Every theologian throughout history has attempted to explain God’s decision-making process in granting salvation and man’s responsibility to receive it. Almost all end up in either Calvin’s camp, or Arminius’, with plenty of nuanced explanations within each.
Briefly, John Calvin believed salvation, start to finish was a sovereign act of God. God chooses those he wants to save, (election) makes them want to be saved (irresistible grace) and once they are saved, keeps them that way until they die, no matter what. (perseverance of the saints)
Jacob Arminius, a contemporary of Calvins’, believed humans had a lot more free will in this process. Humans could accept or reject God’s offer of salvation and once saved, could reject God or live such sinful lives that they could lose their salvation.
Each group comes fully armed to this theological debate with dozens of scripture passages that “prove” their position’s superiority over the others. Denominations and churches have split over these issues for centuries. But why?
Why is it we insist on having an explanation for the mind of God, on this matter at all?
Why not be content to leave what God does behind the curtain a mystery? Is there anywhere in scripture where God requires us to understand and explain accurately why he does, what he does, to grant salvation to any individual? And is there anywhere in the Bible, he calls us disobedient if we can’t explain how he does it? No!
However, what God has made clear, that both Calvin and Arminius loosely agree on, is what God requires for a person to be born again and therefore to be saved. So, what is man’s responsibility prior to, and after being granted salvation? That question is answerable. Pre Salvation 1. We have to believe with our deepest conviction that Jesus was, and is God, that he died for our sins and rose from the dead.
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:16-18
“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:10
Many American “Christians” say they “believe in Jesus,” but there’s no biblical evidence that intellectual agreement with that truth alone, is enough to save.
2. We repent of our sins. (This means having a sick-to-our-stomach sadness over both our sins and our sinful condition, and a desire never to commit them again.)
“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” Acts 2:37, 38
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” Acts 3:19
“I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:3
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” Acts 17:30
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10
3. Pledge to Jesus and his kingdom agenda, our highest personal allegiance.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples,‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’” Matthew 16: 24, 25 “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26
“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’” Luke 14:33-35
Anyone who wishes to be saved, must turn their life over to God and his kingdom agenda and boldly and publicly live that out.
Failure to do any one of these three things disqualifies us from salvation. And it’s not necessary that we understand fully how, or if a person can lose their salvation for not staying loyal to these promises to God. It’s the will and requirement of God that we do them – period! Yes, we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, but God alone determines whether we actually believe, that is, have true saving faith, not us, just because we said some prayer of salvation at an evangelistic event.
It feels to me that we Christians are always trying to determine just how lukewarm or disobedient we can be and still have assurance of our salvation. It’s almost as if some Christians are putting God to the test. “God, you promised if I believed in Jesus, you’d save me. It’s a free gift. I took you at your word!” He alone sets the standard and he alone determines the quality of our faith. Christians would do well to live in fear of failing God, rather than presume that God wouldn’t reject a life of lukewarm love for him.
After Salvation Not only does the Bible instruct us as to what we must do to be saved, it describes the kind of life we’ll live if we truly have been born again.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21
“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
“Son though he was, he (Jesus) learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” Hebrews 5:8,9
“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:3, 6
“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” 1 John 3:23, 24
It’s not that the doctrines of predestination, election, and eternal security are unimportant. When God says anything we’re required to take it seriously. But God will never disqualify us from salvation because of doctrinal ignorance. Just trust and obey. If we Christians were as passionate about living out the life of Jesus, as we are debating theology, the kingdom of God on earth would be radically different.
Question: So, what do you think? Is there anything else a person must believe or do to be saved?
How following Jesus works in real life.
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