I was asked a question a while back that I think probably exists in the minds of many in our community. The question was: does your church teach that once a person is saved, he is saved forever so that he can go out and do anything he wants to and still go to heaven?
To answer that question, we believe the Bible teaches that salvation is based upon the performance of Jesus Christ alone. (092) He alone was righteous altogether (2 Corinthians 5:21 and Hebrews 4:15). He alone could undo the damage that Adam did (Romans 5). He alone was qualified to die in the place of another. Everywhere the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith apart from works which we do to qualify ourselves. Grace is not grace if it is given as a reward for labor (Romans 11:6). So, salvation is based upon the perfect performance of Jesus Christ.
But, some will say salvation is based upon what Jesus did, but there are some things which you must do too--or everyone would be saved. There is some truth to that, but only some. This is the area where confusion is rampant. Just what is the difference between the saved and the lost? Is it that Jesus died for the saved and not for the lost? No. Jesus died for the whole world of the lost (I John 2:2)--both those who believe and those who do not. It must be, then, that the difference between the saved and the lost is in what the two groups believe. If salvation is by grace through faith, the saved must have believed something that the lost did not believe.
What, then, is the content of the faith of the saved as opposed to the content of the faith of the lost? Is it belief in God? No, for even the demons believe in God (James 2:19), but they are not saved by that. The Bible says that only a fool does not believe there is a God (Psalms 14:1). Since the number of atheists is very small in proportion to the number who believe that God exists, there are only a few fools in the world. But, people are not saved by believing in God; only a fool wouldn't. But Jesus said that few are saved--even though many believe in God.
Is it, then, belief in Jesus? No, for again, the demons believe in Jesus. And besides them, there are millions of people who believe that Jesus lived and died and that He is the Son of God.
What is it then? It is faith in Jesus as the personal substitute for me in respect to what I deserve to get from God. Jesus died for me. He paid the penalty for my sin. He did everything necessary for my forgiveness from God. The only thing I have done is simply to trust in Him alone.
Now, this is the key: trusting in Him alone. Many people believe that Jesus did some things that they couldn't do, but they also believe that they must do more than simply trust Him. But that is the difference between the saved and the lost. The saved trust that Jesus is their Savior and the lost believe that Jesus and them are their saviors. In other words, the saved believe in grace and the lost believe in their own behavior.