What exactly constitutes being saved?

I’m Catholic and have always wondered about the Protestant belief of “being saved”. I don’t understand it and frankly, don’t know any details about it. What do you have to do to be saved? Once you are saved, does that mean that you’re automatically going to heaven? What if you commit a mortal sin after you are saved? Will you still go to heaven? I don’t really believe in being saved, but I would still like to know more about it. I would love if someone would enlighten me in regards to their beliefs and explain it to me in more detail. Thanks and God bless!


Greetings liltownlori408! You have asked about one of the more difficult topics to explain in my experience…owning more to differing definitions and understandings of certain words between Catholics and non-Catholics (not all of which have a different understanding).

As a Catholic, you SHOULD believe in being saved…and you also understand what that means, and what it doesn’t mean. I suggest reading this article (an excerpt form Keating’s “Catholicism and Fundamentalism”) before you get too involved in discussion. Otherwise, you may just end up confused. Here is the link, plus a tidbit from it:


**What To Say

“Are you saved?” asks the Fundamentalist. The Catholic should reply: “As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:18, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13).” **

It’s even more difficult that that - Protestants don’t universally agree that you can be permanently saved. Generally speaking - some view it as a process, some view it as a moment, and others believe that you have no choice in the matter.

So no matter what, if you lump Protestants into a group, you’re going to get a lot of differing answers.

For my own Church (LCMS), one of our more simple answers is thus:

Lutherans believe that faith is created and strengthened not by looking inside of one’s self (to one’s own faith and/or doubts) but by looking outside of one’s self (to God’s Word and promises in Christ).
Therefore, assurance of salvation is to be sought by looking to God’s Word and promises in Christ (which create and strengthen the faith through which one is saved), not by looking inward at the strength or weakness of one’s own faith (which creates either pride and false assurance or doubt and lack of assurance).
Anxiety regarding doubts, strength of faith and certainty of salvation are signs of faith (however weak it may be), not signs of unbelief, since the unbeliever has no concern or anxiety about doubts, faith or salvation.

It can get quite a bit more complicated. In addition, the topic has been know to cause mild debate from time to time under the right circumstance. :slight_smile:

From an evangelical point of view, there are two main perspectives. I guess you can call it an Arminian view point and a more Calvinistic or Once Saved Always Saved viewpoint.

Since Pentecostals are Arminian, and I am a Pentecostal, I will give you the Pentecostal answer.

Man’s only hope of redemption is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. “Salvation is received through repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, being justified by grace through faith, man becomes an heir of God, according to the hope of eternal life.” (Assemblies of God Statement of Fundamental Truths)

The Church of the Foursquare Gospel puts it this way:

We believe that upon sincere repentance, godly sorrow for sin, and a whole-hearted acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ,
they who call upon Him may be justified by
faith, through His precious blood and that in place of condemnation they may have
the most blessed peace, assurance and favor with God; that with open arms of
mercy and pardon the Savior waits to receive each penitent who will in unfeigned
contrition and supplication for mercy, open the door of his heart and accept Him as
Lord and King." (Declaration of Faith)

So, Pentecostals believe that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin and draws the sinner to Christ. So, God takes the first step. He initiates it. But then we have a role to play. We have to respond to the Spirit’s prompting. We do this by repentance and placing our trust and faith in Jesus Christ, making him Lord and Savior of our lives. When we do this, we become new creations. We are born again. The Foursquare Declaration of Faith describes it this way:

We believe that the change which takes place in the heart and life at conversion is a very real one;
that the sinner is then born again in such a glorious and transforming
manner that the old things are passed away and all things are become new;
insomuch that the things once most desired are now abhorred, while the things once
abhorred are now held most sacred and dear; and that now having imputed to him
the righteousness of the Redeemer and having received of the Spirit of Christ, new
desires, new aspirations, new interests, and a new perspective on life, time and
eternity, fills the blood-washed heart so that his desire is now to openly confess and
serve the Master, seeking ever those things which are above.

However, this is not the end. While many think that evangelicals believe that “Once saved, always saved,” this is not true for many (maybe even most evangelicals). At least for Pentecostals, salvation is dependent upon continued faith and repentance towards Christ. If faith is lost, the hope of salvation is lost.

Also, the goal of the Christian life is not mere intellectual assent to the statement “Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior.” The goal of the Christian life is transformation into Christ-likeness. This means that holiness of life and the process of sanctification is important. The Assemblies of God Statement of Fundamental Truths expresses it this way:

Sanctification is an act of separation from that which is evil, and of dedication unto God.
Romans 12:1,2 [KJV/NIV]
1 Thessalonians 5:23 [KJV/NIV]
Hebrews 13:12 [KJV/NIV]

The Scriptures teach a life of “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.”
Hebrews 12:14 [KJV/NIV]

By the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to obey the command: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:15,16 [KJV/NIV]

Sanctification is realized in the believer by recognizing his identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, and by the faith reckoning daily upon the fact of that union, and by offering every faculty continually to the dominion of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 6:1-11 [KJV/NIV]
Romans 6:13 [KJV/NIV]
Romans 8:1,2 [KJV/NIV]
Romans 8:13 [KJV/NIV]
Galatians 2:20 [KJV/NIV]
Philippians 2:12,13 [KJV/NIV]
1 Peter 1:5 [KJV/NIV]

The Foursquare Declaration puts it like this:

We believe that having been cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ and
having received the witness of the Holy Spirit at conversion, it is the will of God
that we be sanctified daily and become partakers of His holiness; growing
constantly stronger in faith, power, prayer, love and service, first as babies desiring
the sincere milk of the Word; then as dear children walking humbly, seeking
diligently the hidden life, where self decreases and Christ increases; then as strong
men having on the whole armor of God, marching forth to new conquests in His
name beneath His blood-stained banner, ever living a patient, sober, unselfish, godly
life that will be a true reflection of the Christ within.

(Continued in next post)

(Continued from previous post)

If we sin after conversion, we confess it to God through prayer and turn away from the sin. If one continues in sin and abuses the grace of God by confessing sin without repenting of it, that person is in grave spiritual danger. The Holy Spirit is a gentlemen. He will not force himself on anyone, and after a person continues to ignore his conviction and his prompting for a prolonged amount of time, the conviction of the Holy Spirit will withdraw from the person. Without conviction, their can be no realization of sin and need for confession and repentance. This is what many people believe the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is, and it is the danger in continuing in sin and abusing the grace of God.

Being saved means that, ultimately, you end up in heaven. No one is saved until and unless they end up in heaven. Judas was “saved” at one point, but he did not persevere to the end.

Let’s make something clear: the act of salvation is the work of God. Paul states in Romans 3 that there are no righteous, no not one, and all have fallen short of the glory of God (v. 10 and 23); he likewise states in Ephesians 2 that we are dead men and (literally in the Greek) “objects of wrath” before God (v. 1-3). What happens then is a regeneration of our heart - as Paul said: “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:5). While we were dead, God made us alive - God had to raise us spiritually in order for us to be saved, hence sola gratia. This regeneration causes a person to confess faith in God, as the apostle John wrote:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [Jn 1:12-13]

A lot of people like to quote v. 12 and forget what happens in v. 13: the apostle clarifies that a person is not a child of God because they were born by blood (that is, you’re saved because you’re a Jew, or because you’re in a Christian family), nor by the will of flesh (that is, your works), nor by the will of man (that is, your own individual will to believe), but you are born of God - that is, by God’s will. This is what our Lord meant when he told Nicodemus one had to be “born again” to see the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3). We owe nothing to ourselves and all to God the Father and the atoning work of Christ - soli deo gloria and solus christus.

Now one thing we have seen here likewise is the importance of faith. When we turn to Christ, we are justified by his blood through our faith, and we are counted as righteous in Christ. As the apostle Paul wrote: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Ro 4:4-5).

Those who are God’s sheep will never be lost, as Christ said:

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” [Jn 10:28-29]

The apostle Paul likewise wrote:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Ro 8:31-39]

Now if by “automatically going to heaven” you mean that’s it, you got your ticket punched and you’re going to heaven no matter what you do, even if it’s murder, then that’s wrong. People often confuse the doctrine of OSAS with Perseverance of the Saints, but they’re not the same. Perseverance does not mean you’re clear to go no matter what: part of the perseverance is that you will be sanctified more and more by God, approaching closer and closer that state of glory - you’ll never be sinless, but more and more you’ll find you can sin less. A lot of people like to quote Philippians 2:12, but can’t seem to grasp that it’s only half a sentence. The full passage from Paul reads:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. [Php 2:12-13]

Yes, after being saved, we do things for our betterment or to show we are saved (as a pastor of mine once said, we’re not “chosen to be frozen”), but it’s not because of something we have to do or something we are capable of doing - it’s because God is working within us and perfecting us, and He will see this through. As the apostle Paul said: “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Php 1:6).

A Christian is judged by their fruits - a person who has a heart regenerated towards God will not go out and seek to kill someone, or steal a car, or the like. He might have those temptations, he might come close, but as seen before, God will preserve him from all acts that would violate this.

I know it’s not popular for some to suggest that a statement of faith can be false, or that we can judge whether or not a person is truly saved, but I believe this to be scriptural. The Lord speaks of those who call him “Lord, Lord,” and yet were never known by him (Mt 7:22-23). If you study the language the apostle John uses against Diotrephes (3 Jn 1:9-11) and Jude uses against the heretics and false teachers (Jude 1:17-21), you’ll see they are questioning whether or not the individuals were truly Christians to begin with.

My view is essentially that I must at all times seek God’s forgiveness for my manifold sins and wickedness, and try to live according to the gospel. Will I be saved? I doubt it, but I can try.

I am getting confused. Does the person have a choice in the matter? Do they only choose once?

Ah, the awkward predestination question rears its head…

If by choice you mean the heresy of Semi-Pelagianism where God gives a general offer and a person, by their own power, chooses, then no. If you mean does man do anything, then yes, but it is only by the grace of God. As Paul said in Ephesians 2, we are dead men before regeneration - it is God who brings us to life, not ourselves. However, once we are regenerated, then we turn and come to Christ, and are kept preserved by him. As the Lord said: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). In the original Greek, it literally reads “no one has the power to come to me,” and the drawing is not a passive thing, but is an effectual calling upon the person (the word literally means “dragging”), and the end result is that, on the last day, that person is raised up.

I’m not quite certain I know what you mean by “only choose once.” A person repents and puts their faith in Christ only once to be justified, yes, though they will continue to turn to Christ for repentance and strength their entire life - again, an aspect of the “perseverance.” They rest in the knowledge that they have a high priest who “always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).

I can’t speak for Byzantine Wolf, but in my own life I find that, by the grace of God for its not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit says the Lord, I’m always having to rededicate and reconsecrate myself to God. I mess up a lot, and I just have to let the Holy Spirit continue to work on me. There is a song by Dottie Rambo that goes like this:

"Oh that I might be His perfect dwelling place,
And oh that my King would fill up the empty space,
And flood every room, every part, sanctify this temple,
And build His throne in my heart.

When His Kingdom comes, what a difference,
When things are in earth as they are in heaven,
When all has been settled, and my heart is His throne,
Oh what a difference, what a great transformation,
Oh what a difference, when His Kingdom comes."

This renovation of the heart is in my experience not a one time event. There are people I know who have backslid on God. And don’t tell me “well they were never saved to begin with.” These people walked with God daily, but they don’t anymore. Why? I could give a lot of reasons, but the most important is that they chose to walk away from God. Now, God did not walk away from them, but He is a gentlemen. He will not force us to stay when in our hearts we have purposed to de-throne Him.

Salvation is strictly via God’s grace. Yet, He offers it to all, but many may not accept it. We must cooperate with God’s graces. He has provided the Sacraments as paths of His grace, and so we are encouraged to receive them regularly and frequently in the cases of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. What you want to do is to be justified before God, and to die in a state of grace. God has made it so simple that the lowliest child may understand it - yet multi-degreed theologians argue and debate endlessly over it. :shrug:

People have fought over the answer to this question.

As a practical matter, if you were my friend and we were having a beer, I would say that if you find self with a calling from God, respond to that with all your heart.

In general terms, on a theological level, Lutherans would say that you don’t have much(or possibly any) part to play in your initial salvation - you should be thankful with your entire heart that you have found yourself a christian and with God.

2,000 years post-Incarnation, there are as many opinions regarding salvation as there are observers. Yet, there is a single source that is composed of the collected illumination of the greatest Saints: the Catechism.

55 This revelation was not broken off by our first parents’ sin. “After the fall, [God] buoyed them up with the hope of salvation, by promising redemption; and he has never ceased to show his solicitude for the human race. For he wishes to give eternal life to all those who seek salvation by patience in well-doing.”

Even when he disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon him to the power of death. . . Again and again you offered a covenant to man.

161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. “Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.’”

169 Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: “We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation.” Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith.

This differs from justification, which is another thing that seems to be obsessed over these days. I am convinced that some faith communities may miss the Lord’s second Coming entirely as they will be arguing over justification.

For Catholics and Orthodox, it is utterly simple: the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I like what you say except the “I doubt it” part. “I hope so” would be better. St. Paul assures us that we should be confident about being saved as long as we are contrite and try to live a life according to the gospel with the help of God’s grace. Our faith enters the picture when we place our hope in God’s promise, so we mustn’t ever despair and lose hope. God is faithful, and when we are unfaithful, he remains faithful. And as long as we don’t deny him by losing hope and refusing his offer of forgiveness, made possible by the merits of Christ, God won’t deny us, for he can’t deny himself. Once we lose our faith in God, all hope is gone. Hope essentially is putting one’s faith in God and expecting him to be true to his promise with the trust of a child. Without hope we can never hope to be saved. :wink: So be of one mind and pray constantly for the grace of final perseverance and never lose hope. In the words of Jesus: “Knock and the door shall be opened to you. Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find.” Faith and hope will no longer be necessary once we get to heaven. Then, only love will remain.

***For in this hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees. ***
Romans 8, 24


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