|WHAT IS FAITH?
WHO GAVE US THIS DIVINE TRUTH ABOUT FAITH
Faith is a complete trust, confidence and reliance in God. It is a firm belief without proof, a yearning from the bottom of ones heart for Gods kingdom to come. It means absolute allegiance, loyalty and fidelity to God no matter under what circumstances.
We are justified by faith alone. But many confuse “faith alone” with “the faith that is alone.” They think that work is unnecessary, obedience is optional and one can be justified by an empty belief that results in no fruit. Their logic is that since we are not justified by works, we dont even need to make any effort to do Gods work. By their doctrine, being unfaithful, lax, worldly or even submitting to sin will not affect ones salvation. This widespread doctrine interprets “justification by faith alone” as “justified by faith plus nothing,” by which they mean one can be justified without a love for God, without a hatred for sin, without any effort to keep Gods commandments, without any desire to do Gods will, without any sense of responsibility to defend Gods truth. They teach that one can be as carnal as the world, as long as he had a moment of accepting the fact that Christ died for our sin and was raised up to heaven from death, he is justified. This false faith is a deception from Satan in mans sinful heart. People who hold on to this false religion prove that they have an unsanctified heart and they do not belong to God. They will be condemned as ungodly and held guilty in the Judgment Day for their willingness to accept a lie rather than the truth, as God always looks into mans heart.
In Romans Chapter 2 it is written: “God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:6-8).
It is written, “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17, bold emphasis added) Faith does not just mean knowing the truth, intellectually accepting the truth, proclaiming the truth, rejoicing with the truth. Most importantly, it means living the truth. It is to exercise Gods principle in every part of life. It is to put the knowledge of God to work. It is not just a momentary sentiment, but a life-long commitment and practice in every deed we do.
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17). “You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” (James 2:20).
To live in obedience means to actively obey Gods commandments. Not only is Christ our savior, He is also our sovereign Lord. To have faith in Jesus Christ means to submit our lives to His lordship and do what He commands us to do.
True faith is the determination to be obedient to God in ones life. True faith always comes with a desire to do Gods will. It will inevitably result in fruitfulness in terms of good works. Does obedience to God mean we are justified by good works? No, we are justified by the faith, which inevitably produces good works.
When God told Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac as a burnt offering to God, Abraham single-heartily obeyed God. Because of this, God was pleased with him and counted him as righteous. True, God counted Abraham as righteous not because of the outcome of his work, since Abraham did not accomplish that work, which was sacrificing his son as a burnt offering. When he took Isaac to the mountain and was about to slay him, God stopped him, and provided him a lamb as the substitute. But it was his complete trust that pleased God. This trust (or faith) was vindicated or proved by his single-minded obedience to God in his action.
The Gospel from God is a call to obedience, as the apostle Paul put it in the very opening chapter of the Book of Romans: “Through him and for his names sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” (Romans 1:5, bold emphasis added).
Obedience and faith are so inseparable that the Bible often used them interchangeably. For example, in talking about salvation, the author of Hebrews says:
“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3, bold emphasis added).
“Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:16-19, bold emphasis added).
“For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.” (Hebrews 4:2, bold emphasis added. Many manuscripts translate the bold part as: because they did not share in the faith of those who obeyed)
“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:11, bold emphasis added).
So we can see from this that the one who is disobedient is counted as disbelieving and faithless.
Someone may argue from Roman 3:28: “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3:28). Some evangelists interpret this verse to mean that a Christian need not keep Gods commands or live a holy life because he is justified by faith alone. They are totally wrong. The very meaning of faith includes living a holy life in obedience. The whole purpose of the book of Romans is to call people to the obedience that comes from faith (see Romans 1:5, Romans 12 to 15).
What did Paul mean here? Did he really teach that we do not need to keep Gods commands? By no means! From the context of Romans 3:28 we see that Paul was talking about circumcision. He was opposing the Jews who insisted that salvation came from keeping the written code of rules and traditions apart from faith. Read the following sentences in the same chapter:
“Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:29-31).
From Romans 2:17-29 we can see the same point:
“No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a mans praise is not from men, but from God.” (Romans 2:29).
Again, in 1 Corinthians:
“Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping Gods commands is what counts.” (1 Corinthians 7:19, bold emphasis added).
Did Paul teach by Romans 3:28 that we are free to live according to our sinful nature, that submitting to sin will not affect our salvation? Absolutely not! Consider this:
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2).
“For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.” (Romans 7:5).
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:12-14, bold emphasis added).
“Therefore, brothers, we have an obligationbut it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:12-14, bold emphasis added).
To devote is to give up oneself with seriousness and earnestness, to give up to wholly. Devotion means loyalty and deep affection, ardent love, affection or dedication (Websters Dictionary).
Some evangelists suggest that believers should not be told to give themselves to Christ because the New Testament does not teach that. That is an open lie. Our Lord demands our devotion, as Jesus taught: “ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38, bold emphasis added)
In the parable of the hidden treasure and the pearl, Jesus illustrated the gift of salvation: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46, bold emphasis added)
Throughout the Bible, all Gods prophets and disciples are devoted people. Start from the Old Testament: Moses gave up all the riches and honors in being a prince of Egypt to become a shepherd in the desert. Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jonah .all devoted and risked their lives to preach Gods Word. In the New Testament, all the disciples gave their lives to Christ and suffered for the sake of the Gospel. The apostle Paul, the very man who preached Grace, is the most fervent servant of God who worked till death to preach the truth of Salvation to the Gentiles.
Martin Luther, the great reformer who taught that men are saved by Grace also believed in total devotion to God. Consider this beautiful gem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, where he quoted Luther to make his point.
Regarding the living faith, Martin Luther also wrote:
Is working for God a noble duty for all Christians? Absolutely! Since God always works through man, it is our divine responsibility to cooperate with God. To work earnestly for this great commission is part of being obedient and is the very building block of our faith. God gives all of His people the responsibility to bear witness for Him and to proclaim the truth about Him. This work is not optional, but the solemn command from our Lord (see Matthew 28:18-20).
Some people may argue from Romans Chapter 4: “However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). What did Paul means here? Did he mean that we are not responsible for doing Gods work? Of course not! Again here Paul was opposing the Jews who believed that circumcision, the symbol of Gods covenant with the Jews, is a necessary work for salvation. In other words, he was opposing their wrong understanding that to be right with God, one has to be circumcised. Paul made clear that Jews were not more righteous than the Gentiles simply by observing the Law of circumcision outwardly; that no one can rely on his own righteousness to gain salvation by observing the code, the only way to be justified is through faith in Christwho has the perfect righteousness; and that Abraham, the father of faith, is the father of all who believe, not just of the circumcised Jews (See Romans 4:9-12). Paul no where taught that one could be justified by a superficial acceptance of the Gospel that is unable to produce any fruit of obedience.
Some people ask: “How much do we need to do to be good enough?” The answer is, no matter how much we do is not enough, no matter how good we are we are not good enough, because we all fall short of Gods perfect requirement. But through Grace, we are justified if we do our best in faith. God knows our capacity and potential, he sees into our heart and knows whether we make the best effort; no one can cheat God. The one who is given more is expected more. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48). God will not judge us for what we can not do, but will judge us what we can do, because He judges our heart. Take the example of the poor widow recorded in Mark and Luke: “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everythingall she had to live on. ” (Mark 12:41-44). Jesus valued the poor widow the most because she devoted all she had to God. Her faith is counted as the greatest.
The people who fail the responsibilities entrusted by God will be condemned in Gods Judgment. Read the Parable of the talents in Matthew 25. In talking about the kingdom of heaven, Jesus said:
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his masters money.
“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. Master, he said, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.
“His master replied, Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your masters happiness!
“The man with the two talents also came. Master, he said, you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.
“His master replied, Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your masters happiness!
“Then the man who had received the one talent came. Master, he said, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.
“His master replied, You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
“ Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.... ”
In this parable, the talents of money represent the truth God entrusts to us. We, Gods servants are expected to put this treasure to work, as the two good servants do. The more truth one is given, the more return is expected from him. The two servants who are diligent are called good and faithful servants. But the one who does not multiply what is given to him is called a wicked, lazy and worthless servant. His fate is: the very few treasures which was given to him will be taken away from him since he took it lightly and hid it away; and he will be thrown outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
If we fail to meet Gods expectation due to our selfishness and slothfulness, he will rebuke us, if we persist in our selfish way and do not repent, he will spit us out of His mouth, as he said in the message to the church of Laodicea.
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarmneither hot nor coldI am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. ” (Revelation 3:15-18).
Dear brothers and sisters, let us all be more diligent to work out our salvation, so in the day of His return, we will be called worthy and faithful and we will be able to stand in front of Him without shame.
What is discipleship? In its usual meaning, a disciple is a student, learner, or pupil. In the Biblical context, a disciple means a follower of Jesus. (The Liberty Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
Some modern evangelists teach that one can be a Christian without being a disciple. They say: “If believer does not live for Christ, it doesnt change his or her salvation.“ Such teaching is not the true Gospel according to the Scriptures; it is a false gospel! The most essential thing that sets Christians apart from the world is that Christians live for Christ and through Christ, but the world lives for themselves and by themselves. The Bible says: “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” (1 Corinthians 7:23). We are bought at a price; we are purchased by Jesus precious blood; so how can we not belong to Him totally? If we do not want to give ourselves to Christ, if we refuse to disown ourselves, how then can we say that we are indeed redeemed by Him and truly belong to Him?
A Christian, by definition is an adherent or follower of Christ (The Liberty Illustrated Bible Dictionary). The word “Christian“ only occurs three times in the New Testament. The first time it is used is in Acts: “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” (Acts 11:25-26, bold emphasis added). From this text we see that, in the Bible, Christian means disciple.
The Bible teacher, John F. MacArthur shared a powerful view regarding discipleship and Christianity:
I completely agree with his view. Consider these Scriptures:
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, I will follow you wherever you go. Jesus replied, Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. He said to another man, Follow me. But the man replied, Lord, first let me go and bury my father. Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God. Still another said, I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family. Jesus replied, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God. ” (Luke 9:57-62).
“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. Good teacher, he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Why do you call me good? Jesus answered. No one is goodexcept God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother. Teacher, he declared, all these I have kept since I was a boy. Jesus looked at him and loved him. One thing you lack, he said. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. At this the mans face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! ” (Mark 10:17-23).
“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-lawa mans enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:32-39).
Evangelism itself is to make disciples. The great commission given by our Lord before He ascended to heaven as recorded by Matthew is: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, bold emphasis added). Marks account of the great commission is: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16). Lukes account is: “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47). From these verses we see the point, which was excellently explained by MacArthur:
This exact same message was also pronounced by the apostle Paul, in the very opening of the Book of Romans.
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of Godthe gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his names sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:1-6, bold emphasis added).
In the beginning, man had the highest awareness of God. It was through God that man knew all other things, including himself. He knew all things only in God, and God in all things. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Ethics” pp.21). But by disobedience, the fallen man obtained the knowledge of sin; he came to know good and evil. His eyes were openedinstead of seeing God, he started seeing himself independent from God; instead of knowing God as the origin of all, he started seeing himself as the origin. “He has become like God, but against God” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Ethics” pp.23). Self-interest became the measure and the goal of life. Self-seeking came to be the main principle of mans entire living. Yet he also fell into death, because he separated himself from God, the true source of lifethis is the ruin of man recorded in the Bible. Jesus Christ restored mans original unity with God. “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19). Jesus came to the world, lived and died for only one purposeto obey the will of God. He speaks and acts not by the knowledge of good and evil, but by Gods will. God will is his life and means. “In it the origin is recovered; in it there is established the freedom and the simplicity of all action.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Ethics”, pp.34)
To have faith in Christ means to be one with Christ, to bear His likeness, live and die according to the will of God. No longer living by the worldly knowledge of good and evil, but by knowing Himour origin and reconciliationwe know all. As one who is without knowledge we have become the one who knows only God and all things in Him. We come to the reunion with God through Him.
Being one with Christ is essential for our salvation. Consider these words by Jesus:
“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” (John 6:53-57).
What did Jesus mean here by his flesh and blood? They are the Word and the Spirit of God. Consider the following Scriptures: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.“ (John 1:1). “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63, bold emphasis added).
To eat Christs flesh and drink His blood is to metabolize Gods Word and absorb it into our entire being, so that His Spirit will dwell within us and transform us into the new creatures who no longer bind to sin, but participate in His divine nature. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4, bold emphasis added). Just as that the natural food has to be converted to nutrient that enters into every cell of our body to give us physical life, Gods Word have to be metabolize such that it builds into our own character to give us spiritual life.
When we being in one with Christ, our concentration is no longer ourselves but God; our consideration is no longer our own interest, our loss or gain, but His will and glory. Do not seek the riches and the honor that come from the world, because the Bible says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15).
How could we bear the likeness of Christ when we lived in rich and luxury whereas He came as a meek and humble carpenter, born in a barn? How could we truly identify with Him if we were exalted and honored by this world (as were the Pharisees) yet he was battered, despised and rejected by the world?
Do not be afraid of suffering for God, but rather, find comfort in Christ through suffering. What can make us know Jesus better other than going through the same suffering as he did? What can bring us closer to Him other than suffering together with Him? When we suffer for the sake of our Lord, we know that we belong to Him, and that is all that matters, and that shall bring us joy. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:18-20). “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” (John 16:1-3).
Do you ask, “How am I to abide in Christ?” In the same way as you received Him at first. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” “The just shall live by faith.” Colossians 2:6; Hebrews 10:38. You gave yourself to God, to be His wholly, to serve and obey Him, and you took Christ as your Saviour. You could not yourself atone for your sins or change your heart; but having given yourself to God, you believe that He for Christs sake did all this for you. By faith you became Christ's, and by faith you are to grow up in Him by giving and taking. You are to give all,your heart, your will, your service,give yourself to Him to obey all His requirements; and you must take all,Christ, the fullness of all blessing, to abide in your heart, to be your strength, your righteousness, your everlasting helper,to give you power to obey.
Perfect faith does not appear overnight. Perfect Obedience, devotion and discipleship is a result of spiritual growth and spiritual maturity. The more we know the truth, the more we can see the reality of God, the stronger our faith is. The better we know Christ, the closer we unite with Him, the firmer we stand in the time of trials and tests.
Spiritual growth is essential to our salvation, because it is the only way to sustain our faith. Like all living things, when they stop growing, they tend to die. So does our faith. True, some people physically die just after they receive the initial faith, like the criminal who died on the cross with Jesus, they are saved by Gods Grace through their initial faith. But most of us live longer and are given the opportunity to grow. Yet if we do not actively grow our faith, we are in danger of losing our faith and will jeopardize our salvation.
Some people disagree, they say that it is impossible for a person to loose his faith because it is a gift from God. But their logic is wrong. True, our faith is a gift from God; our life is a gift from God, too. But does it mean that the new babies whose lives are given by God could never die prematurely? If a baby is deprived of food, will he be able to live? If he is not given any care and protection, what is his chance to survive? If no one teaches him how to live, is he ever be able to become a useful person?
Faith is the same way. Faith is our spiritual life. In the moment of accepting Christ, the seed of this spiritual life is planted into our heart by God. It is God who gives it the life energy to grow. But if we do not nurture it, if we do not feed it with Gods word, if we do not exercise it, if we do not take personal responsibility to protect it from the worlds pollution, our faith will inevitably die away. We live in a world that is controlled by Satan, there are all kinds of temptations around us. These temptations may come from external adversities or from our own sinful nature. They can cause our faith to die. For example, our worldly desires and worries may chock our faith; persecutions from Satans power may smash it; hardship in life may shatter it; our own negligence may cause it to wither. It may also be poisoned to death by the false doctrines and false teachers deceptions. If we do not watch carefully and work diligently to promote our faith to grow stronger and stronger, even though we are saved through our initial faith, we may looses our faith and lose our salvation in the end.
How to sustain our faith, then? To answer this, think about our physical life. We know that to grow our body, we need good nutritious food and a lot of exercise. The same thing is true for our spiritual growth. Three things are important for spiritual growth; they are learning Gods Word, putting it to practice and constant prayer.
Gods Word is the foundation of our faith. A faith that is not based on Gods Word is a blind faith and is dangerous. For this reason, we need to diligently study the Bible. If we do not do so, we will be easily led astray by the deceptions of false doctrines. When Jesus was in the wilderness facing Satans temptation, the only weapon He was equipped with was the Word of God. Three times the Devil tempted Him, he answered Devils temptations with Gods Word. He answered with a faithful “It is written ” (Matthew 4:4-10). The Son of Man defeated Satan not by manifesting his divine power, not by calling the aid of angels, but by his perfect trust in the Word of God. Jesus set an example for us, who are called to be his disciples, so that we too, can overcome Satan by clinging to the Word of God.
Our knowledge of the Gods Word needs to be put into practice, so that our faith becomes a living faith. If we do not put Gods Word into practice, our faith will become weaker and weaker, and eventually become a dead faith and collapse. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27, bold emphasis added)
Prayer is our greatest privilege as a Christian. It is personal communion with God. Yet too often, we neglect prayer. Is there anything sweeter than pouring our heart to our Heavenly Father? Is there anything more joyful than to be in communion with the Creator of the Universe? Is there any king on earth so kind and capable as to allow all his people to access him directly? No! Yet our Heavenly King gives each one of us the direct access to Him! How foolish we are to ignore such a great privilege!
Prayer takes a vital part in our spiritual life. It is our spiritual breath. It is through prayer that we stay close to God. Everyday we face trials and temptations. Everyday we need His Holy Spirit to strengthen us. Everyday we need His loving care to sustain us. Everyday we need His divine wisdom to guide us. We should take all our needs to Him through prayer.
Many people are reluctant to pray because of their lack of faith. They often forget that God is a true and living God, that He is ready to listen to our prayer. When they lack something, they grumble and complain instead of praying and asking. This is a bad attitude. Imagine how offensive it is if we do this to our parents, let alone our Heavenly King? When we pray we should have a humble heart and fervent faith. We should have a confidence in Gods goodness. We should let our prayer be like sweet incense going up to Heaven of His presence.
How much more could we have if we only asked Him? In illustrating Gods willingness to give, Jesus said:
“Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him. Then the one inside answers, Dont bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I cant get up and give you anything. I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the mans boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:5-13)
Some people think that since God knows everything, our petition is not important. This is not true. Even though God knows what we need, he still wants us to take initiative to ask because He is a personal God. In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable to illustrate that we should always pray and not give up.
“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, Grant me justice against my adversary. For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, Even though I dont fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she wont eventually wear me out with her coming! ” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Some evangelists preach that spiritual growth has nothing to do with salvation; a person once saved is always saved. I disagree with that.
True, if everyone has a perfect faith at the first moment he hears the word of God, then once saved, always saved; because a perfect faith will inevitably lead to life long obedience and fruitfulness. But most people do not have a perfect faith at the first moment when they hear Gods Word.
For most of us, when we first believe God, we do not know God fully, our faith is weak, and we stumble easily. Our spiritual condition is immature like baby walking. As Paul described in 1 Corinthians: “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldlymere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, I follow Paul, and another, I follow Apollos, are you not mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
Does it mean that our faith is not genuine because it is imperfect? Rest assured: it is not true. Our faith is genuine. We have experienced the truth about God. We recognize that we need God in our life and we love Him from our heart.
Does it mean that we can not be justified by this imperfect faith, however genuine it is? The Bible says the opposite. The Bible says that when we hear the word and believe, we are saved. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.“ (John 5:24-25). It also says: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Roman 10:13). “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9); “ that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, ” (John 3:16-18). So we can see that because of Gods grace we are saved through our initial faith even when it is imperfect.
Does it means that all the imperfect faiths will inevitably leads to a perfect faith, and that once having an initial faith, it is impossible for it to die? No true either. There are many examples and warnings in the Bible about the faith that did not last. For example, in the parable of the seeds Jesus told: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown” (Luke 8:5-8). Then Jesus explained the parable: “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by lifes worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:11-15, bold emphasis added). It is clear that the seed that falls on the rock and the seed that fells among the thorns both represent an initial faith that is germinated but then dies.
The Bible explicitly predicts that many people will loose their faith during a great apostasy near the end time. In talking about the last day in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus said: “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other” (Matthew 24:10). Also, according to Paul, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1, bold emphasis added).
Then, does it mean once a true believer is saved through his initial faith, he will remain saved even if he looses his faith and becomes unfaithful? God forbid! In the Book of John, Jesus clearly taught that we would not be saved unless we remain in Him: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:1-6).
Some evangelists, in defending their “Once Saved Always Saved” theory, misinterpret Jesus word. They said that if you are a true believer, once you have a genuine faith, it is impossible for you to loose that faith, therefore the branches referred by Jesus that do not bear fruit can only refer to the professed Christians who have never had a genuine faith in the first place; they just pretended to believe. But such interpretation does not make any sense. How can Jesus tell someone to remain in Him unless he is already in Him? And how can a person be in Christ unless he has true faith. To a person who did not have a genuine faith, Jesus should have told him: “Repent, and get the real faith. Do not continue in such pretended faith.” “Remain” means “continue”. If their professed faith was never genuine in the first place, was Jesus saying that the professed Christians should continue in their professed faith? Evidently, it cant be that way. The branches can only refer to the true believers, since the branches are born from the true vine, Jesus Christ.
Some other “Once Saved Always Saved” adherents say that if a true believer looses his faith and no longer bears fruit, he will loose his reward, but is still saved. They say that the verses “such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” means the same as the verses in the 1 Corinthians 3:14: “If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:14). But how can these two verses have the same meaning? In John 15:6, Jesus was talking about branches being thrown into the fire to be burned up, while in 1 Corinthians, Paul was talking about someone escaping out of the fire from being burned up. (In fact, even the verse in 1 Corinthians 3:14 implies that such person can loose his salvation if he backslide a little furtherhe will be consumed by the fire.) Obviously in John 15:1-6, Jesus means that the unfaithful will lose his salvation and be destroyed in the fire of the Judgment.
Also, in talking about the last day in the Olivette Discourse, Jesus said: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:12-13, bold emphasis added).
The apostles also warned us again and again to stand firm and keep our faith firmly, because if we become unfaithful, we loose our salvation. Read these:
“By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:2, bold emphasis added).
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” (Hebrews 6:4-8, bold emphasis added).
In warning the Christians who were in danger of giving up their faith, The book of Hebrews urged:
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one anotherand all the more as you see the Day approaching. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, It is mine to avenge; I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge his people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:25-31).
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. ” (Hebrews 10:35-38, bold emphasis added).
Jesus told numerous parables to warn us that we may loose our salvation if we are not watchful and diligent in keeping our faith. In the parable of the talents recorded in Matthew 25:14-30, the lazy servant looses his salvation because he fails the divine duty God entrusted him due to his selfishness and irresponsibility. In the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the five foolish virgins lost their salvation because they were not accustomed to continually replenishing their vessels with the Holy Spirit.
The most alarming example of people loosing their salvation is the historical record of the Exodus in the Bible. It is the record of the Israelites being led out of Egypt by Moses for the Promised Land. On their way to the Promised Land, they committed grievous sins against God. God poured down anger on them by making them wander in the wilderness for forty years. Eventually most of them died in the desert without seeing Gods Promised Land. Didnt those Israelites ever have a moment of belief? Yes, they must have. If they had not an initial faith, they could not have escaped the angel of death sent by God by putting the blood of the lamb on their door; if they had not an initial faith, they would not have left their established dwellings in Egypt and risked their life to follow Moses into the desert. As a matter of fact they personally eye-witnessed God working miracles one after another, including the miracles of opening a path across the Red sea for them to pass through, a mighty pillar of clouds by day and an awesome pillar of fire by night. They were in Gods presence so much that they had to know that God was with them at those moments. But they did not act according to what God had given them; instead they became unfaithful to God: they grumbled, worshipped idols, conducted sexual immorality during the time of test. As a result, God poured down His wrath on them. Eventually all of the first generation who sinned against God died in the desert except the faithful Joshua and Aaron. Only their second generation was able to enter the Promised Land.
One “Once Saved Always Saved” teacher says in his book: even though physically they died in the desert without seeing the Promised Land, spiritually they were saved and they will be in heaven. What does the Holy Spirit say?
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways. So I declared on oath in my anger, They shall never enter my rest. ” (Hebrews 3:7-11, bold emphasis added).
Some other “Once Saved Always Saved” believers argue: “This example does not apply to us, because it happened in the time of the Old Testament, before Jesus came.” Well then, what does the New Testament say? Read this:
“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry. We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them didand in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them didand were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them didand were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you dont fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:1-12, bold emphasis added).
“The righteous will live by faith” (Roman 1:17, bold emphasis added). “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” (Hebrews 3:14, bold emphasis added). If being righteous in God means to live a life of obedience till the very end, how can anyone say salvation is solely based on a momentary commitment?
Some people argue, if one may loose his faith, we may well just wait till the last moment of our life to believe in Jesus, this way we will have no opportunity to loose faith and salvation. This kind of thinking is foolish. How do you know that faith will be given to you at the last minute before you die? How do you know that you will have a heart to believe in Jesus after you persistently reject His calling? It is not up to us to decide when we believe. Our faith comes from God. As fallen human beings, we can never come to God through our own wisdom because we are totally depraved by nature. God in His mercy leads us to his truth for us to be saved. The only thing we can do and ought to do is to response to His calling when we hear it. As it is said in the Scripture over and over and again: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Psalm 95:7:8, 2 Corinthian 6:2, Hebrews 3:7-8, Hebrews 3:15, Hebrews 4:7).
God is the initiator and finisher of our faith. It is He who gives us a heart of repentance, obedience and devotion. Therefore no one should boast about his own merits. Faith is a divine work of God on our heart that cooperates with our willingness to surrender into His mighty hand.
Dear friends, if you feel far away from God, if you feel your faith being weak, look upon Jesus, and pray earnestly to Him. Repent of your sin and ask forgiveness. He will use His mighty hand to hold you. He will not forsake you. Jesus said: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Fathers hand.” (John 10:27-30).
(By the way, the Once Saved Always Saved teachers often quote this verses as a proof for their doctrine. On the other hand, they also tell people that after being saved (based on a momentary commitment) they do not have to follow Jesus. They are obviously contradicting Jesus words. The Lord here was talking about His sheep, who always listens to his voice and follows him.)
The fruit of faith of is the fruit of the Holy Spiritthe Godly character. It is the opposite of the fruit of the sinful nature, as illustrated by Paul in the following passage.
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:19-24, bold emphasis added).
To bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit is
vitally important for our salvation. Without the fruit of the Holy Spirit, we can not
enter the kingdom of God. The “Once Saved Always Saved” believers teach that
Christian living has nothing to do with salvation. Many of them boldly claim that even if
a Christian indulges in sin and lives as a “carnal Christian”, his salvation
will not be forfeited. They often confuse people by many false arguments and sophistries.
Here is a short list with refutations:
“Bearing fruit is a human work. We are saved by grace alone, not by works. Therefore bearing fruit is unnecessary for salvation.”
The truth is:
The very purpose of our
salvation is to make possible for us to bear the fruit of the Spirit. As said in the
Bible: “For God did not
call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction
does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8)
“Because God is loving, a person who yields to sin is outside of Gods perfect will but never outside of His eternal love. Therefore this person will not be cast away by God even if he submits to sin.”
The truth is:
Even though God is loving, He hates sin. A
person who submits to sin and refuses to turn away from it makes himself Gods enemy.
He is putting himself under Gods wrath and subjecting himself to be destroyed.
“God is faithful. Therefore even if we are unfaithful and turn against Him, he will still accept us.”
The truth is:
Gods faithfulness means He is
immutable in His holy character. It means He will faithfully accept those who accept Him
and faithfully reject those who reject Him. It means He will faithfully reward those who
embrace His holiness, those who follow the Holy Spirit and will faithfully judge those who
disregard His holiness, those who follow their sinful nature. It means He will faithfully
sustain those who surrender unto His mercy and turn away from evil and will faithfully
punish those who harden their heart and persist in their evil way. Since Gods law is
the transcript of his holy character, He will not tolerate lawlessness.
“Jesus paid the penalty for all of our sin, past, present and future. Nothing we do can out-weight Jesus great sacrifice. Therefore indulging in sin will not bring judgment.”
The truth is:
The very work of salvation
of Jesus Christ is for us to turn away from evil and live by the Holy Spirit. If a person
continues to live by the sinful nature and becomes entangled in sin, he is rejecting
Christ and denying his salvation work. According to
2 Peter 2:20-21,
his situation will be worse than an unbelievers.
He will certainly be subject to eternal judgment.
“If a person has accepted Christ as his Savior, he belongs to Gods family. Nothing can change this fact.”
The truth is:
Satan also belonged to Gods family
before he rebelled. He turned himself into Gods enemy by self-indulgence and pride.
Those who embrace Satans principles by living a life of self-indulgence and
self-seeking are the followers of Satan. They will certainly be destroyed.
The apostle Paul confirmed that those who live according to their sinful nature will not inherit the kingdom of God:
“For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy personsuch a man is an idolaterhas any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things Gods wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.” (Ephesians 5:5-7, bold emphasis added).
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
In the parable of the wedding banquet, Jesus taught the same truth: God does not accept the unrighteous.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet. But they paid no attention and went offone to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find. So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. Friend, he asked, how did you get in here without wedding clothes? The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:2-14)
By the wedding garment in the parable is represented the pure, spotless character which Christs true followers will possess. To the church it is given “that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white,” “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Eph. 5:27. The fine linen, says the Scripture, “is the righteousness of saints.” Rev. 19:8. It is the righteousness of Christ, His own unblemished character, that through faith is imparted to all who receive Him as their personal Saviour. (Ellen G. White, “Christs Object Lessons”, pp. 310).
If anyone persists in sinning and embracing unrighteousness after knowing the truth, he is denying Gods saving power and rejecting Gods sovereign grace with his very own deeds, and he is putting himself under greater damnation, unless he repents and turns away from his sin. As the Scripture says: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” (2 Peter 2:20-21).
If anyone turns the grace of God into a license for immorality and lawlessness by teaching others the fallacy that submitting to sin does not bring eternal judgment, he is playing with fire. As it is written: “Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaams error; they have been destroyed in Korahs rebellion. These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualmshepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprootedtwice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 1:11-13).
Does Gods grace exempt us from personal responsibility? Does Gods election nullify our free will? Does the foreknowledge of God mean that human effort plays no role in a persons destiny?
Some theologians teach that salvation coming from Gods grace means human effort has absolutely no impact in ones salvation, and that the sovereign power of God implies that man is incapable of resisting (or falling away from) the faith given by God. From this they conclude that once saved, it is impossible for a believer to loose his salvation, since God will not permit such a free choice. Such doctrine is not only totally unbiblical but also a lethal poison that can turn people into deep darkness.
If Adam and Eve were capable of falling away into sin when they were perfect, what makes us think we are incapable of falling away, being imperfect? True, Gods grace will empower us to overcome sin, but we are still capable of deliberately submitting to sin if we do not put our will under His will. True, Gods grace will enable us to preserve our faith, but it is still possible that we willfully give up faith if we do not abide in Him. True, Gods grace will equip us to overcome temptation, but that doesnt exempt us from the danger of temptation. God is the initiator of our faith; but we still need to take responsibilities and to make personal efforts to respond to His gracious calling and to hold fast to the faith He gives us. Gods grace draws us to Him and unites us with Him; yet we still need to take human initiative to cooperate with God.
God never takes away mens capacity to choose; for when God first created man, He created man in Gods image, with free will so that man is capable of taking initiative, capable of love and communion with Him. God is only delighted in the willful obedience of man that comes from mans heart, by his free choice. After mans fall, mans free will was perverted and ruined. As man fell under the control of sin, he was separated from God; he can no longer exercise free will to please God, but only to against God. Jesus Christ our Savior, who died for our sin and paid for our penalty, through his own perfect and willful obedience, made it possible for us to be restored as free creatures again. So through our free will to trust in Him, which is our faith, we can choose to belong to God and please Him. How can Gods election nullify our free will and turn us into totally passive robots that are unable to choose, but only to be arranged. That defeats Gods own good purpose when He originally created us. Gods will is ultimately higher than our will and we are saved all because of his love and mercy; but that doesnt mean our heart and our desire is unimportant to him. It doesnt mean that personal effort makes no difference in our salvation. Jesus said: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Luke 13:24, bold emphasis added). By this Jesus meant that in order to get into heaven, we must make every effort to die to our sinful nature, to conform ourselves into His likeness through constant prayer, constant meditation in Gods Word, and constant practice of self-denial and self-sacrifice.
When we were fallen men, we were slaves to sin. We had no other choice other than death. We had no power to choose freely because we were under sins magic spell that prevented us from choosing what is good. As said by the apostle Paul: “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in Gods law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:21-24). Thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who redeems us by his precious blood: now we freely receive Gods Spirit of life, which frees us from the bondage of sin. By Gods grace we are now given not only the freedom, but also the power to choose the way of life. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, bold emphasis added).
From here we can see that Gods grace does not nullify our freedom of choice, but restores our freedom of choice. Gods Grace does not exempt us from bearing the consequence of our choice, but gives us true freedom and power to exercise our free choice to unite with Him. We are able to exercise free will in every choice we make, in every step we walk, and in every deed we do. Every time we exercise that free choice, we either strengthen our connection to God or weaken it, and it will affect our salvation either positively or negatively.
The whole Bible is a call for Man to take initiatives and personal responsibilities to cooperate with God. That is the very purpose of the Bible. God reveals himself though the Bible, so that by knowing Him we can unite with Him. Gods grace does not diminish our personal responsibility but increases our responsibility for our own salvation. Since God has provided everything for us to be saved, it is then up to us to hold fast to Gods wonderful gift. As Peter exhorted:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:3-11).
Do NOT be deceived by the false doctrine that faith is only a mental assent to the truth. Rather, faith is the total abandonment of self to embrace Jesus Christ. It is the complete surrender to God. Faith means living the truth in obedience, putting our own will under Gods will. It means dying to the world in order to live in Christ.
Do NOT be deceived by the false doctrine that faith is merely a momentary commitment to God. On the contrary, faith is a life-long commitment of obedience, devotion and allegiance to God. Faith means enduring to the end under all circumstances.
Do NOT be deceived by the false doctrine that there is no need to take personal responsibility to maintain our faith for our salvation. True faith upholds our responsibility because it is our free will to continually abide in God.
Do NOT think that faith comes from your own merit. God is the initiator and finisher of our faith. Rely on Him. Give your whole heart to Him. Let Him live in you.
Let us make every effort to contend for the truth, so that we will be able to overcome Satan in the great battlefield of this world.
Copyright © 2001 by Come To Christ, All Rights Reserved
This article was written by members of Come To Christ in July, 2000. You are welcome to circulate this article for nonprofit evangelical or educational purposes. For any other use, please contact Come To Christ at the administrative section of our forum.