One of the qualities of Christianity, is the assurance of forgiveness and salvation, in comparison with the insecurity experienced by members of other religions. (Jn 3:16; 5:24; Ro 8:1; 10:9, 13). This however, it has been misinterpreted and distorted at times, ending up in two extreme views equally wrong and distant from the true biblical teaching.
ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED
A doctrine born in the middle-ages, that teaches that a mere intellectual belief in Christ guarantees the believer’s salvation, regardless of his actions. This theory openly contradicts the sayings of Jesus Christ who warned us that “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21); and “the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mt 24:13)
Nothing in the Scriptures warrants the idea that a professing Christian will necessarily be saved if he does not lives a life of righteousness according to Christ’s commandments and remains faithful to Him to the end of his life.
SALVATION EARNED BY MERITS
This type of distortion seems to have been born before the middle-ages and the reason why the “once saved, always saved” heresy came about, as a reaction against this approach. This form of Christianity, professes that the Sacrifice of Christ only covered Original Sin and the matter of the sins committed, but not the consequences and distant responsibility of the sinner. Those who profess this belief system, practice asceticism and mortification, not as personal discipline but in order to atone for their sins with their own suffering, and also hold the belief that if this sacrifice has not been enough and equivalent to the atonement they ‘owe”, they will finish up atoning for them in the after- life, before the Resurrection.
This theory is also heretical, since robes Christ’s atonement of his fullness and all sufficiency. Scripture teaches that when Lord Jesus paid for our sins on the Cross, He paid for all sins committed by all humans, past, present and future, including Original Sin, personal sins, and their consequences. (Eph 1:7; 1Pe 2:24; Tit 2:14)
OUR ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
Our assurance of Salvation is not based neither on our own merits, nor on an antinomian belief, where the Grace of God in Christ is abused.
The true assurance of salvation is based in the conviction of the all sufficiency atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a total trust in his mercy.
When Prophet Isaiah said: “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace” (Is 53:5), and Apostle Paul: “Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Tit 2:14); they actually mean what they say; that Jesus suffered the fullness of our punishment, including the evil consequences of our evil actions. He did not “half-atoned” us, which is why St Paul declares that this sacrifice “purified” us from all stain. No further personal purification was expected or was demanded from us.
Having this into consideration, that Jesus Christ work really gained for us a complete pardon of our sins in full, that is sinful actions and their consequences (Col 2:14; Eph 2:15), we have the assurance that through faith and repentance, God’s forgiveness is ensured for us, without fail, because it is not based on our own worthiness or piety, but on the merits of Christ alone.
Truly, righteousness of life and faithfulness to the end is demanded from us, and those things will be taken into account in our judgement; and if this alone was all we had to go for, certainly we would have grounds for worrying and insecurity; but we also have the mercy of Christ that guarantees God’s forgiveness (Lk 17:4; 1Jn 1:9; Heb 4:16).
Our guarantee of salvation is based on Jesus’s atonement and mercy, which is guaranteed to all those who truly believe and repent; but not in a pre-assumed status given to us regardless of our faithfulness.