There are two heresies which every honest Bible student and follower of Christ seeks to avoid when dealing with the issue of eternal security.
One is what could be called “easy believism” or “cheap grace”. It is that heresy which turns salvation into a mechanical one-to-four do-it-yourself-assembly guide and which produces fake christians who are being told that they cannot loose salvation while in fact they never were saved. These fake christians then fill the churches and make life hard for the real Christians who are more and more forced to leave that church as time goes by. The world comes into the church, because the church leadership lowers the gate through which one has to enter in order to attain to salvation, until no true converts can be tolerated any longer.
The other heresy is justification by grace AND works respectively legalism. Here things are openly or in a between-the-lines manner declared to be necessary for salvation, which in fact God is not interested in at all. This is what all reformers vehemently fought against. They did not fight works performed as a result of one’s being saved, rather what they were up against was that kind of kauchomai, namely boasting, with which the religious man seeks to manipulate God with. The religious, “boasting” man comes before God with his or her “good works” and then he starts bargaining. God has to dance after the pipe of these religious people. It is this kind of mentality, which Paul observed within the Judaizers’ movement (the circumcision party) and which both Luther and Calvin observed within the Roman Catholic Church. What is more, besides of works which are no longer part of the covenant, all the good works which the truly elected and saved are going to do because they have the law of God written in their hearts (Jeremiah 31, 33) and because God had prepared these for them beforehand (Eph. 2,10), are going to be imitated by those who are not saved. Just as the devil seeks to “play God”, fake christians will try to produce works of God by the flesh. They will show a false kind of love, which is mere hypocrisy because it is not born of the Spirit of Love and which is mere seduction because it is not born of the Spirit of Truth, and love without truth is seduction. This kind of “boasting”, “bargaining with God” and preventing others to come to salvation because of such behaviour, has inspired many theologians to exposit the biblical concept of eternal security in a one-sided way, which does not do justice to the overall teaching of the Bible.
We have already seen in Part I some of the things which are usually overseen, when a one-sided concept of eternal security is pressed upon us; here are a few more:
1. Salvation is referred to as something pertaining to past, present and future, not to the past only.
Iosif Ţon develops this point in his book ”Mântuirea – Ce este ea? Se poate ea pierde?” (Salvation – What is it, can it be lost?”).
Not only have we been saved once we entered into a covenant with Jesus Christ, but also are we continuing to be saved in the present and future:
For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those being lost, but to us being saved, it is the power of God. (1. Cor. 1, 18). “Being saved” is in Greek “sozomenois”, a verb in the present continuous form, literally it could be translated “in the course of becoming saved” or “in the process of becoming saved”.
2. Reconciliation (justification) and salvation are not the same thing.
In Romans 5, 10 we find salvation pertaining to the future: “… being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
In other words, we were reconciled in the past (justification), but salvation does not only encompass reconciliation with God (justification), but stretches further, pertaining to such things as sanctification, growing in the Lord, being saved by His life, etc. as well.
3. Salvation is a growth process
The “sincere milk of the word” by which Christians are growing (1. Peter 2,2) does not only help us to grow, but in fact to grow TOWARDS SALVATION (“… gala epipotheesate, hina en autoo auxeetheete eis soteerian”, note that the “eis soteerian = into or towards salvation” is not translated in many Bible versions, I found this in my United Bible Societies Greek NT, Green’s Interlinear Bible does not have it, go and check for yourselves!!!). Salvation is a growth process respectively it is somehow hanging together with the Christian’s process of growing in Christ.
4. To remind truly born-again believers about the necessity to walk in godly works does in no way imply that salvation is dependent upon man (pelagianism), respectively that man shares merit for salvation together with God (semi-pelagianism). The concept of eternal security and the concept of God’s works becoming the works of the elect are not in conflict with each other.
When someone gets saved and God leads him or her through trials and temptations until the end, this is in no way his or her merit, but is only due to God alone. Man can in no way start to imagine that he was “better” than someone else concerning his or her salvation and sanctification. In 1 Corinthians 10:12 (MKJV) we read: “So let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall”.
Truly born-again believers are assured of their salvation and at the same time they seek salvation with fear and trembling. They rejoice in “eternal security”, in the fact that none can snatch them out of their master’s hand, while at the same time they “take heed” lest they start boasting instead of doing good works. For the truly saved this is not as paradoxical as it might seem on the surface, for whoever has the love of God become manifest in him or her will love to seek what is of God instead of fighting for every inch of sin, which God might tolerate. (God does not tolerate any sin.)
There are many verses where New Testament believers are exhorted to pursue those kinds of works, which are good because they ultimately are of God and not of man. “Their works” (the works of the elect) are “good works”, because they are the works of God, not of man. In the end (in Revelation) we see the redeemed saints praise God for His works (which they had their part in fulfilling). True Christians are called to be God’s tools, to do the things God has in mind, so they become part of God’s plan which was planned from before all eternity. Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the devil (1. John 3, 8) and we are called to stand up to fight, destroying the works of the devil, too. Here are verses substantiating this view:
1 Corinthians 15:58 (MKJV) ¶ So that, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not without fruit in the Lord.
This means that our labor is fruitful, if it is done “in the Lord”, i.e. if we remain grafted in the vine, which is Jesus. (See also John 15).
2 Timothy 3:17 (MKJV) that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work.
God equips, furnishes us “to every good work”. We cannot do good works on our own, only those having a true basis for eternal security, are able to receive this empowering.
1 Timothy 2:10 (MKJV) but with good works, which becomes women professing godliness.
Titus 1:16 (MKJV) They profess that they know God, but in their works they deny Him, being abominable and disobedient and reprobate to every good work.
It is one thing to profess having eternal security and another thing being made able to do truly good works. Only a good tree can produce good fruit.
Titus 2:7 (MKJV) In all things having shown yourself a pattern of good works: in doctrine, purity, sensibleness, without corruption
Revelation 2:2 (MKJV) I know your works and your labor and your patience, and how you cannot bear those who are evil. And you tried those pretending to be apostles, and are not, and have found them liars.
Revelation 2:6 (MKJV) But you have this, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
There is a “pattern of good works”, which is of God, and there are so-called “good works”, which upon closer examination show themselves to be mere “corruption”. Wherever there are Christians pretending to do “good works”, while at the same time tolerating questionable doctrine and false leaders, their good works are in fact “corrupt”. These kinds of works were the works Luther and Calvin reacted so strongly against, not the works of the saints, which are works of God.
Good doctrine exposes counterfeit works. Wrong doctrine does not only lead to falsely religious behaviour, it is also a sign without doubt that works of human religion are present. Wrong doctrine leads to a counterfeit Christ and a counterfeit Christ leads to counterfeit works. True Christians are going to hate counterfeit works and falsely religious behaviour. A true Christian is not going to remain indifferent when false doctrine shows its ugly face, he is not going to retreat to a “comfort zone”, but is going to enter into God’s battle against false doctrine. Kierkegaard wrote: “New Testament Christianity is: To suffer for the doctrine at the hands of men.”
Titus 3:8 (MKJV) Faithful is the Word, and as to these things, I desire that you strongly affirm that those believing God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
Titus 3:14 (MKJV) And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, so that they may not be unfruitful.
James 2:17 (MKJV) Even so, if it does not have works, faith is dead, being by itself.
1 Peter 2:12 (MKJV) having your conduct honest among the nations, in that which they speak against you as evildoers, they may glorify God in a day of His visitation, seeing your good works.
Revelation 2:5 (MKJV) Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and will remove your lampstand out of its place unless you repent.
Revelation 2:19 (MKJV) I know your works and love and service and faith and your patience, and your works; and the last to be more than the first.
Revelation 2:26 (MKJV) And he who overcomes and keeps My works to the end, to him I will give power over the nations.
Revelation 3:2 (MKJV) Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die. For I have not found your works being fulfilled before God.
Revelation 14:13 (MKJV) ¶ And I heard a voice from Heaven saying to me, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they shall rest from their labors, and their works follow them.
Revelation 15:3 (MKJV) And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are Your ways, O King of saints.
Note that in some of the above verses “works” are referred to as being the works of the saints, while in other verses, or with the same breath as it were, “works” are referred to as being God’s works. In fact there is no difference, because if God is in a man because of Jesus Christ, HE is going to perform these works, not the respective human being. It is as if God exhorts us to “be in His works”, not in order for us to attain to justification or eternal security (and then sit on our yeasts and boast and become blown up with some leaven), but in order that HE may do the works HE intends to do. So the question we should formulate is not whether or not we are justified by works as well (although James does in fact say so, in 2, 24) or exclusively by grace (although this is what Paul says in Romans 3), but if we have the grace to do God’s works or, if we are backslidden, if we have the grace to be granted repentance in order to re-enter God’s works. So, instead of bargaining about the question whether the covenant is conditional or unconditional, we should be watchful with fear and trembling lest GOD’S PURPOSE IN SALVATION is becoming of no effect in our lives.