You cannot earn salvation, so how can these ideas be reconciled?
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
~ Ro 6:23
Some mainstream denominations claim that “once saved, always saved”, as though it were an event that came and left, leaving the believer with no responsibility whatsoever in their own salvation. Worse, Calvinists claim that there is no choice at all in the matter, which flies in the face of both the Bible and common sense. They would have you believe that people are punished for matters in which they have no control!
It always boils down to the matter of the justice and fairness of God. While many claim that God is just, their beliefs portray a “god” who is not only not just but spiteful, capricious and a downright evil monster. I am not joking. Their beliefs portray a deity who gets so personally insulted at being rejected that the punishment far outweighs any crime that limited, physical mortals could ever commit.
3 Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
The fact of the matter is that if God were not just then we are all in serious trouble. In fact, it begs the question, which many an agnostic has asked, if God really is as inconsistent as many mainstream pastors and teachers portray Him, then why would anyone in their right mind follow such an evil being?
At the same time, God has provided a perfect plan in which mankind can be reconciled to Him, giving Himself room to show mercy, and still have justice satisfied. Rather than capriciousness, God shows Himself to be very methodical and able to plan and foresee a future that our limited minds have trouble grasping.
I think there is no doubt that we are all sinners before God. I think there is no doubt that eternal life is a gift. Some say it is a “free gift”, and indeed that phrase is used in the Book of Romans, although in reality that is for emphasis since a gift by definition really is free.
The real question boils down to, “How is eternal life free?” Some will claim that you cannot be saved by works. However, that too is redundant. Sometimes we say that a person saves his or herself, but in reality if they did it themselves they did not need to be saved.
I once heard the analogy of a dozen eggs. What if you wanted to make omelets? You break open a couple of eggs into a bowl, but then the third egg is cracked open and smells downright putrid as it drops into the bowl. Do you then reason, “Well, that is only one bad egg, so I’ll just cover it up with the rest of the dozen”? Is that going to work? No, of course it won’t work. You need to throw the bad mixture out and start over.
Sin is the same way. Can we be “mostly good” and expect to be accepted? No, of course not. We need to be totally changed.
So, how does one inherit eternal life? Well, Jesus was asked that very question. These words are in red in some Bibles:
…Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
No matter how “good” we perceive ourselves, it only takes that one rotten egg to spoil the entire lot. In comparison to God, we are not righteous at all, no matter how many good deeds we may perform.
Yet, did Jesus say to give up doing good? Did Jesus tell his disciples to not worry because He did it all for them? That is, after all, what some teach. No, He said that if we want eternal life, we must “keep the commandments“!
The world’s churches, ruled by the rebellious spirit of the evil one, would have you and I believe that we aren’t required to keep them. They would tell us that we are trying to earn our salvation. Some, like Greg Laurie, even go so far as to condemn us for trying to keep the Law at all, as if keeping the seventh day Sabbath would disqualify us from salvation! How ludicrous, how rebellious, how flying in the face of Jesus’ own words, and how satanic!
Still, if our good deeds don’t earn us eternal life, then how is it that we are required to keep them? Paul answered this in part:
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Obviously, one of the big reasons for us being saved is for good works, rather than our good works saving us. This is how the Pharisees had it so backwards. They expected their good works to save them. This created two problems, of course. First, no matter how many good works one does, it cannot make up for the evil works any more than beating in more eggs makes up for the rotten one. Second, their good works really weren’t all that good in the first place, and in many cases actually ran contrary to the intent of the Law.
One of the problems with sin is that it warps our thinking. Carnality goes against God. The Pharisees were good at outward appearances, but they missed the fact that sin begins on the inside. Yet, pride and covetousness are not sins that Jesus brought new to the table, for they were condemned in the OT as well; in fact “Thou shalt not covet” was even one of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:17).
However, something came to me while reading firstname.lastname@example.org’s blog post on “Trumpets“. While I don’t see eye-to-eye with him on a couple of things, he has a balanced approach to many others. One thing he wrote was:
God’s gift makes salvation possible. The sacrifice of Christ makes possible the forgiveness of our sins, and that makes it possible for us to have a direct relationship with the Father. God also gives us the gifts required for salvation: His truth, His Holy Spirit, and continuous help in this life. But we still have to fight.
An analogy is Israel coming into the promised land. God gave them the promised land. But they still had to fight for it. They had to wage war against the Canaanites. Does that mean that God did not give them the land, that they obtained it by their own power and authority? No. God gave them the gift, but what He gave them was the opportunity. He set them free from Egyptian bondage. He sustained them in the wilderness with water and manna. He gave them permission and authority to go into the promised land and settle it. And He gave them power to win the battles. To show that they could not take the land without God’s help, there were a couple of occasions when they fought without God’s help, and they failed. On those occasions they were defeated by their enemies. That would have been the story in all their battles if God had hot helped them (Numbers 14:39-45, Joshua 7:1-5).
Here’s the thing: What if I fashioned a gold ring? Take band of 20k gold, for example. Suppose it had intricate work done on it by a master craftsman and gave it to my beloved. In effect, isn’t that what God does for us? Christ gave His life for the Church, and we are to be presented as a bride to Him, after all. It is an apt analogy, then, for a wedding band is indeed a gift, is it not?
What if my beloved took the ring and tossed it into a drawer? What if my beloved lost it? What would that be showing to me? Would that be a sign of love? Would it even amount to respect?
No, it would show she did not value the gift. It would show great disrespect. A valued gift is cared for, taken care of and not neglected.
Christ died for our sins. What value are we showing towards this gift by continuing in habitual sin? I would submit it is the height of disrespect.
When someone repents, they are stating to God that they are sorry for their sins, but more than that they are determined to overcome their sins. This begins the process of conversion. We must become something new and different!
3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
~ Mt 18:3
The Bible is full of admonitions that those who continue in their wickedness will not enter the Kingdom. It is not because those who made it “earned” their way in, but rather it is because they are extremely grateful for the gift that Jesus gave them by giving His life for their own. They treasure that gift, do not wish to tarnish it and understand that their proper role now is to do good works in His name.