Edited By: Leslyn Kim

Conditional Salvation

The words  “Conditional Salvation” might be somewhat offensive at first glance.  I mean, salvation bought by Christ’s finished work on the cross is unconditional, and is based on grace alone lest any man should boast (Eph. 2).  Almost all evangelicals universally believe that last statement.  Most rest in the idea that grace is God’s unwarranted gift to men.  Yet, some believe that faith and the fruit that it yields, is a work of combined effort, led by God’s Spirit, but practiced by personal discipline and obedience.  File that last sentence into the back of your mind.  It’s that distinction between the Sovereign Grace – OSAS and Conditional Salvation that I believe lies at the heart of the disagreement.  Who gives us faith, who renews/maintains our faith, and in turn who sanctifies us?  (I may or may not write a conclusion about it – Ha!).

I will spend more time on the viewpoint of Conditional Salvation than I did on Once Saved always Saved for the following reasons….
1)  Most people aren’t familiar with this viewpoint
2) I bend in this direction with genuine reservations about either extreme
3)  Because of the good-feeling gospel that often dominates the airwaves, the brutal realities of conditional salvation have become harsh to the ears of many hearers
4)  It’s contrary to what our flesh wants to believe in – similar to things like hell and the devil.

There are a good number of scriptures that I could use to make the case for conditional salvation, but to keep things as simple as possible I’m going to break it into three categories and attempt to quickly touch on each.  The three categories are – parables from the bible, the lives of two Old Testament bible characters, and five or six sets of scripture from the bible.

Two Parables

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Matthew 18:

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[g]

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

This parable is a great picture of the doctrine of grace.  We all have a debt called sin so big that it’s literally impossible to pay off.  So the master, God, dismissed it through the ultimate sacrifice of Christ.  As a result we were/are forgiven, and now have access to eternal life and much more.

One interesting thing to note about this parable is it’s speaking to those who are brothers and sisters in the faith, and not Jesus speaking to a mixed crowd of believers and unbelievers as he often was.  We can verify Jesus’ intended target audience by reading all of Matthew 18.  The first verse states the Jesus’ disciples came to him asking questions.  It’s made clear throughout the text, but reinforced again at the beginning of the parable of the unmerciful servant.  In verse 21 Peter asks, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?”.  However, to be completely fair, some would interject here that some of the disciples may have followed Christ, but not truly believed (Sovereign Grace – OSAS).

What the text clearly says, is that someone must forgive their brother/sister, otherwise they won’t be forgiven.  Personal forgiveness in this case is conditional upon forgiving your brother or sister.  Therefore, living in a state of unrepentant sin (in this sin specifically), is a non-negotiable condition, as it relates to Matthew 12:31-32, is the only other exception to the rule.

The Parable of the Sower

Luke 8:

8 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

“‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’[
a]

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Who, as it relates to salvation are each of the hearers of the Word in each part of the parable?  Those along the path hear the Word, but before anything can happen the devil steals the Word from their hearts.  Why does he do it?  This is key, because some who support OSAS claim that this parable is not referring to those who were ever truly born again.  However, we must carefully read what the text says regarding why the devil steals the Word from those along the path.  “So that they may not believe and be saved”.  Christ’s meaning here seems very clear. (In this instance, I think all sides can agree that these were hearers and never believers).
Those on rocky ground, hear the Word with joy. They believe for a while, but have no root. When real testing comes they fall away.  Someone could argue you that these are people who never truly believed, but the scripture doesn’t say that.  The phrase fall away, is the Greek word aphistēmi.  It means to depart, go away, or withdraw.  It’s the same word used in text like Luke 13:27, and 1 Timothy 4:1.  Are these true believers who simply walked away from God, or did they never really believe in the first place?  Honestly, I think an argument could be made for either, yet I lean toward a plain and straightforward understanding of the text.  They believed, yet chose to walk away.
The final two description of hearers sound more like believers, one immature, who may believe but does not go on to produce fruit, and another who perseveres and as a result produces a crop.

I’m not sure it’s worth getting hung up over who was truly saved or unsaved in this parable.  The general theme that emerges in the text seems more important to the question of eternal security or conditional security, and that’s found in the final and perhaps most important part of the parable.  Which of all four hearers was saved with no real reservation?

I find conditions there.  “Those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop”.  Yes, they are saved by grace, and no form of salvation rests in their works.  But, as scripture states “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning” (1 John3:16).  We can call that works based salvation or we can call it genuine saving faith.

Two Bible Characters

I won’t spend much time on this section, because I think it’s difficult to argue based on bible characters whether or not someone can lose their salvation.  In addition, it’s even more problematic because most of the bible characters that we know of who walked away from their belief in God, and have a more complete picture of their life are from the Old Testament.  Being that some were under the Old Testament covenant makes it that much more challenging to discern “salvation”.  Nonetheless, it’s worth at least exploring quickly the life of two people who seemed to have walked with the Lord, but then drifted away, with no clear return.

King Saul

Walk with God –

1 Samuel 10:6

New International Version (NIV)

6 The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.

Departure from God –

1 Samuel 15:11

New International Version (NIV)

11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.

Solomon

Walk with God –

1 Chronicles 22:10

New International Version (NIV)

10 He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.

Departure from God –

1 Kings 4

New International Version (NIV)

4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

Five Scriptures

Hebrews 5:11 – 6:8

Contextual Background: The author is talking to Jewish Christians

New International Version (NIV)

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

6 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,[a] and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites,[b] the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen[c] away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Those who believe in OSAS take verses four through five as an address to those who are fence sitters or not yet believers.  They describe them as people who have witnessed the things of God, and have “tasted” the things of God, but have not yet received salvation.  This is precisely why I quoted the text starting from chapter five, verse eleven.  The end of chapter five reveals that chapter six is speaking to immature believers, and not to those who were either close to accepting Christ, or sitting on the fence.

This is tough!  So, what should we conclude from this?  I think it’s pretty clear, but I’ll leave that to the reader

 

Romans 11

Contextual Background: Paul speaking to the Gentiles about the Jews and salvation

New International Version (NIV)

Ingrafted Branches

11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!

13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Cut off from what?  How can one be cut off from something they were never bound to?  Consider God’s kindness and sterness.  Kindness provided based on satisfying what condition?  ”Provided that you continue in His kindness.”  Sounds conditional.  You be the judge.

 

John 15

Contextual Background: Jesus, just has just finished talking to his disciples about the promise of the Holy Spirit’s coming

New International Version (NIV)

The Vine and the Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Here are the most haunting words for those who perceive faith to be a one-way street, where God provides all faith and sanctifying work.  “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.”  Faith appears to be a two-way street……

Revelation 3 (scripture not listed below only brief comments)

Contextual Background: God addresses three separate church bodies through John of patmos

The church in Sardis:
The church in Sardis, God says, has a reputation of being alive, but it is in fact dead.  God urges them, “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.”  Otherwise, he warns that those who do not walk with him will not be clothed in white, and by inference, their names will be blotted out from the book of life.  There are two main takeaways here.
One, God says that their deeds are unfinished.  What that refers to is anyone’s guess, but it does imply is that God expects them to complete something that they haven’t.  Forget about a works-based understanding of the gospel for a second, and think more on the concept of personal responsibility in responding to God.  Ouch!   I could branch off in a million different directions from here, but let’s just say that this brings some serious challenges to the notion of “true believer” vs. “false convert”.  Why does there appear to be a grey area here between a true believer and someone who seems to be hanging on by a thread.  Was God referring to false converts?  If so, why does he refer to their deeds as unfinished?
Second, Jesus makes a profound promise in verse five.  He promises to never blot out from the Book of Life those who are victorious.  Think about that.  Sounds like OSAS to me, but obviously it goes beyond simply believing.  There is a pretty clear command to the church in Sardis to abide in him.  Keep that Word abide in mind, because I’ve brought it up several times now….

The church in Philadelphia:
Yet another church located in Turkey, the church in Philadelphia was known as the church who endured patiently (Rev. 3:10).  I won’t spend much time on this church other than to say… check out verse eleven.  Yet another troubling verse for those who hold solely to OSAS with no qualifying caveats.

The church in Laodicea:
This church is popular for all of the wrong reasons.  They get mentioned in more sermons, I would guess, than any other church in the book of Revelation.  And it’s never positive.  This church is known for being lukewarm.  Who can really call their eternal status, but to me it sounds like a body of lukewarm believers.  It would easy to simply state here that they were never really saved, but in light of the previous churches mentioned it makes it harder to grab hold of that as fact.

Ezekiel 18

Contextual Background: Ezekiel, a priest, lives amongst the Jewish exiles in Babylon.  The theme throughtout scripture is consistent, live acording to the will of God or die spiritually. In Ezekiel 18, the prophet decalres the word of the lord in regard to righteousnes and personal responsibility.

21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. 22 None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

24 “But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.

25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? 26 If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. 27 But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. 28 Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. 29 Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?”

Here we face the reality again of God’s promises versus personal responsibility of men.  There’s no promise made here that God will give them the faith that they need to live according to his will.  God promises salvation to those who repent, turn from their wickedness, and return back to Him.  But, for the righteous who turn away, their fate is insecure.

So, where do these texts that seem to challenge the concept of free grace (OSAS) only, and sovereign grace (OSAS) fit into the larger puzzle?  How can one believe in grace as a free gift, where good works do not earn salvation yet still hold that salvation is conditional?

Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

Are not the two, grace and works, in conflict with one another?  Stay tuned for the conclusion (I hope)……….

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseverance_of_the_saints

http://doesthebible.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/conditional-security-passages-luk-811-15-1124-28-1242-46/

http://ichthys.com/mail-Absolute-Eternal-Security2.htm

http://www.justforcatholics.org/salvation_works.htm

http://www.worthychristianforums.com/topic/156781-evaluation-of-the-doctrine-of-unconditional-eternal-security-or-osas/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Grace_theology

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Grace_theology

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