DO DEEDS CONSISTENT WITH REPENTANCE
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God- not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NRSV)
Today, many Christians interpret the above passage of scripture as an endorsement for their doctrine of eternal security – this is a view that once you have been saved, you can never lose your salvation regardless of what you do. How very convenient that seems! It’s no wonder why it has gained wide acceptance by many Christians despite its disharmony with scriptural truth and its inconsistence with the testimonies of the early Christian Church.
Now, before we dive into this muddy controversy, it is didactic that we straighten things out clearly. From the dawn of Christianity, the above passage from Ephesians 2 has always been understood as an indication that our salvation was made possible by the complete redemptive work of Christ on the Cross. This act that was purely an unmerited grace – a divine gift from God and no man could have saved himself otherwise. However, despite our access to this superabundant grace completed by Christ, our continuous and consistent cooperation with God is essential if we must be saved. This was obviously what Apostle Paul meant when he stated in the subsequent verse of that same chapter:
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 RSV)
Let’s chew on that for a while. We have been created in Christ Jesus for good works and we are called to walk in them. Have you ever wondered, why did Apostle Paul take this twist just right after he had stated that we have been saved by grace through faith and not because of works? He was trying to clarify that despite salvation being complete in Christ Jesus, we also have a crucial role to play – to walk in the path of righteousness till the end.
Kindly consider this analogy, you have been offered a ticket that admits you to an important event; you accepted the ticket but never went for that event. Does the ticket fulfil its purpose? Of course not! Yet the problem isn’t that you don’t have the ticket, it is that you haven’t fulfilled your own part.
Yes, we may have received an assurance of salvation in Christ Jesus, however if we fail to put our faith to work and do not walk in righteousness, what good is there for us? If you can lose your ticket to an event after it has been purchased for you then you could also lose your salvation if you do not cooperate with God’s redeeming plan for you. You do not have to take my word for it, take what our savior himself said:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
(John 15:1-2 RSV)
Beloved, the words of Christ are very decisive, He expects that we bear fruits. His completed work requires our cooperation not because he hasn’t done enough to save us but because salvation is a grace and grace is a gift, a gift needs to be accepted.
Moving on from the “once saved, always saved” quagmire, some have conveniently lodged their spiritual ineptitude on a mere acceptance of Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him out from the dead, you will be saved”.
Failing to interpret a passage of scriptures in harmony with others and in its full context is like dishing out half-truth. It is like telling people to launch a plane into the air without teaching them all the skills they need to navigate their way through aerospace. A faith built on half-truth is a faith bound to crash as history has proven.
If we truly value our salvation, then we must be interested in the full truth. We must step back from all those trendy doctrines built on convenience and get back to the beginning. What do the early Christian Church believe about salvation?
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling”(Philippians 2:12 RSV)
Wait a minute! Work out your salvation with fear and trembling? Apostle Paul was an intelligent evangelist, he understood the danger of half-truth. He knew that it was very possible for the Philippians to merely make a public consent to the faith in his presence then fail to put in the work necessary to get the ultimate reward. He made it clear that it is possible to lose assurance of salvation. So he urged that they hold firmly to what they have not with boastful pride or ignorance but with fear and trembling.
The early Christians were never taught they could settle for a mere confession of believe in Christ. They knew that there was something they needed to be done in response to the love of God who has given Himself to us through His son Jesus Christ our Lord. They were inspired by the example of Apostle Paul:
“…but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others, I myself should not be disqualified” 1 Corinthians 9:7 (NRSV)
Like Apostle Paul, the early Christians knew that salvation despite being complete was not a one-off action. It requires a consistent and continuous effort to abandon the life of sin, to put to death the lustful desires of the flesh and to strive towards holiness every single day.
What better warning do we need to know that there could be a disqualification. God never obliterates our free will, neither does he force his gift on us. He consistently offers us His love and mercy but we must we be willing to despise all our sinful ways so we could walk in the newness of life that He offers us.
How unwise it will be for us to merely pocket the ticket God gave us and refuse to make it to the heaven. Isn’t this what we do when we presume that God’s grace will do for us what we have been instructed to do. Again scripture decries presumption:
“Bear fruit that that befits repentance…even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”. (Matthew 3:8,10 RSV)
God in His benevolence does not bear for us the fruits which we ought to bear ourselves. Rather than remain persistent in sin, let us cooperate with His grace and do what we ought to do, so that He can transform us.
To sin is human, but to persist in sin is devilish.
– St Catherine of Siena