Richard Coords, “Perseverance”

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Is it a “work” to continue believing in Christ?

What do Calvinists believe?

You were saved by the grace of God through faith. So, are you now kept saved through the rest of your life by your own willpower to continue believing in Christ, as a type of work?

Our reply:

In Calvinism, anything that is not done for you is automatically, by definition, a “work.” In other words, if you think that you independently chose to place your trust in Christ, then that, by Calvinist definition, means that you believe in salvation by “works.” In Calvinism, the only thing that maintains your faith in Christ is the same Irresistible Grace by which you first began.

In non-Calvinism, we differ by qualifying the meaning of what a “work” is. Is it a meritorious work or a non-meritorious work? For instance, if I am trusting in my own goodness, or my own life’s achievements, or my own worthiness to be saved, then that would fall into the category of meritorious works. But if, like the thief on the Cross next to Jesus, I am simply trusting in someone else’s charity to save me, then that would constitute a non-meritorious work. So, the answer to the Calvinist question is that if you insist that we believe in works, then we add that our faith in Christ—initial and continual—is a non-meritorious work, because like the thief on the Cross next to Jesus, we don’t deserve salvation. God simply gives it to those who ask Him, like the thief, simply because He is gracious.

However, the Calvinist may ask: Is not faith in Christ a good work? So, if you believe that you independently chose to place your trust in Christ, then are you not “more good” than others who chose not to? However, returning to the aforementioned example of the thief, though his petition was good and righteous, the thief was still a thief, admittedly deserving condemnation. So, it would be completely Jesus’ own choice to be gracious when He otherwise didn’t have to. So, even if our choice to place our trust in Christ is good and righteous, once again it is shown to not constitute anything that merits, earns or secures God’s grace. In the end, Calvinists will always conflate our choice to ask God for salvation with His choice to grant salvation.

[This post has been excerpted with permission from Richard Coords, Calvinism Answered Verse by Verse and Subject by Subject, © 2024.]