Are you saved? How many times have we all been asked that question by well meaning Protestant friends of ours? The question is a loaded one, implying that once you confess that Jesus Christ is your personal Lord and savior, that's it, you're saved. If that were true, then we wouldn't need to go to Confession, nor would we need the Eucharist at each Mass, because we now have a get-out-of-jail-free card; that is, our professed belief in Jesus as our personal Lord and savior. In other words, they ask you that question to get you to leave the Catholic Church and join their protestant church.
A one-time profession of faith in Jesus Christ is a great start, but there is much more to salvation than that. Jesus said that the Eucharist forgives sin (Matthew 26:28), Confession forgives sin (John 20:22-23, and the Last Rites forgive sin (James 5:14-15). This "I am saved" philosophy of many protestants doesn't require any of these methods of forgiveness, because they believe they are already saved and don't need any sacraments. And that begs the question as to why Jesus instituted these sacraments to aid us in our salvation if all we had to do was profess our belief in him one time.
What does the Bible say about all of this?
Here are some verses that do indicate that salvation occurs in our past:
Romans 8:22-24: We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
Ephesians 2:4-8: But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.
But then here are some verses that indicate that salvation is happening now:
2 Corinthians 2:15: For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,
Phillipians 2:12: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
1 Peter 3:21: Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
And here are some verses which indicate that salvation occurs in the future:
Romans 5:9-10: Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15: Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Matthew 24:13: But he who endures to the end will be saved.
So what's the answer? The answer is that I have been saved, I'm being saved, and I have the hope that I will be saved, while I work out my salvation with fear and trembling, like St. Paul. In other words, according to the Bible, "being saved" is not a one time event, but rather, an ongoing process. Think of your salvation journey as an airplane trip- "I have been on the airplane since I first got on (baptism), I am now traveling on the airplane (enduring the sufferings of life for Christ), and I will be on the airplane when it lands at my final destination (death and heaven)!"
In the above analogy, keep in mind that the airplane can crash at any time, and you can lose your salvation. This "flies" in the face of what many protestant pastors preach - The doctrine of "once saved, always saved". The Bible does not preach that doctrine; in fact, it even says in 2 Peter 2:20 :
"For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first."
"but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."In 1 Corinthians 10:12, Paul warns us all about smug overconfidence regarding our salvation:
"Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."