There are two salvation threads that run through Paul's writing:
Salvation By Faith: Paul agreed with the author(s) of the Gospel of John. He
apparently believed that personal salvation was dependent solely upon faith, not on good
works. But it was belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus
which seems to have been of paramount importance to Paul. Some liberal theologians believe
that Paul died before belief in the Incarnation (Jesus as the Son of God), or in the virgin birth had developed within the Christian movement. There
are indications that Paul was unaware of those two beliefs. 1
These verses are frequently read in conservative churches.
Some passages from the NKJ version of the Bible which show salvation by faith are:
1 Corinthians 15:21-23: "For since by man [Adam] came death, by Man
[Christ] also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ
all shall be made alive."
Romans 5:18-19"Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to
all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift
came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many
were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous."
Paul rejects salvation by good works, as described in various places in
his writings. Two of the passages indicating this are:
Romans 3:28: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith
apart from the deeds of the law."
Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and
that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should
One passage in Romans is given great weight by some Christian denominations. It implies that
thinking is insufficient to gain salvation: that one must actually speak the thought in words.
Romans 10:9-13: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation...For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be
Salvation by law:
Paul also held a second belief: that salvation had once been
attainable through adherence to the system of Jewish laws in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old
Testament). However, it only applied to people who had previously died. In Galatians
3:23-26, Paul writes: "But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the
law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor
to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we
are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ
Jesus." (NKJ) This implies that individuals could have previously been saved by
strict adherence to the law. However, after Jesus came, salvation was by faith in Christ
only. Paul seems to have assumed that people everywhere had been exposed to the Gospel. In
Romans 10:18 he wrote: "But I say, have they not heard [the Gospel]? Yes
indeed: 'Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the
world.'" (NKJ) He was wrong, of course. Christianity at the time of Paul's
execution circa 65 CE had extended through much of the Roman Empire, but had not made
significant inroads into the Far East or Northern Europe. The inhabitants of the Americas
and of most of Africa had not heard the gospel message at all. There are countries in the
world even today in which Christianity has made no significant inroads.