IS SALVATION UNCONDITIONAL? IS REPENTANCE NECESSARY? CAN SALVATION BE FORFEITED?
This was an email that I received from an Antinomian (someone who believes that repentance from sin is unnecessary for salvation and that salvation cannot be lost no matter how much or how grievously we keep sinning):
So , is justification/salvation/eternal life/being born again a gift?When does eternal life irreversibly begin with 100% certainty ?
My response was this:
Salvation is a gift that God offers, but we must receive it by repenting of our sins and trusting in Christ. It is not a gift that is forced upon us, like Calvinism claims, but a gift that is offered to us that we must receive by free will.
We have eternal life if we turn from sin and turn to Christ, and we keep eternal life so long as we stay away from sin and continue with Christ. Adam had eternal life but lost it through sinning. David too was a believer but committed adultery and murder, and no murderer or adulterer has eternal life. But David was restored through repentance. Peter denied the Lord and Jesus said if you deny me I will deny you. But Peter repented and was restored. We must turn from sin and turn to Christ to get saved and we must stay away from sin and stay with Christ to stay saved.
These are verses that show me that we can forfeit our salvation, depart from the faith, etc, and that salvation is evidently conditional or dependent upon us and what we do or don’t do:
“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matt. 24:13).
“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (Jn. 6:66)
“Then said Jesus to the Jews which believed on him, if ye continue in my words, then are ye my disciples indeed…” (Jn. 8:31).
“If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered, and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (Jn. 15:6)
Paul “exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (Acts 11:23).
Paul “persuaded them to continue in the grace of God” (Acts 13:43).
“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
Paul said, “And you that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven…(Col. 1:21-23)
“Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and the severity of God: on them which feel, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off” (Rom. 11:20-21).
“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 Cor. 9:27).
“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13).
“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12);
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:1-2);
“We then, as workers together with God, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 6:1);
“For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord” (1 Thes. 3:8)
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou salt both save thyself and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16)
“Therefore we ought to give more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation (Heb. 2:1-3)
“But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:6)
“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” (Heb. 3:12-14)
“Let us labour therefore to enter into the rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb. 4:11)
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession” (Heb. 4:14)
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering…” (Heb. 10:22-23)
“And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on the earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (Heb. 12:24-25)
Jesus spoke of those who “receive the word” and “for a while believe” but “in time of temptation fall away” (Lk. 8:13).
“For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:26-31).
“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:19-20).
“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them (2 Pet. 2:20-21).
“Ye therefore beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (2 Pet. 3:17).
“Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father” (1 Jn. 2:24).
“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 Jn. 1:9).
“He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die” (Prov. 19:16).
Paul said that if a believer violates their conscience, even by simply eating meat offered to idols when they believe it is wrong, that they commit “sin” and are therefore “damned” (Rom. 14:23).
Paul said that those believers who do what they believe to be wrong are in danger of being among those who “perish” (1 Cor. 8:11).
“And the Lord said unto Moses, whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Exo. 32:33).
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev. 3:5).
The Bible says that “the wrath of God” “commeth” “upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them” (Eph. 5:6-7).
The Bible says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungoldiness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18), and the Bible says, “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil” (Rom. 2:8-9). Paul even warned believers, “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath” (Rom. 2:5).
Consider the warnings the Bible gives against “whosoever.” The Bible says “whosoever” will be in danger of hell if they break the commandments and teach others to do so (Matt. 5:19); if they are angry with a brother without cause or calls them a fool (Matt. 5:22); if they commit adultery by looking with lust (Matt. 5:28); if they publicly deny Jesus Christ (Matt. 10:33); if they blaspheme the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:32); if they seek to save their life (Matt. 16:25); if they cause little children to stumble (Mk. 9:42); if they commit sin (Jn. 8:34-35); if they judge others in hypocrisy (Rom. 2:1); if they resist lawful government (Rom. 13:2); if they try to earn their salvation by their works (Gal. 5:4); if they are a friend of the world (Jas. 4:4); if they hate their brother (1 Jn. 3:15); if they do not abide in Christ and in His doctrine (2 Jn. 1:9); and if they love or make lies (Rev. 22:15). These passages do not warn “unbelievers” only, but specifically warns “whosoever” which means everyone.
Paul said that “we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. 11:32).
“But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, my lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:49-51).
“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 2:30).
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal. 1:6).
Being blotted out of the book of life is a real possibility (Exo. 32:32-33; Deut. 29:20; Ps. 62:20; Rev. 3:5).
“The Lord is with you, while ye be with him… if ye forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2).
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals…. Shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15).
The Bible repeatedly speaks of those who have fallen away from the faith (Matt. 18:21-34; Mk. 4:17; Lk. 8:13; Jn. 6:66; Acts 1:25 w. Matt. 19:28; 2 Thes. 2:3; 1 Tim. 1:5-6; 1:19-20; 4:1; 5:15; 2 Tim. 3:8; 4:10; Heb. 3:12-15; 4:1-11; 6:6; 10:29; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; Jud. 1:5). “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck…” (1 Tim. 1:19).
Paul said, “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and who do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” (Rom. 2:7-10).
“For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor” (Gal. 2:18).
He wrote me back and said:
Thanks for responding Jesse . I appreciate you taking time .
There could not possibly be a more important issue.
First , where do you find the word repent (or it’s cognates) in John’s gospel , whose express purpose is evangelistic (Jn. 20:31) ; or in Paul’s defense of the gospel in Galatians , or his exposition on appropriating imputed righteousness in Romans 3:21-5:11 – as a condition for justification/salvation/eternal life ?
Second , you say : …”that salvation is evidently conditional or dependent upon us and what we do or don’t do”.
You seem to say that our behavior/obedience/discipleship process/’walk”/works/”what we do”/sanctification are indistinct from one’s justification.
How do you reconcile that with Eph.2:8-9 ; Romans 3:21-5:11 , 9:30-10:17 , 11:6 ; Titus 3:5 ; Phil. 3:9 ; Acts 16:31 ; John’s gospel ; the book of Galatians (etc.) ?
As well , where in the bible does it say that “Adam had eternal life and lost it” ?
Gracias Jesse – I’ll look forward to your response !
I wrote this back in reply:
These are the answers to your questions:
1. The message of repentance is found in John’s gospel in John 5:14, when Jesus said, “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” Repenting of sin is nothing more than a change of mind about sinning, so when Jesus said “sin no more” he was essentially saying, “repent of your sin.”
The same is found in John 8:11 when Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery “go, and sin no more.” He went on to say, “he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness” so evidently true believers are those who have repented of their sinning. And then Jesus said to the Pharisees “I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.” By this we know that a person cannot go to heaven if they die in their sins, so evidently a person must repent of their sins before they die.
2. Paul argued that it is our faith that is imputed as righteousness, not obedience to the Torah, and faith is to have confidence in, trust, etc. Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the Torah, as the Torah came through Moses long after Abraham was already justified. Justification cannot be by works of the Torah then. But the faith that justifies includes repentance. Repentance is not a work of the law but a change of mind. Hebrews says that “By faith Abraham…obeyed.” Obedience to God is the result of faith, so faith itself must include a change of mind about disobedience. Otherwise, if faith did not include a change of mind about disobedience, it could not result in an obedient life. James said faith without works is dead and cannot save, so again the faith that saves must include repentance and results in works. The Bible says that faith purifies the heart, sanctifies the life, and overcomes the world. The same faith that justifies is the same faith that sanctifies, so a man remains justified by faith only as long as he remains sanctified by faith.
3. Paul’s ministry was to the Gentiles, to “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Acts 26:18. Notice that they needed to be turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, in order that they might receive forgiveness. In other words, it was a condition of their forgiveness for them to turn (repent). And also notice that those who have an inheritance are those who are sanctified by faith.
In Galatians, Paul was refuting the notion of the Judiazers that a person needed to be circumcised and keep the Torah to be saved. It was not that the Gentiles were repenting of their sins and Paul thought, “Oh no, I better put a stop to this.” It was that the Gentiles were fallen from grace by getting into the teaching of justification by works of the law as opposed to by grace through faith. The Gentiles had already repented when they put their faith in Christ, as repentance is part of faith, but now the Judiazers were trying to add works to faith and Paul had to confront that.
4. We are not saved by merit but by grace. But while salvation is unmerited, it is not unconditional. Our salvation is conditional upon our faith, true faith that includes repentance. Repentance is not a work nor is it meritorious, it is simply a wise condition of gracious pardon through Christ. It is nothing more than a change of mind about sinning. Those who repent of their sins are justified by grace through their faith.
5. Genesis says that God had given Adam of all the trees in the Garden to eat, except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The tree of life was included in that. It was only after Adam sinned that the tree of life was taken away from Him so that Adam would not continue to live forever. If Adam continued to eat from the tree, he would have continued to live forever. So Adam’s eternal life was conditional upon his obedience and through his disobedience eternal life was taken away from him. If Adam had not sinned at all, he never would have died. Hence, Adam lost eternal life through sinning.
However, it was by faith that Adam would have continued to obey and therefore continued to live. It was because of unbelief that Adam sinned and lost eternal life. The root of the matter goes back to faith and unbelief, and only obedience and disobedience as a consequence of those. Instead of believing what God said, Adam believed the lies of the devil who brought doubt to the word of God. So by faith Adam would have continued in eternal life, but by unbelief he forfeited that gracious blessing.