Q. I have been reading your answers to several questions about who goes to heaven and who doesn’t. I certainly understand the nature of trusting in Jesus alone as the basis for our salvation. Yet it appears that you give little weight to the command to repent and turn from sin.
I also understand that our ability to turn from sin and live a holy life is part of sanctification and not salvation and is also the work of Christ. Yet, part of the condition of salvation is dying to self and to sin per Paul in Romans. How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Rom 6:2) One can’t partake of the new life or new birth, if the death to self hasn’t preceded it. According to Paul, those belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.( Gal 5:24). We are new creations.
Sadly, the Christian church is full of unregenerate people who believe they have eternal life with Christ through a gospel of easy believism with no cost or death to self. They continue to be the same person before their “conversion” as after their “conversion”. We are admonished by Paul in 2 Cor 13:5 to test ourselves to see if we are in the faith; examine ourselves! Is this truly the gospel you are intending to promote – that there need not be evidence of a changed life? If so, I strongly disagree with you.
A. You’re right in saying that turning from sin is something that happens after salvation not before it. When John the Baptist and Peter spoke of repentance they were telling their Jewish audiences to change their minds about relying upon the law and recognize their need for a Savior, because the Greek word translated repent denotes a change in thinking, not a change in behavior.
Once we’re saved the Lord sends us the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin and begin the regeneration process. But before that process even begins, the Holy Spirit is sealed within us as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, (Ephes. 1:13-14) so everyone who sincerely prays the sinner’s prayer and trusts in the Lord for forgiveness is saved. Remember, we’re saved because of what we believe, not because of how we behave.
Something that’s easy to forget is that all of Paul’s letters were written to believers, people who had already been saved. In those days of persecution there were no pretend Christians in the church. The new life he was talking about pertains to their fellowship with God and the blessings that come from it, not to their salvation. We can’t receive those blessings if we’re not in fellowship. As forcefully as Paul exhorted the believers to put the flesh to death, he admitted that he couldn’t do it either. (Romans 7:14-20). And he never once threatened them with the loss of their salvation for failing to try.
In reading Paul’s letters we have to separate the here from the hereafter. Paul was very clear in saying that it’s our belief that saves us, and he offered no additional conditions. But in places like 1 Cor. 9:24-27 he warned us the we shouldn’t think of our salvation as the end if the process but rather the beginning.
We shouldn’t be satisfied with salvation, which solves our problems in eternity. We should move on to submit to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and achieve victory in this life as well. If we do that we’ll avoid many of the problems of this life, and be carried safely through those we can’t avoid.
It’s too bad so few people understand that. Our lives would all be so much easier. But the scriptures are clear. Our refusal to live a victorious life makes things harder for us in this world, and causes us to miss out on numerous blessings, but it does not endanger our salvation.