Thursday, October 20, 2011

So how ARE you saved?

As we saw in my last post, it is very easy to know that you are saved. Romans 10:9 tells you how to know 100% for sure:

1. Believe in your heart that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

2. Confess (declare your faith in) Jesus Christ as Lord (God).

It's that simple!

Now, understanding the details of exactly how God saves us gets more complicated. Why? Because theologians got involved!

Let's look at a couple of examples in the New Testament of sinners converting to Christianity; examples of sinners being saved:

First Example: the Ethopian eunuch

In Acts 8:37 Philip tells the eunuch how to become a Christian: "If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."

Second Example: The Philippian jailer

In Acts 16:31 The Philippian jailer asks Paul and Silus "What must I do to be saved?" Their response was: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved..."

That's it! Believe in Jesus Christ! Is that so hard?

Baptists and evangelicals may be surprised to learn that the Lutheran Church believes that the above converts to the Christian faith were saved when they believed!

Both men were baptized immediately after their conversion, but the Lutheran Church states that they were saved, children of God, upon the millisecond that they believed. If they had died before being baptized they still would have gone to heaven; they still would have been Christians!

The only difference here between most Baptists/evangelicals and Lutherans is that the first group would say that both of these men had made a free will decision for Christ, where the Lutherans would say that they believed because God had predistined them before the world existed to be His children and that he had quickened them upon hearing the Word of God, and upon being quickened they believed. Their decision had nothing to do with it. Spiritually dead men can't make decisions, remember?

However, that is all theology. Practically it doesn't matter whether you believe that you made a decision for Christ or if you believe that you believed because you were quickened (made spiritually alive) by God, the bottom line is that you believed in Christ as Lord. You were saved! Baptists, evangelicals, and Lutherans all agree on this point!

The Lutheran Church believes that, to this day, nonbelievers or "pagans", convert to the Christian faith in the same way as the Ethopian eunuch and the Philippian jailer: they believe in Christ.

A true believer will then follow God's command to be baptized but baptism is not absolutely  necessary for salvation.

The real controversy between the denominations begins when we start talking about how a person who grows up in a Christian home and has believed in Jesus since the time he or she could walk and talk, becomes saved.

I will discuss this subject in my next post.

5 comments:

  1. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware; the great modern-day Orthodox theologian; sums salvation up this way which I believe ANYONE can truly get behind:

    With God's grace, I am BEING SAVED.

    Salvation is a continuing process where human free will works in conjunction with Divine Grace while subjecting the flesh to that conjunction. When we use our free will to subordinate our mortal nature to the will of God; the mortification of the flesh brings about theosis.

    Sola fidei does not answer this completely because its 'mens rea' lacks 'habeas corpus'. Since we humans are both body & soul; the soul is IN the body while we are alive & departs when we draw our last breath; to be reunited in the second coming of Christ.

    This leads me to find Catholicism at fault in originating rapture theology with its doctrine of the Assumption of Mary. We Orthodox hold to her Dormition; her falling asleep in the Lord at the end of her earthly life. We proclaim she did experience mortal death while her soul was carried to heaven by Christ himself. The Catholic view of the Assumption arises out of Immaculate Conception; since their doctrine claims Mary was preserved from Original Sin, she was taken body & soul alive into heaven at the end of her days. Co-Redeemer she MAY ALREADY BE in the eyes of Catholics; so my honest-though-not-completely-humble opinion is if you haven't already closed the door with Catholicism; at least try to open a window with Orthodoxy...

    Martin Luther did in his lifetime. Remember in the movie LUTHER: "What about the GREEK Christians?" when they were waxing exegetical on Matthew 16:13-20 in Seminary...

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    1. Lutherans do not believe that salvation is a continuing process. God saves us in baptism as children or he saves a non-believing adult when he/she hears the Gospel preached.

      Salvation is not dependent on our works. Salvation is not dependent on us at all. Salvation is all God.

      This is the big chasm that exists between Lutherans and the Orthodox and Catholics. We are saved by faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone.

      Lutherans have a great deal of respect for Orthodoxy. We consider you our brothers and sisters in Christ. In our view, God saves the Orthodox because of your faith in Christ. Your belief, (unscriptural, in our opinion) that your works continue to help your salvation does not stand in God's way of saving you.

      I am not a Lutheran theologian or pastor, but in my opinion Orthodoxy and Lutheranism are probably closer to each other than Lutheranism and Catholicism.

      We do believe that Roman Catholics are our brothers and sisters in Christ, also. We have not given up on them. They have not yet proclaimed officially that Mary is the Co-redeemer. We should all pray that they never will.

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  2. See my last response for a summary of my thoughts on the first paragraph…

    [Gary wrote:]Now, understanding the details of exactly how God saves us gets more complicated. Why? Because theologians got involved! [end Gary]

    [Stephen’s response] I think that is a bit reductionistic. Paul goes to great lengths to explain salvation, and he did more than say “believe in Jesus”.
    Within historic orthodox (little o”) Christianity, the belief has always been that salvation comes to an individual because of the substitutionary death of Christ as the atonement for the sins of everyone who believes and the imputation of His perfect righteousness for their right standing before God.

    That is a “theological” response to “how are we saved” , but it is not adding to or complicating anything. It is simply summarizing Biblical teaching on the matter.

    Certainly there are some theological circles that get into minutia and overly complicate things, but if we take Scripture to be true, the Satan and all of his demons know who Jesus is, know what He did, and know what the point of it all is, yet they are not saved. I know what you mean when you say “Repent & believe” – that is actually a good summary of the response called for throughout the N.T., but for clarification’s sake, I think we have to be careful to not embolden those who say “I believe in God & Jesus” to think that that is all that there is to it.[end Stephen]

    [Gary wrote:]Let's look at a couple of examples in the New Testament of sinners converting to Christianity; examples of sinners being saved:[end Gary]

    [Stephen responds]Re: the Ethiopian eunuch, don’t forget that what preceded Philip’s answer to the question, He explained the passage of Scripture that the eunuch had been reading and explained/ interpreted it to Him. So the call for a response was grounded in His understanding of the truth – that we are all sinners who deserve the wrath of God because of our Sin, but this Jesus had come to the that price for us and reconcile us to God. (vs. 34 & 35)

    Baptists (SBC, anyway) also believe that repentance & faith are all that is needed to be saved. Baptism is an act of obedience, but like the repentant thief on the cross, if death comes before baptism, that person is still saved. Again, even in the SBC there is disagreement re: the role of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in matters of salvation, but all agree that at its root, the grace of God is the impetus behind every conversion. There are many, like myself, who have no problem attributing it to God’s election before the foundation of the world and His drawing, calling, and regenerating the elect so that they respond in repentance & faith[end Stephen]

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    1. I guess I'm not completely sure what the SBC believes is required for salvation. We agree with Baptists that simply believing that God raised Jesus from the dead and believing that Jesus Christ is Lord (God)is not enough. Satan and his demons believe all that.

      Romans 10:9 states that one must confess (publically profess) Jesus Christ as Lord (as YOUR Lord). Are you genuinely professing Christ as your Lord, your master, if you willfully intend to disobey his commmand to repent and turn from your sins? Lutherans would strongly encourage that "convert" to seriously evaluate whether he truly believes.

      In Acts 2:38 God says that the sinner must also repent and be baptized.

      Therefore the Lutheran Church believes that in salvation God commands/demands the following to occur:

      -have faith
      -believe
      -repent(turn away from a life of sin)
      -be baptized

      All of these verbs are action verbs. They all require the sinner to take an action. None of them are works. They are commands of God for any convert to the Faith.

      However, Lutherans believe that the ability to perform these actions do not come from a free will decision by the sinner, but they are gifts from God to the sinner. This is why salvation is a "free gift" as scripture says. Everything involved in salvation is given to us freely, without any strings attached, by God. It is ours!

      Lutherans believe that since God elected us to be his children (saved) before the world existed then we are saved the second that God quickens us and we believe. If before that sinner (who has just been quickened to believe by God) is able to utter the words "I repent" he is struck by lightening and dies, he will still go to heaven. He is a Christian.

      Lutherans believe the same is true for baptism. If the quickened sinner believes, but as he is walking to the river to be baptized, he is mauled and killed by a lion, he will still go to heaven, he is a Christian.

      Why do we believe this? Because it is God that saves. Salvation is not dependent on man, on his own free wil and actions. All the actions of having faith, believing, repenting and being baptized are supplied by God. If before all these actions are completed the convert dies, he will still be a Christian and on his way to heaven.

      My guess is that SBC Baptists would agree with this. Am I right?

      The controversy comes when we discuss how a person who has grown up in a Christian home and has loved and prayed to Jesus since they could walk and talk. How and when does God save them?

      My Reformed/Calvinist relatives say that the elect will just know that they are saved and will then make a public profession at some point in their lives. One does not need to know exactly when God saved you.

      Lutherans do not believe that the elect are born Christians as is stated in the Westminister Confessions. We believe that, just as in the Old Testament, there are two ways into the covenant. One from outside the Covenant by adult conversion as mentioned above, and one by being born into the Covenant and by birthright receiving the new circumcision which is baptism. But we will ask Pastor Cavness to comment on infant baptism under another topic/post.

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  3. I am sure this will come up later as i respond to baptism posts, but I'll offer this now...according to southern baptists...

    baptism, in the new testament was the "public profession" of faith. it wasn't seen as salvific, but a response to the command of Jesus in the great commission- publicly identifying themselves with Christ.

    If a person can "go to heaven" if they die before baptism, then it is not a part of the "ordo salutis".

    a personwho has not repented of their sin and trusted christ for forgiveness/justification before they die cannot / is not saved. this is not so with baptism. though it is a requirement for church membership * the lord's supper, it is not required to "be saved".

    that is not to say that baptism is unimportant or unnecessary in baptist life (obviously.... we are , after all,called "baptists") and someone who says they have been saved but refuses to be baptized would have their profession of faith questioned.

    but the baptist position on salvation is as follows:

    Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

    A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

    Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.

    B. Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

    C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life.

    D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

    pastor stephen cavness
    cave city baptist church
    southern baptist convention

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