This article was sparked by some text that I found online earlier that I have included in this article.
I'll admit that my journey to Catholicism as it relates to salvation was a struggle at times. It wasn't because I thought Catholics were not Christians. It was mainly because I thought Catholicism made the message of salvation too complicated. That was primarily because of the simple plan of salvation that I had been use to as a protestant. However, I have never thought that just the simple prayer protestants use was all there was to being SAVED.
One thing that I already had in common with the Catholic view of salvation is the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:13 "But he who endures to the end will be saved." In other words, salvation can be lost because of sin ( mortal sin in Catholicism ). Just like one can repent and turn to God for salvation that same individual can choose to live a life of sin, turn from God and be unrepentant.
I have lost count of how many services I've been in with altar calls or everyone standing up at their seats with the preacher saying with "every head bowed and every eye closed" with the intention of leading those who don't know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior to accept Jesus into their hearts to become SAVED. For protestants, this is a moment in time that happens in ones life to be SAVED or BORN AGAIN.
Justification is the same for Protestants and Catholics on the surface level, but Catholicism goes far deeper than one moment in time. Both sides view salvation as a FREE GIFT OF GOD'S GRACE.
Although someone professes to be a Christian because they have been SAVED by confessing Jesus as Lord, repenting and turning to God, we are all subject to fall into sin.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says "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."
So is a professing Christian that is living in sin who remains unrepentant of their sin going to heaven? Are they saved? God is the judge in the end.
In between the lines below is some text that I found online to give you an idea of what the simple Evangelical plan of salvation can look like. I'll make a few comments, but I'll continue on with more at the end of the text below the second line:
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
We have all sinned and deserve God's judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, "Jesus is Lord," you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.
MY NOTE: Yes, one might be able to use scripture out of context and preach "once saved always saved." But I stand on words of Jesus previously mentioned in Matthew 24:13. However, I think there are plenty of scriptures that show we have to obey (Mt 6:1-21, 1 Cor 3:8, 13-15, Mt 25:34-40, Rom 2:6-7, Gal 6:6-10, Jas 1:12, Rom 5:5, Phil 2:13) to be saved. I also believe that there are plenty of scriptures that support baptism is not just symbolic like John 3:5 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." The Catholic Church also teaches the Baptism of desire ( one plans to be baptized but may have died before baptism happened ) and Baptism by blood ( giving ones life for the Christian faith before water baptism ). ALL my context stands on the Catholic Church teachings not the "Gospel according to ME!"
After the paragraph, there is a question. When clicking on the first response, it leads to what is known as the sinners prayer.
What is your response?
Yes, today I am deciding to follow Jesus
Here is a suggested prayer. This is not a ritual based on specific words, but rather a prayerful guideline for your sincere step of faith.
"Father, I know that I have broken Your laws and my sins have separated me from You. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward You. Please forgive me, and help me turn away from sin. I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen."
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MY NOTE: I hope this organization is doing more than sending out the Bible on CD. Yes, the Bible is important, but one of my key issues with the simple plan of salvation is "Say this prayer, here's a Bible and find a good Bible believing church." How is a lifelong atheist who just converted to Christianity going to "endure to the end" with such a plan? What if they don't read the Bible, don't obey the teachings in the New Testament and don't find a good "Bible" believing church? Will this prayer save them if they said it at age 30 and live to age 80?
( Source AllAboutHistory.org )
I would still use a similar prayer like this TODAY with someone, but it can be dangerous to give someone hope that they are set for life with this simple prayer. I would never intentionally give someone a false sense of hope. It takes far more to live a Christian life than accepting Jesus at ONE MOMENT in time. The first step is BELIEVING. But believe is a verb and steps must be taken toward Christ.
Philippians 2:12 "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;"
Yes, I do believe that God's Grace and God's Mercy is far greater than human comprehension. God knows the heart. If a person said this prayer with sincerity and then died instantly, I believe that God would save them. However, under ordinary circumstances, when the individual lives another 10, 15 or 50+ years, one has to live the life of a Christian by being obedient and not just profess they are a Christian in word only.
ARE YOU SAVED?
A lot of Christians will say they are SAVED ( common Protestant terminology ) because of believing in Jesus, repenting and turning to Jesus.
Some Protestants believe in "once saved always saved" which means they believe that no matter what they do that their eternal salvation is secured forever and they use scripture to back up this VERY dangerous claim.
Other Protestants will say they are SAVED but believe one can lose their salvation. So are they really SAVED? They likely believe that if they dropped dead at that moment in time that they would go to heaven. But inside, they know that if they do NOT endure to the end that they will not be SAVED.
I like the Catholic response to this question.
1) I have been SAVED. (By Grace through Faith, Baptism, repentance, believing, etc. )
2) I am being SAVED. ( Philippians 2:12 "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;" )
3) I hope to be SAVED. ( Matthew 24:13 "But he who endures to the end will be saved." )
I have come to understand the Catholic way of Salvation which includes more than I have provided in this article but can be summed up as "I have been SAVED, I am being SAVED and I hope to be SAVED" which is the proper way of actual Biblical salvation as taught for 2,000 years.