Just How Hard Is It to Be Saved?

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About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
—Acts 16:25-34 ESV

…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
—Romans 10:9-11 ESV

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
—John 6:44 ESV

Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
—1 Corinthians 12:3 ESV

I like to follow trends in the Church and in the Christian blogosphere. One trend that is gaining power attempts to tell who’s in and who’s out by questioning if some people who think they’re saved really aren’t. Jesus Saves barnAny consistent readers of Cerulean Sanctum will know that on more than one occasion I’ve quoted Leonard Ravenhill asking if only 2% of professed Christians are truly born again. So even here there’s been some of that same rhetoric.

John Piper has a new book out called God Is the Gospel and it’s stirring up controversy about this very topic of how one is saved. Over at Old Truth, there was a post about decisional regeneration that adds fuel to the fire.

The debates about who’s in and who’s out rage, but I have to wonder if we are making it too hard. Look at the four verses posted above, for instance.

In the case of the jailer, look how simple his conversion was. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved. Did the Lord draw him? Yes, in the middle of despair, the Holy Spirit was drawing him. Did Paul ask anything of him other than to believe? Not that’s listed here. Nor does Luke list anything different said by Paul than what the apostle himself outlines in the Romans passage above.

We can try to second-guess God on this, piling up other requirements, but isn’t that adding to the Gospel? If someone confesses with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, why is there reason to believe that God has not drawn that person?

My confession is that I’m a Lordship salvation person. Have been for a long time. But that puts me in the company of others who make coming to Jesus a real trial.

Perhaps the problem here is one of theological systems.

The Calvinist position is hard to hold because persistence of the saints becomes a problem. What do you do with people who profess Christ then seemingly fall away. The out for Calvinists is saying that those people never really were drawn by God in the first place and therefore never made a true profession of faith. But do the Scriptures above, when taken together, paint that picture? It sure doesn’t seem so. It certainly appears that someone can be drawn of God, confess Christ with their lips and believe in their heart and still have the possibility there for falling away. Saying they were never a Christian in the first place seems like a lazy out.

Those against decisional regeneration are confronted with the fact that the jailer responded not because he was confronted with the full measure of the Gospel, but because he was in despair. He was ready to be saved without hearing a full Gospel presentation. He didn’t say to Paul, “I’m a sinner under full conviction of the Spirit as He’s brought me to the foot of the cross!” His rationale was that his boss was going to kill him OR he was astonished at the miracle earthquake that made it possible for the apostles to leave. I know plenty of people who became Christians at a remarkably low point in their lives or because they were confronted with a miracle. Is their salvation null and void? Can God not use situations to draw people? Do the passages above say that?

A Lordship salvation person, like me, struggles for a couple reasons. One is that I’m forced into an Arminian position, even though I don’t want to ascribe to it, simply because I have to struggle with the same issue as the Calvinists: what to do with people who fall away. The other is that the verses above do not say anything about the actual living out of the Lordship of Christ in one’s life. It’s assumed, obviously, but the question must be asked then if the process of Lordship begins at conversion and progresses, or is completely in place at conversion. The former makes salvation progressive while the latter makes it instantaneous. A quandary, obviously.

I could go into great deal about how all the other views on this struggle, but that doesn’t provide a solution to the original question: are we adding too many qualifiers to a person’s coming to Christ?

I would truly like to hear what other people think about this. Just how hard is it to be saved?

26 thoughts on “Just How Hard Is It to Be Saved?

  1. Gina

    As usual, this is a very timely post. I recently purchased, “Hard to Believe” by John MacArthur at the recommendation of one of the commenters on my blog. While, I agreed with a lot of things he said, I found his presentation to be less than loving. Perhaps even harsh at times.

    Regardless of the validity of lordship salvation, I don’t know why so many people are eager to judge who is and who isn’t saved.

    In my opinion, salvation is not necessarily easy. However, I don’t think its as hard as MacArthur would have us to believe. I do agree that the trend in modern evangelical Christianity is towards a more inclusive feel-good message that does not place enough emphasis on sin and repentance. But, I don’t think its fair to judge the sincerity of people who come forward in a altar call or raise their hand during an invitation. They may or may not be sincere. That is between them and God.

    I think its good to examine one’s heart and to “make your calling and election sure.” However, I think taking lordship salvation to the extreme only serves the purpose of making people fearful about the assurance of their salvation.

  2. I think you may be mistaken about the Calvinist position. Perseverance of the saints does not mean that one must persevere to be saved, but rather that one who has been saved will persevere. Now I realize that you already expressed your position that those who fall away after “believing” are or could be regenerate, even while living a life opposite to Christ’s will. Since any level of sin can harm a person’s relationship to God, not even a good Calvinist will categorically write a person off as unregenerate. However, the “once saved always saved” teaching has come to include a “backsliding” clause – something the New Testament leaves little room for.

    To accept a “decisional regeneration” position, you must deny more than just perseverance. The total depravity of man must fly out the window as well (“there is none that seeks after God”). You assume heavily that motive had anything to do with the jailer’s salvation. Yes, God does use predestined events to draw His elect. And yes, from a human standpoint there are emotional responses involved. However, those are mere symptoms of the Holy Spirit’s drawing a person to God in the very act of regeneration (John 6:44; 6:65).

    As far as our human understanding is concerned, yes, we simply believe. God doesn’t tell us that an understanding of predestination or lordship is required at the moment our salvation begins. It really is very easy. The only complication comes by thinking that man has a hand in any part of it. Even the belief is a product of the Holy Spirit’s re-creating of our hearts.

  3. Anonymous

    I confess this is one of those moments when I wish I had not read as many books as I have although I have not read any of the ones mentioned. What if there was no such thing as Calvinism or Arminianism – what if they were never invented? Or any of the other labels we have for our variant theologies? In my ideal world we could talk about perseverence, predestination, lordship, regeneration and so on without being called a “Calvinist” or feeling like we had to be in any particular camp. I long to be able to come to scripture and to Christ afresh without the burden of 2000 years of debate to define the questions and categorise the answers. Maybe it is a pipe-dream but my quest at the moment is to unlearn my manmade theologies and break through to something purer without inventing another system of thought. Somebody has probably already given an “ism” name to this approach, too.

    This is not to belittle the importance of the question but it is humbling to know that more prayerful and experienced people than I have nailed their colours to every side of the theological mast and been convinced they were right – makes me want to jump overboard and take my chances in the deep.

    Thinking aloud as usual.

  4. KingofPop,

    No, I understand the Calvinist position. I was contending for the same explanation you gave. The idea that perseverance must occur in the saints, supports the contention that a Calvinist must either accept folks who confessed Christ once yet now have no evidence of fruit in their lives as if they are regenerate and backslidden or were never regenerate in the first place. Most I know go for the latter explanation, but that brings problems with taking these four verses on their face.

    In the case of decisional regeneration, the jailer did not seem to have any worries about his life of sin before the incident in the jail. Then he did. Anti-decisional people don’t like that kind of response because it’s too immediate. They want people to stew and squirm for awhile under a mounting conviction of a person’s own depravity. I don’t see that here. Another incident also points away from this position, the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip:
    And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
    —Acts 8:34-38 ESV

    That doesn’t fit the anti-decisional regeneration model, either. (Frankly, it also calls into question how the eunuch was discipled later on if he went back to Africa alone! But that’s another issue.)

    In fact, if you look at the conversions in Acts, they are different than the model that a lot of us see as ideal. Something to think about.

  5. Anonymous

    Being saved is simple.
    Living out the love for God granted to us in the new man at the time of our regeneration is difficult, and requires that we take up our cross every day.

    I think people should lighten up on busting on Piper for this book until they read it.

    The question forced by this discussion is only the question forced by 1 John. How do we know we’re saved? Well, salvation itself is not difficult, as faith is a gift from God. But just because salvation comes freely does not mean it comes with no effect. A truly regenerate person will be changed. Period. In what ways? I would recommend 1 John and Donald Whitney’s discussion of it in his book, How Can I be Sure I’m a Christian? What the Bible Says About Assurance of Salvation
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0891097724/qid=1127997459/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/104-1090994-7351157?v=glance&s=books
    .

    It seems to me that the question is not over how to be saved but how to know you’re a Christian. And the normal Christian life is supposed to be incredible — all else should be rubbish for the sake of knowing Christ.

    Dan, I appreciate your blog because God has given you a mind that values His word above theological formulations. So I can trust that when I read what you write, I will be directed to the eternal truths of the gospel.

    Grace to you all.

    Drew Sauder

  6. I think that you’re taking the passages only for what they specifically state. You’re not using the whole of the Scriptures you quoted to make an all-around good conclusion. Yes, there is a knowledge of one’s need and a “decision” to repent and believe. However, the other passages (like John 6:44) indicate that the only reason that happens is because of the Spirit’s act of regeneration. Since it is the Spirit Who also brings about perseverance, the eunuch probably did continue to grow until he died. After all, he already had the OT Scriptures to teach him as much as any Jew already knew about God. And was not the appearance of Philip the supernatural work of God in itself?

    As has been mentioned countless times, the issue is one of the sovereignty of God. Is He in control or can He be thwarted?

  7. fitzage

    Just because the Bible doesn’t specifically say in a specific passage (the eunuch and Philip, for example) that God drew him, does not mean that the Bible doesn’t teach that this is necessary.

    What did Jesus say? John 4:35-51 is especially telling here, especially comparing verses 40 and 44-45:

    “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

    “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—”

    Is Jesus negating in verses 44-45 what he just said in verse 40? No. Is he negating in verses 44-45 what he said in verse 40, and repeats in verse 47? No.

    Christ said that whoever believes in him will have eternal life, but he also said that this is not possible unless the father draws them. No matter what other verses don’t mention this last part, they work together with these verses.

  8. WOW! The comments are as good as the post itself!

    I have noticed however, that no commenter and also the original post, has taken up Hebrews 6.

    Does anyone think it might apply here in any sense?

  9. Josh Bonner

    I think the real debate with most of these discussions, is whether or not someone is a disciple or not, instead of salavation. So the question is can someone be saved without being a disciple?

    I think Romans 8, especially verse 16, might be the most telling on the subject of salvation. Problem is how can you tell a spirit filled person from one that isn’t?

  10. jared

    How hard is it to be saved?
    A character in Black Dog Man asks this very question of the missionary. The answer is that it’s not hard at all, and it’s also as hard as one sinless life and crucifixion.

    Divorced from the whole counsel of Scripture on the matter of salvation — setting aside for the moment the distinctions between justification and sanctification — the “confess and believe” passages imply “all you have to do is this formula” about as clearly as the bothersome passage in James implies we are saved by works.

    And of course I am compelled to point out that confession sounds like a work to me.

    I also think that “belief” in these isolated verses you’ve cited needs to be unpacked a bit more. Surely it means more than “intellectual assent,” and certainly it means more than “intellectual assent at the time.” Else you are advocating cheap grace.

    As for Hebrews 6, as a Calvinist I’ll be honest in saying I have no earthly idea what is going on in vv.4-6, but I do know that the author contrasts whatever it is with “things pertaining to salvation” in v.9. It seems to me, then, that we ought to take him (or her?) at his words that however incredible and intimate the experience he has just described is, it is not “salvation.”

  11. Becky

    Jared, you said: “but I do know that the author contrasts whatever it is with ‘things pertaining to salvation’ in v.9.” That contrast is between “ground that … yields thorns and thistles” (vv 7, 8) and the better things, things that accompany salvation that the writer is convinced are in store for the recipients of Hebrews.

    Which brings to mind Jesus’s parable of sowing seed. Some falls on rocky ground, some beside the road where the birds carry it away, some among the thorns and is choked out, then other on good ground.

    When Jesus explains the parable to his men, this is what he said about the thory part: “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Matt 13:22, emphasis added)

    How are we to explain this? Did the thorny-ground man profess faith but never really have it? Is he an unregenerate Christian or an unsaved pretender?

    All this becomes hard to us because of the “believe in your heart” phrase. It would be so much easier if it was just confess with your mouth. That would make it so black and white. But as it is, we need to trust God who knows the heart and stop judging (this is certainly clear in Scripture—no murkiness connected with Jesus’s statement in Matt. 7).

    In the same vein, however, is a need for us to preach relationship with our God. No healthy relationship stops with an introduction. And no relationship where two people spend a lot of time together stays distant.

    BTW, Jared, the passage you refer to in James does NOT imply that salvation is by works. Works is the proof of the puddin’, nothing more. “Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” It is the doing that proves the receiving, and the rest of the passage on into the next chapter with the “show you my faith by my works” discussion reinforces the point.

  12. Kim

    Excellent reading, Dan. You sound very much like my pastor.

    Btw, thank you for visiting my blog. I truly appreciated your views on home schooling. As one who has been (and will be soon) on both sides of the fence – with one in ps and two out of it – I find that drawing a line in the sand isn’t productive at all.

    God bless you.

  13. jared

    Jared, the passage you refer to in James does NOT imply that salvation is by works.

    You’re right. It actually flat-out says it:
    “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” — Jm. 2:24 (ESV)

    No wonder Luther called James “a right strawy epistle.”

    I’m a firm 5-Point Calvinist, so I agree that we are NOT saved by works. I only meant to demonstrate the danger in divorcing isolated passages from their context and the whole counsel of Scripture. Just as one can’t take Jm. 2:24 out of context and say we are saved by works, one can’t take one disciple’s words to an evangelized man and build a solid soteriology out of it.

    Speaking of context:
    The Hebrews passage is a complete unit. The “thorns and thistles” references proceeds from the previous talk of those falling away. So, yeah, the things pertaining to salvation is in contrast to the thorny ground; it is also the summation argument countering the preceding discussion, which includes the “falling away” people.

    Again, I’m a TULIP dude, so it should come as no surprise that I don’t believe those whom God has justified will get left behind. I believe He is the author and finisher of our faith, that he will be faithful to complete the good work He began in us, and that His Word will not return void in the case of the elect.

    Hope that clears up some of the “weird” parts of my previous comment. I do not believe in works salvation!

  14. Jared,

    The problem for “TULIP dudes” is in the “P” when you say that God is both the author and FINISHER of our faith, yet some people finish very badly.

    For those people who are not on the road to finishing well, what can that say about their salvation? In the post, those verses I have listed seem to make salvation easy. Believe and confess.

    But a lot of people don’t subscribe to that. They want to add things. The TULIP issue comes because that paradigm doesn’t seem to want to accept the simplicity of the equation in those verses without adding qualifiers. If a person doesn’t seem to be living out the practice of the faith, demonstrating “proof” of the seal of the Holy Spirit, the TULIP dudes can only come to two possible explanations: that the person wasn’t saved to begin with even if they did say they believed and confessed Jesus as Lord (as the verses say is all that is required) OR they are still saved despite the fact they aren’t living it out—or as it’s sometimes called, the “fire insurance” clause.

    Neither of those positions seems very strong in light of the Scriptures listed above and the Finisher passage you quoted.

    I’ve been encountering more and more blogs that are compounding the complexity of how we are saved. That’s why I’m posting this, BTW. If the verses I’ve supplied in my post don’t cover it, then I’ve got to wonder about all the variety of conversion experiences listed in Acts. If they’re not instructive, then what is their point?

  15. jared

    yet some people finish very badly

    I’m not sure what you mean by that. If you mean our journeys can be very messy and fraught with sin, I say well of course.
    If you mean “go to hell,” I say of course they weren’t saved, and I don’t think it’s only Calvinists who say people go to hell aren’t saved.

    In the post, those verses I have listed seem to make salvation easy. Believe and confess.

    What makes you think that is easy?
    This is why I mentioned “unpacking belief.” What do you think “belief” entails? Intellectual assent? Being convinced of the argument at the time?
    Do you think the Sinner’s Prayer is a magic formula or that salvation is about arriving at a logical deduction?
    I don’t think you do, and neither do I. In that sense, “believe and confess,” if you mean someone merely repeating the sinner’s prayer, etc., does not save at all.
    But if you mean a trusting in Jesus for salvation that is beyond intellectual assent, that’s saving faith.

    But the Bible says even our faith is a gift from God.

    I can’t avoid being a Calvinist in these matters, because I believe salvation is completely God’s gift and all we do — repent, confess, believe, perservere, etc. — is our response to that gift, all of it enabled by God.

    I humbly submit that you don’t fully understand TULIP.
    Perserverance is not salvific. It simply means that those whom Jesus has saved will be saved until the end. It doesn’t mean they will be perfect Christians or won’t sin or will be better behaved as they aged. It entails fruit, to be sure, but it is not “proof” of salvation so much as it is God’s promise in salvation. No one will be snatched from the Father’s hand. Nothing can separte us from the love of God, including ourselves.

    Do you believe that everyone who says the Sinner’s Prayer is saved? Do you believe that someone can go forward at church to “receive Jesus” and then from the next day forward live as though nothing had changed and be saved?
    I won’t deny it’s possible, simply because I don’t believe any work saves but Jesus’ work. God can save whom He pleases, and it’s not up to me to give him advice or figure out who’s in and who’s out.

    If the verses I’ve supplied in my post don’t cover it, then I’ve got to wonder about all the variety of conversion experiences listed in Acts. If they’re not instructive, then what is their point?

    To demonstrate the variety of ways one enters the kingdom? If they are instructive, which one do we pick? Which one is the magic bullet?
    Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions in response to the query “What must I do to be saved?”
    Are we to do that too?

    I can’t help but going back to TULIP. If salvation is God’s work, then it doesn’t matter what words you say or what you “do” to “get in.” All that matters is God’s grace and the faith through which we receive it.

    That’s why I say confession and belief are simple and they aren’t simple. They’re simple in the sense that we can’t earn salvation or work our way into it; they aren’t simple in the sense that confession and belief are SO much bigger than saying some words and intellectually assenting to a proposition.
    It’s a heart change. And I submit only God can do that.

  16. Becky

    Jared, you said: “I do not believe in works salvation!” You’re in good company, then, because James didn’t either. Sorry I missed your point about taking verses out of context. I certainly agree with that.

    As to the issue of salvation, Dan has presented two positions: that a person who professes faith but lives in opposition to God’s Word was either not saved or was saved regardless of his unchanged lifestyle. No one has commented on Jesus’s parable and the choking out of the seed by thorns. Where does that fit?

  17. jared

    Ack! I know James didn’t either. That was part of my point about decontextualizing verses or prooftexting them or making prescriptions out of descriptions, etc.

    As far as the parable “fits”:
    So much of this hinges on defining terms — salvation, kingdom, belief, confession — and even one’s understanding of what the parables were and how they functioned in Jesus’ teaching and ministry.

    Suffice it to say, I just don’t have the time to lay out all my thinking on those subjects at the moment. I’d say, superficially, that looking for “salvation,” as I suspect it is being thought of here, in that parable (or almost any parable, really) is not the best angle from which to proceed.
    I really think we ought to start with a good grasp of the Kingdom — what it was/is, how Jesus’ understood it, how Jesus’ proclaimed it and inaugurated it — and also the context of 1st century Judaism and its messianic expectations, before we interpret parables. They function within Jesus’ eschatological proclamation of the Kingdom (and Himself), and to retrofit a “confess and believe” decisional regeneration notion of “how to be saved” into any of them only starts us out on the wrong foot.

    In my opinion, of course.

  18. Broken Messenger

    Dan,

    Great discussion here. Given the length of my response I just converted it into a blog on my own site. I did leave you a trackback, however. Great post, btw, very good thoughts.

    Brad

  19. G. Ryan

    As a newcomer to this blog and as a former minister (voluntarily rescinded my credentials because I could not honestly support some of the beliefs of my church group) I have to say that I never cease to be amazed at how complicated we make things that God intended to be simple and uncluttered. Why does doctrine always have to become such an intrinsical part of our faith?
    Salvation is a work of God, not of man. “The eyes of the Lord search to and fro…” Ours is just to say, “Yes, Lord.” It is not to indoctrinate, constrict, or limit. The members of the Council of Jerusalem understood this clearly without hesitation or debate.
    Does it really matter what method or theology we view? They’re all incorrect to a degree. Why? Because salvation is a wonderful mystery, something even the angels don’t understand. How much less us, mere mortals!
    We are extremely blessed by having the opportunity to have fellowship with the Creator of the Universe. Why complicate it? Just accept it. Let your heart and actions and words be guided by the immense gratitude that Jesus gave you an “out.”
    Baruch Atah Adonai!

  20. Dan: yet some people finish very badly

    Jared: I’m not sure what you mean by that. If you mean our journeys can be very messy and fraught with sin, I say well of course.
    If you mean “go to hell,” I say of course they weren’t saved, and I don’t think it’s only Calvinists who say people go to hell aren’t saved.

    My father was a Lutheran seminarian, but dropped out. I know that at one point he was a devout man, but something happened. In the end, he drank himself to death. His body was so destroyed by alcohol when he died that the coroner took six weeks to come up with a cause of death and even then fudged his reply.

    My dad finished very badly.

    Standing away from all that, we have the theologians who would look at what happened to him and give a variety of answers as to what his eternal state is. What no one could dispute is that he definitely adhered to the verses in my post—at least sometime in his life.

    Some Calvinists would say that he was never saved because of how he finished. Other Calvinists would say that it is impossible to lose one’s salvation, no matter how badly he turned out, so he is saved if he genuinely believed once. Arminian’s would claim that he might have been saved at some point, but chose to walk away from that salvation. Some others might claim that it was the pain medications he took for almost ten years for crippling back injuries that fogged his mind and led to his demise, so how could he be held responsible for how he finished. And on and on…

    There is no blame on my part toward God for how my dad finished. Is it possible to reject God’s finishing work? Does true discipleship dictate sitting at the feet of Jesus and never leaving? Personally, I think it must. That is why I don’t like trying to establish where the boundaries of faith are. They are right in the center at the feet of Jesus. We were never meant to be anywhere else.

    Dan: In the post, those verses I have listed seem to make salvation easy. Believe and confess.

    Jared: What makes you think that is easy?
    This is why I mentioned “unpacking belief.” What do you think “belief” entails? Intellectual assent? Being convinced of the argument at the time?
    Do you think the Sinner’s Prayer is a magic formula or that salvation is about arriving at a logical deduction?
    I don’t think you do, and neither do I. In that sense, “believe and confess,” if you mean someone merely repeating the sinner’s prayer, etc., does not save at all.
    But if you mean a trusting in Jesus for salvation that is beyond intellectual assent, that’s saving faith.

    But the Bible says even our faith is a gift from God.

    I can’t avoid being a Calvinist in these matters, because I believe salvation is completely God’s gift and all we do — repent, confess, believe, perservere, etc. — is our response to that gift, all of it enabled by God.

    I humbly submit that you don’t fully understand TULIP.
    Perserverance is not salvific. It simply means that those whom Jesus has saved will be saved until the end. It doesn’t mean they will be perfect Christians or won’t sin or will be better behaved as they aged. It entails fruit, to be sure, but it is not “proof” of salvation so much as it is God’s promise in salvation. No one will be snatched from the Father’s hand. Nothing can separte us from the love of God, including ourselves.

    Do you believe that everyone who says the Sinner’s Prayer is saved? Do you believe that someone can go forward at church to “receive Jesus” and then from the next day forward live as though nothing had changed and be saved?
    I won’t deny it’s possible, simply because I don’t believe any work saves but Jesus’ work. God can save whom He pleases, and it’s not up to me to give him advice or figure out who’s in and who’s out.

    It’s easy in that there is nothing we can add. From the verses I posted it doesn’t seem to be a complex process from our standpoint. Obviously, God endured the hardship in salvation that we did not have to endure (and could not.) He did all the work and He does all the drawing of sinners to Himself.

    Yet the verses above (and all throughout the conversion narratives in Acts) don’t line up with some of what I see being advocated as the process by which someone is saved. The jailer had a desparation-type salvation experiences where he thought his life was over, only to receive the Good News. The Ethiopian eunuch’s salvation experience seemed to be more intellectual and calm. However, you read Jonathan Edwards and the preachers of his day stoking and stoking and stoking people, holding off until they thought they were truly ready, rank sinners wracked by their knowledge of their own sin. For a lot of Christians, that’s the gold standard for the beginning of the process of salvation. But then I don’t see that excrutiating process in the salvation of Cornelius and his household, or most of the other Acts narratives.

    Dan: If the verses I’ve supplied in my post don’t cover it, then I’ve got to wonder about all the variety of conversion experiences listed in Acts. If they’re not instructive, then what is their point?

    Jared: To demonstrate the variety of ways one enters the kingdom? If they are instructive, which one do we pick? Which one is the magic bullet?
    Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions in response to the query “What must I do to be saved?”
    Are we to do that too?

    I can’t help but going back to TULIP. If salvation is God’s work, then it doesn’t matter what words you say or what you “do” to “get in.” All that matters is God’s grace and the faith through which we receive it.

    That’s why I say confession and belief are simple and they aren’t simple. They’re simple in the sense that we can’t earn salvation or work our way into it; they aren’t simple in the sense that confession and belief are SO much bigger than saying some words and intellectually assenting to a proposition.
    It’s a heart change. And I submit only God can do that.

    We don’t disagree, my friend! There are a variety of ways the process happens. Still, as I mentioned above, some “experts” can’t recognize someone as being a Christian unless they go through the exact kind of experience that the “expert” claims is the only way.

    Is it possible to come to Christ by reading Rick Warren’s book? As much as I am no fan of PDL, I won’t rule it out. But some people will because that individual’s conversion doesn’t look like what they believe a conversion can be.

    Now, on the other hand, I suspect that a lot of the conversions chalked up to the church growth movement were non-events. But even then, I won’t go so far as to say they all were, like some “experts” claim. Stuart Briscoe once told me that he didn’t consider anyone a Christian until that person had walked with Christ for at least five years—and with demonstrable fruit. That’s a high standard, but I think he’s close to reality.

    Thanks for all the input. We are more on the same page than you know. 🙂

  21. Ted Gossard

    Scot McKnight on “Jesus Creed” has an interesting blog entitled: “What about Peter? When was he converted?” I can’t figure out how to link that site to this posting. But passages Scot has on his blog are Luke 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-9:1; Mark 14:66-72; John 21:15-20; Acts 2; Acts 10-11.

    The point there and in his book “The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others” is that it is debatable among Christians as to exactly when Peter may have been converted to Christ. One’s theology can determine or certainly influence their choice.

    I think that our systematic theologies make us think we know things that really are not revealed to us. These systems cannot give us foolproof assurance. Only God through his Word can really do that. Theologies are important as we try to accurately handle the Word of truth. But we need to hold to our theological formulations with humility, knowing only God’s inscripturated Word can be said to be God’s Word (of course along with the Word- Jesus).

    Having said that- as I noted above, this doesn’t mean we can’t have assurance of eternal life as we by faith are following Jesus.

  22. Countess Demetria

    I just found your blog tonight/this morning (haven’t been to bed yet. lol)

    I really like what you have written in your blog! I have saved it in my favorites and linked it to my blog in my blog links.

    I will be back often. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Have a Great Night!
    Heavenly Inspirations
    Countess

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