Keeping or losing a free gift

michael_legna's picture

In the thread on Scripture Needed (which began by addressing Omniscience VS free will) JMANIA asked a few questions I thought should be answered:

JMANIA said -
If you can lose your salvation,
then what must you do to keep it?
If it is possible to lose your salvation, then what must you do in order to keep it? I've asked this question many times of those who deny eternal security and have received different responses. But they all, essentially, can be categorized into two areas: "Remain faithful," and "Be obedient." Whichever position is taken, both are dependent upon man's faithfulness and ability.


Yes our salvation is dependent on us - even if all you expect of men is to believe in Christ in order to be saved that is still dependent on them believing. If you take even that away from men, so that they play no role in their own salvation whatsoever - you end up with an arbitrary and tyrannical God. I don't believe that He is that way. I believe He does not force us to love Him, as that love would be a false love.

Think of it like a free helium balloon that a parent gives a child and tells them to hold onto it and not let go or they will lose it. If the child does as told and does not let go - does this make the gift any less free or any less of a gift? Did the child earn that gift by obeying? No. The child acted out of love for the parent by obeying their instructions.

JMANIA said -
I cannot help but wonder that if our salvation depends upon us remaining faithful and or being obedient, then are we not keeping our salvation by being good? That's right, by being good and risking works righteousness?


Yes, by being good, but that is not earning salvation. The works of loving obedience that James speaks of perfecting our faith and making it alive, are not done out of a attempt to merit salvation, they are done strictly out of love for God and our fellow man. If they are done in an attempt to merit salvation then they cease to be works of love and so do not perfect or enliven our faith. It is these later form of works which Eph 2:8 describes as works we can boast over, and so rightly condemns. We cannot boast over love or works of love, we can boast over works that earn us something. It all comes down to intent. If you do something out of loving obedience, in cooperation with the grace of God which makes all such works possible, then you are not trying to make God a debtor and your righteousness does exceed that of the Pharisees, since love fulfills all the law.

JMANIA said -
Please understand that I am not saying this as an accusation. I am only asking the questions and expressing my concern. Again, if a person says he stays saved by remaining faithful and or being obedient to God, then isn't he saying that he is maintaining his salvation by being good? It is a good thing to be faithful to God. It is a good thing to obey God. But is this how we are saved or stay saved? Does our salvation rest in anyway on how good we are?


I would say yes, that all through out the Scriptures it is expressed that in order to avoid fiery indignation (condemnation) one must obey the Gospel. The whole of the Gospel message is that we fulfill the spirit of the law through love, and not the letter of the law (in order to merit salvation) as the Pharisees tried, which Paul tells us is death.

JMANIA said -
For me, this is dangerously close to works righteousness.
James 2:10, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all."


Here James is talking about how the Pharisees tried to keep all of the letter of the law, but as we know love fulfills ALL the law. So if we act in love we do not stumble on even one point of the law. Love is how out righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees.

Gal. 3:10, "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.'”


Look at the verse - it is once again speaking of the written law, the letter of the law. This cannot be fulfilled by men, that is why the law is referred to as our schoolmaster. It showed us we could never live up to the letter of the law. But through love we can live up to the intent of the law. And the intent is so much more important than the mere letter.

JMANIA said -
A further concern I have is that if anyone were to try and maintain his salvation by being faithful/good, is he then required to keep the whole law?
I think I covered that above. You keep the whole law, through love. But again we are focused on the spirit or intent of the law, not the letter of the law.


Take a look at Hos 6:6 and the two places where Jesus quotes it in the New Testament (Mt 9:13; Mt 12:7):

Hos 6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

God wants us to understand His teachings more than simply perform some rituals of the law by rote with no feeling or intent behind them, as if this simple performance would merit us His salvation.

JMANIA said -
I believe that those who seek to remain faithful and obedient to God in order to stay saved would say that they are not trying to maintain their salvation by their works, their faithfulness, thei obedience, etc. At least I hope not. But, isn't a law an instruction given by God that has a punishment for disobeying it? God commands everyone everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30. In Exodus 20, God commands that we believe in him. Can it be said that the command to believe and repent are laws since disobeying them has penalties? Do you see the problem?


Yes, but these laws are also fulfilled through love.

JMANIA said -
A confession
I'm not a very good Christian. I know my treacherous and sinful heart. If my salvation were dependent in any way upon my faithfulness or obedience, then I'm in trouble. I would never claim that I was able to remain faithful enough or do enough good to maintain my position with God. I just can't go there. Instead, I rely totally on him to keep me, not me to keep myself.


You can fail, we all do, the point is to be converted such that these failures bother us, and we seek forgiveness through repentance and confession. Just as the prodigal son was first a son, then was dead to the father and then repented and was alive again, so too we can be a son, a co-heir with Christ and fail, and even die to the Father (losing salvation) but if we repent the father will gladly take us back and we will be son's once more.

JMANIA said -
All that I am and all I need is found in the work of Christ. Even my ability to believe is God's work (John 6:28-29).


Let's look at John 6:28-29 because it does not say that our ability to believe in Jesus is God's work and not our own.

John 6:28-29 28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

The reference to the work of God is not that it is God acting through us, but that is the work God requires of us. It is an instruction to those who asked what they might do. You just have the grammar wrong in reading this.

JMANIA said -
My believing has been granted to me by God (Phil. 1:29).


Looking at Php 1:29 we see that once again this is not being read correctly.
Php 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

This verse does not mean that some are forced to believe and others are denied the ability to believe, the point of this verse is that because of Christ we who believe will share in His sufferings. If Faith was strictly and only a gift from God then we would not be able to perfect it - God does not give imperfect gifts. And as long as we are considering this issue, I would ask how perfect does a faith have to be in order to properly accept the free gift? This questions is answerable by a doctrine of loving obedience to fulfill all the law, but it is not answerable in the doctrine of faith alone.

JMANIA said -
And, I believe because I was appointed to eternal life (Acts 13:48). Should I then stand before God and man and say that I am keeping my position with God by my own faithfulness? This is something I can never claim.


Acts 13:48 says:
Act 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
Yes we are predestined, but it is not a deterministic predestination, which strips man of free will and makes our love of God out to be a sham - and it is certainly not a double predestination which forcefully condemns some to hell with no possible recourse to any other alternative. That would be the act of a arbitrary God.

JMANIA said -
That is why I ask people who believe they can lose their salvation and are seeking to maintain it by being faithful, if they take credit for their believing. If they say yes, they are boasting.


No acts of love never boast, because they do not expect to merit anything by these acts of love. Love is never puffed up or boastful.

1 Cor 13:1-13 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

JMANIA said -
If they say no, then I ask them what makes him think that if God who granted that they believe (Phil. 1:29),

This has been answered above.

JMANIA said -
appointed them to eternal life (Acts 13:48),

This has been answered above.

JMANIA said -
chose them before the foundation of the world for salvation (Eph. 1:4-5; 2 Thess. 2:13),


Lets first look at Eph 1:4-5 to see what it actually says and does not say:

Eph 1:4-5 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

As I said above yes we are predestined, but this is not a deterministic thing, and this verses does not say that His predestining us forces us to believe or love His Son. Also notice it talks about God’s will in this matter. Now we should ask ourselves where else in Scripture we can see a discussion of this will so we can better interpret this verse. I would start with

1Ti 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

This verse seems to indicate that God’s will is that all men be saved. How is this possible if we interpret the verse from Eph as saying that only some are predestined in some deterministic manner? The answer it is not, so our interpretation of Eph 1:4-5 must be wrong if it is a deterministic one.

Lets also look at the verse from 2 Thess -
2Th 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

In it we see (in part) how predestination functions. It is not deterministic, as it relies on sanctification and in belief. Sanctification is our conforming our will to His and belief comes from hearing and hearing comes from preaching, both being works of men.

It is not merely God deciding some time in the distance past and overriding our free will so that we MUST be saved or we MUST be damned.

JMANIA said -
predestined them (Rom. 8:29-30),

Again - Rom 8:29-30 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

- does not say that the predestination is limited to a few who must respond even against their free will and not predestined others so that they could not respond. Rom 8:29-30 is more about how predestination functions than about how God acts on us. Predestination is not about what God did, but what He knows about us in advance.

JMANIA said -
and said he will lose none (John 6:39),

John 6:39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

We know this is not to be taken literally as elsewhere in scripture we see that this seemingly simple statement is modified and completed to express that He did lose one.

Joh 17:12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

We also need to consider that this says He will not lose us, but we can walk away. In fact there are many references in scripture to sheep walking away from the flock.

JMANIA said -
we'll let you them slip through his fingers when he said it was his will that those who believe would not be lost and would be raised on the last day (John 6:37-40)?

Answered above.

I hope this helps you better understand the idea of how works of loving obedience perfect our faith without attempting to merit anything, so as to make that faith a proper acceptance of the free gift.

Working out our salvation by ken_baillie

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