69. Is the doctrine of perseverance opposed to the doctrine of salvation by grace alone?
One common objection to the Reformed doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is that it must be opposed to the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, inasmuch as it denies that a person may live in habitual, unrepentant sin, and still be finally saved, even if at one time he made a confession of faith in Christ (or even if he continues to profess his faith). If a person who demonstrates no good works will not finally be saved, the argument goes, then good works are necessary for salvation; hence, salvation is not by grace through faith alone, but is by faith and works together.
The problem with this objection is that it misses the kind of necessity that good works have for salvation. Works are necessary, not as the cause of salvation, but as the fruit and proof of the faith which saves. A so-called “faith” which does not show itself in true works of holiness, is dead and worthless (see James 2:17). Faith alone apprehends justification, but that same, vital faith also lays hold of godliness and true works of holiness. It is impossible that any true faith, produced in the heart by the Holy Spirit, should not show itself in works, just as it is impossible for any living person not to show his life by breathing.
The God who promises to justify and glorify all those who believe also promises to sanctify them (see, for example, Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:27). If one claims to have faith and justification, therefore, but evinces absolutely no sanctification, it is manifest that his faith is not genuine, and he is not justified at all. On the contrary he has only a false, dead faith, which can justify no one. So then, we are justified by grace alone, but it is grace itself that makes us desire to be obedient. Being set free from the bondage of sin is part of the package. In other words we are not only saved from the guilt of sin, but likewise from its power.
In sum, yes, our salvation is by grace alone: but the same grace that grants us faith and justification also grants us holiness and sanctification; and if we do not have the one, we are necessarily devoid of the other as well. We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone (for further scriptural proof of this doctrine, see question #66, “What does the term 'perseverance of the saints' mean, and does the bible teach it?”, above).
For Further Study:
Can a Christian Lose His or Her Salvation? by Greg Johnson
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