulas don’t matter. What matters is what is in our hearts, and if something is in our hearts it will be evidenced by what we say. Certainly obedience is important, and the way that we walk in day to day life is important. But our salvation is based on what we believe about Jesus’ lordship. If we truly have accepted Jesus as Lord, it will effect every area of our lives. This is the true evidence of salvation.