Summary: To place our faith in the performance of a salvation ritual is to place our faith in the person leading us to the ritual; but, if we place our faith in a relationship with Jesus Christ we have placed our faith in the author and sustainer of salvation.
SALVATION – A RELATIONSHIP
If a person is uncomfortable with the idea that there is no special event or ritual that marks the time and place of their salvation, then they certainly have a great deal of company. In fact, almost all existing denominations and Christian religious organizations share in the belief that we can tie salvation to some event. Thus, if you are one of the few who do not believe in a “this saved you event” you are standing quite alone. Yet, you cannot betray your understanding of scripture. Yes, it would be nice to join in with those who declare that the sinner’s prayer, believing, confession, baptism, or some other ritual results in a person being issued a ticket to heaven; but, perhaps this is not the right thing for you to do. Certainly we take no pride in being alone in our opinion; and to be honest, it is kind of scary. How can we be right and all these great religious scholars be wrong? So you see, if you do feel uncomfortable reading this, I hope you can appreciate how uncomfortable it is to write in opposition to the “this event saved you” doctrine.
COMPLEXITY OF SALVATION
To start with, I cannot find any scripture that clearly tells us “do this and you will be saved;” let alone tells us: “do this and you will be saved forever.” Jesus and the apostles never taught that we can base our salvation on one event or even a series of events. It boggles my mind that a well-trained man of God can be convinced that only believing saves you or baptism saves you or whatever event will save you. I have studied the same scriptures they quote, but I certainly do not see the message: “this thing saves you the instant you perform the ritual and now you’ve got a ticket to heaven.” When I holistically read what Jesus and the Apostles said, I clearly see we have the hope of salvation because of the cross. I also clearly see that we are part of a great spiritual war: we are in a great race for our eternity. In this I am not frightened; Jesus promised He will always be with us and He will never desert us; He will never let go of us, even in the midst of our many trials and tribulations. Jesus also promised that, if we remain faithful to the end, we will see our hope of salvation come to fruition. So you see, our salvation is a relationship with Jesus and it is not a ticket to heaven issued at some salvation ritual.
If we are honest; if we look at the complete picture; if we listen to the rest of the story; we will clearly see that we are saved; we are being saved; and we will be saved.
1. Salvation Past – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.(Ephesians 2:8-10)
2. Salvation Present – Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1) For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
3. Salvation Future - Are (angels) not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14) Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.(Romans 5:9-10) 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. (Philippians 2:12-13) In the day of the Lord, our service to Christ will be judged. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15)