Expert Answer Forum
Salvation QUESTION from Joyful April 30, 1999
I was so disturbed by your answer to Theresa who posted a question in February this year about her fear of not being sure if she would get to heaven. You told her no one could know for sure. Oh, how sad for you! You must have read John 3! Faith in Jesus Christ, being born again washed clean from our sins by His blood, that is the ONLY way to heaven! This girl was crying out for salvation and you led her astray!! I am so sorry for her and for you. The bible is clear on this. If you confess with your mouth 'Jesus is Lord' and belileve in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 How I wish I could get in contact with this girl. Jesus loves her and wants her to be in heaven with Him for all eternity. You cannot earn salvation, as you seemed to be leading her to believe. It is God's gift to us, and that is why the Lord Jesus suffered so severly for our sins. I hurt for all who don't know Him. Lord, touch Theresa today! Save her, Lord. Send your laborers into her life this day and bring forth the truth of your gospel.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on May 7, 1999 Dear Joyful:
I too hurt for all who do not know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I hurt also for those who do not understand the truth about salvation and are caught in presumption. Presumption is a mighty stumblingblock, a sin, that keeps us from the fullness of the faith.
The position you are asserting in your question appears to be one that believes in an assurance of the faith that is not scriptural. It makes a presumption of what the state of your soul will be in the future. Neither you nor I can know what state of soul we will have 20 years from now. Perhaps we will reject God 20 years from now? If so, we have lost the saving grace that will allow us to experience God in heaven. We cannot know what will happen in 20 years, thus we cannot know absolutely our salvation in that definite sense. To say that we can know the future in such a definite way is contrary to Scripture.
What you appear to be referring to is the Non-Scriptural idea of once-saved-always-saved. This concept is believed by many people without knowing from whence it comes. The idea of once-saved-always-saved can make no sense apart from the Calvinistic theology. Part of that theology asserts that men are predestined -- some for heaven, some for hell. There is nothing we can do about it. But Scripture says in 1 Timothy 2:3-4: ...God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Despite this clear teaching from Scripture, Calvin asserts that if we are predestined for heaven we WILL make a decision for Christ because of God’s Irresistible Grace, as he called it; and if we are destined for hell, nothing will stop that. In other words, free will does not exist. Our destiny is pre-determined and it cannot be altered. God WILLS that some go to hell. This is heresy.
Nevertheless, it is only within this context can we say, once-saved-always-saved.
Now, of course, many fundamentalist Protestants who don’t really consider themselves Calvinist and may even disagree with Calvin on pre-destination will yet still hang onto the once-saved-always-saved portion. But to hang on to this without the philosophical underpinnings is like trying to hold on to a volume of milk without a glass to contain it; or least like trying to hold on with a glass with many holes.
Without the Calvin underpinnings the notion of justification by faith alone becomes hypocritical. It is ONLY within the Calvinistic economy that works are completely absent. The fundamentalist churches who only take once-saved-always-saved part of Calvin and leave the pre-destination part alone teach that salvation comes by faith alone, but is effected, or accomplished by confession of faith (Roman 10:9). This, however, is most certainly a work to be saved – -- it is something one must do. Only in Calvin’s theology are people truly not doing a thing to be saved. They are either saved or not, whether they like it or not, according to pre-destination. But Calvin’s notions are heresy in the first degree to suggest that God has pre-destined, actually created, some people to go to hell.
One cannot take the one without the other. Once-saved-always-saved has no foundation without the totality of Calvin’s heresy.
In addition, like many Protestant notions, this teaching of once-saved-always-saved did not exist before the 16th Century when Luther, et al. Committed their acts of rebellion against God. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has always taught the same thing from the beginning. The Catholic Church teaches what Jesus and the Apostles taught. The Catholic Church teaches what the Bible teaches.
Matthew 24:13 tells us that we must persevere to the end in order to be saved. St. Paul says the same thing in 2 Timothy 2:12: that we must hold out to the end if we want to reign with Christ. In Romans 11:22, Christians are warned that they will be cut off if they don’t persevere in the kindness of God. Hebrews 6:4-6 describes people who are sharers in the Holy Spirit (born-again Christians) but then fall away from God.
Remember St. Paul’s advice: work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Who should have more assurance of salvation than St. Paul? Yet he says: I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). Most of the parables of Jesus that deal with salvation, show that Christians can lose their salvation. Let us take a look at just two of them:
The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32): In this parable Jesus tells us that the son departs from his father’s house and goes his own way. The son is not a lost person, but is ALREADY a member of his father’s house (the kingdom of God). Yet, despite being in the grace of his father, the son decides he wants to go his own way and leaves. Later he repents and desires to return to the father.
But take a look at verse 24: For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.
This son who was in the kingdom, left the kingdom of his own free will. When he did this he was lost and dead to the father as verse 24 states. But when he returns and repents, the father forgives and takes him back into his house.
We has Christians are in our Father’s house. We, as Christians, can decide to leave our Father’s house. When we do so, we are lost and spiritually dead. We have lost our salvation; we have lost our inheritance in our Father’s house. But, if we repent and return to the Father, our Father will gladly take us back in and restore us to his fellowship and saving Grace.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins: Jesus tells us the that kingdom of heaven will be like these ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. All ten of these virgins are in the kingdom of heaven in this parable.
But, in verse two we see that Five of them were foolish and five were wise. Five of the virgins did not prepare to meet the bridegroom by taking oil for their lamps, and five did prepare and had oil ready to go.
Since the bridegroom delayed in coming the virgins fell asleep. At midnight the bridegroom came suddenly and caught the foolish virgins unprepared to meet him. The foolish virgins had to go to find oil to buy, while the wise virgins were prepared and went to the wedding banquet.
The door was shut even though the five foolish virgins had not yet arrived.
When the five foolish virgins begged to be let in the bridegroom replied: I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.
So it is with us. We may be in the kingdom (born-again Christians) but if we do not prepare to meet our Lord, we may be left out in the cold – we may lose our position in the wedding banquet and spend eternity in hell.
Any one last Scriptural reference on this point – Matthew 7:16-26:
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Jesus tells us here that not everyone who confesses Jesus is saved. Jesus SPECIFICALLY says that only he who does the will of my Father in heaven will be saved. Only those who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice will be saved.
Mere confessing and believing is not enough. We must live out our salvation. If we do not we may lose it. St. James says in James 2:24, 26: You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. … As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James does not say that faith without works is backslidden, or depressed, or is a mark of a carnal Christian. He says that faith without works is DEAD – dead means it does not exist. Without Faith we have no salvation since salvation comes by faith. The works he speaks of is not the works of the Law that St. Paul speaks of in Roman 3:28, but the works of love that precipitates from the grace given to us freely by God in saving us.
We do not work our way to heaven. That is a free gift. But we must fulfill that gift, use that gift by expressing love. If we do not, we, of our own free will, throw the gift away and lose the grace that comes from it.
Scripture is very clear: Christians can lose their salvation.
The Catholic Church teaches what Scripture teaches – that we must die in sanctifying grace in order to be saved. Any mortal sin, a sin that leads to death (1 John 5:16-17) leads to a loss of sanctifying grace and the risk of eternal damnation if we should die in this state. The Church teaches that we are saved by God’s grace alone. Grace enables us to have the saving faith that works in love (Ephesians 2:8-10).
But this does not mean we have no assurance of salvation. We do have such assurance. Our assurance is in the hope of salvation founded upon the promise of God. We can know that if we remain in sanctifying grace we will reach the promised land.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. -- Romans 5:5
Only with such hope, void of presumption, can be truly be joyful in the knowledge of the grace of God's gift of salvation to us.
May God bless you and enlighten you to the fullness of faith that you and all others may not be lead astray on this, the most important question of out lives -- salvation in Christ Jesus.
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