Christianity Today has an article entitled “Jesus and the Sinner’s Prayer” (subtitled “What Jesus says doesn’t match what we usually say.”) by David P. Gushee.
A few quotes:
“The only thing required of us is to believe that Jesus’ blood saves us. Nothing more. It’s nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
In my Baptist context, we’ve heard these thoughts a thousand times. The problem was that I had in my pocket a message in which Jesus himself had a very different answer to the question of salvation.
In reading through Luke, I had discovered that twice [10:25, 18:18] Jesus is asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
In my Baptist tradition, especially, we direct people to “invite Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior,” an act undertaken using a formula called the “sinner’s prayer.” Or we simply say, “Believe in Jesus, and you will be saved.”
But Jesus never taught easy believism. Whether he was telling the rich young ruler to sell all and follow him or telling a miracle-hungry crowd near Capernaum that to do the work of God was, yes, to believe on him (John 6:28-29), he called people to abandon their own agenda and trust him radically. Radical trust calls for both belief and action.
I suggest that we tend to confuse the beginning of the faith journey with its entirety. Yes, believe in Jesus—that’s the first step. Yes, invite Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior. Then, empowered by God’s grace, embark on the journey of discipleship, in which you seek to love God with every fiber of your being, to love your neighbor as yourself, to live out God’s moral will, and to follow Jesus where he leads you, whatever the cost.
If Jesus is to be believed, inheriting eternal life involves a comprehensive divine assessment at every step along our journey, not just at its inception.
Once saved, always saved? That’s Calvin, not Jesus.
We save ourselves? That’s Pelagius and others, not Jesus.
The bold underlined section above is the teaching of Jesus and the Catholic Church.