The believer must practice righteousness if he is to remain a child of God. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer in it?…Do you not know that to whom you present yourself slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience to righteousness?…” (Romans 6:1, 15-16, 21, 23). This passage treats sinning not as an accident but as an act of self-surrender. It says that if we yield ourselves to sin, it will bring death; they will again be the servants of sin, which will end in eternal death (Romans 6:16, 21, 23a; James 5:20).
TOM: Here again we may ask: To what degree should the saints not sin (practice righteousness) in order to maintain their salvation – 60%, 75%, 90% or 100%? God is only satisfied with a 100% performance and anyone who claims to have such a wonderful track record has no need of a Saviour. They do not need Jesus Christ. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8). Am I encouraging Christians to sin? Absolutely not. We should hate sin as much as God hates it. Nonetheless, the bible never says that a saint should practice righteousness. A saint’s righteousness is a Person, not a deed that I do, and this Person wants to live his righteous life in and through each and every one of his saints. (1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Galatians 2:20). If I, as Paul says, no longer live, how can I practice righteousness? In fact, when I live and strive to practice righteousness it is then when I fall into all kinds of unrighteousness. Paul describes this dilemma in a saint’s life in Romans 7.
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (Romans 7:19)
You can’t miss noticing the many I’s in this verse. It is full of I’s and no Jesus. That’s what happens when the “I” gets in the way.
Romans 6:1, 15-16, 21, 23 is not an instruction on how a saint ought to retain or preserve his/her salvation. We must read it in context with what Paul said in Romans 5:
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:19-21).
Paul says here: It doesn’t matter how big the sin may be, God’s grace exceeds in magnitude that very sin.
So, as you can see have I received more grace than you and Mr. X (Not really). Some started to believe: “OK if God’s grace is always much greater than our sins, why shouldn’t we just go on sinning more so that God’s grace may abound and grow even greater?” Paul then answers: “How can a dead person sin? Don’t you realize that everyone who has been baptized into Christ’s death, no longer has the desire to sin. You should therefore daily reckon (reason) that you have died with Christ and that you are indeed dead to sin (your sinful nature which is the manufacturing foundation of all your sins).” Take note, he doesn’t say that a saint ceases to sin altogether (1 John 1:8). He says “live any longer therein?” The reckoning (reasoning) of your demise to sin (old Adam nature) is a daily process and will continue until the saint leaves his earthly tent to be with his Lord. The passage you quoted is therefore not a warning that a saint may lose his/her salvation but to remind them that victory over sin is no option for the child of God. Victory is a certainty when he/she identifies him/herself with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul says it is our reasonable service (religion) to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God. In the Old Testament the sacrificial animals were killed. They were dead sacrifices. All believers have already been slain (killed) in Christ when He was slain on the cross, not to remain dead but to live in the reality of the new life we’ve received in and through Jesus Christ when He was raised from the dead and we together with him. There can be no resurrection life without a death and a burial and this all becomes a saints inmheritance the moment he or she puts their faith in Jesus Christ for their eternal redemption. This is another reason why a saint cannot lose his salvation. The death, burial and resurrection a saint inherits the moment he is saved cannot be reversed, just as much as Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection can be reversed.
The very notion that a saint must strive not to sin in order to retain his/her salvation places an immense heavy burden on the saint. This is precisely what happened to Paul when he wrote:
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin (old Adam nature) that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:14-25).
It is interesting to note that Paul knew exactly how to be victorious over sin, already in chapter 6, but it took him some time (in chapter 7) to understand the meaning of being buried in Christ’s death experientially. God often allows his children to fall into sin so that they may realize that there is absolutely nothing they can do to “continue to refrain from sin” and thus retain or preserve their salvation. Any effort to “continue to refrain from sin” is in itself a sin. Paul proved that his own efforts was to no avail and that the more he tried to “continue to refrain from sin” it made him to sin even more. The only antidote for sin (the Adam nature and production house of all our sins) is to reckon (reason by faith) that you are indeed dead to sin by virtue of your burial in Christ’s death. Only then can the saint be resurrected into a dynamic new life with Christ. “I am (continuous present tense. Not was) crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). If Christ Himself lives in the saint, how can he lose his salvation? The only way a saint can lose his salvation is when Christ Himself abandons the saint, move out of him and never return again. Should this ever be possible Jesus would have been a liar because He promised that his sheep would never perish (John 10:27-29) and that He woud never forsake or leave them (Hebrews 13:5).
LOUIS: Warnings in the book of Revelation
“But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations…” (Revelation 2:25-26; 2:7, 11, 17, 25, 3:5, 11-12, 21). The verbs “hold fast”, “overcomes” and “keeps” are also in the present tense – continuous and repeated action. We are warned that “holding fast”, “overcoming” and “keeping” must continue as a condition of security and must be continuously maintained.
TOM: The perseverance spoken of here (“hold fast” and “overcomes” and “keeps my works”) does not have as its goal the maintenance of salvation. It clearly pertains to having given power over the nations. It ties in perfectly with Jesus’ parallel of the Kingdom of God in Luke 19. Some servants received authority and power over ten cities; some over five etc. We find the same idea in 1 Corinthians 15: “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
LOUIS: The emphasis during the church age (Revelation 2:1 – 3:22) until the Second Coming of Jesus (Revelation 22:7, 11-12, 14-15, 20) is on faithfulness, witness, and patience through many trials and temptations to the end. It is a life of perseverance. There is abundant assurance concerning the security of the believer, that security is conditioned on faithfulness, a condition which can be met by the aid of the Holy Spirit and the Word. Many passages from God’s Word must be ignored or badly misinterpreted if a person is still to insist on unconditional security.
Revelation 22:7, 11-12, 14-15 and 20 do not teach conditional security.
Verse 7 merely pronounces a blessing on those who keep (the eye on; are diligently aware of) the prophecies in the Book of Revelation.
Neither do verses 11 and 12 refer to conditional security. Verse 11 cannot be a reference to the situation this side of the grave because anyone who is unjust and polluted with sins in this world still has an opportunity to be cleansed and to be declared righteous through faith and repentance, unless, of course, you believe in the irreversible status of the reprobate who cannot become cleansed and declared righteous for all eternity.
Verse 12 speaks of rewards our Saviour will give to everyone for what they have done in their earthly bodies. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
Verses 14 and 15 must be read in the context of Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem that will descend from heaven. Entrance into the city is conditioned on one thing and one thing only – “they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27).
If salvation is conditioned on a saint’s perseverance and performance, we must again ask ourselves what Jesus meant when He said: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” (John 10:27-30). Was He merely allegorizing the saint’s own responsibility to remain steadfast in his Father’s and his own hands lest they lose their salvation by wrenching open their hands and walk away? If no man can pluck (“harpazo,” the same word Paul uses for the Rapture) them out of their hands, why do the anti-OSAS brethren doubt Jesus’ promise? If God the Father is genuinely greater than all, how dare we believe that the saint is able to pluck himself out of their hands? Even if it were possible to do so, no genuinely saved saint will ever want to pluck himself out of their hands (2 Corinthians 7:10).
In the light of the above, verses 14 and 15 cannot possibly be interpreted as salvation conditioned on the keeping of his commandments. Do we keep his commandments 100% every single day of our lives? Anyone who claims to do his commandments 100% (the only standard that satisfies God) has no need of a Saviour. Verses 14 and 15 cannot, therefore, have anything to do with the retainment or the perpetuation of salvation. Indeed, it relates to a blessing. Contrary to the KJV that translates Revelation 22:14 “Blessed are they that do his commandments, . . .” all the other translations render it as “Blessed are they that wash their robes . . .” (who were saved through faith and repentance). We must bear in mind that these saints are the ones who had lived through the seven year tribulation period just prior to Jesus Christ’s return to earth. “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:13-14).
LOUIS: Calvinists who defend unconditional security magnify the resources which God provides for the believer. The Bible stresses God’s grace, power, love, mercy, promises and chastening, the Son’s substitutionary death, priestly intercession, indwelling presence, the Word of God and the Spirit’s help in overcoming the “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1John 2:15-17). The Bible does not teach that we are being saved by works or by self-effort. However, there is a personal responsibility involved in perseverance (See Jude 1:21, 24-25).
TOM: Here again, these verses do not teach conditional salvation. In fact, verse 24 distinctly says that it is God Himself who preserves the saints from falling into the sin of apostasy, to the extent that neither He nor anyone else can or will be able to bring a charge or complaint in against them. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (“who walk not afer the flesh, but the Spirit” is not in the original). . . . Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:1; 33-34).
LOUIS: Believers’ security is conditional, but this should not cause fear or insecurity in the heart of the believer if he understands the Bible’s teaching about how we are kept. If such a fear arises, it is because of twisted teaching, imperfect understanding, or incomplete obedience which generates unbelief.
TOM: If saints are being kept by God why do they need to assist God in His work of keeping them? To say that we are kept but we ourselves are responsible to persevere in order to maintain our salvation makes you guilty of the very thing you warn against – unbelief. It amounts to an indictment of God that his power to keep us is not sufficient and that the saint himself must do something to uphold God’s keeping power. It is either God keeping the saint 100% or it is the saint himself who must keep himself 100%. God never works in tandem with the flesh. “Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5).
If fear arises it is precisely because of the teaching of conditional security. Many Puritans began to doubt their salvation on their deathbeds because they were not sure whether their performance (perseverance) matched God’s holy standard.
LOUIS: While it is possible for people to reach heaven while holding some errors in doctrine, we ought, nevertheless, to avoid those doctrinal errors that are hazardous to spiritual welfare and destiny. Two of these hazards may be mentioned. The first danger is a cheapened view of sin and salvation. Any doctrine that makes it appear safe to go on sinning while believing in Christ is hazardous in the extreme. The Bible standard for believers is holy living, not sinful living. The second danger grows out of the first. If it is possible for a believer to fall away and be lost, then a doctrine to the contrary is perilous indeed. It may bring one to the Judgment with a false confidence of safety.
TOM: I’m not too sure what you mean by “a cheapened view of sin and salvation.” There are only two ways to look at sin and salvation – the correct way and the wrong way. Anything in between that cheapens it, is wrong at any rate. Jesus said: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38). The Bible is our only guide to a correct understanding of sin and salvation. Anyone who moves beyond or out of the bounds of Scripture with regard to salvation, in particular, cannot be saved.
Your postulate “If it is possible for a believer to fall away and be lost, then a doctrine to the contrary is perilous indeed” is rather unfortunate. To say that “if it is possible for a believer to fall away and be lost, then the doctrine of eternal security is perilous indeed” is to say that Jesus’ words in John 10:27-29 are perilous, hazardous, death-defying words. I wouldn’t do that if I were you because it dishonours Jesus who said: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).
LOUIS: Apparently Jesus referred to just such an occurrence when He said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? And in Your name have cast out devils? And in Your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23).
Here are people, many in number, who are active religiously, but who have an apparent conviction that sin will not bar them from heaven. It is a shattering disillusionment to them that sinful living is in itself a sure barrier to entrance into the eternal kingdom of God. Their doctrinal position, whatever its justification for sinning as Christians, was tragically in error!
TOM: You cannot use this passage to defend conditional security because the ones spoken of here were never saved. The expression “never knew you” proves it.
The main reason why Jesus will tell these people that He never knew them is because they base their righteousness on the things they had done in the Name of the Lord instead of on what He has done for them on the cross. They boast in their works and not in Christ. “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:9).
“Iniquity” in this instance is not the general meaning of sin. It is more a feigned righteousness to try and impress Jesus Christ with their good deeds. Jesus clarifies this in the very next few verses when He says: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27). They built their lives on a false foundation instead of on Jesus Christ, the Rock of our salvation. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11). Therefore, those to whom Jesus refers to here were never saved. They were merely feigning righteousness. They are like the ones who entered the wedding feast without the proper wedding garment (Matthew 22:13 and 14). “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2 Timothy 3:5)
TOM: CONCLUSION ON ETERNAL SECURITY
Is Paul’s experience in Romans 7 anti-OSAS’s (Eternal Security) Waterloo?
Those who are in opposition to OSAS believe that we cannot gain our salvation by doing good deeds but that we can retain it by not doing bad deeds. Even our profoundest hatred of sin and our most intense efforts not to sin cannot please God, simply because our best endeavours not to sin (in other words all our righteousness following salvation) are as impure and polluted as a filthy rag. (Isaiah 64: 6). The slightest appeal to the flesh in an attempt not to sin and to remain loyal and faithful to Christ and thereby retain our salvation is a direct denunciation of Christ’s command to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. Any Appeal to the flesh side-tracks the cross. Taking up our cross, as I’ve explained on several previous occasions, is not the hardships, tribulations, persecutions etc. saints have to endure during their sojourn here on earth. It means one thing only — to die to our own fleshly nature (old Adam nature). In other words, stop trying and start dying. Paul tried and it didn’t work for him. Are we any better that Paul?
Victory over sin cannot be accomplished by an effort not to sin but by dying to . . . . not the sins, but the very root of it, the imaginary goodness of the flesh that boasts it can do something to assist Christ in His on-going work of salvation (sanctification). Saints are quick to confess and repent of their sins but very slow and reluctant to confess and repent of their goodness. Their supposed goodness is often more of a stumbling block in their lives than their bad deeds.
Why is it so necessary to deny and to die to ourselves? Because the flesh is the most corrupt, most deceptive and the most lethal enemy the saint will ever encounter in his life here on earth. But isn’t Satan our worst enemy? To answer this we need to look at the difference between these two enemies of the cross. Yes! Not only Satan is an enemy of the cross but also the flesh. Satan and his demons are defeated foes. Jesus defeated them when He disarmed the principalities and powers ranged against us and made a bold display and public example of them, in triumphing over them in Him and in it (the cross). (Colossians 2: 15). All that is necessary is to submit ourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4: 7).
The old nature or the flesh is a complete different kettle of fish. Its crucifixion (death) in and with Christ on the cross is a fait accompli and yet it needs to be reckoned as dead every single day for the rest of our lives (Romans 6: 11). In effect Paul says that we are already dead to sin, the world, ourselves and Satan and therefore we should keep on dying. This is where the falling away doctrine meets its Waterloo because it reveals the utter deficiency of the flesh in doing anything that is pleasing to God, including the so-called retention of salvation. All saints agree that Satan is evil, but very little are prepared to admit that the benevolent flesh is also evil.
In his discourse in Romans 6 on the complete deficiency of the flesh to attain God’s standard of holiness and a sanctified life, Paul cried out in utter despondency “nothing good dwells within me that is in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot perform it. I have the intention and urge to do what is right, but no power to carry it out; for I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, [but the evil deeds that I do not desire to do are what I am [ever] doing. Now if I do what I do not desire to do, it is no longer I doing it but the sin [principle] which dwells within me [fixed and operating in my soul].
Every anti-OSAS adherent would agree that the retention of one’s salvation is a very good thing and yet Paul said nothing good dwelt in him, that is . . . his flesh. Doing a good thing by means of a good for nothing thing? . . . Impossible. Paul likened the evil propensity of man’s soul to try and do something good and pleasing for God to a stinking corpse. Then follows his outcry: “O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from [the shackles of] this body of death? O thank God? He will! Through Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, our Lord!”
To summarize Romans 7 one can say it deals with “death through a good thing” and “life through death.” Let’s be honest with one another and acknowledge that legalism kills. Every “must” or “must not” in an effort to accomplish something in the sight of God is legalism, including all efforts or performances to retain one’s salvation. Paul says in verse 12 the Law is holy and each commandment is holy and just and good, but in the verse preceding it, he said that the very legal ordinance which was designed to bring life, actually proved [to mean] death. The good thing (Law), kills and cannot give life. Every “must” and “must not” in the Law was designed to cast a glaring light on every sin in a sinner’s life, showing him that he is on the road to eternal death. That was and still is the purpose of the Law. If every “must” and “must not” in all matters pertaining to eternity is pure legalism and if it kills, what must one do to receive and retain eternal life? There is only one way — life through death, the death of the cross.
Paul acknowledged that all his “musts” and “must nots” bound him even firmer to the demands of the Law and that dying to his own efforts to accomplish good things for the Lord brought life in abundance. It simply means that he completely replaced his “I must” with “He will.” Note carefully that He will do it through His Christ, the Anointed One. In other words, He was anointed to accomplish everything that we so hopelessly fail to carry out, even the safeguarding and retention of our salvation.
One of the recurring arguments of the anti-OSAS camp is that a saint can lose his salvation when he renounces his faith in Christ, turns his back on Him and never returns. One must concede that when a person places his trust in his own faith to carry him through to eternal bliss, his “salvation” will be very shaky and will not prevail. But then again such faith is not genuine faith and therefore cannot be regarded as a faith unto an authentic biblical salvation. The validity of one’s faith is not determined by the degree of your faith but by the Person in Whom you have placed our trust, as well as His immutable promises. The very moment a sinner receives forgiveness for all of his sins on the basis of Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross and places his trust in Him as his only Saviour, His Spirit quickens the spirit of the repentant sinner and He makes His abode in him. Had it been possible for a saint to renounce his faith and lose his salvation the Holy Spirit would have had to break His seal of promise and depart from a saint’s spirit never to return again (Ephesians 1: 13). The intrinsic character of a covenant is that it is bound firmly by an unbroken seal; unalterably, permanently and eternally. Therefore, the postulated renouncement of one’s faith and the assumed loss of salvation is not merely the abandonment of a creed; it must be the Holy Spirit’s abandonment of the saint . . . which is impossible.
I have yet to find an anti-OSAS believer who can supply me with a comprehensive argument to refute what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7: 10
The quoted verse shows that there is a vast difference between repentance and regret. A person who regrets his “salvation” or his “faith” in Christ and turns from Him was never saved in the first place. Repentance is from God and it works a sorrow in the heart that draws people to Him and brings them to a place of confession and repentance. Adversely, a worldly sorrow drives people away from God into the hands of Satan. Peter showed godly sorrow and repentance and was forgiven; Judas showed worldly sorrow and regret and took his own life. (
- Eternal Security: NOSAS Versus OSAS (Part 1)
- Eternal Security: NOSAS Versus OSAS (Part 2)
- Eternal Security: NOSAS Versus OSAS (Part 3)
- Eternal Security: NOSAS Versus OSAS (Part 4)