If I should fall from grace with God

Last evening I was surfing around some Christian websites and came across a good one.  The question posed on this particular posting centered on eternal assurance of salvation versus the possibility of falling from grace – or rather, the question pertained to whether salvation is conditional.  A good, old question, that.

I posted my thoughts, based on my own limited understanding of the topic at hand, essentially stating that salvation comes via God’s grace, through faith, which itself is a gift from God.  To believe that having faith is a choice implies that the choice derives from our own will, thereby making it a “work.”

Now, this is NOT an attack on the author of that post – not in any way – but I was mildly chastised for basing my response on opinion rather than on scripture.  This was a fair critique, on one hand, because I failed to “show my work,” as it were.

In any case, the author stated his/her counter-case against mine, and cited a number of Biblical verses in favor of his/her position.  Fairly standard approach, which I can certainly appreciate.  There are a couple of problems here, though:  1) People have been arguing this point in the standard format advocated by the post’s author for centuries, and there still doesn’t seem to be an ecumenical answer to the question; and 2)  isolating quotations that favor one opinion over another (proof-texting) is like focusing on several individual trees, thereby missing the grandeur of the forest.  Proof-texting removes verses from their larger context – which works great for making a point, but does violence to the overall message of the Good News.

As a case in point:  the author agreed with me that salvation is God’s gracious gift through faith, but that faith is conditioned by works.  James’ epistle is the one that always seems to come up.  James 2:17-18 states, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ’You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”

I will concede that good works are necessary for good discipleship, but not that they are necessary for salvation.  Good works, like the law, puts salvation beyond our grasp.  Let’s say I have 10 bucks in my pocket and I pass a starving man in the street, if I don’t give him my $10, I’m failing to live up to my responsibility to do good works, and therefore I’m doomed, even if I had previously been saved.  Every time I fail to do a good work, I have sinned.  Every hitchhiker I whip by, every stranded motorist that I fail to help, every starving child in Africa that I don’t donate food to “for the price of a cup of coffee” condemns my soul.  Who can live up to that standard!?  The bad news is that NOBODY can live up to that standard, so we must constantly live in fear of our souls.

The good news is that NOBODY can live up to that standard, and God understands this.   The good news is that I can’t buy my way into righteousness.  The Great News is that Jesus has already done all the good works for me.  “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20.)  Out of gratitude for His works on my behalf, I pay the price of a cup o’ coffee in order to help an African child whenever I can, I help the odd stranded motorist, I pick up the occasional hitchhiker, and I do whatever good works I can do whenever I can do them.  It won’t get me into Heaven, but the Good News is that it doesn’t have to.

Amen.

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7 Responses to “If I should fall from grace with God”

  1. It’s another aspect of our faith that marks it totally separate to the other monotheistic faiths (and Catholicism) as they both rely heavily on works to attain God’s favour. I think it’s an integral part of human nature – few of us (even Christians) are comfortable with the receiving without giving concept and few would not insist on giving something back to the giver. That’s fine up to a point, and even God doesn’t give His Gift of Salvation totally without seeking something in return – the primary difference being that we will never PLEASE him by insisting on giving what WE think He’ll be happy with, rather than listening to what He says is what He desires – i.e. our lives! There is so much more freedom in the Gospel message than most want to know ironically – so Catholics, Jews and Muslims will continue on errantly seeking to find favour with Him through their “good works” despite God having already said in His Word they are not what He desires :(. Blessings, TKR 🙂

  2. – the primary difference being that we will never PLEASE him by insisting on giving what WE think He’ll be happy with, rather than listening to what He says is what He desires –

    A subtle-but-important point. I thank you for your post! Merry Christmas!

  3. brooksrobinson Says:

    “2) isolating quotations that favor one opinion over another (proof-texting) is like focusing on several individual trees, thereby missing the grandeur of the forest.”
    Proof texting is only wrong when the context of the scripture is not in mind. For example, you say John 3:16 to attribute that all who comes to Jesus is saved. That is a proof text(using a verse to fit your opinion), but clearly fits the whole context of the Bible. I used James 2:17-18, and was using a core verse that summed up James 2:14-26.I did this simply because it saves you from having to read another paragraph on my already lengthy post. If you want i could do that :-p

    Now to continue to the matter at hand, I must say that there continues to be a lengthy use of I’s and no scripture usage. One cannot back up matters of spirituality without using the whole context of the Bible. If one uses “I think” its in danger becomes an emotional plea and one is in danger of anthropomorphizing God. The danger in this is a false pretense in who God is because one is using their own definitions verses the definitions lined throughout the Bible. I’m making another plea to use scripture to back up your thoughts. I wasn’t chastising you out of hatred, but for the sake of keeping emotions out of this.

    Once again I know it is grace, grace is what God did on the cross, I concede that no man deserved to be saved and that there was nothing we could do that can earn our salvation, not even good works.(Ephesians 2:8-9) However again, and the scriptures showed this, (all those versus I cited in my post) that grace is a condition of faith. To paraphrase all the verse I wrote out, grace is given to us on the CONDITION THAT WE ACCEPT it through our faith in Jesus. Faith is a condition that is affirmed through good works (clearly seen in James). Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We are created to do good works through Christ. Romans deals a lot with the law and Romans 13 says “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” All throughout the Bible it talks about doing good works to remain righteous. If it wasn’t a matter of works to affirm your faith, which keeps you from the danger of loosing salvation, then A) Jesus is essentially in danger of being used to justify doing sin. B) There would be no purpose in still having to obey the law of God. God hates the sin in a sinner, and Jesus expects us to obey his commands. John 15:14 says “You are my friends, IF you do what I command.” If you haven’t read the verses i posted in my blog i would appreciate it if you went back and read the verses as well as the background verses. It’s a pleasure to exchange thoughts with you on this matter and i look forward to your reply as well as your next post.
    Merry Christmas and Godbless

  4. Hi, Brooksrobinson. Not ready to comment yet, beyond this:

    It would appear that we agree on the source of our salvation, and on the fact that works *affirm* our faith in that salvation. What we don’t yet agree upon is the point about assurance versus the possibility of falling from grace. I’ll need to work on that one – even though the ends may justify the means here. (In other words, if you do good works because you want to keep your salvation secure, and I do good works because of gratitude for a secure salvation, either way, God’s purposes are being met and we are made righteous – that is, doing and being that for which we were made, as your Eph 2:10 quote aptly points out.

    Despite our doctrinal disagreement, you make a good case against my assuming that folks will understand my “I think” as “I think because of my understanding of scripture.” So, I’ll take the lesson well and strive to “show my work,” just like my math teacher always used to make me do. 🙂 In the end, it’s a good practice, anyway.

    I, too, have enjoyed this exchange. I’ll keep coming by, and I hope you will continue to challenge my temptation toward doctrinal idolatry.

    A very blessed Christmas to you!

    Robaigh

  5. brooksrobinson Says:

    Thanks for the response, I’ll keep checking back to. We do agree with which our grace comes from, and I believe despite doctrinal disagreements we’ll both see heaven because of our faith. I look forward to further responses to my blogs, from you as well as your insight. Have a Merry Christmas and God bless you and what may come out of your blog for men to see.

  6. merganzerman Says:

    Robiagh:

    This is my first visit to your blog site and I find it quite remarkable. It is very well done and I look forward to reading more of your posts. I found your comments on my blog to be very insightful, yet with a touch of humor that I appreciate.

    If you don’t mind, I would like to jump in to this discussion on this post.

    The matter of faith and works is always a difficult one to grasp. It is liking standing on one foot and sipping your afternoon tea, it can become quite a balancing act and requires all of our concentration.

    brooksrobinson, quite a fine ballplayer for the Orioles in Baltimore, is touching on that subject that faith could be considered works especially if is considered a condition to salvation. Even though the term “accepting” Jesus is o.k. to use, a much better and possibly more accurate term would be “receiving” Jesus as your Savior. Allow me to explain.

    As far as conversion is concerned, the Bible clearly points out that we are all spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1); that by our sinful nature, we regard the Gospel as foolishness (1 Cor. 2:14); and is hostile to God (Rom. 8:7). In essence, how can one participate even to the slightest degree toward our salvation if we are already dead? It’s all God. Our only “decision” is to continue to reject God. God places his grace into our open hands and we can simply receive or reject.

    Also, in your post and in other comments, there is a discussion in regards to once saved, always saved argument. I would agree that good works is an evidence of faith, along with confession of one’s faith. Faith and works does not gain salvation, but faith is never alone. However, I believe the Bible strongly suggests that one can lose their faith. There is the parable of the seeds (Luke 8:13) that talk about the seeds that hit the rocky soil. After a time of testing, they fall away from the faith. To me, that is a hard one to get past.

    Keep up the good work on your posts. I plan on coming back soon.

    Thanks for your encouragement on the Christmas message. It went well… I think. Not too many people fell asleep or stared up at the ceiling. Fortunately, there are many bright lights by the podium that makes it difficult to look at people’s responses in attendance.

  7. Hey, Merganzerman! (Is there another moniker that will work for you? I feel weird writing “Merganzerman” over and over. How does “M” hit ya?) Thanks for stopping by!

    Yeah, it is a tough one, as clearly works are necessary for something – I’m just not convinced that it’s salvation. I also sometimes struggle with the prerequisite of faith, but only because, if viewed the wrong way, faith can be a work. I like chatting with people and working this out, however difficult it may be, and however fruitless it might be. I think a bit (or a lot) of mystery is OK. But it’s still good to work (“with fear and trembling”) at those mysteries.

    I’m glad your Christmas message went well. Do you plan on posting it? I’d like to check it out – and I promise I won’t argue with you. 🙂

    You’re welcome back any time. I’ll pop by your place again soon, too.

    Best,

    Robaigh

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