Saved By Grace, Kept By Works?

Q. I read your article “What Is Sin.” You did a good job in explaining what sin is in the life of a believer in the fact that it means “to miss the mark.” You also did very well in showing that all of us sin and miss the mark, pointing out that one sin, no matter how small, is just as bad as what others call larger sins such as murder and adultery. You spoke of repentance being a change of mind. True, we change our mind regarding living a perverse lifestyle, acknowledge that we need a Savior, and accept that Savior (Jesus Christ) as our Savior.

All in all you did a marvelous job in showing people we should not be pointing the finger in judgment toward others who “fall into” sin just like we do when we “miss the mark.” Very good!

Unfortunately, you did NOT address the real issue. What you avoided speaking of was the believer who doesn’t strive. You avoided speaking of the person who declares they are saved and always will be saved because they have had a change of mind, have accepted Christ, but are NOT striving to be holy. Falling short (as we all do) or “missing the mark” in our attempt to achieve living a sinless life is far different from those who, at some point in their “walk” have decided that it’s “okay” to willfully live in perversion.

Biblical warnings against apostasy are real and believers maintain the freedom to potentially reject the salvation they once accepted. They weren’t forced to accept and are not forced to stay.

A. I guess you believe that we can reject our salvation after receiving it by not striving to live a “holy” life. What do you do with clear statements that the Holy Spirit is sealed inside every believer at the moment of belief as God’s guarantee of our inheritance, as it says in Ephesians 1:13-14, 2 Cor 1:21-22, & 2 Cor.5:5. This happens before we’ve done anything good or bad as a believer. In the latter passage Paul wrote that it’s God who makes us stand and that He put His seal of ownership on us and His Spirit in us. Where in all the New Testament does it ever say that He breaks that seal and revokes His guarantee? You imply that his other letters contradict these claims. Was Paul not telling us the full story there?

And what about the Lord’s promise in John 6:39-40 that He won’t lose any of us who believe in Him? Isn’t He the Shepherd and aren’t we the sheep? Doesn’t the Shepherd go after the sheep who wander away and bring them back? Isn’t that the Shepherd’s job? After dying that awful death to get us, does He then let some of us slip through His fingers? Don’t several passages like John 10:27-30 and Romans 8:38-39 clearly promise that no one can get us away from Him? Or does your Bible say “no one but us”. If the Lord’s death was sufficient to save us, but not to keep us, then it wasn’t really sufficient.

This is a “saved by grace, kept by works” doctrine and it’s self-contradictory at best. It holds that even though you didn’t do anything to get yourself saved, Jesus will only help keep you that way if you’re doing everything you can do first. It’s like saying the Shepherd only goes after the sheep who are working hard enough not to wander off. It relegates Him to a participatory role in saving us and gives those of you who live lives that are holy enough to get you into the rapture the very bragging rights that Ephesians 2:8-9 denies you. No matter how you cut it, it turns our salvation into something that some deserve and others don’t.

The solution to all of this is simple and I’ve written about it numerous times. There are two levels to our relationship with God. One is called union. It’s a gift and it’s unconditional. It’s based on belief alone and qualifies you for eternal life with God. You have it forever the minute you ask.

The other is fellowship. It’s conditional and earns you rewards, both here and in eternity. Living a life that’s pleasing to God brings great blessing here, and can also qualify you for crowns and other unnamed treasure in Heaven. It’s based on your works. You can’t know if you have any treasure or crowns until you get to the Bema Seat after it’s too late.

The many Scriptures that promise the free and irrevocable gift of salvation are about union with God. Those that speak of good behavior and promise blessings and crowns for the victorious are about fellowship.

This view removes all the “contradiction” in Scripture, all the merit from salvation, and all the argument about security.

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