What do I mean by the word saved? Regenerated.Born-again. Delivered. Redeemed. Set free. Bought by the blood. Forgiven. Sanctified. Justified. A new person.
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.(Romans 10:9, 10)
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. (Ephesians 2:8.9)
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3,4)
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Timothy 1:9)
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mark 16:16
Oops. Scratch that last one. Don’t want to start a war between the Baptists and the Campbellites. (Church of Christ)
Most Evangelical Christians interpret these verses, and others, in a very basic, generic way.
I am a sinner. Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. Three days later he resurrected from the dead. Believing this message I admit I am a sinner, I repent of my sins and by faith I trust Jesus to forgive me of my sins and save me. I am trusting Jesus to save me and keep me until I die. By putting my faith and trust in Jesus I know I will go to heaven when I die. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
There are three basic schools of thought when it comes to salvation. (and yes I know there are shades of all of these. Please, spare me the emails and comments that I did not properly describe YOUR tribe)
There is the “once saved, always saved” school. According to this school of thought, once a person is saved they can never be un-saved. No matter what the person does, no matter how the person lives, they are saved forever. A person can stop attending Church, stop doing ANYTHING that remotely suggests that they are saved, yet they are“once saved, always saved.” One noted writer even said that a person could go to the altar and be saved and then leave the Church, curse God, and live like a heathen the remainder of their life…it matters not, “once saved, always saved.”
This is the belief of most Baptists and most Evangelicals. Salvation becomes a form of “fire insurance.” People don’t want to go to hell, so they get saved. Whew, that’s over. Next!
Coupled with this belief is the notion that the believer will be rewarded some day for doing the right things in this life. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. So, a person might be “once saved always saved” but if they don’t live right they will lose their rewards in heaven. What this loss of rewards is is never clearly defined. Maybe their mansion won’t have indoor plumbing? (John 14:1-6)
Some “once saved always saved” believers realize that their version of salvation really looks bad. They know their brand of salvation looks like it is preaching a “live like hell, still go to heaven” message.
To counter this they teach that Christians who live carnally will be chastised (corrected) by God in this life. If a carnal Christian is not chastised it is proof that they were never “really” saved. After all, the Bible says in Hebrews 12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Arminian groups hold to a conditional salvation. They believe a person is saved by grace but kept by works. (works they do by the power of God, so it is really all of grace) In this school of thought, a person can only know they are saved in the present moment. Their future salvation is conditioned on them doing the right things. This is the belief of groups like the Free-Will Baptists, Methodists, Wesleyans, etc. (groups that trace back their heritage to John and Charles Wesley and Jacobus Arminius)
A believer can do certain things that will result in the loss of salvation. Some Arminian groups believe you can only lose your salvation one time. They believe, “once saved, once lost, always lost.”The Bible says in Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Other Arminian groups believe a person can repeatedly be saved, lost, saved, lost, saved. They often talk about a line that is crossed, when a person goes from a state of grace to being lost again. I have asked repeatedly over the years exactly where that line is and no one can tell me. I have been told by more than one Arminian preacher, “You just KNOW when you have crossed the line.”
The last school of thought is the Calvinistic school. Calvinist groups, like the Presbyterians, some Baptists, Episcopalians, etc. adhere to what is commonly called the five points of Calvinism. (which were actually articulated as a reply to the Arminians) Point number five is the perseverance of the saints or the preservation of the saints.
Perseverance of the saints is “once saved, always saved” with a twist. Calvinists believe that salvation is a work done totally by God. From start to finish it is God who does it all. A person can not believe, exercise faith, or anything else apart from God giving them the power to do so. Those whom God saves, God keeps. Now, God only saves a certain number of people. God knows exactly how many he will save. They are the elect. They have been predestined to salvation.
The God who saves is the God who causes the believer to persevere to the end. If a person doesn’t persevere to the end then that is proof they were never saved to start with. For this reason the Calvinistic commenters on this blog consider me unsaved, never having been saved. I didn’t persevere. I have received common grace but not God’s special, saving grace. In other words, God toyed with me and then said fuck you.
No Calvinist can know for sure they are saved. They can HOPE they are. They can constantly examine their lives to see if they are availing themselves to the means of grace, but until they die they can not know for sure they are saved. They MUST persevere to the end to be sure. They are hoping God comes through for them, but they won’t know for sure until the end. After all, they TOO could be deluded. They TOO could be following a false Christ.
Imagine a person going from church to church trying to find out the true Christian message of salvation. You would think Christians could agree on the most basic of truths…salvation.
But they don’t.
I am convinced that Christians better hope that God is an universalist. If not…hell is going to be filled with Christians.
repost, updated, revised