In another article (103), we raised the issue of whether a person can lose his salvation after he has been justified by grace through faith. We have seen (104) (105) (106) that the question is tied to the biblical concept of repentance. In our studies of repentance we have seen that the biblical concept is pictured by a level highway which has been built by cutting down the mountains and filling in the valleys. (105) This picture makes repentance plain when we understand that the mountains symbolize the attitude of pride, and the valleys symbolize the attitude of despair. Thus, repentance is, at a fundamental level, an attitude of humble confidence, or a confident humility. This concept addresses the issue of whether a person is saved forever, or only saved as long as he doesn't sin too much, or too long.
It tells us how a person comes to salvation in the first place--and that helps us understand whether he can lose it later.
The critical issue in salvation is how a person comes to it. Is repentance something that men are capable of apart from the gracious help of God? If they are, then they are able to save themselves apart from grace. If they are not, then salvation is truly by grace.
How does a person come to repentance? Proud people are incapable of admitting their arrogance, and despairing people are helpless to overcome their unbelief. How are the proud brought to humility? How are the despairing brought to faith?
The answers are in the Bible.
For instance, in 2 Timothy 2:25, the apostle Paul told Timothy that he should not fight with people over religion, but rather he should be "instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth". Here it is perfectly clear that there are two things that result in repentance. The first is clear instruction by someone who knows God; and the second is God's work in giving the ability to repent. Clear instruction will not yield repentance by itself, nor can God give repentance without a foundation being laid for the understanding of the person who needs to repent. So, the answer to our question about how a person comes to salvation is given: people come to salvation when they are taught the truth and God gives the ability to repent.
This means that people have to be given the ability to repent. It is a work of God. Since it is His work, and since He completes the works which He begins, the notion that a person can lose a gift which God gives is just that: a notion, not a biblical truth.
Therefore, since repentance is a work of God in the heart, and salvation is the result of that work, salvation truly is "by grace through faith". It is not something man earns by good deeds, so it cannot be something that he can lose by evil deeds.
The real issue here is this: has God ever brought you to the point of a biblical repentance? If He has, you are saved forever. If He hasn't, you are in trouble--big time. Will you call upon Him to bring you to this point?