Faith Works Security
What the Bible Says about
the Relationship among Faith, Works, and Eternal Security

by Mark Roth

First let's consider some Scriptures that pertain to faith, works, salvation, and security.

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5).

Our works and righteousness do not save us.

"Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:9).

Works do not save us.

"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Galatians 2:16).

Living according to the works of the law saves no one.

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

The inability of works alone to save us does not deliver us from the works. In fact, faith in Jesus produces good works. If it doesn't, it must not be redeeming faith.

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).

To be delivered from condemnation we must walk after the Spirit. That is a trait of those who truly are in Christ Jesus. And we cannot possibly walk after the Spirit without doing the works of the Spirit.

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

God's people have a purpose and responsibility in their calling.

"These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful" (Revelation 17:14).

Faithful! It won't be enough to have been called and chosen.

"Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).

It is required that we be faithful to the very end.

"But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13).

This strongly allows the inference that some will begin who shall not endure . . . and shall not be saved despite having been earlier redeemed.

"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Paul realized that even he could reach the end of his life and discover himself among those rejected by God.

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).

Will His blood have that cleansing effect if we do not walk in the light?

"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17).

A workless faith is worthless. (See also verse 20.)

"Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect" (James 2:22).

Faith cannot express itself without works.

Works bring perfection to faith.

"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24).

A faith not expressed by works is ineffective and will fail to bring about the completion of justification.

"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26).

Faith needs works to live.

Faith and works are inseparable . . . if you want life.

Faith and works strike me as two dimensions of the same thing.

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23).

Following Jesus is a progression of daily events, not a single decision.

"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34).

Those called to inherit the kingdom were commended for their faithfulness in living as Jesus would have lived. They were not given the inheritance only because of their faith, but because of what their faith worked in them.

"Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14).

The promise is to those that do His commandments.

"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Ephesians 1:4).

We have been chosen for a purpose. Shall we dare oblige God to keep us among His chosen even if our lives cease to fulfill that sacred purpose?

"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you" (John 15:16).

There it is again: We have been chosen for a purpose.

Now I'll respond briefly to some questions.

What about "Once a son, always a son; you cannot be unborn"?

The issue isn't being unborn; the issue is dying. As long as the believer is spiritually alive, he can rest secure in the eternal integrity of his relationship with Christ. Despite such a solid tie, if I die spiritually, my oneness with Christ is lost.

Contemporary Christianity reacts with horror and condemnation at the notion of God disinheriting someone. They point to the reality of human biological parenthood to establish that nobody can be unborn spiritually. They overlook at least two things -- my sonship to my parents was not my choice and it is not dependent on my submission to them. My sonship to God is based on an entirely different premise -- I chose to submit to Him and thus became His son.

Even if Dad's will states me as the recipient of a $5,000 inheritance, I cannot collect it if I die before he does. Did I have to be "unborn" to not collect my inheritance? No, I just had to die. So it is spiritually. If we die spiritually, how can we expect to inherit eternal life?

So every time I sin, I'm lost?
I think not. To sin is not to die spiritually (although sin not dealt with Biblically does pose a threat to our spiritual life). However, if I return to a life of sin, then I am spiritually dead. Then I am lost and need to be redeemed again.

But doesn't returning to a life of sin mean someone was never saved?

No, but that's what many a Calvinist has to say. To me that seems like real insecurity! You see, only the presumptuous would pretend to know now that he won't fall away in five years. If you were to fall then, are you saved now?! Therefore, it seems to me that the Calvinist can't possibly be secure now. It also seems the Calvinist really can't know till life's end whether he is saved or not. Then it's too late to do anything about it.

Doesn't your position also produce insecurity?
I see my teaching as underscoring the understanding, mercy, and grace of God. Faith without works is intangible and fickle, terribly reliant of feelings. God knows and understands that. Not wanting us to struggle with that kind of insecurity, He mercifully established works as the unavoidable result and proof of saving faith. Isn't He gracious?! We have something tangible to assure our hearts that both we and our eternal inheritance are secure.

Let's remember, though, that we can no more safely separate our works from our faith than we can safely separate our faith from our works. Neither can stand alone.

Doesn't your position mean that Christ's sacrifice was not enough?

No, it doesn't mean that at all.

The Bible's position is that mere faith in Christ's sacrifice is not enough. The Bible teaches clearly that saving faith produces -- and needs -- good works.

Mark Roth
© 2002

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