Category Archives: Salvation Questions

Questions about Salvation: If a Christian Commits Suicide, Is He/She Still Saved?

 

It is a sad fact that some Christians have committed suicide. Adding to the tragedy is the false teaching that committing suicide automatically consigns one to hell. Many believe that a Christian who commits suicide will not be saved. This teaching is not supported in the Bible.

Scripture teaches that, from the moment we truly believe in Christ, we are guaranteed eternal life (John 3:16). According to the Bible, Christians can know beyond any doubt that they possess eternal life (1 John 5:13). Nothing can separate a Christian from God’s love (Romans 8:38–39). No “created thing” can separate a Christian from God’s love, and even a Christian who commits suicide is a “created thing”; therefore, not even suicide can separate a Christian from God’s love. Jesus died for all of our sins, and if a true Christian, in a time of spiritual attack and weakness, commits suicide, his sin is still covered by the blood of Christ.

According to the Bible, suicide is not what determines whether a person gains entrance into heaven. If an unsaved person commits suicide, he has done nothing but “expedite” his journey to hell. However, that person who committed suicide will ultimately be in hell for rejecting salvation through Christ, not because he committed suicide (see John 3:18). We should also point out, however, that no one truly knows what was happening in a person’s heart the moment he or she died. Some people have “deathbed conversions” and accept Christ in the moments before death. It is possible that a suicide could have a last-second change of heart and cry out for God’s mercy. We leave such judgments to God (1 Samuel 16:7).

The suicide of a believer is evidence that anyone can struggle with despair and that our enemy, Satan, is “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Suicide is still a serious sin against God. According to the Bible, suicide is murder; it is always wrong. Christians are called to live their lives for God, and the decision of when to die is God’s and God’s alone.

May God grant grace and the psalmist’s perspective to each one who is facing trials today: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Salvation: What Does It Mean that Good Works Are the Result of Salvation?

 

Ephesians 2:8–9 makes it clear that we are not saved by good works. In fact, before we are saved, our works are done in the flesh and cannot please God; even our most “righteous” deeds fall far short of God’s glory (see Romans 3:20 and Isaiah 64:6). We can be saved only because God is gracious and merciful and has designed a way for us to be declared righteous when we are not (Psalm 86:5; Ephesians 2:4). When Jesus became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), we inherited His righteousness. Salvation is a divine exchange: our tattered rags of self-effort for the perfection of Christ. Because His death and resurrection paid the price for our evil deeds, we can be declared perfect before God (Romans 5:1). We are told to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” like a flawless garment (Romans 13:14).

At salvation, the Holy Spirit moves into the repentant heart (Acts 2:38). Self is no longer the uncontested lord of our lives. Jesus is now the boss. That’s what it means to say that Jesus is “Lord” (Romans 10:9; Colossians 2:6). We were once headed south; we are now headed north. Everything is changed. We begin to view life from God’s perspective, not our own—as John Newton wrote, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

The sins we once committed without thought now bring conviction. To know God is to see sin the way He sees it. First John 3:9 says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” Instead of sin, the born-again Christian produces “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Salvation enables us to live “in the Spirit” and so truly perform good works (Galatians 5:16).

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God’s goal in saving us was not only to rescue us from hell, but also that we would reflect His character and goodness to the world. God delights to see us becoming more like His Son (Romans 8:29). We were created in God’s image. Sin marred that image. When God bought us back for Himself, it was to restore His image in us and free us to become all we were created to be. When the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us, He prompts us to do things that glorify God (John 14:26). Our desire to please God grows as our understanding of Him grows. That desire to please God results in good works.

It is biblically inconsistent to say that someone has beensavedbut has notchanged. Many people go through the outward motions of giving their lives to Christ, but no lifestyle change follows. That is not real salvation but is a “dead” faith (James 2:26). When you walk into a dark room and flip the switch, you expect light. If no light appears, you rightly assume something is wrong. It would be logically inconsistent to say that the light is on when the room is still pitch black. Light naturally dispels darkness. When a dark heart receives the light of salvation, it is illuminated (John 12:46). Priorities change. Desires change. Outlook changes. Life is seen clearly for the first time. If the darkness of sin continues, we can rightly assume no light came on.

To use another biblical analogy, God wants to produce fruit in our lives (see Galatians 5:22–23). He is the Vinedresser, Jesus is the Vine, and we are the branches. The branches are naturally attached to the vine; from the vine they get their support, their ability to produce fruit, and their very life. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:5). That is the purpose of the vineyard—to produce “much fruit.” Good works follow salvation.

So, although we cannot be savedbyour good works, when wearesaved, wewillproduce good works. Just as a baby will grow after birth, so a believer will grow after the new birth. We grow at different rates and in different ways, but a live birth results in growth. If a baby never grows, there is something very wrong. No one expects a baby to stay a baby forever. As he grows, the child begins to look more and more like his parents. In the same way, after salvation, we grow, and we begin to look more and more like our Heavenly Father. This is only possible as we “abide in Him” and allow Him to reproduce His character in us (John 15:4).

Good works do not produce salvation. Good works are the product of salvation. Jesus said to His followers, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Salvation: How Do God’s Mercy and Justice Work Together in Salvation?

 

God’s justice and mercy are seemingly incompatible. After all, justice involves the dispensing of deserved punishment for wrongdoing, and mercy is all about pardon and compassion for an offender. However, these two attributes of God do in fact form a unity within His character.

The Bible contains many references to God’s mercy. Over 290 verses in the Old Testament and 70 in the New Testament contain direct statements of the mercy of God toward His people.

God was merciful to the Ninevites who repented at the preaching of Jonah, who described God as “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2). David said God is “gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in loving-kindness. The LORD is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:8–9, NASB).

But the Bible also speaks of God’s justice and His wrath over sin. In fact, God’s perfect justice is a defining characteristic: “There is no other God besides me, a just God and a Savior” (Isaiah 45:21, WEB). “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

In the New Testament, Paul details why God’s judgment is coming: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5–6).

So the Bible showcases the fact that God is merciful, but it also reveals that He is just and will one day dispense justice on the sin of the world.

In every other religion in the world that holds to the idea of a supreme deity, that deity’s mercy is always exercised at the expense of justice. For example, in Islam, Allah may grant mercy to an individual, but it’s done by dismissing the penalties of whatever law has been broken. In other words, the offender’s punishment that was properly due him is brushed aside so that mercy can be extended. Islam’s Allah and every other deity in the non-Christian religions set aside the requirements of moral law in order to be merciful. Mercy is seen as at odds with justice. In a sense, in these religions, crime can indeed pay.

If any human judge acted in such a fashion, most people would lodge a major complaint. It is a judge’s responsibility to see that the law is followed and that justice is provided. A judge who ignores the law is betraying his office.

Christianity is unique in that God’s mercy is shown through His justice. There is no setting aside of justice to make room for mercy. The Christian doctrine of penal substitution states that sin and injustice were punished at the cross of Christ, and that only because the penalty of sin was satisfied through Christ’s sacrifice does God extend His mercy to undeserving sinners who look to Him for salvation.

And while Christ did indeed die for sinners, He also died as a demonstration of God’s righteousness, to showcase His justice. This is exactly what the apostle Paul says: “All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:24–26, emphasis added).

In other words, God didn’t immediately punish sin before the time of Christ; rather, extended mercy. But He did not pass over justice. His righteousness (i.e., His justice) was demonstrated by Christ’s death on the cross. At the cross, God’s justice was meted out in full (upon Christ), and God’s mercy was extended in full (to all who believe). So God’s perfect mercy was and is exercised through His perfect justice.

The end result is that, by the sacrificial death of Jesus, everyone who trusts in Him is saved from God’s wrath and instead experiences His grace and mercy (Romans 8:1). As Paul says, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:9).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Salvation: What Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

 

The word gospel means “good news,” so the gospel of Christ is the good news of His coming to provide forgiveness of sins for all who will believe (Colossians 1:14; Romans 10:9). Since the beginning of time when the first man sinned, mankind has been under the condemnation of God (Romans 5:12). Because everyone breaks God’s perfect law by committing sin (Romans 3:23), everyone is guilty (Romans 5:18). The punishment for the crime of sin is physical death (Romans 6:23) and then an eternity spent in a place of eternal punishment (Revelation 20:15; Matthew 25:46). This eternal separation from God is also called the “second death” (Revelation 20:14–15).

The fact that all are guilty of sin and condemned to spend eternity in a place of torment is very bad news. But God, because of His love for the world, has made a way for man to be forgiven for their sins (John 3:16). He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the sins of man on Himself through death on a cross (1 Peter 2:24). In placing our sin on Christ, God ensured that all who will believe in the name of Jesus will be forgiven (Acts 10:43).

This is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that God provided the way for man to be freed from the penalty of sin (John 14:6: Romans 6:23). But not all people will be saved from hell; only those who place their faith in Jesus will go to heaven when they die (Acts 4:12).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the best news anyone will ever hear, and what a person does with this news will determine where he or she spends eternity. God is calling you to choose life. Call on the name of the Lord and be saved (Romans 10:13)![1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Salvation: What Is Free Grace? What Is Free Grace Theology?

 

Free Grace Theology is essentially a view of soteriology grown from more traditional Baptist roots. It was systematized by theologians such as Dr.’s Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges in the 1980s, mainly as a response to its antithesis, Lordship Theology or Lordship Salvation, which has its roots in Reformed theology. Today, Free Grace is still going strong, supported by such Christian voices as Tony Evans, Erwin Lutzer, Bruce Wilkinson, Dallas Theological Seminary, and the Grace Evangelical Society.

The basic teaching of Free Grace Theology is that responding to the “call to believe” in Jesus Christ through faith alone is all that is necessary to receive eternal life. This basic, simple belief brings assurance of “entering” the kingdom of God. Then, if a person further responds to the “call to follow” Jesus, he becomes a disciple and undergoes sanctification. The follower of Christ has the opportunity to “inherit” the kingdom of God, which includes receiving particular rewards based on works accomplished for God on earth.

Free Grace theologians point to a number of passages to validate their distinction between having saving faith and following Christ, mainly from the Gospel of John and the Pauline Epistles. For instance, Jesus’ explanation to the woman at the well of how to receive salvation—that she simply ask Him for it (John 4:10)—is compared to Jesus’ words to the disciples a few minutes later—that they must “do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34).

Other verses in John’s Gospel mention the act of belief as the sole requirement for salvation, including John 3:16 and John 5:24. And John 6:47 says, “The one who believes has eternal life.” The fact that works lead to rewards in heaven may be seen in passages such as Matthew 5:1–15; 1 Corinthians 3:11–15; and Hebrews 10:32–36, particularly verse 36, which reads, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”

Many Reformed theologians are appalled by the assertions of Free Grace theologians, accusing them of “easy believism” or even antinomianism. Antinomianism is the heretical belief that a Christian is under no law whatsoever, whether biblical or moral, and thus may do whatever he pleases. The fact of the matter is that Free Grace Theology can make it easier to arrive at antinomianism. However, Free Grace teaching is not antinomian per se. Free Grace theologians consider their position more biblical than Lordship Salvation, which they consider to be a works-based theology. According to Free Grace theologians, Lordship Salvation holds that saving faith includes inherently the “act” of accomplishing radical internal change leading to good works.

This leads to the Free Grace emphasis on assurance of salvation, again based on the basic promises in John’s Gospel, that belief is all that is necessary for salvation. To the Free Grace theologian, this is a simple, cut-and-dried issue—if you believe, you are saved. For the Lordship Salvation camp, assurance of salvation comes through the observation of change in the professing believer, i.e., that he is accomplishing good works. Each camp views the other as possibly leading to heresy.

Although Free Grace Theology and Lordship Salvation are terms that have developed only recently, they represent concerns that have been around since the beginning of the church. At the end of the day, there is no question about the basic salvation of those who hold either view—which is ironic, since their disagreement is about salvation! Both views are within the limits of orthodoxy. Still, this does not mean it’s an insignificant discussion. One’s beliefs in this matter can change his view of himself, God, and salvation a great deal.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.