“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” -James 2:19 (NIV)
It’s not enough to just believe in God, or even to pray to Him, while still conducting ourselves like any nonbeliever. From our faith in Him and His Son’s finished work, we are forever changed through the Holy Spirit, which is shown outwardly in our works.
There are some, however, who treat salvation as a Get Out of Hell Free card, believing that once you’re saved, you can sin as you please while you’re here on earth.
Following the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s, there was a massive split from the Roman Catholic Church. Up to that point, the only Christian church bodies were the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. (Those two churches split in 1054, in the East-West Schism.) The most egregious point of contention was the sale of indulgences, which supposedly freed lay purchasers from their sin.
In Protestantism, there are five tenets/slogans known as the Five solae (plural of the Latin sola, meaning “alone”) summarizing major theological differences from the Roman Catholic Church:
- Sola scriptura (by scripture alone): because the Word is authoritative, it needs to be taught; the Word alone is enough to glean doctrine for salvation; the Word is inerrant; and that the Holy Spirit can help believers read and understand the Word, by guiding them to discussion within the church.
- Sola fide (by faith alone): that by faith in Christ, we are saved. This is corollary to the first point, and supports the reformers’ desire to return to a direct and personal connection between us and Christ.
- Solus Christus (Christ alone): believers should go directly to Christ, and not through the Pope as a mediator.
- Sola gratia (grace alone): salvation is a gift from God, given us through the Holy Spirit, thanks to the finished work of Christ. Believers do not achieve salvation through merits of one’s works, because no one deserves salvation.
- Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone): since salvation is only possibly through God’s will and action, all glory goes to Him…not any humans, no matter what their title or rank.
Even back in the 1500s, some took the sola fide approach to the extreme, living sinful lives since they felt their salvation by faith was a given. There are those who do that today. This approach is called antinomianism.
The question is not whether salvation can be lost (it can’t), but whether someone who perpetually lives a life of sin under the assumption of the was ever saved in the first place. We are all sinners, but when we come to God broken and truly repentant, He transforms us from within through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
As a result, the fruit of our reborn lives is God-glorifying living. Sure, we all still stumble, perhaps even for a season, but then we turn back to God. So if you or someone you know believes you can live just like any unbeliever, consider turning away from your lifestyle right now and kneel before the cross. Walk this way. I can testify that you will know when you’re saved, because that point in time will mark the death of the past you, and the amazing and God-glorifying future He has ahead for you.