HOW OR WHEN IS A PERSON TRULY SAVED?

Another way of asking this question could be: "How or when does a person receive the Holy Spirit?" The reason I say this is because of what the Scriptures say. "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9) Many people claim to be Christians; such as Mormons, Jehovahís witnesses, Catholics, Protestants etc. But the above Scripture makes it clear that if a person does not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, they do not belong to Christ. They are in fact still in their sins and unsaved. So it is imperative that we, as believers in the truth of Godís Word, get this particular doctrine correct. If we get it wrong in any way, we will very likely run into all kinds of error regarding other vital doctrines.

Where error regarding a vital doctrine is in question, we as Christians cannot afford to be unconcerned about it. Rather, we must search the Scriptures diligently until we have unearthed enough evidence to expose the error! If for instance we were to examine the false Christian religions of this world, we would soon discover that they are all in error with respect to vital doctrines of the Scriptures. The reason for this stems mostly from error regarding the Holy Spirit. Genuine Christianity is impossible without the aid and ministry of the Holy Spirit; for without Him, it is impossible to have a right understanding of the Scriptures.

"The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1Cor 2:14). The outcome of this obvious; Without the Holy Spirit it is easy to fall prey to the devilís schemes, lies, and deceptions, and open to all kinds of false doctrine and heresy. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is therefore indispensable to the Christian life! If we run into error regarding this single doctrine; we will very likely run into error regarding other vital doctrines.

But for us whom the Holy Spirit has indwelt; for us who have been born again by His regenerating power, who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, this need not be the case. As believers, we have the following promise of our wonderful Savior to trust in: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth." (John 16:13)

So what is the truth of the matter in question? How does one receive the Holy Spirit and be saved. A Scripture text that gives us the answer in a nutshell is John 7:38-39!

"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. "By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."

Eph 1:13 is another helpful Scripture: "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise."

These Scriptures tell us that when a person trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ, he receives the Holy Spirit and is saved. The Scriptures also inform us as to when this happens. It happens after one has heard the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation. Therefore, someone must share the biblical message of salvation with sinners before they can believe it. Then, if they believe, they will be sealed with the Holy Spirit. Thus they are sealed with the Holy Spirit (which is synonymous with receiving the Holy Spirit) after they hear and believe the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation. This interpretation is easily verified from other Scriptures.

Gal 3:2 "I would like to learn just one thing from you; did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?" (Gal 3:2) The obvious answer to the question being asked here is that these Galatians received the Holy Spirit by believing what they heard, not by observing the Law. They heard the word of truth, the Gospel of their salvation, and they believed it!

The Holy Spirit inspired the writer of the book of Acts to record a particular incident involving some of John the Baptist's disciples that is especially relevant to this issue.

"And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." and he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into Johnís baptism." Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:1-6)

The Apostle's question to these disciples is very significant: "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" In asking this question, the Apostle Paul brings to the readers attention the most essential characteristic of becoming a Christian. You will note that he did not ask them if they had been baptized in water, or if they had repented, to which they might have answered yes. Instead he asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed: "So they said to him, We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." These Disciples knew only of Johnís baptism, which was with water unto repentance, and evidently did not result in them receiving the Holy Spirit. Not alone had these disciples not received the Holy Spirit prior to meeting the Apostle Paul, it is implied that they did not even know the Holy Spirit existed. Their problem was that they had an inadequate knowledge of the good news of Jesus, and therefore had not yet believed in Him.

They were in fact still in their sins and unsaved up to that point. Here we find something very interesting. Although John the Baptist's teaching was from God, it was useless if it was not followed by faith in the One who came after him, namely the Lord Jesus Christ! This, I believe, is the significant point being made here. Also, when it says that these disciples were then baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus, it does not necessarily mean that they were immersed in water again, but rather that they were immersed in the good news of Jesus.

In other words, they heard the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and they believed (trusted) in Him. They then received the Holy Spirit!

ASKING JESUS INTO ONES HEART OR LIFE?

This is a teaching that has seemingly gained wide acceptance amongst Christians in our day. I have heard it being used many times from Pulpits, from Elders, and from ordinary Christians. I have even read it in Christian books and heard it on T.V. and Christian tapes.

The question I would like to ask however is whether it is Scriptural or not. It may sound Scriptural, and may even appear to be Scriptural, but is it Scriptural? Is it found in Godís Word? In short the answer is no. There is no mention of it anywhere in the Scriptures.

So what is the problem with this teaching? Well, for me personally, that it is not found in the Scriptures is enough. But not everyone thinks this way. So I will attempt to show that not alone is it not found in the Scriptures, it is also a teaching that can be harmful. I would like to begin by making a simple assertion. Asking Jesus into ones life and Believing in Him is not one and the same thing. The Scriptures tell us that it is possible to honor God with our lips but have hearts that are from Him: "ĎThese people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.í"≠ (Matt 15:8-9) These Scriptures show us that Asking and Believing is not the same. It is possible to simply ask Jesus into ones life while at the same time have hearts that are far from God. This is useless in that it does not guarantee that such a person will receive the Holy Spirit. If however a person truly believes; truly trusts in Jesus, without asking Him into their life, they will receive the Holy Spirit and be saved? If nothing else, surely this shows that it is not necessary to ask Jesus into ones life in order to be saved.

I have no doubt that many who go along with this teaching have good intentions, but maybe they have never given serious thought to its potentially harmful consequences. One of the most harmful consequences of this teaching is that it can place as members in our fellowships, those without the Holy Spirit; who do not belong to Christ.

"But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly desires. These are the men who cause divisions among you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit." (Jude 19)

Jude, the Lords brother, is here warning the Church of a problem that will occur in the last times. The thing he is warning us about is division in the Church. He also tells us that the people responsible for this will be those who; "do not have the Spirit." They themselves may be deceived into thinking that they are Christians, and the believers in the Church may think so, but they will be mistaken. These people will in fact be unbelievers. Our enemy the Devil will oppose the truth at every opportunity. He is hostile to it and will use everything in his power to hinder or cloud our presentation of it. But he wont use lies and errors that stick out like a sore thumb. Instead he will use cunning deceptions that are extremely difficult to notice. Does he not lead the whole World astray? Did he not lead our first parents astray? How did he do it? He used deception! In the Church, one of the principal means he uses to accomplish his evil purpose is to cause division, and one of the ways he brings this about is by spreading some weeds amongst the wheat; by placing unsaved people into Christian fellowships as Members.

Now while it may be impossible for us to keep our fellowships completely free of unbelieving members, we can and should do all we can to keep it to an absolutely minimum. We can only accomplish this by holding steadfastly to the truth of the Scriptures at all times. By doing this we not alone uphold the truth; we also defy or refute attempts to alter or reject sound doctrine. In Paulís Epistle to Timothy we are counseled by God the Holy Spirit to watch our lives and doctrine closely. In other words, biblical doctrine is to be guarded closely!

This brings us to the teaching in question. Can those who merely ask Jesus into their lives be saved? In reply I would say that the Scriptural way to be saved is to believe in the Lord Jesus! Now some would say that both are in fact the same thing. So are they the same? If I ask Jesus into my life does it mean that I actually believe in Him as well? I donít think so. To ask something and to believe something are not the same. There are many in the world today who ask God to forgive them their sins, but who actually remain their sins! Why is this? Because they do not believe in the Lord Jesus!

Which brings us to the crux of the matter. The Scriptures make it very clear that sin and its consequences are manís greatest problem. We are all sinners who continually fall short of the glory of God. We are lost and need to be saved from what we deserve for our sins. This is why it was essential for Jesus to come into the world!

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance; that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

(1 Tim 1:15)

"For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost." (Matt 19:10)

Sin has separated us from God and Heaven and has brought the wrath of God to come upon us.

"At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

(Daniel 12:1-2)

"And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous to into eternal life." (Matt 25:45)

They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. (2 Thess 1:9)

Godís wrath therefore is: Eternal punishment; Shame and everlasting contempt; Punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.

"But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Rev 21:8)

This, to one degree or another, is what each person deserves. And because we cannot do anything to save ourselves, we desperately need a Savior; someone to save us from our sins. We need someone through whom we may be granted Forgiveness of our sins!

"And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (Acts 10:42)

Therefore, everyone who believes in Jesus Receives:

As Christians, we are commanded to preach to the people and testify that Jesus is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. He is the one the prophets testify about, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.

But if we teach or accept that merely asking Jesus into ones life can save sinners; are we being faithful to the truth of the Scripture above? What Scripture are we proclaiming? How or when a person receives the Holy Spirit and is saved is a vitally important aspect of the Gospel message. As believers, we ought to know that from the time we are conceived in our mothers wombs till the hour of our death we are sinful and in need of a Savior. The Holy Spirit considered it necessary to inspire holy men of God to write about this Savior, so that sinners might believe in Him and be saved; receiving the Holy Spirit in the process. He inspired the Apostle John to write a Gospel of twenty-one chapters for this very purpose: "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name." (John 20:31)

But if we accept the teaching that says sinners can be saved by merely asking Jesus into their life, we are really saying that the divine purpose for which Johnís Gospel was written is no longer necessary.

We are in fact opening the door of membership to those without the Spirit. This in turn can lead to the situation referred to in Jude 19, which, as we have heard, can cause harmful divisions amongst us. Do we have divisions in the Church today? Sadly yes. How do they arise? They arise mostly when it comes to upholding sound doctrine. (Such as how or when a person receives the Holy Spirit and is saved) The principal reason for this can be that we have as voting members those who are without the Holy Spirit, who do not accept or understand the things that come from the Spirit of God.

"But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way." (Matt 13:25)

What is a tare? Is it not someone who is still a child of the evil one? Is it not the person who is deceived into thinking that they are saved, or who deceives others into accepting them as being saved? In other words, it is the man or woman without the Spirit. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14))

I see in this teaching, amongst other things, an extremely subtle attack on the biblical requirement for sinners to hear and believe the Good News of Jesus. I have personally witnessed fellow believers who have met unsaved people for the first time, and without ever sharing the good news of Jesus with them, encouraging them to ask Jesus into their life; promising them that they will be saved if they do so. It is sadly a teaching that is frequently aimed at young people; and as was pointed out earlier; without any mention of who Jesus is; of sin and its consequences, of Jesus death on the cross and its relevance to sinners, and no mention of His resurrection etc. This cannot be right, can it? Surely the Bible does not have one message for adults and another for children. God the Holy Spirit is not restricted in His work of regeneration because of a personís age, is He? He can and does enable all who are chosen by God, regardless of their age, to belief in His Son the Lord Jesus! God's sovereign grace through the direct work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart is a method of salvation that will reach the infant, the infidel, the heathen, the mentally deficient, the Old Testament Jew, and the individual who has all the privileges of New Testament Christianity available to him. All are born again in precisely the same way, by the sovereign and mysterious operation of the Holy Spirit within the soul.

"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."

Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house." (Acts 16:30-31)

This one word 'believe' represents all a regenerated sinner can do and must do to be saved. The Bible supports this simple truth repeatedly in over 100 verses in the New Testament. So, the Good News of Jesus was preached to everyone in that house, young and old alike, and they all believed in Jesus.

Now some say that all one has to do is call upon the name of the Lord and they will be saved. By this they mean that merely asking Jesus into ones life is the same as calling upon the Lord. The passage in question is Romans 10:13-15

"For, "every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved."

But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed?

And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?

And how are they to hear without a preacher?

And how can men preach unless they are sent?

As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!"

The above Scriptures make it clear that if anyone is going to call upon the name of the Lord, they must first hear the good news of Jesus. That is, they must be alerted to the danger they are in and how they can be saved. When this occurs in conjunction with regeneration by the Holy Spirit, it results in faith. It is after all through faith that we are saved; faith in the Lord Jesus through the message of Salvation made known in Godís Word the Bible. This is not a blind faith, but a faith based on the truth; a faith which is a gift from God. (Eph 2:8-9) The gift of faith enables the newborn soul to function in the spiritual realm, an ability he did not have prior to his quickening (John. 3:3-5 I Cor. 2:14). It also gives the individual the ability to believe, or, if you please, "ears to hear" (Rev. 2:7,11; Pro. 20:12; Mt. 11:15). Therefore, it takes a miracle in the hearts of sinners to bring about the necessary change that enables them to come to Christ. In other words, God the Holy Spirit must do a work of regeneration in the individualís life before faith in the Lord Jesus can be either desired or exercised. The prerogative in all of this belongs totally to our Sovereign God, the author of our salvation! He must begin a good work in the sinners life before there will be any inclination toward Jesus for salvation. That this is plainly taught in the Scriptures is easily verified:

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44)

"You did not choose me, but I chose you." (John 15:16)

"No one can see (or enter) the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3)

Asking Jesus into ones life is to all intents and purposes, a denial of the necessity for sinners to hear and believe the Gospel of their salvation. How is this? Because those who hold to this teaching do not always see the need to preach the Good News of Jesus to their hearers. Instead, they encourage them to simply ask Jesus into their hearts, telling them that they will be saved by doing so. The Apostle Peter shows the folly of such teaching by the following: "You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides for ever." That word is the Good News, which was preached to you."

Ever since becoming a Christian I have heard people using the expression of asking Jesus into ones life. Although I have been uncomfortable with it for some time now, it was only recently that I was moved to examine the Scriptures to check it out. The following is what I found:

  1. Asking Jesus into ones life is found nowhere in the Bible.
  2. In and of itself it is useless as a means of salvation.
  3. It can give sinners a false hope of salvation.
  4. It can place as members (eligible for marriage to genuine believers) in our fellowships those without the Holy Spirit.
  5. It is a completely unnecessary teaching.

Are we not aware that we have in existence, God given guidelines with regard to Evangelism? The clear teaching of Godís Word is that sinners must hear and believe the Good News of the Lord Jesus if they are to receive the Holy Spirit and be saved. Some would have us believe that God can use anything to save people. This is simply not true. God has revealed the means He has chosen by which He saves sinners!

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Cor 1:18-21)

So why is this new teaching still being taught in fellowships? Why not get rid of it? The answer I believe is that some may be deceived into thinking that it played a necessary role in their conversion, and to reject it now might seem to call their standing before God into question. It would also mean accepting that they had embraced an erroneous teaching. I have no doubt that the vast majority of those who have adopted this teaching would agree that the only way a man can be justified is by faith alone in Jesus Christ. And faith in Jesus is something that happens after we hear the good news. Therefore, it is not fitting or Scriptural to encourage anyone to ask Jesus into their life before they have heard the good news of Jesus. Nor is it necessary afterwards!

Although every Christian is instructed to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks the reason for the hope that they have, it does not mean that every Christian has the gift of Evangelism. (Eph 4:11) And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers." It is the Evangelistís responsibility therefore, to preach the good news of Jesus, and to do it in accordance with the teachings of the Scriptures. In this way, the message itself will include within it a call to sinners. They will, in a manner of speaking, be called to believe in Jesus and be saved, or reject Him and remain under Godís wrath. John 3:36 "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for the wrath of God abides on him." Having fulfilled our responsibility in evangelism, we must step back, so to speak, and watch for signs of the Holy Spirit working in that personís life. If, having heard the good news they believe in Jesus and call upon the name of the Lord, they will receive the Holy Spirit and be truly saved!

In conclusion, I would like to point out that the purpose in writing is not to wound or offend anyone, but to simply encourage believers to uphold the truth of Gods Word in this matter. It is my sincere prayer that we will be blessed with a single desire to see the Good News of Jesus being faithfully preached among the lost; that we would steadfastly hold to the trustworthy message as it has been taught. For it is we who are ambassadors for Christ, as though God was making His appeal through us. We are to implore sinners to be reconciled to God, explaining to them how God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory."

(Eph I: 13-14)

Pat Deedigan
10 Pearse Avenue,
Cloughleigh, Ennis
Co. Clare
E-Mail: Deedigans@eircom.net

Used by permission, 2004.


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