Christians hope in the promise of salvation. But is making a one-time decision for Christ all that is necessary to attain salvation?
So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36)
It is very easy in today’s world to expect things NOW.
I’ll show my age a bit here, but the microwave came in vogue when I was still a child living at home. It was amazing to me that we could reduce the time of meal or snack making at home to mere minutes.
Technology has brought many such shortcuts to our lives. We have become used to instantaneous results from our decisions.
It seems that in some parts of the church, some are applying that expectation to salvation. In some corners we’ve reduced it to a simple decision and then we believe we have done all that is needed to ensure our salvation.
However, if salvation is simply making a decision, why does the Bible tell us so often that following Christ requires endurance? Why is discipleship a journey?
Why are there so many verses warning us about falling away, as today’s passage does?
It’s because the promise of salvation looks to a future event. Meaning, we don’t have it yet. Let me explain.
Saved and Salvation are Distinct
There is a difference between making a decision for Christ and having salvation. Some who claim Christ seem to treat these two concepts like they are the same thing. There is a connection, but the condition of “being saved” and “salvation” are distinct.
A good point of reference for this is Romans 8:18-25. Because we can see the relationship and understand better that the promise of salvation is our hope for the future.
Here, Paul is telling us about looking forward to the day when our salvation will be revealed. He speaks of “that future day” when God will show who are His children.
The hope we have in this future day was given to us, according to Paul “when we were saved”.
Paul seems to be separating “salvation” from when we were “saved”. So where is the distinction?
When we have made the choice to repent of our sins and follow Jesus Christ in all things, at that moment we enter into the promise of inheritance.
Here is an amazing thing; we are also at that moment considered part of the family of God. And we are supplied with the Holy Spirit as a seal of that decision. In that moment we are “saved”.
Paul describes the indwelling Holy Spirit as a “foretaste of future glory”. He is God’s down payment on eternity, therefore we enjoy some of His blessings as inheritors now. But we have not received our full inheritance yet, even though we made a decision to follow Christ (Ephesians 1:11-14).
God blesses us by giving us the rights of being in God’s family in advance of our salvation. Until we have received it, we are in line to inherit the promise of salvation.
But since our decision for Christ made us inheritors, that settles it, right? Shouldn’t that be the end of it?
No. Our decision for Christ is not the end of the story. It is the beginning.
Can Someone Lose their Promise of Salvation?
I know we’re entering into touchy territory here, with eternal security being a doctrine that has driven wedges into entire groups of believers and denominations.
I don’t know exactly how the doctrine of eternal security is stated in proper theological language, but I do not believe in “once saved always saved” as the shorthand for this doctrine has been called. But I certainly believe in a type of eternal security.
I believe in eternal security, as stated this way: God’s salvation is complete and fully trustworthy for any person to receive. We can have full confidence that God has paved the way and is prepared to give us what He has promised us. His salvation will not fail and is freely offered to all.
But based on how I read the Bible, eternal security does not mean that once a person has made a decision to follow Christ, it’s done, finished, complete. The Bible clearly demonstrates that people make decisions to follow Christ, but at some point decide they can’t or won’t continue.
One typical answer from the “once saved always saved” viewpoint is that if someone falls away from Christ, that they weren’t really saved to begin with. But that doesn’t square with the idea that Christ sends us the Holy Spirit when we have repented and chosen to follow Christ.
That person was saved – but had not inherited salvation yet.
The Covenantal Nature of Salvation
God does set conditions to inheriting salvation. This is different from saying we have to earn our salvation, because we can’t earn something that has already been paid for by Christ.
But God does have every right to place conditions on us. There is a promise of salvation, but we do have an end to keep.
The Old Covenant was enforced through the Hebraic sacrificial system for sin atonement. Salvation through Jesus Christ is the New Covenant, which was established through Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 10:11-12).
A covenant requires certain things from both parties for it to be in force. It is conditional on both sides meeting their obligations for the covenant to be upheld.
God has not failed to keep up His end. His Son established the New Covenant with His own blood (Luke 22:20).
It is clear from the Bible that making a one-time decision to repent of our sins and follow Christ does not completely fulfill our end of the Salvation Covenant with God.
So what’s our end? Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms.
Upholding Our End
First we need to repent of our sins, acknowledging Christ as the only way of salvation, and surrender our life to Him.
Second, we are to be obedient to Christ (Matthew 7:21). This is the mark of a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Christ gave us many commands to follow, but they can all be summed up in the greatest command and the one like it – to love God with all that we have, and to love our fellow human beings.
Third, we are to endure to the end of our lives (Matthew 10:33). If we choose to turn away from the covenant by openly rejecting Christ or by leaving the path of obedience to pursue our own path of pleasure, sin, and ignoring Christ’s teachings, then we should not expect to see our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27).
One of the best ways to help ensure we stay on the path towards the salvation we have been promised is to walk in the key disciplines of our faith. By abiding with Christ daily, He will give us the fruits of the spirit and empower us to continue in endurance to the end.
God in His mercy also promises that if we do fall away, if we then come back to Him in repentance and obedience, we can be restored to the body of Christ. This is not a “free pass” to do as we please for a while and decide sometime later we’ll make it right with God. Jesus warns us against playing that dangerous game (Luke 12:15-21).
Repent of your sins, follow Jesus Christ in obedience, and then continue to do so, and you will have full hope of inheriting the promise of salvation.
More verses about the enduring to receive the promise of salvation:
John 15:1-8; Romans 8:13; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Colossians 1:21-23; 2 Timothy 2:12; 2 Peter 3:17; 2 John 1:8-9