In my post: Through Faith in Christ we are Justified NOW, I spoke of how we are justified when we are saved by God. We are right with God now because of the work God has done. We simply need to have faith in Jesus and trust that His work is sufficient to redeem us before God.
But as a result of acknowledging that, some provocative and very valid arguments/questions raise up: If we are assured of our salvation, what’s stopping us from doing what we want? We can choose to embrace Him, therefore we can choose to reject Him. What do we say of those who have professed to be Christians, and even showed a lot of evidence in their lives, yet choose to go their own way, not ever appearing to ‘return’ to the Lord. How do we explain that?
Here are two quick responses to that.
- Firstly, we are commanded to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) and to abide in Jesus (John 14:15, 15:9-11). This will be the fruit of those who are truly Jesus’ disciples. If we are truly born again spiritually – a child of God – then we WILL persevere in our faith as we are a new creation, born of God. If we choose not to, then we are revealing our true nature – an unregenerate, rebellious heart. Even false prophets and teachers “may appear” to be like Christians in many ways, but come the day of judgement, Jesus will reveal their true nature and say to them “Away, I do not know who you are”. Sure, we will go up and down in our faith as we struggle with our sinful nature, but our perseverance in our faith is one of the ‘proofs’ that we are truly a child of God’s, sealed by the Holy Spirit, being bought at a huge price! God knows who are His children and He will not lose them.
- Secondly, if there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, then clearly there is nothing we can do to lose it. If there is, then salvation is effectively linked with works and therefore is dependent on us. This is clearly not what the Bible teaches (Eph 2:8-9). We are to choose to follow God each day. However our capacity to follow God would be fruitless in the end, if it wasn’t for God graciously giving us the capacity to do so. As soon as we think we have earned the right to be saved in any measure, then we are taking the glory from God and putting it on ourselves.
Our salvation is a work done completely by God. Our choice and capacity to work out our salvation, to choose to follow God each day, is merely the evidence of the work God has done. When we realise that, we will humbly rely on Him always, not becoming proud. We will not take any credit for our salvation, let alone rely on our own ability to keep it. Given it is God alone who saves, we will be able to rest in the blessed truth that we are secure in God’s arms and nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:31-39). I for one am glad my salvation is by God’s grace alone, because I could never rely on myself to wake up the next day and choose to persevere in following God. It’s by God’s grace that I have the capacity to persevere in my faith in Him, by God’s grace that I am saved to begin with, and by God’s grace that I am safe in His arms.
In realising this and relying on it more every day, God receives all the glory, as He alone deserves!
Stu, this is a critical doctrine of the faith. It is traditionally known as “the Perseverance of the Saints”, or “Once Saved Always Saved, or “Eternal Security”.
A perversion of this doctrine is the suggestion that it teaches once a person is ‘saved’ he or she can live by any ungodly life-style they choose. But this kind of statement reveals a lack of understanding of biblical teaching.
If one starts from the understanding that the faith we exercise to believe in Jesus is a gift from God, Ephesians 2:8, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”, then the keeping power of God becomes a logical, indeed a biblical, extension of this.
Perhaps the best example of this doctrine in action is the faith-walk of the Apostle Peter. No disciple of Christ, other than Judas, embodies this more. John MacArthur writes,
Stuart, Peter’s life is an example of the ups and downs to which you refer. His life is an example of repeated failure but it was also an example of the keeping power of God. You see, perseverance is not dependent upon the good works of the believer but on the keeping power of God.
I urge readers to read John MacArthur’s full treatment of this doctrine here.
Thanks for that further explanation Don. What a relief that it’s by what God has done in Christ and not what we can do that ensures us our salvation. I like how you have noted that to think this gives us a ticket to do what we want and ‘claim to be saved’, is to miss the whole point of God showering us with His mercy… that is to be in communion with Him. We can’t do that if we choose to rebel and go our own way.
I’m still a relatively young Christian, but I’m given to understand that, if you think that your salvation gives you licence to behave like an ungodly heathen…you were never saved in the first place. Jesus has a lot to say about them in Matthew 7, among many other places in Scripture… 😉
So true Denita. Scripture is clear that a born again Christian WILL change to some degree as they are a new creation – out of the heart a person is truly revealed. A person will live according to who they are in Christ. If we go on living the same way, then one could strongly argue that repentance has not occurred, and without repentance there can be no salvation (Matt 3:8, Rom 2:4, 2 Cor 7:10, 2 Tim 2:25-26). If examining our lives we see little or no change we must seriously consider whether we have sincerely given our lives to Christ at all or whether it was just a passing phase where we were just ‘testing the waters’. Time will reveal to us and others what our true standing before God is, and whether our commitment to God is sincere or not.
Wow! What a simple truth. Saved through faith alone in Christ alone. Nothing more to do. Come as you are. It is He who justifies. He who saves. Saved by grace. It’s all so plain and simple, yet so many miss it. It’s nothing WE have or can do that makes us right with God – therefore there’s nothing that we can do to “lose” eternal life.
Simple truth and yet so hard for so many to reoncile – people tend to “think” it through. The human mind cannot grasp it. That’s also probably why the human soul cannot earn it.
Thanks for your wonderful posts.
I hope to pop over again soon for fellowship around the Word.
Cheers. Rob. (Northcote.)
Thanks for your feedback Rob. Although we are to try and think through and meditate on what God teaches to come to a greater understanding ans appreciation of who He is and what He commands, we need to remember that our understanding is limited and we will not always ‘get it’. Instead of always trying to find out or dispute the ‘how’ sometimes we just need to accept God’s truth, take Him by the hand and trust in the grace that He grants us. How precious a child like faith is in this intellectually proud world. God’s plans are not frustrated or made less significant by our inability to always understand them.