What follows is an excerpt from an article that bears the same title as this post. You can read it here.
Scripture teaches that believers must persevere until the end, but also that believers will persevere until the end by God’s grace. As the Westminster Assembly concluded, Christians might temporarily yield to Satan’s temptations, even to excess, but like Peter when he denied Christ three times, God will still restore and preserve the faith of the Christian, a faith which God gave in the first place! Peter went on to be chief among the apostles! Two biblical principles must be held side-by-side:
1. You Must Persevere until the End: God’s Requirement of His People
God does not merely command us to begin to believe for a time, and then fall away. He requires us to continue to believe until the end, living lives of repentance and covenant faithfulness. Granted, He does not ask for a perfect faith, but He does ask for a real faith, one that produces real, lasting change.
• Colossians 1:21-23
• 1 John 1:5-10; 3:3-6
• Hebrews 10:26-31
• Hebrews 12:1
2. You Will Persevere Until the End: God’s Preservation of His People
We will persevere because God preserves us. God will keep us from falling—not one will be lost of all those who belong to the Son. True believers are not able to leave Christ, for Christ is at work within them.
• John 6:38-40
• John 10:28-29
• Romans 8:28-39
• Philippians 1:4-6
• Philippians 2:12-13
• 1 John 2:19
This first set of texts cannot be used to refute the second; nor can the second set of texts be used to refute the first (cheap grace). The point that makes the two compatible is the biblical teaching that faith (while commanded of everyone) is a gift from God to His elect. If faith is simply a human action of a free will, then it can be lost. But if saving faith is God’s gift, then it cannot be lost. Can professing Christians fall away? Yes, and they will perish. Can true Christians fall away? No, for they are kept by the invincible power of God in Christ. The Bible teaches us that professing Christians who leave the faith were never truly believers (1 John 2:19; and notice the qualification even in Hebrews 10:39).
Dan’s question: If we agree that we are saved by faith alone in the finished work of Christ on the cross, but also assert that if we commit sin(s), or fail to repent of every single one, are we not saying that our works contribute, at least in part, to our ultimate salvation?
As the above article excerpt states, if one is saved by an act of human free will, then one must necessarily be able to leave the faith by another act of human free will to be logically consistent. Also, to believe that God alone saves AND preserves in faith those who have trusted in Christ for their salvation is also logically consistent. However to say that God alone saves initially (grants eternal life) but by human effort one must remain saved, is theological schizophrenia.
Have a great day, everyone!
Good Morning Dan,
Interesting post, I hope you won’t think that my comment is heresy, but I believe salvation clearly involves the believer’s works. We have emphasized the forensic aspect of salvation,i.e., justification through faith alone, to such an extent that we have forgotten that “salvation” is more than pardon. To say that a person’s works, either initially or subsequent to regeneration, form any part of the ground or basis of his justification before God would indeed be heresy. But, salvation is a much broader term that includes God’s ongoing work of sanctification. Paul told the Philippians to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who works in them. . .” It is God’s work from beginning to end, but because he works, we also work.
Thank you for defining your terms in your comment. Salvation means many different things to different people. Almost all our Christian words have been mis-defined.
The reason the Protestant Reformation insisted upon “Justification by faith alone” was because of the danger of the widespread false gospel which included our efforts in our being made right with God. As you know, this was the reason so many millions of Bible believers were killed in the inquisition, and why justification by faith is still considered heretical by the Roman Catholic Church.
The Bible is clear that works are the necessary mark of our salvation, but not the cause. Faith without works is dead – precisely because there is no evidence that it exists. Easy believism – praying a prayer one time and you can live exactly as you always have with no change whatsoever – is obviously not real faith. But – and it’s a big but – saying that my works play any part in my reconciliation with God is a false gospel too, and one that is extremely dangerous. False assurance leads people right into hell.
Am I understanding you correctly? Is the reason you include works in your definition of salvation because you are objecting to the Charles Stanley type of gospel message?
Yes Alec, that is exactly right. There was a time that I would have said I believe in “free grace,” but that term has been hijacked by OSAS Arminians to mean that once a person has come to a moment of lucidity in which he/she is able to assent to the propositions of the gospel, he/she will be saved for eternity no matter what they do. They have forgotten that it is not the primary purpose of salvation to take us to heaven when we die, but to “that we should be holy and blameless before God” and to be “conformed to the image of his Son.” Justification is one of the initial steps in that entire process, but not the entire burrito.
Alec, I don’t think Dan will mind if I invite you to read a chapter from a book I am writing on Calvinistic Evangelism [working title]. I am posting it chapter by chapter on my blog. I believe the title of the chapter is “The Purpose of Salvation.”
What, me worry? 🙂 Great conversation!
The Nature and Purpose of Salvation is the exact title.
Thank you! Look forward to reading it, Randy. this chapter
“We have emphasized the forensic aspect of salvation,i.e., justification through faith alone, to such an extent that we have forgotten that “salvation” is more than pardon.”
Amen! Justification is just one aspect of salvation.
What heresy? Saving faith does produce works. I love your reference to Phil 2:12-13 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person