A few years ago I visited a Catholic Cathedral in Santa Fe New Mexico. I purchased a pamphlet called, “Why Be a Catholic?” The first section was called, “Are you saved?” It begins with a story of a man who got saved at a protestant church and told his family that nothing could keep him from heaven. He now believed once saved always saved. Unfortunately, several weeks later this same man burned himself to death as a violent act of suicide. The family concluded the suicide was the direct result of the “once saved always saved” doctrine. They believed this false teaching gave him permission to kill himself.
The pamphlet goes on to say how harmful and simplistic this fundamentalist teaching is concerning salvation. It says this idea of heaven being guaranteed from the moment a person accepts Jesus is not Biblical and obviously dangerous.
The booklet concluded by saying, “We will be saved if we accept Jesus in baptism (which according to Catholicism removes sin) and live by the teachings of His Church.” It continued adding “The Catholic teaching is that we cooperate with God’s saving grace every day and put our trust in God. So when a Catholic is asked ‘Are you saved?’ the response should be “Yes, I’m being saved every day!”
Anyone who is Catholic has no assurance of salvation. They will live their lives always wondering if they are good enough to get into heaven. The same can be said about a person who is a Nazarene or Wesleyan. These denominations also believe we have no assurance of heaven. They teach we have to continue to do good to get into heaven. By holding this teaching a person actually believes in a works salvation. If we have to do something to insure our salvation then it is no longer God’s free gift of forgiveness.
I don’t believe the Bible communicates this. The Bible teaches we can do nothing to merit heaven. Our good works will never earn heaven. We are saved by God’s grace and by His grace alone. What some people don’t seem to understand is God’s forgiveness is complete at the point of belief. When we trust Christ we are forgiven for all past, present, and future sins. Jesus cried out on the cross, just before he died, it is finished (teleō) which means to bring to an end; that sin was paid in full. What he meant was the penalty for sins has been paid completely for all who would believe. All true followers of Christ can have the assurance all their sins are forgiven. We can know for certain we will someday we will be with Jesus in heaven. Romans 8:31-39 assures all believers that nothing but nothing can separate us from the love of God. That is GREAT NEWS!
Grace is something we cannot earn or lose. Grace is all of God and none of us. It is a free gift. Paul says it best in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace is God’s gift to us and nowhere in the Bible does it say we have to help this grace or we can lose this grace.
My conclusion is we cannot earn heaven by doing good deeds or by sinning lose our salvation according to the Bible. What that means is all true believers have assurance of salvation. If that is true and the pressure of earning heaven is nonexistent, then what keeps us from sinning? If we are guaranteed we are going to heaven then we can do whatever we want, right?