Salvation is a Process (Not a One Time Event) According to the Bible

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“Have you been saved?”… some protestant / evangelicals ask.  Catholics (and all other ‘pre-Reformation’ Christians) understand the Bible to teach that Salvation is a process that begins when we are initially united to Christ (which normally occurs in the Sacrament of Baptism according to Scripture and the unanimous consent of the Early Church Fathers) and is finalized when one is fully united to God in heaven, after persevering to the end by ‘abiding in Christ.’  Therefore Catholics exercise the theological virtue of ‘hope’ in such a way as to avoid the sin of despair (doubting that God will offer the grace that is needed to enter into heaven) as well as the sin of presumption (believing that one will enter into heaven regardless of whether one continues to cooperate with God’s grace).  [For an abundance of Bible verses that show that it is possible for the believer to lose or forfeit salvation, click here.]

A Catholic can therefore answer, “I have been saved when I was united to Christ in baptism, I pray that I might now be in God’s grace so that I am being saved through ongoing cooperation with the inner working of the Holy Spirit (‘faith working through love’), and I hope to remain in God’s grace to the end and ultimately be saved.”  This might seem complicated for some, but sacred scripture calls us to this process, stating; ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you…’

It is important to note that the process of Salvation is a result of God’s grace from beginning to end, and even though our cooperation is required in the process, even this cooperation would not be possible without the grace of God which ‘prepares, elicits, and enables man’s free response’ according to the Catechism (pg. 2022).

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...Salvation as past event: I have been saved

  • Romans 8:24: “For in this hope we were saved.”
  • Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God not because of works, lest any man should boast.”
  • 2 Timothy 1:9: “[God]…who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago,”
  • Titus 3:5: “he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit,”

…Salvation as a present event: I am being saved

  • Philippians 2:12-13: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
  • 1 Peter 1:8-9: “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
  • Acts 2 :47:  “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

…Salvation as a future event: I hope to be saved

  • Matthew 10:22: “and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
  • Matthew 24:12-13: “And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
  • 1 Peter 2:2: “Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.  Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
  • Acts 15:11: “But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
  • Romans 5:9-10:  “Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
  • Romans 13:11: “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed…”
  • 1 Corinthians 3:15:  “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
  • 1 Corinthians 5:5:  “you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
  • Hebrews 9:28:  “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
  • 1 Peter 1:5: “[you] who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
  • 2 Peter 1:10-11: “Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

…We are to wait for God’s judgment, not judge ourselves or others prematurely:

  • 1 Corinthians 4:3-5:   “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself.  I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes…”

…Since the way we live effects whether or not we ‘abide in Christ’ and will be forgiven of our sins, we cannot judge ourselves as ultimately saved before our earthly life is completed:

  • John 15:6,10: “If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned . . . If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”
  • Matthew 6:15: “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
  • Matthew 5:29-30: “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”
  • Ephesians 5:5: “Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
  • 1 John 3-6:  “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
  • Luke 14:33: “So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
  • Matthew 19:16-21: “And behold, one came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “…If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
  • In Revelation 3:15-16, Jesus warns the Church of La-odice’a,  “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.”
  • Hebrews 10:26-29: “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?
  • 1 Corinthians 9:26-27: “Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:8-12: “We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
  • 1 Timothy 1:18-20: “This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenae’us and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
  • 1 Timothy 6:9-12: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.”
  • 2 Peter 2:20-22: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.”
  • 1 John 5:16-17: “If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.”
  • 1 John 3:5-7:  “You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous.”
  • James 2:14-26: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe — and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.”

…All will be judged according to their works (in cooperation with Gods’ grace), so we must not presume to know the outcome before our life (and therefore our works) are completed:

  •  Revelation 20:12-13: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.”
  • Matthew 7:19-23: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. “Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? ‘And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’
  • Mathew 12:36: “I tell you, on the day of judgement men will give account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
  • Matthew 25:31-46: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’… Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me… And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
  • John 5:28-29: [Jesus speaking:] “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.
  • Romans 2:6-8: “For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.”
  • 2 Corinthians 11:15: “…Their end will correspond to their deeds.”
  • Colossians 3:23-25: “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
  • 1 Peter 1:14-17: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.”

 

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