Does salvation require ongoing commitment and perseverance in obedience?
Latter-Day Saints (Mormon):
This is another question that had to be rephrased a bit so that we get a good comparison. The Mormon's ultimate salvation is really called "exaltation," where they enter what they call the "Celestial Kingdom" or the "Third Heaven." So I asked the three LDS missionaries whether exaltation required ongoing commitment and perseverance in obedience.
The answer I received was not surprising at all… in fact it's quite logically consistent with their answers to the first two questions. Their answer was that exaltation certainly does require ongoing commitment and “enduring to the end.”
The Watchtower (Jehovah's Witnesses):
The Jehovah's Witness that I consulted on these questions answered quite buntly "Yes" and then cited Matthew 24:13 to support this. “He who endures to the end will be saved.” Again, this answer is logically consistent with their answers to the first two.
What I mean by that is, for either group, they lack absolute assurance of ultimate salvation, or they locate whatever meager assurance they have in their own performance, because they believe they cannot be saved unless they meet a particular standard (yet undefined) of personal performance. In other words, their salvation ultimately depends upon them and not on God. Though they may claim that salvation is a "grace gift", clearly they don't really believe this. If they did believe it, their answer to question 3 would have to be "No."
In other words, a "Yes" answer to question 3 flows naturally from belief in a works-based plan of salvation. But what is the answer from the Lordship perspective? These are mainstream Christian teachers who profess to teach a by-grace salvation. But do they really embrace it, or is it just lip-service?
According to several popular teachers, we see that Lordship Salvation requires ongoing commitment and perseverance, absolute surrender and obedience.
…if there is a reserve in your obedience, you are on your way to Hell. -A.W. Pink
Genuine believers may stumble and fall, but they will persevere in the faith. -John MacArthur
…the faith [Jesus] demands involves unconditional surrender. -John MacArthur
The New Testament speaks of enduring to the end promising that he who endures to the end will be saved. -R.C Sproul
That last quote is particularly interesting, because R.C. Sproul is talking about Matthew 24:13 there… the same verse cited by the Jehovah's Witness!!
Now what is Matthew 24:13 about, then? Well it doesn't take much effort to see that in Matthew 24, Jesus is talking about the Tribulation. In Chapter 24 verse 3, the disciples ask Jesus what will be signs of His coming and of the end of the "age". Jesus goes on to describe cataclysmic events of various kinds and then in verse 13 He says "But he who endures to the end will be saved."
Saved? Does this mean eternal salvation? The word for "saved" here is not a technical term which always refers to eternal salvation. In fact, it frequently does not. The Greek word "sozo" means to "deliver" from some danger… but what danger is always determined by context. Jesus is talking about the Tribulation, and clearly there will be people who survive the Tribulation, and those who do will be delivered into the Millenial Kingdom which follows. It's as simple as that. This passage has nothing to do with eternal salvation. But what is the Free Grace perspective on this question?
The answer is "No." If the answer was "Yes," then that would mean salvation is by works and not by grace and 100% assurance would be impossible. Now it's true that discipleship and practical sanctification require ongoing commitment and perseverance, but eternal salvation does not. It is a free gift, it is not something you have to strive for. And once again, we see that, of the four groups, the Free Grace perspective is the only one with a distinct answer and Lordship Salvation looks more and more like it's based on works every bit as much as the cults.