Will You Be Saved?
Gospel Reflection for Thursday, August 31, 2023
Jesus said to his disciples:
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
"Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is long delayed,'
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant's master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."
One of the most unfortunate heresies to arise in recent decades began in the Protestant denominations but has infected many Catholics. It is the “once saved always saved” notion that is a cornerstone of modern Protestantism. The idea is that once one is “saved” for all eternity. No sin, no matter how grave, can change the Christian’s eternal destiny of heaven. Of course, that isn’t what the Bible says so Protestants who recognize the “Bible alone” as the sole authority have no basis for this belief. It also isn’t what the Catholic Church teaches, but while many Catholics may not formally believe in this heresy, too many of us are guilty of the sin of presumption - “God will understand. God is not legalistic. I’ll have time to set things right before I die.”
The following is an excerpt from my book, Confirmation an Autobiography of Faith. It describes my first encounter with this doctrine at a Southern Baptist University. Such inconsistencies in Protestant doctrine led me to explore Catholicism and, eventually to become Catholic:
The next confounding doctrine to which I was introduced were the twin tenants of certain Protestant denominations, “All sins are equal” and “Once saved, always saved.” Not only are these beliefs not supported by the teaching of the Bible, at all… but in truth, no one actually believes them. They were taught. We were told we had to accept them. But, even the professors, themselves, admitted they could not accept them as true. It is idiotic to believe that if a kid steals a pack of gum from a gas station at age 11, his sin is equal to a mature man who rapes and kills 30 women and then engages in a gun battle with the police, killing several officers. Yet, this is a major tenant of Southern Baptist belief. In rejecting the Catholic teaching of mortal sin, they embrace an untenable position. When confronted, they say, “Man may judge sin differently, but God sees all sin as equal.” I answered, “Didn’t Jesus say that there was an unforgivable sin? Didn’t He say to blaspheme the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven? Didn’t He also say that it would be better for Judas had he never even been born, indicating that he would not be forgiven for the sin of betraying Jesus? Wouldn’t that prove that some sins are worse than others. Wouldn’t the Ten Commandments listing certain, specific sins as particularly offensive to God imply that sins such as idolatry, murder, theft and adultery were considered more serious to God than matters of violating dietary laws and such, that were detailed in Leviticus?” In answer to that question, I was told, “God forgives all sins, therefore all sins are equal in the eyes of God. God is not legalistic.” I replied, “That God, in his benevolence and great love for man can and will forgive all sin does not prove that all sin is equal, especially when God, Himself, said otherwise. Several Old Testament books list the penalty for certain sins as death. The Old Testament proves that God does have a stated law and while perhaps not legalistic in human terms, violations of that Law have specific penalties.” No answer was given other than, “This is what we believe,” as there was no logical answer. I opened my Bible and read from
Matthew 12: 31-32
And so I tell you, every human sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And anyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but no one who speaks against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven either in this world or in the next.
'Everyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven, but no one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven.
First John, Chapter 5:16-17
If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that is not a deadly sin, he has only to pray, and God will give life to this brother -- provided that it is not a deadly sin. There is sin that leads to death and I am not saying you must pray about that. Every kind of wickedness is sin, but not all sin leads to death.
I was answered only with silence.
As for “Once saved always saved.” This one is the direct result of the Protestant belief in “faith alone” and the rejection of Catholic teaching on Confession and penance. Southern Baptists teach that once a person “accepts Jesus Christ as his personal savior”, saying a prayer of belief, that is all that is necessary for salvation. Although the Baptist denomination was founded, obviously, upon the sacrament of Baptism, many Baptists now believe that Baptism is merely symbolic. Belief/faith, acceptance of Jesus as Lord, is all that is necessary. I asked, quite naturally, “So, if a person believes in Jesus and prays the prayer Rev. Billy Graham always advised, for instance…. He can renounce his faith, rob a bank and kill people the next day and still go to heaven without any effort of repentance or even being sorry for his sins and crimes?” “Yes,” I was told, “Once saved, always saved. But, a true Christian would not do that.” I opened my Bible, Saint Paul said in Romans (Chapter 7),
We are well aware that the Law is spiritual: but I am a creature of flesh and blood sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand my own behaviour; I do not act as I mean to, but I do things that I hate. While I am acting as I do not want to, I still acknowledge the Law as good, so it is not myself acting, but the sin which lives in me. And really, I know of nothing good living in me -- in my natural self, that is -- for though the will to do what is good is in me, the power to do it is not: the good thing I want to do, I never do; the evil thing which I do not want -- that is what I do. But every time I do what I do not want to, then it is not myself acting, but the sin that lives in me. So I find this rule: that for me, where I want to do nothing but good, evil is close at my side. In my inmost self I dearly love God's law, but I see that acting on my body there is a different law which battles against the law in my mind. So I am brought to be a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body.
“Now, you just taught me yesterday that all sin is equal. So, by your doctrine, whatever sin tempted Saint Paul… even if he did not act on it, because Jesus said that a man who lusted in his heart for a woman who was not his wife was guilty of adultery… whatever he did, it was just as bad as the bank robber and murderer I just described. Was Saint Paul a true Christian?”
“We don’t believe in Saints,” he replied. “Okay,” I answered, Saint Paul addressed his letters, which make up a large portion of the New Testament “to the saints” at various churches, but we can set that aside for now. He also wrote (Philippians Chapter 2):
So, my dear friends, you have always been obedient; your obedience must not be limited to times when I am present. Now that I am absent it must be more in evidence, so work out your salvation in fear and trembling.
Then I shall have reason to be proud on the Day of Christ, for it will not be for nothing that I have run the race and toiled so hard. Indeed, even if my blood has to be poured as a libation over your sacrifice and the offering of your faith, then I shall be glad and join in your rejoicing….
“He went on to say” (Colossians):
You were once estranged and of hostile intent through your evil behaviour; now he has reconciled you, by his death and in that mortal body, to bring you before himself holy, faultless and irreproachable- as long as you persevere and stand firm on the solid base of the faith, never letting yourselves drift away from the hope promised by the gospel, which you have heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become the servant. It makes me happy to be suffering for you now, and in my own body to make up all the hardships that still have to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church..
“If salvation cannot be lost, and is given in full merely through belief and possibly the profession of faith. How can we understand Saint Paul’s words? Why should Christians be obedient? Why does he warn them to persevere and to stand firm? Of what good is his own personal suffering? Most Protestant Bibles translate this verse as Paul saying he was “filling up what is lacking” in the sacrificial sufferings of Christ…. How can this be? Why should Saint Paul worry about how he should finish the race if the reward is the same for all and he could not lose the prize of salvation? It would seem to me, by his plain words that Saint Paul believed he had to complete in himself and in his mission the salvation offered by Christ through constant repentance and effort. After all, Martin Luther changed the very words of Jesus to say, “faith alone” as opposed to faith and works, whereas the Bible elsewhere states that faith without works is dead, even in the King James version. And Jesus told us that unless we ate of his flesh and drank his blood, we would have no life in us. Do you disagree with the words of our Lord? And, what of the passage that states, ‘If a man will not listen to the Church let him be unto you as a pagan’ and “give him over to the devil’ if he will not accept the authority of the Church – presumably such a man is a Christian, or else he would not be under the authority of the Church. Presumably, he had believed, professed faith and had been baptized. How can ‘Once saved, always saved’ be valid if the Bible says otherwise?”
The answer by a man who had graduate degrees in theology and who was a minister was, “I do not know. I believe that our doctrine is true and that it agrees with the Bible. I do not claim to understand everything in the Bible.”
I had to choke back the somewhat snide comment, “I thought the Holy Spirit was supposed to guide you in all understanding of the Bible…” But, I did let slip out the obvious question, “If you do not understand the Bible, and those who taught you did not understand the Bible enough to explain such passages to you, how do you know that any Baptist, even the authors of the doctrine and the founders of the denomination had any better understanding of the Bible?” He did not answer. But later, he called me aside privately after he dismissed the class. “Look,” he said, “I don’t have the answers you are looking for. Perhaps Dr. ________ or Dr. _______ could help.” These were department heads who were well respected by all. I realized he was being honest with me and trying to help. This was a different response than I had received before. Then, he said something that troubled me more than anything I had yet heard. “I have a wife and three daughters. I cannot afford to lose my job.” By this admission, I realized that he was asking me to stop asking him such questions before the class. I thanked him for taking the time to talk with me, and I shook his hand. I would not trouble him any further.
Well, you can see how logic and knowledge of the Bible kept getting me into trouble. Eventually, I had no choice but to suffer the rejection of my friends and much of my family in converting to Catholicism. I certainly do not regret it! I do not doubt the faith and earnestness of many Protestants who embrace such error. Their error may be forgiven due to their ignorance in refusing to consider Catholic doctrine as valid. My greater concern is for “lukewarm” Catholics. Either way, never forget the words of our Lord that completely refute such heresies:
Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock. And every one that heareth these my words, and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof.
Judson Carroll is the author of several books, including his newest, Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith. It is Available in paperback on Amazon:
His new podcast is The Uncensored Catholic https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-uncensored-catholic