How Are We Saved?
By S.J. Black
Several times in the recent past a question has been asked of me for which the answer is very important for Christians to understand.
Actually, the same question has not come up exactly, but when you really get to the nuts and bolts of the issue it really is the same question.
Recently, one person asked if we as Christians are still required to keep the laws in the Torah. Another person a few days later asked me if we are saved by grace through faith or by faith plus works. Then someone asked several days ago about the person who professes to be a Christian but lives his or her life in a deplorable manner.
To be honest, these really are the same questions as far as I am concerned and merely worded differently because a new believer who is a Messianic Jew asked me about the law whereas gentile Christians asked me about our works in relation to our salvation.
First let me start by saying very plainly that we are saved by faith and faith alone.
You could cut and paste half or more of the New Testament in support of this, but just a couple of verses that come to mind are…
Romans 11:6 "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Galatians 2:16 "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Galatians 3:2"This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"
When we accept Jesus as our personal savior, accepting the work of Jesus for us on the cross we are saved for all eternity.
The next natural question that often comes up along the same lines is can someone 'lose' their salvation?
I don't think you can lose your salvation, however you will face consequences for your sin.
Lets take each point one at a time.
My question to someone who argues that we can lose our salvation is always, if we can "lose our salvation" then how do you know when you are saved and when you are not saved. Can I be saved on Monday, not saved on Tuesday and then saved again on Wednesday? Exactly how many times would I have to re-crucify Jesus here?
Is there some threshold that I have to surpass to lose my salvation? I mean some really big sin or the sum of enough little sins added together? I would hope that God would have given us some accounting rules in the New Testament if I am suppose to keep a ledger of my good and bad works. However, there are no such rules only the message of salvation by Grace through faith over and over again in the New Testament.
The Bible tells us that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and in the Lords eyes sin is sin. There are not "little" sins verses "big" sins.
Read the Sermon on the Mount starting in Matthew chapter 5. I will freely admit that there is zero chance of ever measuring up to those standards in my own life.
There never has been or will be a single Christian who was ever saved that from then on lived a sin-free life, not a single one. This is what Paul was referring to when he wrote…
Romans 7:14 - 25 "For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
To sum up, what Paul is telling us here is that none of us will ever live a life completely free of sin. We have a sin nature in our carnal flesh that guarantees we will all sin somehow, somewhere at some time.
Someone might ask, "If we are saved by this sort of Grace, does this gives me a license to sin as much as I want without facing any consequences?"
Let me reiterate - NO, this does not give us a license to sin and we will face consequences for our sin.
Some of the most completely miserable people that I have ever met are men who used to be pastors and then got out of fellowship with God. They fell out of fellowship because we have an enemy that seeks to destroy us and he is very crafty. If you think about it, Satan has been watching you since you were born and knows better than you do what your weaknesses are. You also need to realize that Satan has been deceiving mankind since the garden and is much better at deceiving people than you realize. Frankly without God helping us through grace and love, we do not stand a chance of out smarting the devil and his schemes.
The former pastors are miserable because God continues to pursue them and they are always coming under the chastising of God. Sure some of them may have never been saved in the first place. However, if they were ever truly saved then they are still just as saved today despite the fact that they are out of fellowship with God and very miserable.
Satan has been successful in defeating some of these former pastors and has stopped them from sharing the Gospel with others. This does not mean however that they are no longer saved.
We do not know for sure who wrote the book of Hebrews that is in our Bibles today. Some people say that Paul wrote the book, others Barnabas, and some suggest other authors. What we do know is that the author of the book understood the fact that we will never have peace in our lives when we live in a sinful manner.
Hebrews 4:6 "It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience."
What the author of Hebrews is teaching here is that there is a lesson to be learned from the generation of the nation of Israel that did not get to enter into the Promised Land because of disobedience. We read about this time in Israel's history in the book of Deuteronomy chapter one starting at verse 26 through to the end of the chapter.
Israel did not stop being God's chosen people because of their disobedience to God. However, since they did not obey God they were not allowed to enter into rest in the Promised Land. They spent the next forty years wandering in the desert as nomads from place to place with no rest afforded by a homeland.
The idea here is that if we, who are in Christ, live our lives in a manner that honors God, we will have a peace or rest in our lives.
When Satan cannot prevent us from coming to salvation, his next best thing is to make sure that we live a defeated life. If we live in a sinful manner, God will not honor or prosper our lives. Sin is the fastest way that I know of, to let the enemy into our lives to wreak havoc.
Satan cannot do a thing to us unless God allows him to do so. Yet if we sin, God will allow Satan to have his way in our lives so that we will reap the consequences of our sin and hopefully learn a lesson. When we sin it steals our joy and hurts our relationship with God. It does not however cause us to loose our salvation.
Those who preach a works based salvation would be well advised to realize that they have a sin nature.
It has been my experience and observation in others that you do tend to sin less when you really get into a relationship with Jesus over time. But this is a work that the Holy Spirit does in our hearts as He brings the fruit of the Spirit into one's life. It takes listening to and obeying God to draw into a close relationship with Him.
Listening to and obeying God is the only way that we will ever grow into a close relationship with Him and is the only way that we will ever see the fruits of the Spirit manifest themselves in our life.
Those who preach keeping the law or other works based salvation would also be well advised to realize that the law is called a curse in the Word of God.
Galatians 3:10 "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."
Why is this considered to be a curse? Because you will never "measure up" to whatever bar you are trying to reach. Driving yourself crazy, trying harder in vain and always insecure regarding your salvation due to your inability to live up to your own self-imposed standards is the curse.
There is nothing wrong with the law itself. In fact, much of the law was written to keep the Israelis from an unhealthy manner of living.
The 'law' is a curse however, to those who are relying on keeping it in order to obtain salvation on their own merits.
So what about the other question that came up recently about those who profess to be Christians but live in quite the opposite manner?
Actually, Jesus had something to say about this sort of a person.
Matthew 7:18-20 "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."
What I am finding is that people who profess to be "Christians" but live in degradation and chronic sin often grew up with "religion" or they are still the victims of "religion".
Someone pointed out to me the other day that this is the difference between Christianity and other religions. We as Christians believe and preach that it is possible to have a true relationship with God and not just a bunch of rules with damnation promised for those who break them.
Going to church growing up and being a "Christian" is not salvation and I wonder if many were ever saved in the first place. Many of these people identify themselves as Christians because no other label like Jew, Hindu, and so forth applies to them.
I spent years in this state after being "saved" at church camp when I was 13.
Glad I did not die in that condition. I don't think I was saved in the first place because I had no remorse for anything that I did that offended God. There was no conviction from the Holy Spirit when I transgressed against how God commands those who love Him to live.
I did not understand the concept of true repentance from my sins to the best of my ability and developing a true relationship with God. To put it another way, there was never any fruit in my life and God rarely, if ever, crossed my mind.
Basically, I had an "emotional conversion." I never lived like I was saved a day in my life. But I had a lot of head knowledge about the Bible from years of Sunday school that I only went to in the first place because someone made me go.
No one ever explained to me what salvation was really all about, taking up our cross and following the Lord on a daily basis.
I went down during the alter call because the preacher gave a message that moved me on an emotional level but true relationship with Jesus was never really explained. If you had asked me then, I would have professed to be a Christian. But, I practiced religion twice a year - Easter and Christmas thinking I was saved. This is not salvation!
That is exactly why I am so concerned about people who get 'saved' at some of the "seeker service" oriented churches today or through other emotional experiences from things like Mel Gibson's Passion movie.
I worry that there are many out there who think they are 'saved' or that they are 'ok if they die' when in reality they are just as lost as the worst sinner alive because they never understood salvation, seeking God or true repentance.
This is what James was referring to when he wrote…James 2:19 "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."
Translation, head knowledge is useless, even Satan knows that Jesus is the Messiah and we know his eternal destiny.
We can get out of fellowship with God if we are truly saved and we will still always be saved. We will likely be miserable, but saved nonetheless. We will be miserable because we will have the Holy Spirit so that we cannot be happy in the world's ways. But, at the same time we will be so separated from God because of our sin that we will not be able to find the rest and peace that He desires for our lives if we walk with Him.
However, just because someone says he or she is a Christian because they went to church as a child is a completely different issue, even if they went down front at some point but never lived one day of their life like Jesus was the Lord of their life.
No one was ever saved or will be saved by the law or by works; we are saved by the condition of our heart and our faith in God.
Romans 4:1-3 "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about--but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
It always has been and always will be about trusting and believing God, nothing more nothing less. Abraham was saved because he believed God and displayed his belief in his actions. If one is not willing to act on something they say they believe then it is really hard to say that they truly believe what they claim to believe.
The Lord tells us through the prophet Samuel that the Lord cares about the condition of our hearts and not how holy we think we are capable of living; "…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." I Samuel 16:7
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:12, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."
In other words, all things are lawful but you can become a slave to a sinful habit and it will steal your joy and the peace in your life but not your salvation.
The message that James drives home again and again is that if we do not put our money where our mouth is, if we do not live in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord then we really need to question if we understand salvation and whether or not we are truly saved.
If you do not feel conviction from the Holy Spirit when you sin then you really need to seek the Lord in prayer to make sure that you really know Him. It would be a tremendous tragedy to go through life thinking that you are saved and then hear on judgment day:
"I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."