Saturday, January 02, 2010

Question #3: Ongoing Obedience and Perseverance?

The third question is this:

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?

Lordship Salvation:
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?

Free Grace:
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.


  1. Of course one cannot earn salvation by works (specifically works of the Mosaic Law), it is given to those displaying faith. But as James plainly stated, "faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) A person with a real, living faith will be acting in accordance with it, displaying good works.

    Further, your once-saved-always-saved perspective conflicts with what the Bible explicitly tells us. One must keep their faith alive and strong to retain God's approval. Jude wrote "although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith . . . I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe." (Jude 3, 5)

    Those people initially showed faith, taking part in the passover and leaving Egypt with Moses, but they lost it later on and were destroyed by God. This is why Jude warns those Christians, "*Keep* yourselves in God's love." (v. 21)

    A faithful person can take comfort in knowing that they have God's approval, yet we all must "continue to work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12)


  2. Thank you for your comment. Feel free to look at for another perspective on this passage in James, as the understanding you display matches very closely that which is taught by the Watchtower, which teaches that salvation (as they understand it) is by works.

    About a year ago I posted 25 or more Biblical arguments for eternal security beginning here Check them out if you haven't already.

    Eternal security is the only view that is compatible with a by-grace salvation that is truly apart from works. Any compromise on this results in a salvation that depends upon you and not on Christ. For our salvation, we are to rely on Christ. That's what "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" means… you depend, you trust, you rely on Him to provide your salvation and keep it secure.

    Christ Himself promised "eternal life" to those who would trust in Him. "Eternal life" lasts forever. Eternal life that can be lost is not eternal and so I can lose it, then Christ is a liar.