I was recently asked about a particular verse in the New King James Version that is supposedly an attack on the doctrine of soteriology. Whenever that kind of accusation is leveled, it is something to pay attention to and examine carefully before dogmatically agreeing with that assertion. The passage in question is I Corinthians 1:18 which says in the KJV:
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18 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. NKJV
These verses makes it clear that final salvation is a future event that we are moving closer to. So are we to look at this matter of salvation with an either/or dilemma, or do we accept both as being true and figure out how to reconcile them so that salvation is both past and future? But I'm not done yet, the original question still needs to be answered about the present tense. Is salvation ongoing? If it is, who is doing the saving- my works or God's power? Obviously God's power is the answer. Look at this passage:
Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth...
(this word: "believeth" is an ongoing belief. It is not just a one time belief at one time at the front of a church altar. A continuance of believing)
...to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
We believe from faith to faith until the day we are finally saved when we cross the threshold of heaven and we are home free and safe at last! That safety, however had been with us from beginning to end by the power of God, not by my power of obedience and good will.
3. Salvation is Described as an Ongoing Process
2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
See the connection between Romans 1:17 "faith to faith" and this verse "life unto life". When faith in the heart opens up to accept Jesus, salvation comes in with such power to produce more and more faith for the coming future. Persevering in faith is the way to final salvation:
1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
The gospel saves believers because when that first act of faith welcomes it, the gospel now goes on awakening more and more acts of faith and it never fails! Your security lies not in yourself but in the righteousness of God and you need it every day, not just at the beginning of your Christian life. That is why there are so many warnings in the New Testament against falling away (Hebrews 6:4) letting our faith in the things we have heard slip (Hebrews 2:1) Departing from the living God (Hebrews 3:12) And on a positive note there are many exhortations to continue in the faith (1 Timothy 4:16; Colossians 1:21) to abide in the doctrine of God (2 John 1:5).
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. So here we are again, "are saved" and "them that perish" are identical in these two verses. They are all in a past present participle: something that happened in the past that is happening right now! The difference between this idea that the cults teach that salvation is a process that we must work our way through and the Christian understanding of "being saved" is that we believe God is doing the saving every minute of every day unto the day we are finally saved in the day of redemption.
Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. This redemption is a future event, and on the way to it, God keeps us by His Holy Spirit's sealing that we have already experienced in the past. We are also continuing in our belief by the grace of God until the day we reach final salvation.
This convinces me more and more that salvation is totally and completely of the Lord. Even our faith must come from Him, because if it comes from me, and I am told to continue in it, then I must keep myself saved by my continued faith. But if my faith comes from God in the first place, and I am told to continue in it, then it must be God who keeps me in the faith, keeps me believing, keeps me from apostasy, and keeps me secure until I am finally saved in heaven.