How to STAY Saved
Vol: 30 Issue: 20 Wednesday, December 20, 2017
I have heard so many different arguments slamming the doctrine of eternal security as a false doctrine and a doctrine of demons leading people to hell that I am surprised that, outside of Vatican teaching I’ve never found a serious book, or column, or article, or ever heard a sermon explaining from the Bible how a person STAYS saved.
Allow me to inject a few qualifiers before going on. The Catholic Church has codified an entire outline of duties necessary to stay saved, beginning with an infant’s salvation at baptism.
Once the infant is baptized into Catholicism, the infant remains saved until it sins for the first time.
(Infants who die without being baptized don’t go to heaven. Instead, they go to a place called “limbo”).
After a baptized infant achieves the age of accountability and then sins, that child is lost again. In order to be resaved, the church provides a series of sacraments after baptism; confession, communion, confirmation, matrimony, Holy Orders and extreme unction.
A sinner goes to confession weekly to have his sins forgiven. Then he must attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Failure to keep this obligation means one is lost again. Failure to receive communion once a year means one is lost again. Failure to attend church on Easter is even worse.
One must go to confession in these cases to be re-saved.
Matrimony is a sacrament. Divorce is forbidden. Remarriage is adultery. For divorce, there is no forgiveness. Unless one’s first marriage is officially annulled by the church, one is excommunicated and forbidden access to the saving sacraments.
(An annulment allows one to be unexcommunicated and resaved. Otherwise, both parties are adulterers and bound for perdition.)
One enters into the sacrament of Holy Orders by becoming a priest. Deciding that being a celibate priest is not for you is a mortal sin. Unless you fake it. But if you quit, you go where the adulterers are.
And extreme unction means “last rites.” Regardless of what one believes, if one receives extreme unction, even shortly after death when it is no longer possible to repent, one can be re-saved.
So, when I speak of a dearth of articles, books or columns explaining how to STAY saved, I necessarily exclude Catholicism. (Catholics have to be resaved regularly.)
I’m not beating up on Catholicism. It is what it is. What I have just outlined is true. If it sounds ridiculous, that is because it is all written down in the same place. Mix it in with Bible doctrine and spread it out a bit and it doesn’t sound so bad.
Indeed, one can find some of these elements in almost all of the mainstream Protestant churches. Most (but not all) of the mainstream Protestant denominations will let you stay saved even if you don’t follow all the rules.
But what if you aren’t a Catholic, or even a Protestant? What if you are just a plain ol’ garden variety believer? What if you don’t belong to a particular denomination? What if you aren’t even a member of a church?
How do you stay saved?
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost:” (Titus 3:5)
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began . . .(2 Timothy 1:9)
It seems nearly impossible to address a question like “how does one stay saved?” without first handling the question, “How does one get saved?” Catholics, who like to call non-Catholics “separated brethren” (“heretic” evidently sounds harsh) are saved by their church membership at baptism.
What about the so-called “separated brethren?” How do they get saved? (“Oooh! Oooh! Pick me! I know!“)
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast..” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
If you are a sinner then you have earned the wages of sin, which is eternal separation from God in hell. But the Bible speaks of both wages, which describes payment due in exchange for work, and a gift, which describes something unearned and unmerited.
At Christmas, I give my children gifts. They don’t have to do anything to get gifts at Christmas. I was a kid once. I remember what it was like to unwrap gifts.
Now I am a father (and grandfather) and I know what it is like to give gifts. When I give them gifts at Christmas, it isn’t so much for them as it is for me. I KNOW that they get less joy from unwrapping them than I do from watching them unwrap them.
On the other hand, in order to buy them gifts, I had to go to work and earn the money to pay for them. I only got paid for the hours I worked and no more. BUT I got paid for the hours I worked and no LESS. Nobody cared if I liked my wages. Nobody got any joy from seeing me peer into my pay envelope.
I never really had to wonder what I had to do to stay employed. I just had to keep showing up for work on schedule and do my job well for the whole shift and I would stay employed.
So, the Bible tells us the wages of sin is death, and wages are something that is earned by one’s work. The Bible tells us that salvation is an unearned, unmerited gift of grace which one cannot work and cannot earn, since it is a gift.
If one could earn it, it would be wages. If one worked for it, then one would have bragging rights.
People have a tendency to brag about what they earn — they don’t credit the employer with kindness. They credit themselves for being worth it.
On the other hand, people seldom brag about a gift — any credit for a gift goes to the giver, not the recipient. They might express appreciation, they might tell their friends what a great guy you are for giving it to them, but receiving a gift doesn’t trigger a pride response. It triggers a humble response.
Back to Christmas. My kids don’t have to do anything to be invited for Christmas. They are supposed to be there. And if they can’t make it, their gifts will be there when they do make it.
The moment I write a name on the tag, that gift belongs to that person. Not when they show up to get it. Not when they unwrap it. Not when they begin to use it. It is theirs when I write their name on the gift tag.
They are my kids. What do they have to do to stay my kids? Do they have to follow rules of conduct? They do if they want to be in fellowship with me. But their conduct plays no role in their status as my kids.
I could have a child that won’t speak to me — I have friends who suffer from that unimaginable pain. But whether or not a child wants to be my kid is irrelevant to whether or not he actually is. Try using “my kid hates me” as an excuse for not paying child support.
So, what does it mean for a person to be saved? The Apostle Paul likened it to being adopted by a loving father.
“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
“Abba” is what Jewish children call their father — it is the English equivalent to “Daddy.” Under Jewish tradition, a natural child can be disowned by his parents for cause, but not so for an adopted child.
So, a person that is “saved” by church membership can lose that salvation by failing to keep certain obligations. If there are obligations attached, then whatever proceeds forth from those obligations cannot logically be called a “gift” can it?
And failing to keep those obligations can result in excommunication in which the church (and theoretically, God) disowns you.
There are those that can argue that a person can lose his salvation by bad works. Ok.
That’s like arguing I can lose my employment by doing a bad job. But then they also argue that they are not saved by their good works, but by grace.
(I tried to think of an illustration for that, but I can’t come up with one that sounds logical.)
How to get saved isn’t that difficult a question. It was asked and answered in twenty-one words.
“. . .Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. . . ” (Acts 16:30b:31a)
How to stay saved is even less difficult. . .
“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Featured Commentary: A Singular Celebration ~Wendy Wippel