Saturday, July 17, 2010

Grace and unconditional security

"For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."
Ephesians 2:8

"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify the son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."
Hebrews 6: 4-6

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

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed , not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Philippians 2:12-13

There are some teachings that are very popular in "Christendom"- namely, Grace as God's unmerited favor, and unconditional eternal security (that we are saved once for all time- irregardless of what we do after salvation). Many base the unconditional teaching on the "fact" that Grace is God's unmerited favor.

After all, if we are saved by God's unmerited favor, then what can we do to add to that? How can we ever "fall away" from something that has been given to us, even though we haven't done anything to earn it? If salvation is a free and unearned gift, how can we ever lose it?

Here's the problem with this: the passage above in Hebrews, and many others, clearly refute unconditional security. Scripture says that - once a person has been born again and reached a certain level in their walk with God- and falls away from God, it is then IMPOSSIBLE to renew that person to repentance. Paul even said in 1 Corinthians that he worked hard at keeping his body under subjection to the Lord, because he feared becoming a castaway if he didn't!

If a person can become a castaway AFTER salvation, and a person can reach a point AFTER salvation where they can no longer get into a repentant place with God, then that person (or those people) can be lost AFTER salvation! Therefore, "unconditional eternal security" is a lie. It is true that, if a person desires to stay saved, and that person stays in right relationship with God, then they WILL hear, "Well DONE my good and faithful servant, enter ye in...". God will move heaven and earth to keep you saved. There is only one thing that God will not do in this regard: he will not break your will.

God has given us something he gave no animal nor Angel- free will. Animals do what they were made to do. Angels do God's will or become fallen Angels. God never tried to redeem Satan and the 1/3 of the Angels that rebelled with him. Yet, we fall, and God himself, as Abraham prophesied ("God will provide HIMSELF a lamb"), became a man- the lamb of God- and became the perfect sacrifice for our sins. This opened the door for, "whosoever will" to take part in the salvation he bought and paid for with his OWN blood (Acts 20:28).

Yet, for all this, we have freedom of choice. We can choose to enter into relationship with God, or not. Once we've chosen to enter that relationship, we can chose to leave that relationship as well. That's why scripture tells us to "work out (our) own salvation in fear and trembling." It's a choice. If we chose to leave our relationship with God, we lose our salvation, unless God grants us repentance- which he doesn't have to do.

God died for a bride that would love him. It is not his desire to have an "arranged and forced marriage." We either love and serve him out of genuine and loving relationship, or we don't. It's up to us.

As I've pointed out on this blog on other occasions, Grace is NOT the unmerited favor of God. Grace is a partnership relationship with God- see my earlier posts on Grace to see what I refer to. Unmerited favor from God is MERCY! Some say that the words mercy and grace are used interchangeably in the scriptures. Yet, there is not one place in the scriptures where this is true.

Mercy and Grace work interactively. Without mercy, we have no access to his grace. With Mercy, we CAN be in relationship with God. His Mercy drove him to the cross for our sins. His Grace opened his arms to say "whosoever will". His Mercy allows for us the chance for forgiveness. His Grace helps us to STAY forgiven. If grace is "God's unmerited favor", then how do we "grow in Grace" as Peter admonishes us to do? If, however, Grace is that divine partnership WITH God, then THIS we can grow in.

Some are saying that I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. What does it matter if someone's definition of Grace is wrong? So what if they believe that Grace is "unmerited favor", what difference does it make? It makes all the difference in this world- and the next.

I'm not saying that a person will go to hell simply because they have a wrong definition of the word. However, we tend to act out what we believe. Our actions, in fact, always follow what we believe. That's why James says for someone to show him there faith without works, but he will show his faith BY his works. Paul said we are to "work out" our salvation in fear and trembling.

We have two beliefs. They cannot both be correct. They are diametrically opposed.

"Unmerited favor" as Grace leads to the belief that salvation is a finished work. WE have no part to play in it. After all, we are "saved by "unmerited favor". It's a done deal. This belief flies in the face of the many scriptures that say we CAN lose out with God. Are there contradictions in the word of God. It also leads to ungodliness and worldliness in "the body of Christ." Why try if it's a done deal?

If Grace is a divine partnership, then it is a RELATIONSHIP with God that we can enter into because of his mercy (unmerited favor). A relationship that, like a marriage, must be tended to and worked at. God gives us the power and even the desire to do what he wants us to do, but the obedient choice is still ours to make.

This view of Grace is the scriptural one. This view tells us that "whosoever endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved." This view allows us to "work out our salvation" and "grow in relationship (grace)". This view leads to us striving to stay in right relationship with God. This opens the door for us to know God more- to know him deeper. This allows us to go from "glory to glory." That's why Paul himself worked hard at keeping his own body under subjection. He had to, out of love and out of fear, stay in that right relationship with God. If he didn't, he said he would become a castaway.

Anything less than a partnership with God (in which both God And we, give our all), is simply not biblical grace, it's a religion that bears no resemblance at all to the relationship that the Lord died to create.