This question, perhaps above all others, has caused contention and division within the body of Christ – His church – for the better (or worse) part of two thousand years.
Are we saved at the moment we believe? The moment we repent? The moment we confess Christ as Son of God? The moment we are baptized? The moment we receive the Holy Spirit?
It’s important to those who want to be contentious and divisive because the moment at which one is saved may be the key to which aspect of our salvation they wish to promote above all the rest – as if one were more important than the others; or as if the steps along the path toward God in Christ must be taken in a certain order; or as if taking a certain number of steps is all up to us and does not involve grace at all until after we alone have taken them ….
It’s important to them so they can establish their own beliefs as uniquely right, correct, and holy – and their own fellowship sharing those beliefs to be uniquely approved by God and saved, and all others heretical and condemned to hellfire.
May I suggest that Jesus describes the moment we are saved in Matthew 25?
That it’s the moment when the Master, the King – when Jesus Himself – either says “Well done, good and faithful servant!” or “Throw that worthless servant outside into the darkness!”?
That it’s the moment when HE decides, not when WE decide?
That it’s the moment culminating all the moments between “the hour I first believed” (Amazing Grace) and “the hour of my departure for worlds unknown” (Be With Me, Lord)? All the decisions we have made; the choices we’ve chosen; the steps we’ve taken; the acts of obedience and gratitude and trust in His grace that we have shown – all in partnership with God and Christ through the Holy Spirit?
That’s what I’d like to propose.
So, am I suggesting that we cannot know until then whether we are saved?
Yes, that is exactly what I am suggesting.
However, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is our seal of redemption (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30); we can approach God with confidence by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 10:19).
We believe that grace is real, and that is called faith not knowledge.
Through faith we are saved:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— Ephesians 2:8
… and that faith itself is not even wholly our doing; it is the gift of God.
So, am I suggesting that we have nothing to do with the process?
No, not at all! Our willingness to extend our faith – to believe, to stop pursuing evil and self and begin pursuing good and God, to confess His Son for Who He IS, to immerse ourselves in the water of living His life in this world by the power of His Holy Spirit – is absolutely essential to a salvation that begins in this life and never ends. As we receive His grace, we extend it to others; become channels of that blessing to those around us. We feed the starving; give water to the parched; show hospitality to the homeless; look after the sick; visit the imprisoned. We demonstrate that God cares about the whole person; in this life as well as the next.
That point of view takes the emphasis off of a minimalistic “five-steps-and-you’re-done” salvation. It restores the fullness of the gospel lived out rather than just intellectually acknowledged in a reduced-calorie recipe for redemption which has no salvific value at all if not demonstrated daily instead of displayed once on a Sunday in a church and fondly recalled as the-day-I-was-saved-so-that-now-I-can-go-back-to-living-the-life-I-want-to-live. That may be the moment our salvation begins, but it is certainly not the be-all-and-end-all of it.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ~ Galatians 2:20
We can have absolute confidence – faith – in what Christ has done, even when we have lost faith in the flesh and in checklist-salvation and even in ourselves; our own ability to be-good-all-the-time-and-do-all-the-right-things-and-believe-all-the-correct-beliefs-and-obey-all-of-the-church-rules.
One more time: it is our faith in Him which saves us; not in ourselves.
But remember: it was His faith in us which led Him to the cross on our behalf.
And that deserves our whole-hearted, life-long response of faith, gratitude, and worship. It means being prepared, with lamps expectantly trimmed. It means knowing the Master’s desire for a return on his investment, and His faith in us as re-investors of the deposit He has made on our salvation. It means that faith-in-the-living separates the sheep from the goats.
That kind of service will bear fruit for His kingdom, bring others and ourselves closer to Him – and it will not go unrewarded; it will inevitably lead to the moment we are saved.
That’s the message of Matthew 25.
You can have confidence in it.
10 thoughts on “At What Point Are We Saved?”
Rarely do I disagree with you friend, but I must this time.
Perhaps I have misunderstood. You stated “So, am I suggesting that we cannot know until then whether we are saved?
Yes, that is exactly what I am suggesting”
There are several passages I could cite that teach the opposite but the clearest is found in 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” And then in verse 20, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life”
I do agree with you that the moment in time is not that important. What is very important is this. Today are we trusting in Jesus Christ and do our lives fit the template of the book of 1st John? If either answer is “no” or unsure then we should take personal inventory (2 Cor 13) and get right with God.
Well, I could say much more, but I can say I “know”. But I am quick to say that my “knowing” depends 100% on the faithfulness of God and I can claim nothing but the merit of Jesus.
I love you and respect you even though this time I respectfully disagree.
Keith as you probably already know I agree with this post wholeheartedly.
Why do I agree with you? because you agree with what Jesus said in John.
Jhn 12:47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
Jhn 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
As Jesus said his mission was not to Judge, so no one has been judged, saved or lost, but he also said that day will come, but not yet.
I am not convinced that the John of 1st John is the same John as the apostle who Jesus loved. But if it is, I believe he is saying we can have confidence if we do as Jesus taught, until the last day comes.
I hate it when someone comes to me with “do you know if you are saved” it just seems really arrogant to me to take the judgement out of God’s hands.
Most if not all these people will say we are not judged by the work we do, not realizing that is exactly what they are saying. “I have already been saved, because of what I did” they will nearly faint when you accuse them of doing exactly what they are so against. Oh no we are saved by grace alone, yet when you ask why everyone is not saved by that same grace, they will come up blank.
Good post bro. and absolutely biblical.
Let me add, no one will be saved except by the grace of God.
I too must disagree with you on this post. There is no more firm a foundation in scripture than salvation by grace through faith in Jesus as Christ. Should you require more, do you not run the risk of placing man’s reasoning above the plan that God has worked out prior to the foundation of the earth?
I believe that there is nothing I can do to merit my salvation. You say that it is what I do with my life that will decide my salvation. Jesus Himself on the cross said ‘it is finished’, the sacrifice was made and done. Jesus also said “he that believes and is baptized shall be saved”. I do not hear maybe in either of these statements.
Ephesians 2:7-9 (New American Standard Bible)
7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Notice in verse 8 Paul says “you have been saved” at what point were these folks saved? I do not know the exact moment, but I am sure it was not on their day of judgement as in Matthew 25.
Your salvation rests on Jesus Christ or your ability to live a life worthy of salvation. You can’t have both!
Respectfully, Kenny and Royce, I still maintain that the moment we “know” we have been saved is when Jesus says so.
The writer of 1 John talks a lot about how we can “know” things, but he still speaks of “knowing” in the context of faith. It is not experiential knowledge (“my left hand hurts”) or empirical knowledge (“the sky is blue”); it is knowledge based in faith.
Kenny, I don’t believe I said anywhere that our salvation depends on what we do with our lives. Salvation was accomplished at the cross, but while we can have confidence in Christ’s promise and need not doubt it, it is not knowledge.
Let me put it this way: If you hold a winning ticket, you “know” that you have won a lottery. However, your knowledge is not complete – is not reality – until the check is handed to you. Until then, you can throw away the ticket, lose it, lose your memory of it, etc. If the lottery organizers ask you to meet them at their offices, you don’t wait around at home for them to show up there. Instead, you do next what you do out of gratitude, trust and expectation – they may provide the ride to their offices, even the pen to sign the check. But you’ve won when they say so.
What we do with our lives is a part of our ongoing salvation; but it’s not like we do it alone. We do it in partnership with God through the Holy Spirit in us. It is no longer we who live, but Christ living in us.
Kenny said “Your salvation rests on Jesus Christ or your ability to live a life worthy of salvation.”
Maybe we should just leave it up to Jesus to decide, who has lived a life worthy of salvation.
Brother Keith, I am reminded of a post you wrote about 3 years ago, in which you emphasized the fact that salvation is not something that can be pinpointed in time. Rather, it is something that has happened both ”already and not yet.” It is spoken of in scripture in all three tenses, past, present, and future. I thought that was a great post and still maintain that salvation is primarily a transformation process.
i believe i’m with mmlace on this one. salvation is a process, and all of the above are possible correct answers. if i understand correctly (and i may not), salvation is described in the new testament as having already occurred, presently occurring, and occurring in the future.
so salvation won’t be realized in its most complete form until the kingdom arrives in its fullness. at that point we will “know fully as we are known” and faith will no longer be present or needed. so, keith, i can go with you to some extent — in that i will not know fully my salvation until perfection comes.
but at the same time, the HS was given me as a deposit. and i think his presence allows me to have full and confident expectation of glorification, having already received justification and presently experiencing transformation.
so i believe pinpointing salvation is a fruitless effort — because it happens over time. and i believe looking at baptism or confession, etc, as THE point in which salvation comes or as THE proof of one’s salvation is a horrible mistake. rather we should look at whether or not the Spirit is present in one’s life — are we becoming more obedient? do we look more like JC?
i think this also serves to address the issue of whether or not salvation “depends on what we do with our lives.” in the separation of the sheep and goats, they are separated based on their works. could those works simply be the outworking of transformation in one’s life — and therefore proof of salvation?
[if i were ever forced to place salvation on a single point in time (and i don’t think that’s a fair question), i’d have to say the point at which Jesus rose from the dead.]
Mat 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Jam 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
Jam 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Keith, I agree you did not say that our salvation depends on what we do with our lives, however the text in Matthew 25 when used in conjunction with your argument did make that statement don’t you agree? Matthew 25 speaks to the acceptance of man by God living at a time when there was judgment by law as the only avenue to God. We now thanks to the cross have the acceptance of God enabled by the cross through the grace granted by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 3:23-25 (NASB)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
The lottery ticket analogy is a good one, I differ with you though as to when I have won. I feel that I have won when I have fully accepted the Lord Jesus as my Savior, and when we joined in baptism I have signed all of the papers I need to sign for my winnings. In all truth if I sign the papers with the lottery commission what makes you believe that the full money will come to me over the 20-30 years that I am to draw it? You just accept that on faith based on your evaluation of the lottery commission and their past dealings with other winners and call it knowledge. I on the other hand have a past with God that has proved over and over to me that He is what He said He is and does what He says He will do to the absolute point that I no longer live by faith but by certain knowledge that all that I believed is true and will come to be. I have no reason to doubt that what god has said can ever be altered by any power on earth or in the Heavens. Timothy 1:12 (NASB )
12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
Paul also seemed to be convinced. The following is from Dictionary.com
knowl·edge /ˈnɒlɪdʒ/ Show Spelled[nol-ij]
1. acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition: knowledge of many things.
2. familiarity or conversance, as with a particular subject or branch of learning: A knowledge of accounting was necessary for the job.
3. acquaintance or familiarity gained by sight, experience, or report: a knowledge of human nature.
4. the fact or state of knowing; the perception of fact or truth; clear and certain mental apprehension.
5. awareness, as of a fact or circumstance: He had knowledge of her good fortune.
6. something that is or may be known; information: He sought knowledge of her activities.
7. the body of truths or facts accumulated in the course of time.
I see most definitions as having gained knowledge when you have found a basis in history or action related to a certain item or object you can form a knowledge that no longer leaves a feeling of uncertainty to any said action or item.
When I will be absent from the body I will be with Christ, and while I am presently in the body I am with Christ having been joined to Him. I am presently spending my winnings as I walk this life giving Glory to God as it is He that acts through me and directs my walk. I no longer have any doubt in His faithfulness and Truth, having that knowledge by which John writes in 1 John 1 that they saw Christ, heard Him and touched Him. He is real as John declared to all when he wrote to tell them: Don’t worry You are saved!
” I feel that I have won when I have fully accepted the Lord Jesus as my Savior, and when we joined in baptism I have signed all of the papers I need to sign for my winnings.”
In other words your actions are what saved you. ?