Did Jesus Christ save you, or did you save yourself? Most Christians will claim to believe that Jesus saved them, but when you look at the facts it becomes apparent that they actually believe God only helps those who help themselves, and that they believe they are, in fact, their own (at least partial) saviours, even though they might not realize this is what they actually believe.
How can I say that? Well, as Paul told us, Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day. This truth is what Paul called his Gospel, or the good news that he preached. Does this good news mean that Christ saved me? If I’m saved because of the fact of Christ’s death for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection, and because of that fact alone (regardless of whether I believe it or not), then it can indeed be said that Christ saved me (and that He saved everyone else too). In fact, it’s because His death for our sins, and subsequent burial and resurrection, did save everyone that Paul called this the good news which he proclaimed (and note that it is indeed a proclamation, not a proposition).
If, on the other hand — after Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent burial and resurrection — I’m not saved, because I haven’t believed the fact that He did the above, then it can’t be said that Christ actually saved me (because I haven’t actually been saved yet), nor can it be said that He is my Saviour (because someone can’t be said to be a person’s saviour without having actually saved that person, or at least guaranteeing their future salvation), and really, this “gospel” can’t actually be called good news at all, at least not for most people (it might be good news for a small number of people who are able to believe it, in the sense that they themselves will get saved, but even for the relative few who do believe, most of them will lose all sorts of loved ones forever, possibly even to be tortured in fire, which can really only legitimately be called good news to the most selfish sort of person — meaning the sort of person who can be happy with their loved ones suffering forever and never seeing them again as long as they themselves get to escape being punished — but that’s really a whole other topic so I’ll leave it at that).
And so, even though Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day, most Christians teach that I still have to help myself before God will help me, because there’s still something specific I myself have to do in order to get saved, which is choose to believe a very specific thing. (And hopefully I was born smart enough and/or wise enough and/or humble enough and/or righteous enough, or at least have built up the necessary intelligence and/or wisdom and/or humility and/or righteousness at this point in my life to be able to make the right decision to believe the necessary thing that saves me, because what Jesus did wasn’t enough on its own to save me without my choice to believe in that specific thing, and if I can’t help myself by bringing myself to choose to believe that specific thing, I’m out of luck and God just won’t help me, so here’s hoping that whatever isn’t in those who can’t bring themselves to choose to believe the right thing is in me so that I can, or if it’s the other way around, hopefully whatever is in them that prevents them from choosing to believe the right thing isn’t in me so that I can.) Of course, some will also add certain actions — such as repentance of sin, confessing Jesus as Lord, and even water baptism, among other things — to the requirements for salvation, but for now let’s keep it simple and just leave it at having to choose to believe something very specific in order to get saved, especially since adding additional requirements on top of choosing to believe something specific won’t actually change anything about my point that the common belief is Jesus’ death for our sins, and His subsequent burial and resurrection, just wasn’t enough to save anyone without them having to add to what He did by choosing to believe something specific.
What is that specific thing I have to choose to believe, though, in order to be saved? Well, it can’t be that I have to believe Jesus is my Saviour, or that Jesus saved me, because we’ve already determined that He isn’t my Saviour (since otherwise I’d already be guaranteed salvation) and that He didn’t save me yet, so to believe He did save me when He didn’t actually do so would be believing a lie, and I hope no Christian would claim that we have to believe a lie in order to get saved (or that believing a lie somehow turns said lie into the truth).
If there is anything we have to choose to believe in order to be saved, I would suggest that it’s simply the Good News that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day. But even if choosing to believe that Good News is what saves us, we still can’t legitimately say that it’s Jesus who saved us. We can say that He contributed to our salvation, and even that what He contributed was a crucial component of our salvation, but at the end of the day we could only claim that we ultimately saved ourselves, or at least participated in saving ourselves by completing our salvation through choosing to believe the right thing.
If this still isn’t clear, remember that we weren’t saved prior to our choosing to believe the good news (at least according to the traditional Christian perspective). Up until we hear the good news, Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent burial and resurrection, accomplished absolutely nothing (at least for us) because we’re still not saved yet. Think about it: if the traditional Christian perspective is correct, at the time that Jesus walked out the tomb, nobody could have possibly been saved yet, which means His death for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection had accomplished literally nothing for anybody yet. At that point, He wasn’t anybody’s saviour because nobody had been saved yet, since nobody even knew about — much less believed in — His death for our sins and His resurrection yet, which means that even His disciples couldn’t have been saved at that point — contrary to what Luke 10:20 seems to imply — because they didn’t even believe in His resurrection yet, nor were they aware that His death was for our sins (and it’s important to remember that Jesus’ disciples didn’t even understand that He was going to die prior to it actually happening).
What actually can save us, according to Christianity, is our choice to believe the Good News that He died for our sins and was buried and rose again the third day, after we hear this Good News. If we hear it and don’t choose to believe, we’re still not saved. If we hear it and do choose to believe it, we get saved. So, in the end, what is it that makes the difference as far as our salvation goes? Well, if we aren’t saved prior to our choice to believe, then obviously it’s our choice to believe that makes the difference. This ultimately means that, even if Jesus contributed a vital element of our salvation by doing the thing we need to choose to believe in so that we can be saved, it’s our choice to believe that message which ultimately seals the deal and saves us, meaning that we are our own saviours, and that we save ourselves by choosing to believe the Good News. Which also means that Jesus Christ is not your saviour, but only a contributor to your salvation (at least if the traditional Christian idea that we can’t be saved if we don’t choose to believe the Gospel is true).
So make sure to choose to believe the Gospel in order to save yourself, since Christ wasn’t able to save you on His own, and God won’t help you if you don’t! And if you did choose to help yourself, congratulations on your salvation!
Now, I’m sure it’s obvious that I don’t believe the above, and that I believe everyone has already been saved because Christ died for our sins, and because He was buried and rose again the third day. But I should say that I also believe that people don’t actually get saved until they’ve believed the Gospel. If that sounds like a contradiction, it’s only because you might not be aware of the fact that there are different types, or stages, of salvation written about in Scripture (and that not everyone experiences every type of salvation either, which means that some people never get saved, yet still get saved at the same time). But even with that being the case, it’s important to note that the sorts of salvation those who are brought into membership in the body of Christ experience are still entirely a gift from God, and this includes the faith itself (our faith that the good news is true isn’t of ourselves, but is itself a gift from God, just like the grace and salvation are, since if we had to build up our own faith it would be a work — and presumably an impossible work at that; nobody can force themselves into believing something they don’t currently already believe to be true, at least not without some serious brainwashing, and if one has been given the faith to believe the good news, it means they already believe the good news and hence have already been saved), which means that the saying shouldn’t be, ”God helps those who help themselves” (which is what we’ve determined most Christians actually believe, despite not realizing it), but should rather be, ”God helps those whom God helps.” And, praise God, He ultimately helps everyone, even if each in their own order.
Just as a quick postscript, I should probably say that what I’ve written above technically might not apply to Calvinists, because they tend to agree that everyone for whom Christ died has indeed been saved, just as those of us in the body of Christ teach. The difference between them and most Christians (and between them and those of us in the body of Christ) is that they don’t believe Christ technically died for everyone’s sins (at least in the sense that they believe His death for sin only takes care of the sins of the elect — the elect being the relatively few people they believe God has chosen to save). This causes other problems for them, however, because if the Gospel one needs to believe is that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, then to share that Gospel message as something one needs to believe in order to be saved would be the equivalent of asking the majority of the people they share the Gospel with to believe a lie, because He didn’t actually die for the sins of most of the people they’d ask to believe that Good News. Basically, if Calvinism were correct, Paul’s Gospel would have to instead be that “Christ died for the sins of the elect, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day,” and that’s what they’d have to ask the people to whom they evangelize to believe instead. But since that isn’t what Paul taught, this disqualifies Calvinism right from the start.