Salvation is central to Christianity and is central to the message and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus' death on the cross is central to salvation, thus the phrase “a cruce salus (Latin “salvation comes from the cross”)." Salvation, I believe, has a balance between "election" and man's responsibility (we have free will). Without man's responsibility and free will, God would elect people and those who aren't elected (picked), live pointless lives only to later go to hell for eternity, and have no opportunity to come to Christ. They are more a victim than anything else. However, since God knows from the beginning of time who will exercise their free will by God's grace to believe, you could say that they are the elect. It really gets into semantics and how you define your terms, then hermaneutics and how you interpret the related Scriptures.
Most people are sadly going to hell. This is based upon several things Jesus said, and is made clear in Matthew 7:14 where Jesus said, "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Unfortunately many people who thought they were Christians were not converted, and will end up being some of those who go to hell. This is clear from many things Jesus said (Matthew 7:14,21-23; 25:1-13; Luke 13:22-30). A staggering number of people go to church and don’t know the Lord. The Bible warns that in the last days there will be a "form of godliness." A "form" means that it’s not genuine. It’s just an outward appearance, and that certainly is what we see today.
I don't have time to go into all the Scriptures that warn against living in sin, backsliding, being lukewarm, worldliness, love of money, fornication/adultery, etc. but there is a lot that can keep us from heaven. So how do we know for sure we are saved?
Well, thankfully the Bible is clear on how we can know and you should not have any doubts. However, there will possibly be times in your life when sin will creep in and you need to "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5).
The Christian life, according to the Bible, is one of growth and maturity through the grace of God. There are many verses in the bible, including some by Jesus Christ himself, which compared the Christian life to a tree that bears fruit (e.g. Mt 3:8-10; Mt 7:15-20; Mt 12:33-37; Mt 21:19,43; Mk 11:20-21; Lk 3:8-9; Lk 6:43-45; Lk 13:6-9; Jn 15:1-17; Ro 7:4-5; Gal 5:22-23; Eph 5:9-11; Phil 1:11,22; Col 1:6,10; Heb 13:15; James 3:17; Jude 12). If we are not fruitful, if the branch does not bear fruit, He cuts off the branch and it will be thrown into the fire (hell). Why? Because He is not looking for beautiful branches, He is looking for lots of fruit. If the branch does bear fruit, He still prunes the branch; again to produce more grapes. It can get even worse as the best fruit (grapes) get thrown into the winepress. and slowly turned into wine. Here in the wine press of God, you will lose all shape and form of who you once were. You will be crushed, pulverized, and beaten to a point where no shape, not even the semblance of you is left, and what is left is culled off and discarded. Only the bare essence of who you once were remains, and that lies formless in the vat below. God will then pour you into a barrel and store you in darkness until the perfect time for your release. At that most perfect of all moments, God will then pour you out on the people He takes you to. And those He brings across your path, will drink from you and be filled with God’s goodness, the rich goodness that God took so much effort to produce in you. At this time in your life you can be poured into any shape of container the Lord desires you to be poured into. This moment is worth the wait for both you and them.
The Bible is very clear that it is not enough to simply believe in Jesus Christ, we must have a relationship with Him. For example, in Mt 7:21-23, Jesus says "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!'" It is clear from these verses that these are people who were religious and thought they were Christians. First of all, they call Jesus "Lord. Lord." Secondly, they are doing works like prophesying, casting out demons and performing miracles. However, we are not saved by works. Jesus gives two conditions in these few verses, first of all that we must do "the will of my Father who is in heaven" and secondly, that we must "know" Christ. This term “to know” (יָדַע - Yada` in Hebrew, pronounced yaw-dah') is not synonymous with the meaning of being informed about someone. It means, “to know intimately.” It means deep, reproductive, intimacy – likeAdam knowing Eve, like Abraham “knowing” Sarah, thus conceiving Isaac. Knowing God always produces fruit.
It breaks my heart that so many people are hearing a "watered-down message" of "cheap grace" when the Bible presents something radically different that what is often taught in our churches. People are sometimes being taught that they need to live a holy life but unfortunately they are largely not being taught WHY they need to live a holy life. They are largely not hearing WHY they need to grow spiritually and produce fruit. People are often taught that they just need to repeat a prayer and they automatically become Christians. They are welcomed into the kingdom and go through life thinking that one prayer was all they needed, when they in reality haven't changed at all. Most Christians are living like they work for a billion dollar corporation but they only want to "work" one hour on Sunday and not have to help out or contribute any other way, yet they want all the benefits - A nice office environment with good music, few rules, no training, free childcare, free food, and an eternal retirement plan. Sadly many are simply fooling themselves and yet, they are without excuse. God gives each of us a lifetime, day after day, where he reveals Himself and we have opportunities to turn to Him. God even uses our pain, suffering, trials, problems, and whatever else to help us turn to Him.
When someone is truly converted, they are given the precious promise of the Holy Spirit, sent from Jesus to "seal us" and "guide us." "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children (Romans 8:16)." Now I realize that many Christians may be confused, ignorant, doubtful or just not hearing from the Holy Spirit that they are converted. However, I believe the Holy Spirit will provide the faith to the sincere convert they need to know that they are converted. I have had my own moments of doubt, yet as I grew in knowledge and faith, by God's grace, I realized that my doubts were unfounded. It always helped that I could go back to Jan 22, 1987 when I was converted and recognize the change and God's miraculous working, both before and after that unforgettable day. Not everyone will have a radical conversion, and some may not remember or even know the exact day, but God will change the heart and the truly converted will produce fruit that grows and matures. It can be difficult to judge one's growth and maturity but God knows and judges the heart. They key is that you know for yourself that you are "in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5)."
Salvation has been characterized as having three stages if you will, but please don't misunderstand this, you are "saved" the moment you trust and believe in Jesus Christ for your salvation.Initial Salvation
Initial salvation refers to the event of a person's conversion and regeneration. If you repent of your sin and turn in faith to Christ as Lord and Savior, your sins are immediately forgiven, your fight of faith has begun, and your future in Christ is sealed and secured forever. "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13) "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:3-7)Progressive Salvation
Progressive salvation refers to the journey of a believer between conversion and death. It does not mean a person is not "saved" in the initial stage. It is the only path that leads to eternal life (Romans 6:20-23), and is walked by faith alone, in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8, Galatians 3:2-5). It contains bumps and struggles and setbacks, but is marked by growth in love for others and for God. It involves a fight of faith, a striving for peace and holiness (Hebrews 12:14, 1 John 1:9), and a reoccurring approach of the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). "[O]ur Lord Jesus Christ... will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:7-9)Final Salvation
Final salvation refers to the event of God saving his people at the final judgment, the great divide between sheep and goats, wherein sheep are identified by their work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, and accepted on the ground of their union with Christ, the righteous substitute.
"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy..." (Jude 24)
© Todd Tyszka
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