We continue our comments on the manuscript sent to us by a Mormon called Stephen.(*) Click here to see the other articles in this series. You can also go to the Mormonism page to find all the articles that are in this refutation of Stephen’s document.
If you still claim, “Once saved, always saved; you cannot fall from grace,” would you admit this doctrine is erroneous if an Apostle of the NT coined the very phrase opposing it? Paul chastised the saints at Galatia for losing their faith in the Gospel, falling back on the dead works of Moses. He said, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, . . . ye are fallen from grace.” (Gal. 5:1-4)
Yes, some of the Galatians who only had a head-knowledge and a head-belief in Christ fell from Grace as they relied on the works of the Law to be saved. We have seen these things in details previously.
Paul warned the Corinthians to run for the prize, to strive for the mastery, and to keep their bodies in subjection—as he did. Had he not practiced what he preached, he said, “I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27) Adokimos, the Greek word for “castaway,” literally means, “rejected.” Paul himself, the Lord’s chosen vessel to the Gentiles, would have been rejected had he been a hypocrite—or “pretender/actor” as the Greek word, hypokrites, implies.
Yes, a truly born again person perseveres to the end, because he is not a hypocrite. A truly born again Christian does not believe that he can live as he wishes and that he’s saved anyway. The one who is born of God CANNOT sin. We have seen these things in details before. A truly regenerated man strives to get the prize, and listens carefully to the warnings of God’s Word so that he may not fall. This is why he does not fall.
The sole Biblical source of belief in salvation as a singular event is found in Ephesians 2:8,9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
This is not the sole biblical source. Yes, Salvation is a singular event, and it includes in it justification and sanctification and glorification. These are not separate, although they are distinct. Brief, if you are not saved already, then you won’t be saved finally. For more details about this, you can read our article: Are we already righteous or not?
There are three reasons why these verses from Paul are misunderstood:
First, the Greek word for “through” is, dia, literally, “by means of.”
Yes, we are saved by the sole and sufficient means of faith.
The Greek word for “faith” in this verse is, pisteos, literally, “faithfulness.”
No, pisteos literally means faith, especially when it is used about our faith in God. Faithfulness is the fruit of such a living faith. No one can have this fruit of faithfulness before having the Holy Spirit, because faithfulness is the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness“ (Galatians 5:22). And without faith, no one can have the Holy Spirit, because it is only AFTER we believe that we receive the Holy Spirit: “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13). In this latter verse, “having believed” is the Greek “pisteusantes” which is of that same word pisteos, and as you see it means faith. If we consider the confused definition of Stephen, then we will have the following confused picture: one is faithful and THEN receives the Holy Spirit, and THEN he has the fruit of faithfulness… So he’s faithful BEFORE he receives the fruit of faithfulness… As you see, this is a confused doctrine, because one cannot be faithful before receiving the fruit of faithfulness.
Besides this error, the imaginary definition that Stephen gave here is clearly proven wrong for three main reasons:
1. The passage in Ephesians itself clearly says this is not about our faithfulness or about anything from ourselves: “For ye are saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves; it is God’s gift” (Ephesians 2:8) If this were about our faithfulness, then it would be of ourselves, because faithfulness is of ourselves.
2. In Hebrews 11, God already explained this word pisteos: “Now faith [Greek pistis from pisteos] is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) So faith is an assurance and a conviction. Of course, if we use Stephen’s ridiculous definition, then we would read this verse as: “Faithfulness is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”… Is faithfulness an assurance and a conviction?… Then Hebrews continues and explains how believers in the Old Testament time were faithful by faith; if faith meant faithfulness, then that would be like saying: the saints were faithful by faithfulness… Yes, indeed, this is ridiculous, because Stephen is hallucinating. In the same passage of Hebrews 11, God explains this word pisteos again and again; for example: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) This verse is a clear proof that “faith” is the noun for “believe”, so faith is the fact of believing.
3. If pisteos meant faithfulness in contexts like the one we have in Ephesians 2:8-9, then we would be in enmity with God now, just like the Mormons are… Let’s read: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1) This verse teaches that we can’t have peace with God unless we HAVE BEEN justified by faith. As Stephen translates this as “faithfulness”, then Mormons can never have peace with God, because they still have not been faithful to the end; they are still trying to be faithful, so they still don’t have peace with God…
Many other passages of Scripture prove the silliness of Stephen’s definition.
Faith in this verse requires demonstration of said faith.
Yes, and the demonstration is explained in verse 10 of the same passage: “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has before prepared that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) So the result will naturally be good works. Does this mean that the demonstration of faith (which is faithfulness) is faith itself?? Not at all! If there is not faith, then there will not be a faithfulness. Note also in this verse how we HAVE BEEN created in Christ Jesus (we HAVE BEEN born again), and THEREFORE we do good works and are faithful. This clearly destroys Stephen’s lie that this passage of Ephesians is not about a once for all event which is in the past.
The requirement, “by means of faithfulness,” is consistent with the condition of Salvation in our Third Article of Faith: “. . .
Indeed, you translated faith as faithfulness in order to make it agree with your Article of Faith… This is what we call adding on Scripture and manipulating God’s Word in a way to make it say what it doesn’t.
by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”
The Gospel is a news and not laws and ordinances. This guy still doesn’t know what “Gospel” means… The Gospel is a Good News that should be believed and thus to be obeyed not as a law or an ordinance. We have seen how Hebrews 11 explained what faith is: it is an assurance and a conviction. The Gospel is to be received with such a faith: we should look with real assurance to the cross of Christ and trust that by Him alone we are healed from our sins, and not by anything we may do. The Lord Jesus explained this faith in the Gospel by describing it as a simple trusting look to His cross: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, thus must the Son of man be lifted up, that every one who believes on him may [not perish, but] have life eternal.” (John 3:14-15) In order to understand what “believes on him” means in this last verse, we simply need to understand what Jesus was talking about when He said that Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness… When did Moses lift up the serpent in the wilderness? And what did it mean then to believe in that lifted up serpent? Well, we read in Numbers 21 how the children of Israel disobeyed the Lord, and the Lord sent on them fiery serpents, and the serpents bit the people, and all who were thus bitten were dead. “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.”” (Numbers 21:8) Did those people need to do any work of faithfulness in order to be saved from the effect of the fatal bites? No. They just needed to obey this command to LOOK at that fiery serpent, having the ASSURANCE that this LOOK will make them be healed. It is the same with the obedience of the Gospel: You just need to obey this command to LOOK with ASSURANCE to the lifted up Christ (remember, Hebrews 11 says faith is this assurance). As a result of this, you will LIVE (as Numbers 21:8 says), i.e. you will have a spiritual life, and thus you will live an obedient and faithful life to the Lord.
If the Gospel were about laws and ordinances as Stephen and his Article of Faith invented, then the Lord would not say that we just need to LOOK with FAITH in order to be saved; then Salvation would be by the works of the Law, because the Law also commands faithfulness.
Second, a lesson in grammar. We find the present perfect tense, not the past perfect—“we are saved,” not “we have been saved,” as rendered in the NIV. It describes an eventual state, not an event. Use this same format with these terms: We are nourished by food through eating. Stop eating; are you still nourished by food? Nourishment is conditional upon eating, as is Salvation conditional upon our faithfulness to Christ’s grace. Throughout the NT, pisteos is “faithfulness.”
Yes, the present perfect in Greek means that the described fact is a finished thing. Ephesians 2:8 says our Salvation is a finished fact (just as Jesus said on the cross that it is finished) because of God’s Grace, and not because of anything of ourselves. It is a finished fact that we receive by faith. Yes, this is conditional on our faith, and not on our faithfulness as Stephen imagines. If it were conditional on our faithfulness, then it would be of ourselves, something which is clearly contradicted by this passage of Ephesians 2:8-10.
Third, the ancient American prophet Nephi taught why it is not by works and why we should not boast: “[F]or we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23) Nothing we do in life can redeem us from the Fall and from our own sins to the Celestial Kingdom of God.
This Nephi is clearly a false prophet, whoever he is, because he said that we are saved by grace AFTER all we can do, although the Bible says that we can’t do anything that may please God before we are in the Spirit: “Because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God; for neither indeed can it be: and they that are in flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8) So before we are saved, we CANNOT please God; ALL what we can do falls short of God’s Glory. The Bible clearly says: “But if by grace, no longer of works: since [otherwise] grace is no more grace.” (Romans 11:6) If Salvation is by Grace, then it is no longer of works; works have nothing to do as a cause of our Salvation.
It is good that Stephen admitted that nothing we may do in life can redeem us from our sins; this means that our faithfulness also cannot redeem us from our sins, as faithfulness also is something WE do…
Do you see how Stephen keeps contradicting himself?…
Besides this explanation of Paul’s declaration of salvation by grace through faithfulness, we have too many other Scripture verses unequivocally requiring righteousness to enter the Kingdom of Heaven or Celestial Kingdom.
Correction: Salvation by grace through faith, and not through faithfulness.
Yes, the Scripture is FULL with passages that say that without righteousness no one will enter the Kingdom of God. But have you ever thought WHICH righteousness this is?? Is it our righteousness (including our faithfulness) or Christ’s Righteousness (including His faithfulness that keeps us to the end) which we receive by faith alone and which results in good works and faithfulness?… Have you ever studied these things? Well, you can study them now in the following article: Are we already righteous or not? Indeed, without Christ’s Righteousness no one will enter the Kingdom of God. Only the righteous will enter to God’s Presence, because even if you have ONE sin you will deserve eternal Hell. The unrighteous deserve eternal Hell as we have seen, and only the righteous will inherit eternal life. Only those who have a living faith in Christ are righteous. To study this more, you can read our article: Who is a righteous man? But this Salvation does not depend of our righteousness or our faithfulness; it depends of Christ’s Righteousness and His faithfulness. Even if we are weak and lack in faithfulness sometime, He remains faithful and He cannot deny His own: “if we are unfaithful, he abides faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) This faithfulness of the Lord is the assurance for the true believer that he will never lose his Salvation, because even if he sins, he has the promise that God is faithful in Christ to forgive him his sins: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us [our] sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) As you see, this is assured by His faithfulness and Righteousness, not by ours. For more details about this perfection that the saints have in Christ, you can read our article A true Christian is a saint — Perfection in Christ.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:21-23) When the Savior gave this warning at the end of His Sermon on the Mount, he had just warned of false prophets and how to distinguish them from true prophets—by their fruits. (We will discuss prophets in Chapter Three.) He then makes it clear, lip service to the Lord in not enough to make entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Yes, just saying that you are righteous is not enough to make you really righteous. If you believe you will be able to enter Heaven by your righteousness, then you need to be faithful to ALL the commandments of God WITHOUT any exception, doing ALL what He commands and not doing ALL what He forbids. Do you meet this standard? If you know that you don’t, then read the following article to know how to receive CHRIST’s Righteousness instead of relying on YOUR righteousness to make it to Heaven: How to be justified before God?
But note also in this passage how the Lord said He never knew those false believers. This proves that those who are fallen from Grace are those whom Jesus never knew, i.e. false believers. They were never true believers, because Jesus never knew them.
We have already learned from Paul how the hypocrite can become a “castaway,” or a rejectee.
And if you say that you’re faithful to God and yet you don’t keep ALL His Commandments, then you are hypocrite. If you think that you can make it to Heaven by your own righteousness, then test yourself if your righteousness can meet God’s Standard of Holiness. Are you perfect? Can you stand before God and say that you have never been unfaithful, that you have never sinned? Just test yourself and read the articles to which I linked.
He also taught the saints at Corinth an important doctrine about those ineligible to enter the Celestial Kingdom—those who do not qualify, regardless of their profession of belief in Jesus Christ.
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind. Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9,10) After his initial question to the Corinthian saints brought about by their apparent false sense of security of already being saved in spite of bad behavior, Paul warned the saints, BE NOT DECEIVED! He then makes a list of several types of behavior that prohibit entrance into the Kingdom of God. This refutes the EC claim righteousness only yields extra blessings or rewards, as though righteousness is just “icing on the cake” after unconditional salvation by grace into the Celestial Kingdom for having accepted Jesus Christ as their Personal Savior.
Yes, if you’re unrighteous, and if you have even ONE sin, you will not enter the Kingdom of God. Biblical Christians do not believe otherwise. The one who is born of God CANNOT sin, as we have seen. Once again, if you want to study this further, you can read the following article: A true Christian is a saint — Perfection in Christ.
Besides all these verses that more than substantiate LDS doctrine how salvation by the Grace of Jesus Christ still requires righteousness on the part of the sinner,
No, these verses, all of them, prove the Mormon doctrine wrong, because they make it clear that we can’t make it to Heaven by our righteousness; we need Christ’s Righteousness, i.e. His Grace whereby ALONE we are saved as Ephesians 2:8-10 clearly says.
Besides all these verses that more than substantiate LDS doctrine how salvation by the Grace of Jesus Christ still requires righteousness on the part of the sinner, and yes, that includes all of us, the Lord Himself taught: “he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:13)
Yes, only those who are born of God will endure to the end, as we have seen.
And His half-brother, James, taught: “faith without works is dead.” (Jam. 2:26)
Yes, a living faith works. A living faith does not need OUR works, but it already has works with it, because it is a living faith. The living faith makes us walk NOT in OUR works, but in the works that God has ALREADY prepared beforehand so that we walk in them AFTER we are created once for all in Christ Jesus: “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has before prepared that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) It is not by faith plus our works that we are saved, but by faith that ITSELF works through love: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision has any force, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6)
Doctor David Jeremiah, a popular EC pastor and televangelist, espouses the true meaning of faith (or, pisteos) in the NT as always meaning, “commitment.” On a recent broadcast of his Turning Point radio program, I heard him recite the aforementioned verses Paul addressed to the Corinthian saints about maintaining vigilance, expressing his “hope” of living up to the honor of Christians who have given their lives rather than deny Christ. Even if it is unwittingly, Doctor Jeremiah recognizes the need to endure to the end, as well as the possibility of falling from grace.
We have seen what faith means in the Bible and we have seen that the Bible teaches that true Christians will persevere to the end. Doctor David Jeremiah is not our authority; the Bible is.
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ