Is salvation only for believers?

For many Christians salvation is conditional, meaning, “you will be saved IF….” – the “if” part being, “if you repent,” “if you believe,” and “if you confess.” In other words, every part and molecule of salvation requires our belief, our acceptance and our receiving, before an ounce of it is released or given to us. Salvation depends on our will, our choice, our decision, and fulfilling our part and responsibility before we even get a smidgen of forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, justification, sanctification, adoption or union with Christ, or even a chance at having our record of sins and our old self wiped out, or preventing our condemnation and eternal torment in the lake of fire, or sitting with Christ in the heavenly realms. We remain lost, unsaved and separated from God until that magic moment we believe on (or in) Jesus and suddenly all is forgiven and forgotten, and we are saved.

But isn’t that what Romans 10:9 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”? Isn’t that saying, “you will be saved IF….” – the “if” part, in this case, being confessing and believing? Well, yes, it could hardly be stated more clearly. And then in verse 13, that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” There it is again. Do your part and call on Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and you “will be saved.” So it’s not surprising that many Christians believe and preach that salvation is conditional.

But Paul hasn’t finished yet. In the next verse he asks, “But how can they call on the one they have not believed in?” Good question. It’s all very well saying salvation depends on a person believing in Jesus, but what about the person who’s never believed in Jesus all his life and never intends to? And as Paul points out in verses 16-21 that included most of Israel. They heard the gospel (verse 18) but they were “disobedient and obstinate” (verse 21). Israel refused to believe, so was that the end of them? Did they lose out on their salvation for their lack of belief?

Or as Paul phrases it in the very next verse:  “Did God reject his people?” (11:1). Did God say, “Too bad, salvation is only for believers”? “By no means!” he answers. And in verse 11, “Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all.” And why is that? Because God is going to save them despite their lack of belief, verses 26-27, to show us all through Israel that salvation is for unbelievers too.

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