Have you ever been asked if you are saved? Maybe you have even asked this question of others.
The question says a lot about the inquirer – all good. They are a Christian who knows Jesus Christ and accepts Him as their Lord and Savior. They summon the courage to ask this question, one which in today’s world can easily get them labeled as a “religious kook.” They do that because they care about the eternal salvation of others (i.e. love their neighbor) and want to share the Good News of faith with them that they too may be transformed. May God bless them and make the mustard seeds they sow fruitful!
We learn from Holy Scripture and are taught by the Church of the new covenant in Christ, offered through His merits alone: by His passion and death for us on the cross. Only through His most Precious Blood are we redeemed of our sins. All are redeemed but all are not saved (the heresy of universalism). Salvation is gained by uniting ourselves with Christ.
Our evangelizing friend’s beliefs are true in many important ways, but in asking this question we know that they are wrong in at least one very, very important area: the moment of salvation. Those such as our friend believe in a non-biblical doctrine commonly described as “once saved, always saved” (OSAS). They believe that salvation offered by Christ may be accepted and irreversibly gained through a one-time act. This act is accomplished by a sinner’s prayer when the penitent sincerely accepts Jesus Christ as his or her personal Lord and Savior. The wording varies, but one example is:
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen.
These are wonderful prayers. Praying thus sincerely one-time, with all of your mind, will and heart, does not lock-in salvation – unless perhaps you die immediately afterward. You are on the right track if you live the sinner’s prayer every day.
OSAS is a product of the Protestant revolution, developing well after the initial schisms (1,500 years after Christ). For the most part, it is a modern invention of the last hundred years or so (almost 2,000 years after Christ). It is a dangerous heresy. It takes final judgment away from Christ and makes salvation an act of man (however sincere). Dying in a state of grace (i.e. in friendship with God), of which we know not the hour (Mark 13:32) is no longer imperative. Our on-going conversion to full unity with Christ (working out our salvation with fear and trembling; Philippians 2:12) is no longer a concern.
There is no irreversible moment of salvation until Christ, the most merciful and just judge, meets us upon our death. Then and only then will the wheat be separated from the chaf (Matthew 3:12), with the sheep then set on his right and goats on his left (Matthew 25:31-45; some calling-out “Lord, Lord” – Matthew 7:21-23).
How do we respond as faithful Catholics to this question? In truth… “I am already saved (Romans 8:24, Ephesians 2:5-8), but I’m also being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18, 2 Corinthians 2:15, Philippians 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Romans 5:9-10,1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Romans 5:2, 2 Timothy 2:11-13).”
Catholic Answers has two excellent articles for your further reading: