I'll go straight to the point:
Romans 8:6 KJV For to be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Salvation is not merely about going to Heaven when we die (instead of Hell). The focus of Salvation is really about a wonderful spiritual life (and peace!) that results from our belief that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead according to the scriptures:
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV
(1) 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.
(3) For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
(4) And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
Let me then elaborate on the significance of Romans 8:
Romans 8:1-18 KJV
(1) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
(2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
(3) For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
(4) That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
- To better understand the context for the above verses, please read Romans 3:19-31.
(5) For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
(6) For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
- This is the crucial truth that most Christians sorely lack in their doctrine of salvation. Paul continues to elaborate on this in the verses below.
(7) Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
(8) So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
(9) But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
(10) And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
(11) But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead [God the Father] shall also quicken [restore to life] your mortal bodies [bodies that are liable to death] by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
- Here, it is clear that the Holy Spirit is the life-giver.
(12) Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
(13) For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
- Salvation is also about a present spiritual life in the here and now. Since living after the flesh leads to death, then if we are truly saved, we will crucify our old sinful selves, and we will now walk in newness of lives that are holy and pleasing to God (cf. Romans 6:1-8). But what does it mean exactly, to be living after the flesh, and living after the Spirit?
Galatians 5:14-26 ESV
(14) For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
(15) But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
(16) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
(17) For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
(18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
(19) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,
(20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,
(21) envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
(22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
(23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
(24) And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
(25) If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
(26) Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 6:7-10 KJV
(7) Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
(8) For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
(9) And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
(10) As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
Sure, we know that "once saved, always saved", but if we think salvation comes about simply by a superficial and hypocritical "faith" in God, then we must wake up from our slumber of delusion, because, Galatians 6:7 (& 5:21) tells us that we will reap whatever we sow. If we don't mind reaping death, then let's go ahead and live after the flesh. Alternatively, if we do put our faith in God, and consider ourselves saved, then we will sow to the Spirit, and from the Spirit we will reap life everlasting. I know that this sounds a lot like a work-based salvation typically abhorred by Calvinists (and Presbyterians), but please (!) read on to see that, just like Evangelism is God working through us to save the lost, our own spiritual "work" is really God working through us to save ourselves.
I know for a fact that most of us have no assurance of whether we are truly Christians, and whether we will eventually end up in Heaven (but, as I have argued, worrying about our place in Heaven is a gross misunderstanding of God's purpose for us), and that this can be a really fearful thought. But please pay close attention to what Paul says in the following verses.
(14) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
(15) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby [by which] we cry, Abba, Father.
(16) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
- If we truly believe in God, thinking of Him as our Heavenly Father, then this is because we do indeed have the Holy Spirit in us. Therefore, we have no reason to fear, but instead, this is what Jesus Christ says to His disciples:
John 14:26-27 KJV
(26) But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
(27) Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
(17) And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
(18) For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
- The first part of verse 17 describes us as "heirs", i.e. inheritors of God's promises:
Hebrews 6:11-12 KJV And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: (12) That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
This tells us that God's promises are meant to be inherited by us, on the basis that we are God's children. The implication of this is that people who talk about "claiming" God's promises are woefully misguided, because how can we dare to claim from God what he has already promised to us as an inheritance!? What God has yet to give, we dare not forcefully take from His hand. And what God has already given, we already have, and there is no need to "claim" them.
- Fun fact: The Greek word of "heirs" (κληρονόμος | klēronomos) in Romans 8:17 shares the same Greek root word with that of "inherit" (κληρονομέω | klēronomeō) in Hebrews 6:12, which means that "heirs" and "inherit" are effectively the same word in Greek.
- We also understand from verses 17-18 that being Christians doesn't mean that we will definitely go through constant suffering. HOWEVER, in the case that we do go through suffering, this temporary suffering is nothing compared to the future glory that will be revealed in us.
Having understood all the above, what then is our response? Psalm 1 is a good place to start:
Psalms 1:1-6 KJV
(1) Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
(2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
(3) And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
(4) The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
(5) Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
(6) For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Our salvation in Jesus Christ should be accompanied by a diligent attitude towards living a righteous life, and to do that, we really need to read God's word. HOWEVER, merely reading is not enough! We must also keep God's word on our minds day and night. Having God's word constantly on our minds means that everything we do will tend to be in accordance to God's will:
Romans 12:1-2 KJV
(1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable [logically necessary] service.
(2) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
This sounds like hard work :( But hard work is good, because we are serving the Lord Christ :)
Colossians 3:23-24 ESV
(23) Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
(24) knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Also, it's not as if this hard work is by our own effort alone. There is actually no false dichotomy. While we work heartily for God, it is indeed God who is working in and through us:
1 Corinthians 15:10 ESV But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
- The first part of the verse actually teaches us a great principle, that no matter how strong/smart/talented/awesome we think we are, in the first place, it is by God's grace that we are what we are. Again, there is no false dichotomy. If we are truly good at something, it is perfectly fine to acknowledge that we ourselves are strong/smart/talented/awesome, but often the greatest difficulty is in acknowledging God's wondrous Grace and Mercy. On the flip side, if we tend to condemn ourselves as useless and incompetent, then we are pouring contempt (and effectively "spitting") on the measure of grace/mercy that God has shown to us.
- The second part of the verse elaborates on this, and again affirms that even the hard work that we do is really God's Grace working in and through us. Deuteronomy 8:17-18 further illustrates this principle:
Deuteronomy 8:17-20 KJV
(17) And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.
(18) But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.
(19) And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.
(20) As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.
Philippians 2:12-13 KJV
(12) Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.(13) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
If we now know that we do indeed have salvation in Jesus Christ, then please, let us work it out for everyone (including ourselves) to see. And do this in fear and trembling, knowing that it is the Holy and Almighty GOD, our Heavenly Father, who works in us both to will and to do of HIS good pleasure.
***UPDATE: At today's YF, Dn Ong Cheng Kim quoted an AMAZING portion of scripture that so beautifully summarises exactly what I've tried to say here!!
Titus 2:11-15 ESV
(11) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,
(12) training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
(13) waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
(14) who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
(15) Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
This is truly a wonderful portion of scripture that validates what I have laboured to explain in this humble note of mine. God has shown me so much grace/mercy by revealing His word to me this way :')