By Liz Pineda, Crosswalk.com
Upon receiving Christ, can we be guaranteed salvation if we continue to sin? Despite our offenses' severity, can we still be assured of eternal salvation solely through faith in Christ alone?
Controversy over such a topic has long existed and has been a subject of debate even among Christian pastors.
I once heard a prominent pastor say that as long as we receive Christ as Saviour, we will be saved, no matter how grave our offenses are, but with one caveat: while we may not suffer eternal damnation in hell, we will surely have to endure the agonizing ramifications of our sins.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8
But then you have the following verses to contend with:
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
Matthew 25:1-13 shares, “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
Note: Clearly, the other five virgins who were cast out also believed in God. They carried their lamps with them just like the five virgins who entered the wedding banquet. But unlike those who joined the celebration, their lamps ran out of oil. They had to leave to buy some. As a result, they were locked out as the Groom disowned them, rejecting their pleas to enter the banquet.
These verses warn those who profess their faith in God all while continuing to indulge in sin in the belief that accepting Jesus as Messiah [not an authentic acceptance of Christ] will get them to heaven despite their evil deeds.
Matthew 7:21 (NIV): "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."
Peter wrote, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20-22).
And in Daniel 12:10, we read: “Go on your way, Daniel,” he replied, “for the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless, and refined, but the wicked will continue to act wickedly. None of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand.”
Note: In the Book of Daniel, those who understand the season of the Lord’s return “will purify, refine, and make themselves spotless.” Therefore, not only do the faithful hold fast to their faith, but they also lead exemplary lives.
Faith Without Works Is Dead
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2 NKJV)
Thoughts on the Matter:
Reading all these verses, we might find it challenging to reconcile the sufficiency of faith for salvation when there are verses in Scripture that also highlight the need to perform good works as proof of our redemption.
After praying for God’s wisdom and after listening to many of our well-respected pastors concerning the matter, I have come to the following conclusions:
There are no discrepancies at all between those verses regarding faith and good works in the context of our redemption.
Those verses that extol the value of good works do not in any way negate the wisdom contained in Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
In fact, Bible verses that acknowledge the value of righteous living in the context of man’s redemption do not contradict but further strengthen and reinforce what is stated in Ephesians 2:8.
How Can That Be?
When individuals truly accept Christ as their Saviour, the Holy Spirit indwells them, transforming their hearts and minds. It is the Holy Spirit that will enable us to do good works. Thus, faith and good works go hand in hand.
That is why believers cannot boast about their exemplary works since they are empowered to do good and honorable deeds by the Holy Spirit who lives within them.
So, if a man claims to have received Christ as his Saviour and yet fails to manifest discernible positive transformation in his life or behavior, then he never truly accepted Jesus as Messiah. Because if he truly received Christ by faith, the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit would be evident in his life.
Should he continue to indulge in sin without remorse or not even attempt to live righteously, he will not be saved. The Holy Spirit doesn't dwell in him as he blatantly disobeys God without guilt and allows himself to sink into sin and rebellion.
This, however, does not imply that we need to be perfect in order to be saved, “for it is by faith that we are saved and not by good works.”
How about the man on the cross next to Jesus? He was saved right then and there without having done anything to earn it.
To begin with, no man can earn his way to heaven. Only God can do that for us. As for the repentant man on the cross, God sees the heart. Jesus knows if the man has a rightful place in His kingdom. Besides, the repentant felon exhibited an innate sense of remorse and compassion that was clearly evident when he said:
“But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise’” (Luke 23:39-43).
Who Then Will Be Saved?
During the course of our mortal existence, we are bound to make mistakes, as nobody is perfect except God Himself.
But what separates true believers from the rest is their commitment to critically evaluate their actions through the lens of God's words.
They exhibit a profound sense of remorse whenever they engage in sins that God considers vile and repulsive. Additionally, they do not wallow in the depths of sin since the Holy Spirit convicts them and prompts them to change their ways.
Thus, the man who is riddled with flaws and yet strives every day to transcend his moral failings and defects out of reverence and love for God will be saved. Despite occasional failures and stumbles, he remains steadfast in obeying God. Thus, demonstrating his unwavering faith in the Messiah to whom he owes his salvation.
The Right to Offend and Be Offended
Unlike what the world wants us to believe, we have “the right to offend.” It is critical, however, that we approach this with gentleness to avoid alienating unbelievers.
The Word of God is meant to offend us as it runs counter to the natural inclinations of the flesh. We are meant to be offended by God’s truth since it clashes with our inherent tendency to sin. The Holy Scriptures encourage us to look at things through the lens of God's words and reevaluate our preconceived notions of right and wrong. In essence, it is meant to push us outside our normal boundaries and compel us to respond to God's call with faith and obedience.
Below are just a few sinister ideologies our world embraces today that we must shun without exception:
-All sexual immorality
May the following Bible verses serve as our warning:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV)
“Having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” 2 Timothy 3:5
We are not to judge, for we are all sinners, but there can be no love for a sinner without hating sin itself.
If you profess to love those who have strayed from God’s path, they must be shown the error of their ways out of genuine love. This will prevent them from spiraling further into self-destruction.
We must love and pray for those who espouse worldly ideologies. Nonetheless, be careful not to be influenced by them. Even believers can be easily swayed by false doctrines.
Words of Comfort
Having truly accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit will dwell within you, convict you whenever you sin, and enable you to do God's will.
We will get to heaven not through our efforts but because of Jesus' work on the cross.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Digitalskillet
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