Eternal life is a free gift from God
Ro 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the
gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nonetheless, it is not unconditional, but requires faith.
Rom 3:21-24 But now a righteousness from God,
apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets
testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ
to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall
short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through
the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
But what kind of faith qualifies one to receive this gift of eternal life?
The scriptures speak of this faith in various ways.
This faith has a content or object,
Beyond the object of faith, it has certain qualities - which describe the
manner in which one believes
It has inevitable outworkings as applications are inferred from such faith
THE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH
The object of faith is simply what it is that the Christian believes in
order to be saved.
Here are a number of verses speaking of this:
So it appears that there is not one particular statement or promise that
one believes to be saved, but rather one believes in the person of Jesus
Christ as he is defined in the Bible, this would include what he says about
himself as well as what he promised concerning eternal life.
Ro 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth,
"Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from
the dead, you will be saved.
Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world that he
gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not
perish but have eternal life.
Joh 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son
has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's
wrath remains on him.
Joh 5:24 I tell you the truth, whoever hears
my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not
be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
Joh 6:40 For my Father's will is that everyone
who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
1Jo 5:13 I write these things to you who believe
the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal
This is slightly different than believing a particular promise of Christ,
in that one cannot believe one thing that he said and then not believe
another thing. For example, there are some who see Jesus as a good teacher
and accept some of his sayings, but then reject other of his sayings, such
Rejecting such concepts would be contrary to the faith that one claims.
Joh 6:53 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the
truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has
eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and
the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Mr 10:11,12 He answered, "Anyone who divorces
his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if
she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."
THE QUALITIES OF SAVING FAITH
So can one merely say that he believes, like signing a fire insurance policy
and have done with it? Or does he have to believe in a certain manner,
with certain qualities to his faith beyond just having correct doctrine?
James, for example, mentions that "faith by itself,
if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." James 2:17. Paul,
in describing the quality of faith that saves, gives Abraham as an example
that "Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding
the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to
God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised."
Rom 4:20,21 This describes an unwavering conviction, as opposed to mere
intellectual assent. Here is a summary of some of the qualities of saving
faith mentioned in the New Testament:
It applies itself by making inferences from the propositional truths in
the scriptures. James 2:17
It is an unwavering conviction
fully persuaded (as opposed to a sort of "let's try this out and see what
happens" type of faith) Rom 4:20,21
full of confident assurance Heb 3:6,14; 10:39; 13:6
enduring to the end 1Cor 15:2; Matt 24:13
THE OUTWORKINGS OF SAVING FAITH
As James mentions that faith without works is dead, what kind of outworkings
of one's faith would you expect from a Christian?
He has a contrite heart - he calls sin for what it is and repents. (1John
He loves other Christians. (1John 2:10; 3:14; 4:12; Matt 25:31-46)
He makes decisions in life according to God's will (1John 2:17) whether
determining such by making inferences from scripture or by simply following
His direct commands (1John 2:3)
Though still a sinner (1John 1:8,10) he does not accept sin as part of
his lifestyle. (1John 3:3,6,9; 5:18)
And in doing so finds he can overcome sin. (1John 5:4; Rom 6:11; Gal 5:24)
He as a hopeful anticipation of being with Christ. (Phil 1:21; Rom 8:23,24;
He develops Christlike characteristics in an ongoing process of sanctification
as he cooperates with the Spirit of God. Typical characteristics are listed
in a number of places as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22,23) The characteristic
of love being described in more detail in 1Cor 13:4-8. And Peter describes
some of the characteristics you should expect see in Christian growth as:
goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness
and love. (2Pet 1:5-8)
THE PERMANENCE OF SAVING FAITH
One of the common issues concerning this faith is whether one can have
the confidence that "Once Saved, Always Saved" or whether to live with
a fearful uncertainty that perhaps one will lose his salvation if he doesn't
live up to certain standards. On the surface, the scriptures seem to be
contradictory on this issue. For if we take the position of "once saved,
always saved", then it implies that our salvation status is not dependent
on our performance, which seems contrary to a number of scripture such
"If they have escaped the corruption of the world
by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in
it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.
It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness,
than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command
that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns
to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in
the mud." 2Pet 2:20-22
On the other hand, eternal life is spoken as a free gift, not dependent
on a person's performance.
Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer
has eternal life in him. 1Jo 3:15
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart
from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil
and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was
thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did
not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick
and in prison and you did not look after me.'" Matt 25:41-43
We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly
till the end the confidence we had at first. Heb 3:14
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory
of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that
came by Christ Jesus. Rom 3:23,24
Therefore some have taken the position that one obtains salvation
purely by faith as receiving a free gift, but one maintains his
salvation status by his good works. Yet whether one obtains or maintains
his salvation status by his works, both are a righteousness which comes
by the law. They are both performance based salvation. And those who hold
such a position have yet to realize the grace of God and the gift of eternal
life, a righteousness which comes from God based on faith alone.
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited
to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not
work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as
righteousness. Rom 4:4,5
For it is by grace you have been saved, through
faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works,
so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8,9
However, there is another position which resolves these difficulties
and apparent contradictions. And that position is to infer that, having
believed with the content and quality of faith which is acceptable to God,
as defined in scripture, one obtains eternal life. He becomes regenerate
- that is, he is born of the Spirit of God - and as such will have the
permanence of faith with its inevitable outworkings which are described
in such conditional passages as those given above. In this case, the outworkings
of one's faith reveal one's salvation status, rather than obtain or maintain
Here are a couple of scriptures to verify this concept:
No one who is born of God will continue to sin,
because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he
has been born of God. 1John 3:9
This concept that "true believers" never fall away, nor even turn away,
is also confirmed in the book of Jeremiah.
This passage is often not understood because the significance of the
greek is not brought out in the English. "Continue to sin" is in the present
tense, which in the greek emphasizes the continuity of sinning, which would
indicate sinning in a professional or lifestyle sense. (Otherwise it would
contradict 1John 1:8,10) The greek word used for "Cannot" does not speak
of permission, but of ability. In fact it is the word from which we derive
the word "dynamite" from. In other words, this verse says that no one born
of God has the ability to accept sin as part of his lifestyle, because
God's seed dwells in him.
They went out from us, but they did not really
belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained
with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
Here John sees some people "fall away" from the faith. He concludes
that such people were never really believers, for if they had been, they
would have remained. Or you might read it this way:
"if they had belonged to us (once saved),
would have remained with us (always saved)"
If one "falls away", or otherwise demonstrates characteristics contrary
to the Christian faith, these are evidences that they were never really
saved to begin with.
"I will make an everlasting covenant with them
that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the
fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.
" Jer 32:40 (NASB)
Therefore, rather than worrying about losing your salvation, "Examine
yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you
not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-- unless, of course, you fail the
test?" 2Cor 13:5 Otherwise, "If we deliberately
keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice
for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging
fire that will consume the enemies of God."
Heb 10:26,27 For we
have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence
we had at first. As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion." Who were they who
heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And
with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned,
whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would
never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they
were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Heb 3:14-19
But how can we hold such confidence firm to the end if we admit that
our faith is not on the finished work of Christ, but on our own performance?
Such are still wandering in the desert of legalistic nominalism, living
under the old covenant concepts of performance based righteousness, rather
than salvation based performance, not entering into God's rest because
of their unbelief. Yet it is not surprising that the church contains a
good number of these type of people, as it also contains people who take
salvation for granted and do whatever they want to do, regardless of whether
it's sin, for the kingdom of heaven is like a net
that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was
full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected
the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be
at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from
the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be
weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt 13:47-50
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources