Are You Saved? — Scripture properly interpreted…

 Couldn’t keep myself from posting this much needed article by Vic Biorseth on the doctrine of salvation. Protestant and Catholic alike will benefit from this charitable, but, truth-filled piece. The fact is, Christ established one church on earth before his ascension into heaven, wherein He sits at the right hand of the Father, the Almighty. It’s my position that one of the great victories of that Father of Lies, Satan, has been the division caused by the Protestant Reformation; and just as there is to be found absolute truth concerning God and men, there is also absolute truth concerning the church that one true God founded. This article works towards discovering the will of divine truth concerning His Church from the beginning. For further information on the origin of your church, SEE: Denominations    

Are You Saved?

Vic Biorseth, Thursday, September 02, 2010
http://www.Thinking-Catholic-Strategic-Center.com

Ananias Baptizes Paul

“Are you saved” is the popular question, and “I know I am saved” is the popular joyful answer when faith-filled Protestants get together. But they view Catholics with a combination of fear, sorrow and puzzlement. When they ask the question of a Catholic, what they get in response, most times, is the deer in the headlights response – Catholics either don’t know how to respond to that, or, they just say yes, all Catholics are saved, or something similar. (Catholics are on shaky ground here, because this is an alien doctrine to them; it is a Protestant doctrine, not a Catholic one.)

A Protestant friend, who shall remain unnamed, always puzzles over how I never miss Mass on any Sunday or Holy Day, go to confession and extra devotions, my reading material is predominantly religious, I try to live a good Christian life, I argue doggedly for the faith of our fathers, and yet, I don’t even know whether I am saved or not. How can this be, he wonders. To him, it is so important to have this knowledge, this reassurance, this confidence in eternal life, that it is unimaginable how anyone with half a brain could not want to seek it and get it. And so, among the many topics we discuss, this one keeps somehow quietly coming back up, one way or another.

The question is “Are you saved?”, and my stock answer, which has become a knee-jerk, automatic response, is “I don’t know, because I’m not dead yet, I am not the judge of salvation, and neither are you.” I do try to make it not sound as brutal as the words look in print. But the fact remains that there is but one Judge of salvation, and none of us have anything to say about it. As much as I would like to just declare myself “saved” I don’t have the nerve to do it. It would take a lot of gall, because the True Judge is always listening. I await the Word and I pray for His mercy.

In the Protestant services my friend attends, the liturgy is quite simple and very moving and soul-stirring. It opens with some “gathering” hymns, followed by some Scripture reading that is almost participatory – people bring their Bibles, highlighters and take notes. The Scripture lessons evolve into Bible-based preaching of a high quality, which may go on for multiple hours. There are musical interludes here and there, and at some point toward the end there is an “Altar Call” in which the congregants are invited to come forward for special individual prayer with the minister or other “prayer partners.” It is here, most usually, that someone publicly “confesses Jesus” and is “saved.” It is here, it is in coming forward, and in the honest act of inviting and accepting Jesus as Master into one’s life, that one is “saved.” The service ends with some “going forth” hymns, through which the congregation is inspired and sent forth to spread the Gospel.

That’s the usual course of the salvation event; however, one can accept Jesus and be “saved” at any time, and there are many and varied stories of how various people came to recognize their own salvation. As a “life changing event” it is remembered in great detail, and Protestants enjoy taking turns telling their salvation story and listening to each other.

I ain’t buying it. Now, when I say that, it is not to say that these are not fully Christian, believing, decent people, who are devout worshipers of the one and only God upon Whom eternal life depends. They are on a different faith trail than we Catholics are on, but that faith trail may lead to the same eternal life we all pray for; our Lord knows for sure, and we know that He is a Lord of Mercy. To say that Protestants have been misguided is not to say that they have been damned. They honestly seek the Lord by the light they have been given, handed on to them by their faith tradition. Remember that the Samaritan woman at the well was also outside the traditional faith, and yet she was called to receive living waters of life.

Catholics who are properly catechized in their faith know that men are born anew through the Sacrament of Baptism, and they know this from the Baptismal discourse between Nicodemus and Jesus, in John 3. The main verses:

[3] Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
[4] Nicode’mus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
[5] Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
[6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
[7] Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.’
[8] The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.”

The key verse is, of course, verse 5, which says:

[5] Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Look closely at that verse, and tell me what that word “water” is doing in there. Our Lord was referring to the Sacrament of Baptism. Protestants like to gloss over that word, or take it out and not even quote it; but it is there, and has been from the beginning. It cannot be ignored.

My friend has made the rather feeble attempt to explain that born of water means born of the earth, with reference to the amniotic fluid that surrounds the unborn baby, while born of spirit means some other event like the Altar call discussed above. It’s a weak argument, because of all the Scriptural references to water as spiritually cleansing, purifying and transforming. Jesus offered His “living water” to the Samaritan woman at the well; water flowed from His side on Calvary; His own Baptism was a transformational event in the eyes of witnesses, who heard the voice of God and saw His Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

Every Baptismal event in Scripture was a transformational event. Every new Christian in the primitive Church entered by being born again through Baptism. The Ethiopian Eunuch was, spiritually speaking, born anew through his Baptism. And yet my friend insists that no Baptism, and no other Sacrament or liturgy or official event is needed for human salvation. It’s a do-it-yourself project.

What does the Catholic Church say, and what does Scripture, properly interpreted, say about it? Well, it seems we are “saved” in three senses:

  1. We are already “saved” by unwarranted Grace granted us by God, meaning that God has already acted on our behalf to save us;
  2. We are in the process of being saved, and our salvation is currently being accomplished in our lives; and,
  3. There is a salvation that awaits us in the future if we persevere in faith and works.

So in a sense, we are already saved, we are in the process of being saved, and we are to be saved in the future. All three.

And yet, we can have no assurance of salvation until we stand for judgment.

Salvation from the past:

[22] We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;
[23] and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
[24] For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
[25] But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Rom 8:22-25.

1] And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins
[2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.
[3] Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
[4] But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us,
[5] even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
[6] and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
[7] that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
[8] For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God —
[9] not because of works, lest any man should boast.
[10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Eph 2:1-10.

Salvation on-going:

[14] But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
[15] For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,
[16] to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
2 Cor 2:14-16.

[9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name,
[10] that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
[11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
[12] Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; [13] for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Phil 2:9-12.

[18] For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;
[19] in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison,
[20] who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
[21] Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
[22] who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
1 Pet 3:18-22.

Salvation in our future:

[8] But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
[9] Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
[10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
[11] Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation.
Rom 5:8-11.

[9] For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
[10] According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it.
[11] For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
[12] Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw —
[13] each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
[14] If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
[15] If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
[16] Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
[17] If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.
1 Cor 3:9-17.

[10] And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another.
[11] And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
[12] And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.
[13] But he who endures to the end will be saved.
[14] And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.
Matt 24:10-14.

 

So it’s a process, begun by the unmerited Grace of God, cooperated with by our own free will, subject to test and perseverance. Nowhere in Scripture do I find any single thing a man can do to absolutely confirm and seal his own salvation, of which he may be certain. Not even Baptism does that; one can fall away into sin and corruption after Baptism. How could anyone possibly describe a salvation event in his life of which he is certain that he has obtained positive final judgment from the Lord? Even Paul couldn’t do that, and he didn’t do it.

Now, Paul was knocked off his high horse and into the dust on the road to Damascus, and struck blind, by the Presence of the Lord. It had to be the awakening of all awakenings, the humbling of all humblings, and the altar-call of all altar-calls. It certainly got his attention. Was his salvation assured from that time on? No. Absolutely not. We see in Acts, after this event, after he changed his tune, believed and had faith, he still had to be baptized –

10] Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Anani’as. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Anani’as.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
[11] And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying,
[12] and he has seen a man named Anani’as come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”
[13] But Anani’as answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem;
[14] and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name.”
[15] But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;
[16] for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
[17] So Anani’as departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
[18] And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized,
[19] and took food and was strengthened. For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus.
Acts 9:10-19

 

And again –

[11] And when I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
[12] “And one Anani’as, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
[13] came to me, and standing by me said to me, `Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And in that very hour I received my sight and saw him.
[14] And he said, `The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth;
[15] for you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard.
[16] And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
Acts 22:11-16

 

Now, why would Paul need to be baptized and have his sins washed away if he was already saved? We have his warnings about over-confidence in being justified, as in:

[12] Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
1 Cor 10:12

[22] Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.
Rom 11:22

 

and elsewhere. He was even concerned that he might lose his own salvation, as he said here:

[25] Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
[26] Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air;
[27] but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Cor 9:25-27

 

Long story made short, I can state categorically that the Lord has given me salvation, that I am assured of my current state of salvation, but I cannot pronounce myself saved. There is only One Who can do that.

What I can say with certainty is that I am redeemed, that is purchased at a great price, by the blood of Christ shed for me at Calvary. I fully intend to cooperate with that redemption until the final call, but I am tempted every single day, and I cannot make any final statements about my own final judgment. My bags are packed, and I stand ready to go.

Right now, that is. I strive to always keep my spiritual bags packed and ready.

Where do you stand?

Respond to this article at the link below :
Are You Saved?

This article and comments may be found on the web site at the link below:
http://www.Thinking-Catholic-Strategic-Center.com

END OF POST

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