I have been asked a question that I think probably exists in the minds of many in our community. The question was: does your church teach that once a person is saved, he is saved forever so that he can go out and do anything he wants to and still go to heaven?
My answer, in brief, was that the accusation that we teach a kind of security that promotes disregard for righteousness is a distortion of what we believe the Bible teaches. But, there are some other things that need to be made clear, so I thought I would write a few articles to clarify what we believe the Bible teaches.
First, we believe that salvation is by grace through faith in God's promise of eternal life on the basis of the life and death of the Son of God. This conclusion is based upon many texts of Scripture: Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:26; Romans 5; Romans 11:6; etc. This conclusion, and these texts, take the issue of salvation's foundation out of the realm of human performance so that the worst sinner can be saved (1 Timothy 1:15), and the best living religionist will not be saved (Mark 10:20-23).
The biblical rationale for this teaching is that men are either saved by what Jesus has done, or they are saved by what they have done, and will do. But these are mutually exclusive issues. If men are saved by what Jesus did for them when He lived sinlessly and died for sinners, then they are not saved by what they have done for themselves. On the other hand, if heaven is a reward of merit for those who have done the best they can to live correctly in this world, then they are certainly not saved by the merit of Jesus Christ.
There are a host of religion-promoters who refuse to accept this dichotomy. They attempt to blend the two merit systems into an amalgamation of human effort and divine promise. But, those who do so are condemning themselves to eternal rejection by God, as well as all who listen to them and believe them. These people would do well to study what Paul said in Romans 9:15-18, but they also refuse this task. Their favorite ploy is to pit Scripture against Scripture so that people end up saying that it is possible to make the Bible say anything they want it to say. That, of course, is nonsense, but many people subscribe to nonsense these days. God has spoken clearly and without equivocation, but men are too lazy to spend time studying what He said so that they can know for themselves what He really did say.
Now, having said that we teach that salvation is based upon the grace of God as accomplished in His Son Jesus, we have also said that salvation is not based upon human merit and good deeds. What does this have to say in order to answer our accusers? This: you cannot have it both ways. Either you have lived, and will continue to live, good enough to impress God with your righteousness (which is quite a task since He is going to judge every word that you have ever uttered, and will utter--even the ones you uttered the last time you suddenly hurt yourself significantly), or your salvation is going to depend upon the life and death of Jesus. You will have to choose how you want it.