For an answer to this question we need to look at the Word of God. God's Word gives a lot of light on commentaries, tradition, and opinions and reveals their error. By God's grace we want to line up with His Word even if it goes against our opinion and tradition or against our favorite commentary.
Therefore, to answer this question let us go to John chapter 8. There we find Jesus speaking to a group of Jews with the Pharisees present. (verses 12-13) He declares in verse 12, "I am the light of the world." His discussion and teaching recorded in verses 12-29 are to the point, revealing who He is--the Son of God. As a result of this message verse 30 says, "many believed on him."
Sounds great doesn't it? Most Baptists would have this group signed up, baptized, churchized, choirized, deaconized, and preacherized. But the question comes when we study this chapter in context, "Are these Jews really saved?" Most would say sure because they believed. Do you not know that James 2:19 says, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." A lot of Baptist have said they believe but they do not tremble, so if that is all one has he is no better than the devil. Therefore to "believe" is not enough.
Look at what Jesus said. "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32) Notice Jesus is speaking to the Jews whom the Bible says, "believed on him." He is not speaking to the rest of the Jews nor the Pharisees. It is evident from these verses and the rest of the chapter that these Jews were not saved. "Shall know" is future tense which means "come to know." "The truth" is more than just a verse in the Bible. It refers to the Lord Jesus who is "The Truth." (John 14:6) An individual who has the Son (The Truth) has eternal life (is saved; I John 5:12). Therefore, these Jews were not saved.
Jesus also told them that their father was the devil in verse 44 and that did not know God in verse 55. Then in verse 59 these Jews who the Bible said "believed on him" took up stones to kill Jesus. This is not the action of saved men!
For years we have read this chapter and thought it referred to the Pharisees, but Jesus declares plainly that His is talking to those Jews that believed on Him. (verses 31-59) This brings up another question, "Could they have been saved?" Yes, if they had met the condition that Jesus laid down in verses 31-32--"if you continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed (truly)."
This brings another question, "What does it mean to continue in His Word?" It means to do what you know to do at the time or to put it another way, step (obey) in what light (truth) you have and the Lord will give you more light and bring you to Himself so that you may be saved--delivered from your bondage of sin, tradition, and customs that are contrary to the Scripture. Peter said it another way when asked on the day of Pentecost, (Acts 2:37) "What shall we do?" He answered in Acts 2:40, "Save yourselves from this untoward generation." This means you need to lay aside some things in your life or at least be willing to, to know The Truth. Jesus Himself said, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." (Luke 13:24)
Some say this is works for salvation. Oh no! It is His work in salvation as the Holy Ghost produces godly sorrow, convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment (II Cor. 7:10; John 16:8-11), and produces repentance and faith, enabling one to repent and believe with saving faith. These Jews in John 8 only had intellectual faith and that is not enough for one to be saved.
Others say that this is "progressive salvation." Oh no! Salvation is at an instant, at a point where man passes from death unto life. But there is a progression in Holy Ghost conviction. And anyone who has experienced that will tell you the same thing. When one is saved he will give all the glory to the Lord because without Him and the completed work of the Holy Ghost no man would or could ever be saved.
Notice John 8:31 says, "Continue in my word." This is the Lord's Word and not some preacher's. It is true God uses preachers to preach His Word but unless the Holy Ghost makes that Word alive, real, and personal to you, you cannot believe it nor act upon it. If you just take man's word for your assurance, you will hear the awful words of our Lord one day, "I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Mat. 7:23) And then, you will be cast into the lake of fire for ever. How sad! But it does not have to be that way. Step in what light you have. Do what you know to do at the time. Continue in the Word of God as He quickens it to you and allow Him to make the soil of your heart good ground (Mat. 13:23) with understanding so that you might come to know The Truth and be saved.
I conclude with an answer to the question at the beginning of the article--MUST A LOST MAN CONTINUE IN THE WORD TO BE SAVED? The answer--yes. This is not what I say but what the Lord said. Check it out. Search the Scripture whether these things are so or not. (Acts 17:11) You are noble to do so!
If you would like more information (an in-depth study) concerning this subject, please order our audio series, "The Road of Light." It is free for the asking. If I can be of help in any way, please feel free to call or write.
THE PERSUADER - Dec., 1997-Jan., 1998