Salvation is By Faith; Rewards Gained are by Faith AND Effort

June 6, 2015 at 1:40 PM 2 comments

Examples of illegitimate runners with fake bibs and numbers.

Examples of illegitimate runners with fake bibs and numbers.

People who want to run in the Boston Marathon must receive a number before they can do so. Before they can receive a number, they must qualify. Receiving a number is the only way a person can be legally allowed into the race. There are cases of people using counterfeited bibs/numbers to enter the race, but they are normally found out and their “run” does not count for anything.

When a person receives a number that qualifies them to enter into the Boston Marathon, that is only the beginning for them. They still must do the following:

  1. report to the starting line at the appointed day and hour
  2. begin running (or walking) the 26 mile course when the signal is given
  3. finish the race

I’ve not heard of a situation where a person has actually received a runner’s number only for them to decide not to show up or at least start the race, but that’s certainly possible. However, not everyone who enters the race and even begins to run/walk actually finishes that race. While they may think that it’s wonderful they received a runner’s number and began the race, if they do not finish it, the only thing they can say is that they actually qualified to enter the Boston Marathon.

There is a strict process to go through in order to qualify to become a legitimate runner in the Boston Marathon. Not everyone who applies qualifies. Many are called, but few chosen?

However, with respect to our salvation, there is one prerequisite – to exercise believing faith in Jesus, as God the Son, who died for you because you have no ability to save yourself at all. Once you accept the fact that you are powerless to save yourself, the normal response (for those who want to be saved) is to turn to some thing or Someone outside of ourselves who can help us. That Someone is Jesus and He is the only source of salvation. That is the prerequisite for entering into heaven, which we normally refer to as salvation. I know others separate repentance into its own category – and that is certainly part of the salvation process – but in reality, it appears to be tied to our belief in God. One person may experience a tremendous burden that pushes them to repent, while others all of a sudden have a “light” switched on within them and they “see” the truth about Jesus.

But the fake runners who have not legitimately qualified for the Boston Marathon go around the established requirements and run the race anyway. Unfortunately for them, it really means nothing, except that they can pat themselves on the back and say they “ran” the Boston Marathon. It is also important to note that their participation does not detract from that of the legitimate runners.

In numerous letters written by Paul, he speaks of running the race and not just running it, but finishing it too. That determines the true mettle of a person if they can actually finish the race they start.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win,” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith,” (2 Timothy 4:7; emphasis added).

Paul likens being a Christian with being an athlete. It seems clear to me – though I know others have a different view of this – that Paul is speaking to authentic believers, people who have received salvation. Certainly, he himself had salvation. So what was he encouraging believers to do? To run without quitting, without giving up, and to keep the faith! What does that mean? It means to never have an evil, unbelieving heart like Moses did, David did, Peter did, and others besides them.

He wanted his readers (and by extension, us) to run the race to finish it. I realize that some take these verses to mean that salvation can be lost. If you do not “finish” the race, you lose salvation. I would disagree completely, if we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture because there are too many promises from God in Jesus that tell us we are sealed, we are being perfected, nothing will ever be able to separate us from God, etc. These sections of Scripture promise us that salvation, once gained, is something we cannot lose.

If that is the case, as I believe it is, then what could Paul possibly be referring to here? As I teach in my book Finishing the Race, I believe that Paul and other NT writers are referring to our rewards received after this life and after (or if) we have finished the course set before us.

In the Boston Marathon race, not everyone who starts finishes. Some drop out, whether through fatigue, exhaustion, or injury, or maybe there are a few who actually never do show up on the day and begin the race. Yet, they qualified and were given a number.

I believe it is the same for the Christian. Once we have gained salvation (which qualifies us to enter the race), made possible solely by God Himself, nothing on our part (Ephesians 2:8-10), we are now in the race. What we do at that point is up to us. Do we, as Paul did, submit ourselves to Christ on a daily basis, allowing Him to work mightily in and through us that His will (and only His will) is to be accomplished? Or, maybe we decide that going to the finish line isn’t really something we want to do, so we run for a bit, then stop running. There are numerous examples of people believing Jesus, then going their own way in the NT.

Please understand, I really do get how people would think that the Bible teaches salvation can be lost, but that is (I believe) because they do not adequately understand God’s role in the purchase and provision of salvation to the sinner. While they agree that salvation is not provided based on anything we do (excepting our faith in Christ alone) and that it is all of God. However, after this, they seem to twist Scripture to mean that if we do not continue in our belief, we are in danger of losing salvation. I do not see that the Scriptures teach that at all.

There appear to be two levels (if you will, for want of a more accurate turn of phrase). First, we receive salvation that is completely and unerringly eternal. When we receive salvation, we receive eternal life, period. Second, there is something beyond salvation that Paul and others tell us we must continually strive toward receiving. If we already have salvation, then that can’t be it, though some believe that though salvation is received by faith, continued salvation is made possible only through our works or effort.

If that is the case, then the thief on the cross was blessed indeed because he never had the opportunity to “lose” his salvation once given (Luke 23) by living longer than that particular day on which he was granted salvation. But what kind of tragic cruelty is this? That God, who grants salvation based on the recipient’s faith in Him, will remove that salvation once a person’s faith wanes? I hear people state that they hope to be found faithful. The entirety of their salvation rests on this wish of theirs. They say they won’t know until they die. The Bible grants us confirmation of our salvation, yet to hear some tell it, we are reliant upon the Ancient Egyptian form of religions where our deeds – good and bad – are weighed and that determines whether or not we were able to keep our salvation! This is absurd. Our deeds – both good and bad – are “weighed” to determine what, if any rewards will be ours, not whether or not we will keep or maintain our salvation. That is God’s department. Read about this in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 where the believer’s works are judged. The outcome determines what we gain or lose in the next life with respect to rewards and privileges, not whether or not we continue to have salvation.

Throughout Scripture we read of one promise after another made by God. His promises (unless they are specifically conditional) are eternal. Because of this, in spite of what we might think, God will follow through on His promises. Paul says as much in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

Included in that text is the idea that God will remain faithful to His promises. This is why, as an example, He says what He says in Ezekiel 20:9; 36:21-22; 39:7, etc., in which He clearly states that He will keep His promises to Israel for the sake of His holy Name, not for anything that Israel has done. Today’s Israel is corrupt, fully in need of a Savior/Messiah. They need the only salvation that is available – through Jesus. Yet, they have rejected Him and continue to do the same. Does their rejection of Jesus mitigate God’s promises to Israel as a nation? Hardly. He promises in many passages in the OT that He will follow through with His promises, if for no other reason than because He promised them.

This is God. He grants salvation to those whom He will and it is eternal. It is irrevocable. What is not irrevocable are the promises pertaining to our rewards and benefits of reigning with Him in eternity. The thief on the cross gained salvation that day he hung next to Jesus, both of them dying in agony. Do you think for a moment that the thief earned anything after that? Do you think that the thief will displace Paul or any of the apostles? Do you think the thief will have a greater measure of responsibility in the next life than those who spent their lives here and now suffering for Christ and dying a martyr’s death? The answer is a resounding NO!

We’ll be back with more on this subject in our next article.

Entry filed under: christianity, eternity, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation.

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  • 1. Sherry  |  June 7, 2015 at 11:39 AM

    FTA: One person may experience a tremendous burden that pushes them to repent, while others all of a sudden have a “light” switched on within them and they “see” the truth about Jesus.

    That which is in bold is also repentance…like the thief on the cross experienced. Jesus said that without repentance we perish so the thief’s experience had to be repentance also. Just as godly sorrow is a gift so is the repentance that results from it unto our salvation.

    I’m not one who believes salvation can be lost though at one time I did and it caused a lot of grief for me. Then I realized it can’t be lost ever or else it would make God a liar and Jesus a poor Shepherd. I do believe we can judge a person’s salvation by their walk of repentance or their practice of sin without guilt for it. It has been done by church leaders throughout church history concerning membership but it is seldom done these days. What can never be judged, and I’ve seen Christians do it where false teachers and heinous criminals are concerned, is whether a person is redeemable or not. Nothing is impossible with God and to judge such a person as irredeemable is to limit God whose arm is not too short that He cannot save.

    This has been a well-written series of articles on the subject. If it weren’t for having once believed that salvation could be lost I would wonder how anyone could possibly come to that conclusion! Now I wonder how anyone could still believe it after reading your articles.


    • 2. modres  |  June 7, 2015 at 12:37 PM

      Yes, what I placed in bold is also repentance. I was showing two different ways different people might experience repentance.

      I agree with what you have stated, including the part about whether or not a Christian can determine whether another person is redeemable. While I believe a person can get to a point where they become nonredeemable (Romans 1), we can never know that about another individual and, like you, I have also heard Christians say this about false teachers, etc. I may also have been guilty of saying it myself.

      Thanks for your kind words, Sherry. For me, this has been a good learning experience and I now am beginning to understand how the reality of His Truth (found through His Word) becomes reality for the Christian. And here I thought I already knew that 🙂


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