Another article (097) considers the issue of once-saved-always-saved from the perspective of just what the Gospel is. We noted that everywhere the Bible teaches that salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ as the Sin-Bearer. Nowhere does it teach that salvation is by faith in the human ability to stop sinning. We also raised the question of whether a person who is less than diligent can be saved. After looking into what diligence requires, we noted that no one reading this article will be in heaven if only the diligent get there.
So, that raises a second, more critical, question: how careless can someone be and still go to heaven? Can we carelessly disregard the biblical admonition to let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly and go to heaven, but carelessly disregard the biblical admonition to abstain from adultery and be sent to Hell for that? How can one who is being less than diligent to do all of the righteousness required by the teaching of Christ complain of another who is simply a bit more careless? Just what kind of carelessness causes a person to be condemned by God?
To answer that question, we need once again to consider what the Gospel is, in respect to its objective. The Gospel is that Christ died for our sins, and rose again. Those who have come to a personal faith in Christ as the One Who died for sins and rose again, are saved. But, what was God's objective in that message? Did He offer salvation as a fire escape? Or did He offer salvation as a method of reestablishing a personal relationship with human beings who were sinners and alienated from Him?
If we answer that He offered salvation as a fire escape, we have an impersonal, mechanical view of salvation. Push this button, pull that lever, and pick up your ticket to heaven in the slot on the lower right. In this view, the key question is: what is the minimum requirement upon me in order to escape Hell? The answer to the question is: there is no minimum requirement. People who just want to escape Hell, but have no desire to know God, go to Hell--no matter what they do. Salvation is unavailable to people who don't want salvation to be a restoration of a relationship with God.
On the other hand, if we say that God offered salvation as a way to reestablish a ruined relationship between man and God, we have a personal view of salvation. In this view, escaping the consequences of sin is not nearly as important as entering into a personal relationship with the God of Heaven Who seeks human beings to relate to. The key question in this view is: what are the dynamics of a relationship between me and God?
The answer to this question is given in the phrase by grace are you saved through faith. This means that grace is a critical ingredient in the dynamics of relationship. It also means that faith is a critical ingredient in the dynamics of relationship. In other words, a relationship between a human being and God cannot exist apart from grace and faith. When men believe in the grace of God, they enter into a relationship with Him.
So, what is grace? And what does it mean to believe in it? If you don't know, you are still lost.