A young woman named V recently argued that old dead heresy of Calvin in the context of whether the Holy Spirit still baptised and conferred gifts. The greater questions have been dealt with previously, but she raised the following questions:
1) I suppose what I dont understand, then, is why does the Bible say once we are saved, we are sealed? What can break the seal?
2) How do you believe one becomes saved?
3) Why do you believe that once salvation was offered to the gentiles, paul only preached salvation by grace through faith?
What follows was my response with expanded exposition on the scriptures:
First things first. Paul preaching grace offered through faith is not the same as preaching that grace is a magic wand that requires no participation, and cannot be lost through rebellion or disbelief. This is the fallacy of Grace Alone. I’ll touch on that later.
What can break the seal? Willful rebellion, slander of the Holy Spirit, return to one’s former life of habitual sin, converting to another religion, death while backslidden, suicide, preaching a new gospel that is not what the Apostles taught, or variations and combinations thereof. And no, these things do not necessarily mean the person was never born again. We have Jesus1 testimony in the parable of the sower to dispose of that cop-out. Also the previously mentioned passages in Hebrews.
Lastly and most critical how does one become saved. Salvation like sanctification is a process as well as an event. It is accomplished by being born again spiritually-receiving a new nature, changing behavior to obedience to the moral law not by pedantic adherence but as new instinct, part of a process of being reshaped in imitation of Jesus own character.
This process is begun by trusting Jesus as truthful and Son of God, Believing that he is sovereign over all creation, and believing & confessing that he is ruler and is resurrected by God. But salvation doesn’t end with these beliefs and confessions. Grace received gives us the power but free will to refuse to take the voluntary steps to become a son of God as the man Jesus was God’s son.
Some of the less popular elements of salvation include:
Faith (trust not belief)
Luke 3:8; Acts 2:38 repent and be baptised.
Philippians 3:10,11 (completely overlooked in the furor of his passionate plea for grace)
John 1:12; 3:15-17,36; Romans 10:9,10
Matthew 16:27; John 14:11,12; Ephesians 2:10
Ephesians 4:11-6:10; 1Corinthians 5,6; Galatians 5:19-6:10
Repent and be baptised under the authority of Jesus. A mikvah is a ritual bath taken to cleanse one of spiritual and ritual uncleaness. A woman must be cleansed after her menses in order to renter the temple and receive sacrifice. A New Convert must receive a mikvah to show rebirth as a Jew. John the baptist was giving mikvot to the people of Israel to reconsecrate those who were secular or who felt they had compromised themselves so thoroughly that they were Jews in name only.
Repentance is a whole other kettle of fish. The word repento means retreat. Turn back and flee in the direction you’ve come. This is action taken not passive tolerance of something applied, and not simple regret or apology, but active participation in a change of behavior.
Confession is also a voluntary participation, obedience that can cause heartbreaking consequences when friends family or nation reject your confession. Here’s an interesting seeming contradiction. John 1 tells us we need only accept Jesus and his claims, John 3 tells us we must believe in and trust him. Romans 10:9 tells us that we must confess. But 10:10 takes it a step further and says belief brings justification but confession brings Salvation. So it’s not faith alone but Faith, Belief, & Confession.
Then we turn to Ephesians. Eph. 2:10 tells us that God ordained good works and we were “created” in Christ to do them. We were reborn a new creation in Christ so we could do Godly works? So works don’t cause Salvation but they are the whole purpose of it. What works would these be, for ordained by God? 1Corithians tells us it’s compassion, without which we are meaningless noise.
What then are the works that Salvation brings? Continued sin and a doglike gratitude? Oh woe is me I’m apoor sinner–still bound to live an unrighteous and sinful life–but saved by Grace? In Luke 16 Jesus tells us that if you area child of Abrham you will do Abrahams works. We’re also told that we are grafted in as a scion on the vine of Israel and the Mosaic Covenant. If we are children of Moses then we must do Moses works.
John 11 tells us that we will do Jesus works. On the surface this is pointing to his miracles and surely a genuine Body of Christ *will* do his miracles and not by science, technology and psychology. Jesus tells us that all men–even believers–will be judged by their works. However, Jesus also said I am not come to destroy the Law but to *fulfill* it.
What then are the works of Christ? We know that Jesus fulfilled the law in every point. But the really telling thing is a collection of dos and don’ts in the *New Testament*. First off, when asked, “what must I do to be saved?” Jesus replies with basically a summary of the ten commandments. When the seeker replies that he’s done this from his childhood, Jesus tells him to sell everything and follow asa disciple. This discipleship is the critical factor. Imitating Christ.
Now in Fist Corinthians 5 we get a set of criteria for excommunication. The first is incest, found in verses 3-5, followed by a number of others in 8 through the end of the chapter. Jesus tells us every liar has his part in the lake of fire, yes that every means every, not just those who never believed on Christ. In Ephesians we have another list of nots and instructions on what to be and do.
Lastly, because my comments are fare to long as is, There is Galatians 5:19-6:10. These are the Law of Grace and in fulfilling them one will of necessity fulfill the old testament moral Law. I’ve differentiated the Moral LAw from the ceremonial Law, which are the symbols and accouterments that tie one to both the OT Law and the OT Promises. One necessitates the other and neither can be had alone.