Is salvation merely an event that happens when we make a decision to invite Christ into our life or utter the sinner’s prayer?
There has been much confusion and false teaching going around as to what constitutes salvation.
Liberal theology asserts that we just need to believe (intellectual assent) and we will be saved—nothing more. It suggests that salvation is an event whereby we believe in Christ and from that point onwards, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us and we are eternally safe and secure. It means we have bought “insurance coverage” for ourselves and, if we should pass away, we will surely obtain eternal life.
Surely, it is true to say that we are saved by faith and not by good works. So with regards to faith as the means of gaining salvation, I am in agreement with the above theology.
- “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- “And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment” (John 3:36).
- “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
But faith is a word with broad ramifications. If a person claims he believes in Jesus but fails to make Him Lord in his life—and continues to willfully live in sin—his belief is fake, spurious and questionable. Without repentance and obedience, belief alone is empty. Genuine faith has to be evidenced by good works. Faith, by itself, without works, is dead (James 2:17, James 2:26).
True repentance involves not only believing that Jesus paid the price for our sins but turning away from sin and turning towards God in obedience. Repentance must involve a change in thought and behaviour—and goals, aspirations and lifestyle as well.
So beyond having faith, God requires us to repent and be obedient to His commandments.
The gospel, which offers salvation by grace through faith in Christ’s atoning work at the cross, has all these elements:
Faith (Ephesians 2:8-9, Acts 16:31, John 1:12)
Confession with our lips and belief in our heart (Romans 10:9)
Repentance (Acts 2:38, Acts 20:21)
Obedience (John 8:11b, John 15:6)
So if we want to know whether we are saved, we have to ask ourselves is there any evidence to show that our faith is genuine? We need to subject ourselves to self-examination to see whether our faith is genuine.
“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
The following questions should be able to offer some help.
- Do we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13, 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27)?
- Do we make every effort to build ourselves in the faith, thus confirming our election and calling (2 Peter 1:5-10)?
- Do we prepare ourselves spiritually in anticipation of Christ’s return like the five wise virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)?
- Do we show love for our fellow brethren (1 John 3:14)?
- Do we abide in Christ and bear fruit befitting of a transformed life (John 15:5,8)?
- Do we continue to study God’s word and seek to obey Him (John 8:31-32, John 14:21)?
- Do we utilise our time, talents and resources for God’s glory (Matthew 25:14-30)?
- Do we keep ourselves in the love of God and not merely presume on His kindness (Romans 11:22, Jude 21)?
- Are we able to overcome increasing end time lawlessness, deception and persecution (Matthew 24:9-13)?
- Do we demonstrate characteristics similar to that of goats or sheep according to Jesus’ end time teaching (Matthew 25:31-46)?
- Have we the kind of faith that perseveres no matter what happens (Hebrews 10:36-39)?
The danger of liberal theology is that it presents salvation as a one-off event whereby we gain eternal life at the point of entry. That breeds complacency. In fact, salvation is a process whereby we have to be faithful and persevere until the end in order to inherit eternal life.
Thus, salvation is not merely an event that happens at a point in time when we make a decision to invite Christ into our life or utter the sinner’s prayer.
Salvation is a process that begins when we believe in Christ and then we go on to show our faith is genuine by ongoing repentance, seeking God’s will and obeying Him, bearing fruit in every good work and utilising our time, talents and resources for the kingdom of God.
Our initial faith-motivated decision to follow Christ must be followed up by action in order to prove that out faith is genuine.
Faith gets our foot in the door to heaven—just as being granted an interview gives us the chance of joining the workforce of a company. However, if we merely go for the interview—but do not demonstrate qualities that the company finds valuable and desirable—we will not be able to enjoy the benefits like other workers in that company.
Similarly, if we profess to have faith but do not live it out, we will not inherit the “benefit” of salvation—eternal life. Many believers will be shocked on judgment day if their perception of salvation is based on liberal theology, which downplays personal responsibility.
At this juncture, you may say, if that is so, salvation is not so easy after all if we have to work out our salvation and prove the genuineness of our faith.
Yes, you are right. Jesus did warn that it is not going to be easy to get to heaven: Those who profess to have faith in Christ but do not live it out may hear the most shocking words on judgment day: “I do not know you!” (Matthew 7:23, Matthew 25:12). http://bit.ly/1BUqF3G
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
In fact, there will be many surprises on judgment day and only God knows who will finally reach the pearly gates of heaven. On our part, however, if we examine our lives and work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and keep ourselves in the love and favour of God, there is no reason why heaven’s door will be shut on our faces.
That’s why Paul has this conviction that all will end well and he will gain eternal life when he confidently declared: “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Just like Paul, those who have been walking close to God would know that God keeps them safe for eternity (Philippians 1: 6, Jude 24). The Holy Spirit bears witness to them that they have been saved—provided they continue to be watchful concerning their life and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16).
- “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1: 6).
- “Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault” (Jude 24)
- “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
SUMMARY OF WHAT SCRIPTURE TEACHES ABOUT SALVATION
After putting true faith in Christ as Lord, which is consummated by faith in your heart and the confession of your lips (Romans 10:10), and which is evidenced by your turning from sin in your mind and action (Acts 26:20), and being born again (a new nature) John 3:3-8, symbolized in baptism (Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21), we are “saved” to the point of now having a future inheritance of salvation (Colossians 3:24, 1 Peter 1:3-9), but not in actual possession of it yet.
In our new “saved” position, we are no longer declared to be an enemy of God and we have been reconciled to him through the death of Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:22). We have been marked with his seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), much like a King would authenticate his letters with his signet ring pressed into a wax seal, and salvation is now reserved for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-4), but we don’t actually attain it, until we have stood firm in our faith to the very end (Matthew 24:13, 2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 3:11). As it relates to salvation and eternal life, what we really have is a future inheritance, not an actual possession of salvation yet (Romans 8:24-25, Hebrews 9:28).
The above, What Scripture Teaches About Salvation, is extracted from http://relentlessheart.com/blog/2015/12/1/once-saved-always-saved
PROCESS OF SALVATION
One of a number of errors found in antinomianism is a failure to keep the various aspects of salvation in proper alignment. The long-standing and quite biblical threefold division of salvation is always important to appeal to here. Let me lay it out very simply and diagrammatically:
Justification Sanctification Glorification
Past Present Future
We have been saved We are being saved We will be saved
From the penalty of sin From the power of sin From the presence of sin
One-off experience Lifelong experience Eternal experience
Positional Continual Final
God’s work for us God’s work in us God’s work to us
Perfect in this life Not perfect in this life Perfect in the next life
The problem with the antinomians and the hyper-grace folks is they fail to see this properly. They so emphasise the first bit of salvation – justification – which is indeed solely by grace through faith, that they ignore or minimise the second and very vital truth of ongoing sanctification. Indeed, they effectively replace sanctification with justification.
So the hundreds of New Testament commands to live holy lives, to obey, to grow in Christ, to put off the old man, to crucify the flesh, to grow in grace, to be transformed, to resist sin, and so on simply get overlooked or watered down. After all, if it is all of grace, there is nothing left for us to do. So sanctification tends to disappear altogether.
The above, Process of Salvation, is extracted from https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/02/16/antinomianism-and-the-hyper-grace-error/
Believers are saved when we trust in Christ. Does it mean that repentance and obedience are optional?
Is faith is merely intellectual assent?
The foolish virgins were shut out from heaven. Who do they represent?
Some compare the Christian life to a walk in the park. They say everything is by faith. You just have to believe in what Jesus has done for you at the cross. Anything more than that smacks of self-effort, pride and legalism.
Note: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (Dec 2008 – Oct 2011). He can be reached at his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AskDrLi
SOURCE OF ARTICLE: http://limpohann.blogspot.my/2017/01/how-do-we-know-we-are-saved.html
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Dr Lim Poh Ann