To state that a believer does absolutely nothing to gain salvation is misleading. It places way too much emphasis on the free gift of salvation and no emphasis on a believer's free will and faith. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that salvation is by grace through faith and not works. But, can we truly boast of our faith, our reliance on Jesus? And, is our faith in Jesus considered a work, or obeyance to the Law, or is it something deserving of praise, and required of salvation? To state that there is no work that we can do to earn salvation is correct. We are all sinners, fallen short of God's expectations and moral perfection. But our faith is not an accomplishment for our own glory. Simply put, faith means sacrificing of myself for God's will and glory. I have to deny my sinful, selfish wants in order to place my reliance on God. Therefore I have to exercise free will in choosing God over myself.
To state that if one says a prayer, inviting Jesus into their lives, and believes that He was resurrected will give one eternal security is too simple and misleading. Faith requires trust and reliance, faith must be proven, and faith must bear fruit. To say that we can do nothing to earn salvation or that salvation is not conditional belies the repeating of Paul that "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness". In fact, one look at the entire meaning of Romans chapter 9 will convince that the covenant to Abraham was not intended for his offspring, but upon those who had faith in his seed, which was Jesus. The only pre-requisite on our part, therefore, is faith. We have to have faith in order to gain salvation.
Too many verses emphasize the fact that faith is required to gain salvation. Romans 1:16 states: For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; Romans 1:17 states: For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith. Romans 3:21-22 states: But now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe. Paul states in Romans 3:27 that we cannot boast of our faith in Jesus and in Romans 3:28, he goes on to " reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. " Romans 4:5 clearly sets down a importance on faith. " But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
There are plenty of other verses that convey the fact that we have to have faith to be saved. Notice that nowhere in scripture does it indicate that this faith comes from God. It is always referred to as your faith. Let me also point out that nowhere in scripture does it say that salvation is immediate upon a one-time profession of belief. In fact, several verses indicate that salvation is a hoped for event or something gained at the end of our lives. For instance, Galatians 5:5 states "For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness." Romans 8:23-25 spells out our attitude of waiting: " And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24. For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth? 25. But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. " In Philippians 3:11-14, Paul states that he wishes to be conformed to the death of Christ "in order that I may attain from the resurrection of the dead. 12. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." If read in context, the goal he has not obtained must be the resurrection. Yet, if salvation is obtained upon a one-time act of faith, he should already have it. Unless, of course, the act of faith does not impart immediate salvation, yet something else.
So, what does the one-time act of faith impart? I believe, based on scripture, that the one-time act of faith, and request for absolution of sins imparts several things. First, at the Pentecost, the only promise that Peter delivered is in Acts 2:38. "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Did he promise salvation? No, he promised the gift of the Holy Spirit and the remission of sins.
The fact that we must have faith in order to gain salvation does not delete any importance from God's grace or add any importance to our faith as a work or something we can boast of. In fact, the act of faith illustates our dependance upon God, thus increasing His glory and decreasing ours. When Paul spoke of faith and works, and how salvation does not come through works, he was referring specifically to the Jewish obeyance to Mosaic Law in order to gain salvation. However, it was not obeyance to the Law, but faith and trust in God that provided justification. Faith is an action on our part, but it in no way indicates that we have a part in meriting our salvation. After all, without Jesus, there would be no salvation. Faith is simply our way of acknowledging our own insufficient efforts and that we acquiesce to God's leadership in our lives. This passiveness on our part is required for salvation.
Does God provide this faith, or bolster this faith? I certainly believe that God does bolster our faith, but if that faith came entirely from God, that act on God's part would jeopardize our free will. God would be guilty of making us believe in Him. And, what sort of free love is that? We would be little better than puppets or robots. And, if God had wanted puppets, he could have easily have created us without free will. Free will has to play a part in our choice to have faith in Jesus Christ and receive reconcilliation for our sins.
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