Conflicting Salvation Passages of Scripture
Many traditional evangelical Christians find that there are several passages of Scripture dealing with the topic of salvation that seem to be in conflict. By “conflict,” the reference is (1) to the way one may apprehend the salvation state, i.e. “by faith alone” vs. “by faith plus works;” and (2) to the permanence of the salvation state, i.e., “once saved, always saved” vs. “once saved, not always saved.”
A few of these passages (not in any particular order) are Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8, 9; Romans 3:21-4:5; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Peter 1:9; James 1:21; 2:14-26; 5:20; Romans 8:38, 39. To the uninformed, some passages confirm that the apprehension of salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, while other passages indicate that faith must be accompanied by works in order for one to be saved. And likewise, to the uninformed, some passages point to salvation as being irrevocable by God or man, while other passages appear to state otherwise.
Such confusion stems from an incomplete understanding of the tripartite nature of man and how God’s comprehensive redemption program (i.e., salvation) applies to each aspect of his nature. The remainder of this article will greatly assist in clarifying the issue and will reconcile the various passages of Scripture.
Salvation — Past, Present, Future
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit [lit. “for the sake of the ones about to inherit”] salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)
Salvation in the Word of God is spoken of in three tenses — past, present, and future: (1) Christians have been saved, (2) Christians are being saved, and (3) Christians are about to be saved. The previously quoted verses provide examples of how Scripture deals with each of these three tenses or aspects of salvation.
In Ephesians 2:8, 9, salvation is a past, completed act; in 1 Corinthians 1:18, salvation is a present, continuous work; and in Hebrews 1:14, salvation is a future, inherited possession. Since the Word of God presents salvation in a framework of this nature, it is vitally important in Scriptural interpretation to first ascertain to which of these three aspects of salvation any given passage pertains.
In the first aspect of salvation, dealt with in Ephesians 2:8, the words, “you have been saved,” which is a correct translation, are a translation of two Greek words that form, what is called in the Greek, a “periphrastic perfect.” The “perfect” tense refers to action completed in past time, with the results of this action extending into the present and existing in a finished state. The “periphrastic” construction places additional emphasis on the present, finished state and refers to the persistent results during present time of the past, completed work.
Salvation in this verse is wrought by grace through faith, accomplished completely in past time, and is the present possession of every believer. This present possession, in turn, constitutes an active, continuing, ever-abiding salvation. The eternal security of the believer cannot be expressed in stronger terms than the periphrastic construction of the perfect tense in Ephesians 2:8, for the present results of the past action, in this case, can only continue unchanged forever.
However, in 1 Corinthians 1:18, dealing with the second aspect of salvation, things are presented in an entirely different light than seen in Ephesians 2:8. Rather than the tense in the Greek text referring to a past, completed act, the tense refers to a present, continuous work. The former has already been completed, but the latter has yet to be completed.
Then, in Hebrews 1:14, dealing with the third aspect of salvation, matters are presented yet in a completely different light. The wording in the Greek text of this verse refers to something that is about to occur. Nothing is past or present; the reception of this salvation, in its entirety, is placed in the future.
Further, the salvation referred to in Hebrews 1:14 is not only to be realized in the future, but it is also an inherited salvation. And the thought of inheritance further distinguishes the salvation in this verse from the salvation previously seen in Ephesians 2:8, for the salvation that Christians presently possess is not an inherited salvation.
Rather, our present salvation was obtained as a free gift during the time we were alienated from God. And, as aliens (outside the family of God), we were in no position to inherit salvation, for inheritance in Scripture is always a family matter.
In the Old Testament, “sons” were first in line to receive the inheritance, with “daughters” next. If there were no sons or daughters in the immediate family, the inheritance was passed on to the nearest family member or members, designated by the law of inheritance (Numbers 27:8-11).
Consequently, an individual must first be a family member before he can be considered for the inheritance, which, during the present dispensation, is restricted to “children” or “sons” of the Owner. That’s why the statement is made in Romans 8:17, “If children, then heirs . . . .” And that’s also why, in Hebrews 1:14, that an inherited salvation pertains to those who have already been saved, those who are no longer alienated from God but are presently family members.
In this respect, the complete scope of salvation — past, present, and future — has a beginning point, with an end in view. It involves the Spirit of God breathing life into the one having no life and thereby effecting the birth from above. And this has been done with a purpose, with an end in view. This has been done so that the Spirit can take the one who now has spiritual life and perform a work in the life of that individual, with a view to an inheritance that will be realized at a future time.
Thus, one should immediately be able to see the importance of proper distinctions being drawn and observed in the realm of these three aspects of salvation. And depending on how one approaches and deals with the different salvation passages in Scripture, either difficulties can be avoided on the one hand or insurmountable problems can result on the other.
The Tripartite Nature of Man
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Man is a tripartite being comprised of spirit, soul, and body; and the salvation of man within its complete scope (past, present, and future) pertains to the salvation of man with respect to his complete being. In the study of Scripture it is revealed that each of these three parts of man is subject to salvation at different times. Thus, to understand salvation in its complete scope, one must first understand certain things about man’s tripartite nature. Then, salvation in relation to this tripartite nature becomes the issue.
Chapter one of Genesis reveals that man was created in the “image” and “likeness” of God. The word translated “God” in the Hebrew text of this statement is Elohim. This is a plural noun, which, in complete keeping with related Scripture, would include all three members of the Godhead — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (e.g., cf. John 1:1-3).
Since Elohim is a trinity, for man to be created in the “image” and “likeness” of God, he too must be a trinity. Unlike the dichotomous animal kingdom (created apart from the “image” and “likeness” of God) possessing only bodies and souls, trichotomous man (created in the “image” and “likeness” of God) is a triune being. Man not only possesses a body and a soul, but he also possesses a spirit as well.
Jesus is Elohim manifested in the flesh; and having been made in the “likeness” of man (but apart from man’s fallen nature), He, as man, must also be a trinity (John 1:14; Philippians 2:7). This tripartite nature of Christ, in whom “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9), was clearly revealed at the time of His death. At this time Jesus yielded up His spirit, which went back into the presence of His Father in heaven (Luke 23:46; cf. Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59); His soul went into Hades, the place of the dead, housed inside the earth at this time (Acts 2:27); and His body was removed from the cross and placed in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb (Matthew 27:57-61). This threefold separation persisted until the soul and spirit re-entered the body at the time Christ was raised from the dead.
Thus, God, Elohim, is a trinity; Jesus, Elohim, manifested in the flesh, is likewise a trinity; and man, created in the “image” and “likeness” of Elohim, can only be a trinity as well. Accordingly, a complete redemption provided by the triune God must, of necessity, pertain to man as a complete being. Man’s complete redemption must encompass spirit, soul, and body.
1. Past, Present, Future . . . Spirit, Soul, Body
When man sinned in the garden in Eden, the complete being of man — spirit, soul, and body — became in a fallen state. God had commanded Adam concerning the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). After Satan had deceived Eve into eating of the fruit of this tree, she then “gave to her husband with her; and he ate.” Immediately following this, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:1-7).
At the time of the fall, Adam and Eve lost something; and it is clearly stated in Scripture that both immediately recognized this fact. That which they lost could only have been a covering of pristine glory that had previously clothed their bodies; for they, following the fall, found that they were in a twofold condition: (1) naked and (2) separated from God.
God is arrayed in a covering of “light,” connected with “honor and majesty.” And man, created in the “image” and “likeness” of God, could only have been arrayed in a similar manner prior to the fall.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great: You are clothed with [You have put on] honor and majesty,
who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.” (Psalm 104:1, 2)
Recognizing the loss of this covering, realizing that they were naked, explains why Adam and Eve immediately sought to clothe themselves following the fall. They tried to replace the covering that had been lost with a work of their own hands, with fig leaf aprons. And then, apparently realizing the utter inadequacy of this covering, they, in their fallen state, sought to hide from God.
God, finding Adam and Eve in this condition, completely rejected the works of their hands. God completely rejected their feeble efforts to atone for their own sin by seeking to replace the covering of pristine glory with fig leaves. Then, to bring His fallen creature back into a right relationship (although not in complete keeping with their previously unfallen state — something still future even today), God provided a covering consisting of animal skins (Genesis 3:21). This necessitated death and the shedding of blood; and herein lays basic, unchangeable truths concerning the state of fallen man and the means that are necessary to effect his redemption.
Unredeemed man is a fallen creature, alienated from God; and two things are necessary to effect his redemption: (1) divine intervention, and (2) death and shed blood. These truths have forever been set forth in the opening chapters of Genesis and can never change.
(Two different words are used for “naked” in the Hebrew text of Genesis 2:25 [before the fall] and Genesis 3:7 [after the fall]. In the latter [3:7], the word has to do with absolute nakedness, but not so in the former [2:25].
Remaining within the way a person dressed in the East at the time Moses wrote Genesis, and at later times as well, the word used relative to nakedness pertaining to Adam and Eve preceding the fall [2:25] could be used to describe a person clothed in a tunic [inner garment] but lacking the mantle or cloak [outer garment]. In the preceding respect, prior to the fall, Adam and Eve were clothed in the Glory of God but had yet to possess the regal outer garments worn by kings [fulfilling the reason for man’s creation — to rule the earth (Genesis 1:26-28)].
Then, following the fall, no longer clothed in the Glory of God, Adam and Eve were no longer in a position to be further clothed in regal garments, realizing the purpose for their creation. They, apart from the inner garment [the Glory] could not wear the outer garments [royal apparel]. Adam, prior to the fall, never wore regal garments or held the scepter. In this respect, he never moved beyond the description given in Genesis 2:25 — a “naked” condition, “naked” in relation to the reason for his creation [lacking the outer regal garments].
Thus, if man, now separated from the Glory, is to ever fulfill the purpose for his creation, God must act. Redemption has to occur; and this, of necessity, has to include the complete man — spirit, soul, and body — with a view to not only a restoration of the Glory but to regality beyond this restoration.)
Man’s sin in the garden in Eden produced death. Man died the day he ate of the forbidden fruit. Since his body continued to live, revealing that his soul — the life-giving principle in the blood (Leviticus 17:11; cf. Genesis 9:4) — remained unchanged with respect to life (natural life), it is evident that it was his spirit that died.
The spiritual nature is that part of man that links him directly with God. “God is spirit,” and man’s worship of God must be “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The death of Adam’s spirit separated him from God (establishing the primary meaning of “death” in Scripture — separation from God), and this death (this separation from God) “passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12).
Scripture speaks of an unsaved person as being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). With an unredeemed, inanimate spirit (spiritually dead), he is alienated from God, separated from God (Ephesians 2:12).
But once the person has been born from above, he is then spoken of as having passed “from death to life,” as having been “quickened” (John 5:24; Ephesians 2:5). Possessing an animate spirit, possessing spiritual life (having been made alive spiritually), he is no longer separated from the One who Himself is “Spirit” (John 4:24).
This aspect of salvation is brought to pass through the Spirit of God breathing life into the one having no life, based on Christ’s finished work at Calvary; and once this has been accomplished, everything surrounding the work effecting this aspect of salvation has been completed, with this work existing in a finished state (as previously seen through the use of the perfect tense in Ephesians 2:8). Thus, the salvation experience that man enters into at the time of the birth from above is a work of the Spirit, based on a previous work of the Son. It is a spiritual birth and has to do with man’s spirit alone: “. . . that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6b).
The salvation of the soul, on the other hand, should never be associated with the past aspect of salvation. Scripture carefully distinguishes between the soul and the spirit, never using the words interchangeably in this respect (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12). And Scripture also carefully distinguishes between salvation in relation to the spirit and salvation in relation to the soul. Salvation in relation to the spirit is always dealt with in a past sense, but not so with the salvation of the soul. Rather, the salvation of the soul is always dealt with in a future sense:
Receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe [are faithful] to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)
The statements and exhortations in these verses pertain to Christians alone — those whose spirits have already been saved and whose souls are in the process of being saved, with the salvation of the soul being realized only at a future time.
The salvation of the body presents very few problems for the majority of Christians. Very few Christians contend, contrary to Scripture, that the body has either already been redeemed or is in the process of being redeemed. Scripture places the redemption of man’s body entirely in the future (Romans 8:23).
The Christian’s body is presently in a continuous state of deterioration. The body grows old and weakens with time; and the body is subject to sickness, disease, and eventually death. This must ever remain the case as long as the body remains unredeemed. The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and the unredeemed body must pay the price that sin requires.
Within this unredeemed body are two opposing entities, each seeking dominion — a redeemed spirit, and an unredeemed soul. The unredeemed soul is housed in an unredeemed body, and the two are mutually compatible. But the redeemed spirit housed alongside an unredeemed soul in an unredeemed body experiences no compatibility with either of the other two at all. Compatibility is not possible, for “what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness, and what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). This heterogeneous union is what produced the cry of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24:
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
2. Soulical, Spiritual, Carnal
According to the Word of God, every man can be categorized as being soulical, spiritual, or carnal. The word “soulical” pertains to all non-Christians, and the words “spiritual” and “carnal” pertain to two classes of Christians.
But the natural man [the “soulical” man] does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are [can only be] spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
The Greek word translated “soul” throughout the New Testament is psuche. This word has to do with “the natural life” of the individual. The soul is the seat of a person’s emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his man-conscious existence.
The Greek word translated “natural” in 1 Corinthians 2:14 is psuchikos, a form of the word psuche. Psuchikos is the “natural” or “soulical” life (self-life) that man has in common with the animal kingdom. The soulical man is dominated or ruled by his soul, which includes all the experiences, desires, emotions, sensations, likes, and dislikes within the personal life of the individual. Such likes, dislikes, etc. will vary from individual to individual, but all emanate from the soul-life of man. The soulical man is alienated from God and thus possesses no way to grasp spiritual truth. A man must be born from above — made alive spiritually — before he can possess spiritual discernment.
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual . . . . (1 Corinthians 3:1a)
The Greek word translated “spirit” throughout the New Testament is pneuma. This word is used in the New Testament referring to the Holy Spirit, man’s spirit, angels (both fallen and unfallen), a state of mind or disposition, wind, and breath. Examples in Scripture of the last four are Luke 8:55; John 3:8; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 1:7; 1 Peter 3:19.
Man’s spirit is the seat of the higher divine life pertaining to his God-conscious existence. The Greek word translated “spiritual” in 1 Corinthians 3:1a is pneumatikos, a form of the word pneuma. The spiritual man is one who is controlled by the Spirit of God acting through his own spirit (through a spirit made alive by the birth from above).
The spiritual man, unlike the soulical man, controls his emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his still-present, man-conscious existence. He brings his unredeemed body under subjection and exerts control over the soulical man. This, of course, is not performed within his own power, but within the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is an experience open to redeemed man alone, to an individual who has been made alive spiritually.
Unredeemed man, on the other hand, although a tripartite being, fails to rise above the dichotomous animal kingdom in his natural or soulical existence. He lacks a redeemed spirit with the accompanying, indwelling Holy Spirit. He, with an inanimate spirit, is spiritually dead. And, consequently, he remains alienated from God. Thus, for unredeemed man, an existence outside the soulical (natural) state is not possible.
. . . but as to carnal, even as to babes in Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:1b)
The Greek word translated “carnal” is sarkikos. This is a form of the word sarx, which means “flesh.” Sarkikos (fleshly) is the opposite of pneumatikos (spiritual). The carnal Christian is “fleshly” as opposed to “spiritual.” He is one who allows himself to be controlled by his soul rather than by the indwelling Holy Spirit. He, as the soulical man (the unsaved man), follows his personal emotions, feelings, and desires.
He, however, unlike the soulical man, has been born from above and is capable of grasping spiritual truth. But, unlike the spiritual man, this truth is not being received. Thus, the carnal Christian, without an impartation of spiritual truth flowing into his saved human spirit, remains immature and fleshly, following the fleshly impulses of the soul.
(The use of “flesh” or “fleshly” in the preceding respect would be a direct allusion back to that which occurred in Eden at the time of the fall. Man, following his fall, possessed a body that was no longer enswathed in a covering of Glory, with the exposed flesh openly demonstrating this fact. This is what is meant by Christ coming “in the likeness of sinful flesh” [Romans 8:3]. Christ came to earth in a body not enswathed in the Glory of God.
This was the crux of the ignominy and shame surrounding the events of Calvary. Not only was Christ’s body of flesh [apart from the covering of Glory] arrayed in a mock regal manner [with a robe and a crown of thorns], but He hung on the cross without even His Own garments to cover His body, for all to behold that which had been wrought by sin 4,000 years earlier — nakedness, and death [Matthew 27:27-36].
There is nothing wrong with “flesh” per se. Man was created in a body of flesh, Christ presently has a body of flesh, and both God’s Son and man will live in bodies of flesh forever.
But, though there is nothing wrong with a body of “flesh,” there is something wrong with a body of flesh that is not enswathed in the Glory of God.)
Within the scope of that which God reveals about the impartation of spiritual truth to redeemed man alone lies the great lesson concerning unredeemed man’s relationship to the Word of God. It is utterly futile for unredeemed man to either himself attempt to understand the Word of God or for redeemed man to attempt to teach him the Word of God. Scripture is “spiritually discerned,” and a man must be born from above — be made alive spiritually, which places him in a position where he can exercise spiritual discernment — before he can understand the things of the Spirit of God. The soulical (unredeemed) man, completely alienated from God — spiritually dead and in no position to exercise spiritual discernment — cannot understand spiritual things, and they appear to him as no more than “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Herein also lies the reason why the things of the Spirit have been hidden from the “wise and prudent,” but revealed to “babes” (cf. Matthew 11:25). Certain Christian intelligentsia of the present dispensation, even though saved and in a position to understand the Word of God, too often seek spiritual discernment in the light of worldly wisdom rather than through comparing “scripture with scripture” and looking to the indwelling Spirit to lead them “into all truth” (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13).
And, although those Christians who seek spiritual discernment in this manner may often be looked upon as great spiritual leaders, theologians, expositors, etc., they, in the final analysis, cannot understand these things. Such individuals can only be sadly lacking in the very realm where they are held in high esteem.
While at the same time, “babes” (Greek: nepios, those who are still on the milk of the Word and have not grown enough to even partake of solid food), through the leadership of the Spirit of God — as they compare “scripture with scripture” and look to the Spirit to lead them “into all truth” — can invariably be brought into an understanding of these things.
They, through turning to the Word and looking to the Spirit for discernment and leadership, can understand more about these same spiritual truths than the “wise and prudent” who turn to places other than the Word and either ignore or reject the Spirit’s discernment and leadership.
Redeemed man, through a past and finished work of the Spirit, based on a past and finished work of Christ, has been brought from a dead to a living state spiritually. He has passed “from death to life.” And in this living state, he is now in a position to realize the purpose for his salvation — the salvation of his soul.
One aspect of salvation is past. The individual presently possesses eternal life, and nothing can ever change or nullify this fact. But the individual has been saved for a purpose, which will be brought to pass only within the framework of his realizing present and future aspects of salvation.
And this complete panorama of the salvation message, with a purpose in view, must be recognized. Redeemed man must recognize that there is not only a past aspect to salvation but present and future aspects as well.
And the present and future aspects of salvation are inseparably connected with man one day being brought into a realization of the purpose for which he was created in the beginning — “. . . let them have dominion” (Genesis 1:26-28).
Present and future aspects of salvation have to do with man occupying regal positions following the time when he, in that coming day, is brought into a realization of the salvation of his soul.
1. The Complete Salvation Issue
In order to effect man’s eternal redemption, the Spirit of God deals with unsaved man on one basis alone. The Spirit deals with unsaved man solely on the basis of Christ’s finished work at Calvary.
But once an individual has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and has been dealt with on the basis of Christ’s finished work, realizing the birth from above — the salvation of his spirit — the salvation issue then shifts from the salvation of his spirit to the salvation of his soul. The salvation of the spirit becomes a past, completed work and is never dealt with as an issue beyond this point. The Spirit of God, from this point forward, deals with the individual solely on the basis of present and future aspects of salvation. The individual, from this point forward, is dealt with in relation to the salvation of his soul.
Thus, all scriptures dealing with carnality or unfaithfulness of Christians, resulting in forfeiture or loss, must pertain to issues surrounding the salvation of the soul and NEVER to issues surrounding the salvation of the spirit.
Once the salvation of the spirit has been effected, making it possible for the indwelling Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and to control an individual’s life through his own spirit, then man’s unredeemed soul occupies the center of attention. The salvation of the soul, unlike the salvation of the spirit, is conditional. The salvation of the soul is dependent on the life one lives after his spirit has been saved. It is dependent on the individual allowing the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and to control his life through his own spirit.
An individual allowing the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and to control his life through his own spirit progressively grows from immaturity to maturity. He progressively grows into a spiritually mature Christian. Growing in this manner, he exerts control over his emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his man-conscious (soulical) existence. And, through this means, he will ultimately come into a realization of the salvation of his soul (life).
On the other hand, an individual who refuses to allow the Spirit of God to impart spiritual truth into and to control his life in the preceding manner can only remain as a carnally immature Christian. Apart from the assimilation of spiritual truth, resulting in spiritual growth, he cannot help but be controlled by his emotions, feelings, and desires pertaining to his man-conscious (soulical) existence. And, accordingly, such a person will ultimately suffer the loss of his soul (life), which can have no bearing whatsoever on his eternal salvation (for that is a past, finished matter that has already been dealt with).
2. The Complete Salvation Message
The shift of the salvation issue from the spirit to the soul at the time of the birth from above necessitates a corresponding shift from the salvation message that is to be proclaimed to the unsaved (which concerns the salvation of the spirit) to the salvation message that is to be proclaimed to the saved (which concerns the salvation of the soul). This must ever be the case, for that which is past ceases to be the issue, and that which is present and future becomes the issue.
The only message to be carried to the unsaved is the gospel of grace. This is the good news that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” This message alone forms the basis upon which the Spirit can breathe life into the one having no life (1 Corinthians 15:3; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1, 2).
But once the unsaved individual has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, experiencing the birth from above, the message must then change, for the goal of the message will have been realized. The Spirit must then deal with the individual on an entirely different plane, with the issue at the forefront no longer being the salvation of the spirit, but the salvation of the soul.
Thus, a minister with a congregation placed under his care has been charged with a tremendous responsibility. His central ministry is among the saved, among those capable of grasping spiritual truth; and he is to disseminate spiritual truth to these individuals as it relates to things surrounding present and future aspects of salvation, not to things surrounding the past aspect of salvation. He, in this manner, is to “feed the flock of God,” looking ahead to Christ’s appearance in all His glory (1 Peter 5:2-4).
This individual is responsible, under the leadership of the Spirit of God, to provide proper spiritual nourishment to and for those Christians placed under his care. And the only thing that God has provided for him to use as he feeds the flock of God is the Word of God.
As a minister in charge of a flock, he is to expound this Word under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And Christians placed under his care are to receive this proclaimed Word into their saved human spirits. Then the Spirit of God can take this “implanted Word” and effect spiritual growth to maturity, with the end result being the salvation of their souls (James 1:21).
The tragedy in Christian circles today is the light regard that pastors of churches have for fulfilling the very purpose of their ministry. And, the end result of pastors failing to properly “feed the flock” entrusted to their care will be the entrance of innumerable carnal, immature Christians into the Lord’s presence at the end of the present dispensation with redeemed spirits, changed bodies, but wasted and thus unredeemed souls — forfeited lives. Their eternal salvation will remain unaffected; but, with the forfeiture or loss of their souls, they will be unable to realize the inheritance presently “reserved in heaven” for the faithful (1 Peter 1:4). Consequently, they will occupy no position among the “many sons” who will be brought to glory (Hebrews 2:10).
(The subject surrounding pastor-teachers and their having been entrusted with a flock, with a view to the salvation of not only the souls of the pastor-teachers but the souls of those in the flock, is developed more fully in chapter 8.)
Failure to understand and distinguish between the salvation that we presently possess and the salvation, to be revealed when our Lord returns, has wrought untold confusion in Christian circles.
Many Christians take scriptures dealing with the salvation to be revealed and seek to apply them to the salvation that we presently possess. And misapplying scriptures in this manner, these individuals arrive at the erroneous conclusion that it is possible for a saved person to be lost, which not only casts reproach upon the sufficiency of the finished work of Christ at Calvary, but also does violence to numerous portions of the Word of God.
Then, on the other hand, there are those Christians who recognize that the loss of one’s eternal salvation is not possible, but still fail to understand distinctions between the salvation of the spirit and the salvation of the soul. Most from this group take many of these same verses and seek to either apply them to the nation of Israel or to unregenerate individuals, whether Jew or Gentile. And applications of this nature not only remove the Spirit’s exhortations and warnings to redeemed individuals, but erroneous interpretations in one area of Scripture will often, for the sake of consistency, lead to erroneous interpretations in other areas.
Thus, the importance of understanding distinctions between the salvation of the spirit and the salvation of the soul becomes self-evident.
Let it be forever stated: Redeemed man has come into a position from which he can never be removed. But this same redeemed man, in this position, is directly responsible to his Creator; and, at a future date, he will either inherit as a joint-heir with his Lord or suffer loss in the presence of his Lord. The former will be realized through the salvation of his soul, or the latter will, instead, be realized through the loss of his soul.
Faith Made Mature
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect [brought to its goal]? (James 2:14, 20-22)
James 2:14-26 opens with two self-answering questions, and the structure of these questions in the Greek text requires that both be answered in the negative (the Greek negative, “me,” appears in the latter question [designating a “no” response], and the integrally, inseparable nature of the two questions shows that the first must be answered in the same sense). The first question presents the relationship between faith and works in connection with profit, and the second question presents the relationship between faith and works in connection with salvation. These two questions could possibly be better understood by translating the verse as:
My brethren, if anyone says he has faith, but does not have works, he cannot profit, can he? Faith [apart from works] cannot save him, can it?
A translation of this nature must be recognized or one will miss the force of these two questions, which are not only in complete keeping with the central message in the epistle of James but introduce that which is dealt with in the verses that immediately follow (vv. 15-26). And, should an individual fail to grasp this central message, he will forever be lost in a sea of misinterpretation when dealing with this epistle.
Faith and works appear together in James chapter two relative to teachings surrounding the salvation of the soul, introduced in the preceding chapter (vv. 21-25). And this is the place where numerous individuals invariably go wrong when studying the epistle. They seek to relate both faith and works to the salvation that Christians presently possess. And, doing this, the end result is always the same: 1) a non-biblical teaching relative to salvation by grace, and 2) a corruption of the true message in James.
The relationship between faith and works in James (or other corresponding parts of Scripture [e.g., 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; Ephesians 2:8-10; Hebrews 11:4ff]) has nothing to do with the salvation that we presently possess. Eternal salvation, the present possession of every believer, is wrought by grace through faith, completely apart from works.
An unredeemed person cannot perform works to be saved, and a redeemed person cannot perform works to either stay saved or to show that he has been saved. The necessity of the complete absence of works in relation to one’s eternal salvation is just as applicable following the time one is saved as it is prior to the time one is saved. Works cannot enter in at all, else salvation would cease to be by grace through faith (Romans 11:6).
James in his epistle, teaching a justification on the basis of works, does not deny that man is justified by grace through faith, apart from works. To the contrary, James acknowledges this fact (1:17, 18), and the entire message of his epistle is built upon this fact. And, in keeping with this fact, justification by works in James cannot enter in until man has first been justified by grace through faith. Then, and only then, can works appear.
This is the way in which the matter is handled at any point in Scripture where faith and works are dealt with after this fashion. This has to be the case because neither the unsaved nor the saved can produce works in this realm. The unsaved person can’t produce works of this nature, for he is spiritually dead; and the saved person can’t produce works of this nature, for works would have entered into an area where works cannot exist. From a biblical standpoint, man’s works simply cannot enter where eternal salvation is involved.
(Works surrounding eternal salvation can enter only as they pertain to Christ’s finished work at Calvary, or to the Spirit’s work of breathing life into the one having no life [on the basis of Christ’s finished work]. Unregenerate man, “dead in trespasses and sins” [Ephesians 2:1], cannot act in the spiritual realm. Divine intervention alone can and must occur [Ephesians 2:5].)
Paul and James
A failure to understand this whole realm of biblical doctrine surrounding faith and works, as set forth in James, has, over the years, resulted in untold confusion among Christians. Numerous Bible students who have understood that man’s justification must be by grace through faith, completely apart from works (Ephesians 2:8, 9), have been perplexed particularly by the epistle of James, for James teaches that man cannot be justified apart from works. This so perplexed Martin Luther, with his emphasis on justification by grace through faith from the book of Romans, that he declared the epistle of James to be “an epistle of straw,” questioning whether or not it should be included among the canonical books.
Most attempts among Bible students today to reconcile what they see as justification apart from works in the Pauline epistles with justification by works in the epistle of James revolve around the thought that “Paul deals with justification in the eyes of God, and James deals with justification in the eyes of man.” In other words, a man is saved by grace through faith, apart from works, in the eyes of God; but he performs works after he is saved, showing, in the eyes of man, the reality of his salvation.
This type approach to works in James is used by many in an attempt to prove the reality or non-reality of one’s conversion by the presence or absence of works. “Living” faith, as opposed to “dead” faith in James (2:17, 20, 26), is often equated with what some call “saving” faith. The thought is then set forth that if a man possesses “saving [‘living’]” faith, he will evince this fact through good works in the eyes of man. However, if a man who claims to be saved does not show evidence of his salvation via works in the eyes of man, this proves that he was never really saved in the first place. All he ever possessed was a “non-saving [‘dead’]” faith.
The entire concept of justification by works in the eyes of man though is fallacious from one end to the other, and so is the concept behind calling “dead” faith a “non-saving” faith (“dead” faith will be discussed later in this chapter). A man cannot show, via works, the reality of his justification by grace through faith. If he could, then justification would cease to be by grace through faith. Works, after some fashion, would have entered into an area where works cannot exist. The pure gospel of the grace of God would have been corrupted, for,
. . . if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)
The key to a correct understanding of the epistle of James lies in recognizing that the central message of this book deals, not with the salvation that we presently possess (salvation of the spirit), but with the salvation to be revealed at the time of our Lord’s return (salvation of the soul). God does not deal with Christians today in relation to the salvation of their spirits. This is a past, completed act, never to be dealt with as an issue beyond the point of the birth from above. God deals with the regenerate solely on the basis of the fact that they have been saved, never in relation to the salvation that they presently possess.
(Note the central Old Testament type in the preceding respect — the Israelites under Moses. Following the death of the firstborn [Exodus 12:1ff], God dealt with the Israelites on an entirely different plane. God then dealt with them relative to the land set before them, not relative to that which was a past, finished matter — the prior death of the firstborn in Egypt.
And so it is with Christians under Christ in the antitype. This is more fully developed in chapters 6 & 7 of this book.)
The place that “works” occupy in James must be understood in this respect. “Works” must appear only in the realm of God’s present dealings with Christians. Consequently, they can never pertain to the salvation of the spirit, but they must always pertain to the salvation of the soul alone.
But going to the Pauline epistles and seeking to contrast them with James in the realm of faith and works is not the correct way to approach and explain the matter. Paul has not written about one thing and James another. Rather, both Paul and James have written about the same thing. They have dealt with exactly the same thing, from different perspectives.
It is wrong, for example, to contrast Romans (or any of the other Pauline epistles) with James (or any of the other general epistles) and say that one (Romans) deals with salvation by grace and the other (James) deals with the salvation of the soul. The central message throughout all of the epistles, beginning with Romans and ending with Jude, has to do with the same thing — the salvation of the soul, not with salvation by grace.
Martin Luther, as most Bible students since that time, was wrong in his approach to the message of Romans in relation to the message of James. Both books deal with the same message, from two different perspectives (e.g., cf. Romans 4:3-22; James 2:14, 21-23). And a failure to understand this is where all the confusion lies.
In the final analysis, Romans possibly contains the highest and most intricate form of all teachings surrounding the salvation of the soul. In this respect, rather than Romans being a book dealing with primary doctrine surrounding salvation by grace, it is, instead, a book dealing not only with the salvation of the soul but possibly with the highest and most intricate form of this doctrine to be found in Scripture. In effect, it is a book that Christians should probably study only after they have come into a good understanding of the salvation of the soul, not a book that those proclaiming the message of salvation by grace are to reference, seeking to show individuals how to be saved (for this is not the central message of Romans).
Profit . . . Salvation
The key words in James 2:14 are “profit” and “save.” These two words are linked together in such a manner — not only here, but elsewhere in Scripture — that one cannot be realized apart from the other. That is, apart from an accrual of “profit,” salvation cannot be realized; or, to state the matter another way, an accrual of “profit” leads to (is for the purpose of) the realization of salvation (at a future date). And James specifically states that neither can be realized by faith alone. Works must enter in and have their proper place.
One cannot profit apart from an initial investment, and one is in no position to procure the salvation of which James speaks apart from presently possessing salvation. The Greek word translated “profit” is derived from a root word which means “to increase”; and the thought of an “increase” does not enter into the picture until one has an initial supply, making an “increase,” or “profit,” possible.
“Profit” is always something in addition to that which one already possesses. Initial investments, from which individuals can profit, are possessed only by the Lord’s Own servants (Christians). Thus, there is no such thing as the word “profit” being used in this sense in connection with the unsaved, for they have no initial investment in this realm.
The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27) provide two of the best scriptural examples concerning “profit” on an initial investment in relation to the Lord’s servants during the present day and time. As brought out in these parables, the Lord has delivered all of His goods to all of His servants and has left them with the command, “Occupy till I come.”
The Lord’s servants are to trade and traffic in the Lord’s business during His time of absence. Those who do so, under the leadership of the Lord, will realize “a profit” (cf. Matthew 25:16, 17, 19-23; Luke 19:15-19). Through realizing a profit, an increase on the initial investment, they will save their souls. On the other hand, those who refuse to use the initial investment will not only remain profitless but they will, as a consequence, suffer “loss.” They will suffer the loss of their souls (cf. Matthew 16:24-27; 25:18, 19, 24-30; Luke 19:15, 20-26).
“Profit” in the epistle of James turns on the thought of works in connection with faith: “Faith without works is dead” (2:17, 20, 26), and there can be no profit in connection with “a dead” faith. In order for profit to accrue, there must be a living, active faith.
“Dead” faith in the epistle of James has nothing to do with either unsaved man or with the salvation that saved man presently possesses. The thought that “dead” faith is a non-saving faith possessed by unsaved man is completely erroneous. There is no such thing as a non-saving faith in relation to the unsaved. Faith either exists or it doesn’t exist. In the case of unsaved individuals (all unsaved individuals), faith does not exist; and in the case of saved individuals (all saved individuals), faith exists, and this faith will continue to exist forever.
Faith, even though “dead,” is still there. Faith, possessed by all Christians, cannot pass out of existence. Scripture specifically states that “faith, hope, charity [love]” continue to abide after other things (e.g., tongues) have passed out of existence (1 Corinthians 13:13). Faith can be very active, or it can be weak, anemic, and even dead; but faith is still there, and a weak, anemic, or dead faith can be revived — made to live — and become very active.
The very fact that faith in James chapter two is “dead” bears evidence concerning another fact: This faith must, at one time, have existed in a “living” state. The following analogy in James is sufficient to demonstrate this truth:
For as the body without the spirit [Greek: pneuma, ‘breath’ in this context] is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:26)
A body that is void of “breath” is dead, and faith that is void of “works” is also dead. Both were at one time living. The departure of “breath” is connected with death in the body, and the departure of “works” is connected with death in faith.
In order for life to be restored to either a dead body or a dead faith, there must be a reversal of the process that produced death — “breath” must be restored to the body (Luke 8:55), and “works” must be restored to faith (James 2:17-26). However, for works to be restored to faith there must first be the impartation of “breath,” as in the resuscitation of the body. The breath of God — the Neshamah, the Theopneustos, the living Word of God — must flow into man’s saved human spirit, providing sustenance for the spiritual man. Then, through the action of the indwelling Holy Spirit, as He takes the Word, turning the Water to Wine, the spiritual man is caused to move about; and works that ensue from this movement of the spiritual man is that which is seen in James chapter two — works connected with (emanating out of) a living, active faith.
Thus, in actuality, life is restored to both a dead body and a dead faith through the same means — “breath.” This is in keeping with the law of first mention concerning life in relation to man in Genesis 2:7. “The breath of life” must always be the factor when life in relation to man is involved (ref. chapter 3).
In this respect, a “dead” faith is inseparably connected with a non-reception of “the implanted Word,” the Neshamah (which, if received, would ultimately result in a “living” faith, producing works). The word “dead” appears in the English version (KJV) in connection with faith in James 2:17, 20, 26; but in a number of the older Greek manuscripts the word for “barren” or “fruitless,” rather than the word for “dead,” appears in verse twenty. In these manuscripts, one would read, “. . . faith without works is barren?” (Although most scholars prefer the older manuscript rendering, its validity need not be debated. The same truth is taught elsewhere in Scripture [cf. 2 Peter 1:5-8].) “Barren” faith (v. 20) is equated with “dead” faith (vv. 17, 26), and the inverse of this would be true concerning “living” faith (i.e., “fruitful,” not “barren,” would be associated with “living”).
In this respect, fruit-bearing is the result of works, and barrenness is the result of no works, inseparably connected with and emanating out of “a living” faith or “a dead, barren” faith respectively.
Thus, “dead” faith in James chapter two can only refer to faith possessed by the redeemed alone. Fruit-bearing is in view (allowing for the saved alone to be in view); and works — resulting in fruitfulness, emanating from a “living” faith — must be present to realize a profit on the initial investment, ultimately resulting in the salvation of the soul.
Faith . . .Works
When James speaks of works in connection with faith, exactly what type works does he have in mind? What type of works must Christians perform in order for them to be seen possessing a “living” rather than a “dead” faith?
If one remains within the text of James’ epistle itself, such questions can be easily resolved. James provides two examples drawn from Old Testament history concerning exactly what he has in mind; and, from these two examples, Christians can ascertain the type of works that are to be performed today, resulting in fruit-bearing.
James’ first example is derived from Genesis chapter twenty-two:
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” (v. 21)
Then, James’ second example is derived from Joshua chapter two:
Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (v. 25)
Abraham was justified by works through one act, and Rahab was justified by works through another, entirely separate, different act. These two examples stand in almost stark contrast to one another, by divine design, for a purpose. The actions of Abraham, the father of the faithful, offering the supreme sacrifice on Mt. Moriah, constitute one example; and the actions of Rahab, a harlot, providing lodging for two Jewish spies in Jericho, constitute the other example.
Insofar as justification by works in their individual actions is concerned, no distinction is drawn. Note the word “Likewise” (v. 25) that James used to compare Rahab’s justification with Abraham’s justification. Both were equally justified by works.
The key to the matter lies in the fact that both Abraham and Rahab acted by faith. Both occupy a position among the faithful in Hebrews chapter eleven, where these same two incidents are recorded (Hebrews 11:17-19, 31). To act by faith, one must act in accordance with the revelation of God. Acting “by faith” is simply believing that which God has to say about the matter and governing one’s life accordingly.
In the case of Abraham, God instructed him to offer his son as a burnt offering upon a particular mountain in the land of Moriah. Abraham believed God, acted accordingly, and, through this act, he was justified by works.
In the case of Rahab, God had revealed certain things concerning the nation of Israel. She knew what had previously happened to the Egyptians, the kings of the Amorites, and possibly far more. She also knew that God had given the land in which she dwelled to the children of Israel, and she knew that they were about to take possession of this land. Knowing the revelation of God concerning these matters, she acted accordingly. She hid the spies, helped them escape from Jericho, and, by so doing, she was justified by works.
Both Abraham and Rahab acted in accordance with the revelation of God concerning that which they were to do in two separate matters. Abraham was called upon to do one thing, and he was faithful to his calling. Rahab was called upon to do something entirely different, and she, “likewise,” was faithful to her calling. Through “faithfulness” to that which God had called them to do, both were justified by works.
Thus, the answer is provided concerning the type of works that James has in mind. Works in James chapter two, brought over into the lives of Christians today, are simply those works that God has called individual Christians to do. God has always called individuals to do different things at different times (e.g., Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, etc.), and those whom He calls are to be faithful in the task/tasks whereunto they have been called.
Justification by works in James is wrought through being faithful to one’s individual calling — works emanating out of faithfulness. This, of course, presupposes that the person has acted in accordance with James 1:21 — “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word. . . .” James 1:22 then instructs Christians to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only,” which is something that cannot be accomplished apart from acting in accordance with the preceding verse.
The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 provides an example of this same type of faithfulness to one’s calling. In this parable, each servant was entrusted with an amount “according to his several ability” — one with five talents, one with two talents, and another with one talent. “Talents” are a monetary unit of exchange, an initial investment to be used by the recipient to gain an increase, a profit. The servant with five talents was expected to use all five; the servant with two talents was expected to use both, but he was not called upon to use more than the two; the servant with one talent was expected to use that talent, but he was not called upon to use more than the one talent.
The servants possessing the five and two talents were faithful to their individual callings, and each received identical commendations upon their Lord’s return. The servant with the one talent, however, was unfaithful to his calling and received punishment rather than commendation. Had he been faithful in his area of responsibility, he would have received the identical commendation experienced by the other two servants. The entire thought turns on the fact that rewards will be passed out or punishment will be meted out commensurate with an individual’s faithfulness or unfaithfulness to the task/tasks God has called that individual to do.
The Goal of Faith
“Faith” is made mature, brought to full development, reaches its goal through works (James 2:22). The relationship between faith and works rests on this principle; and if one understands the revelation of God at this point, he will never again experience trouble in the realm of faith and works.
The Greek word translated “perfect” in James 2:22 is teleioo, which refers to “the goal,” “consummation,” “full development,” “end” of that which is in view. In this case, “faith” is in view; and works constitute the vehicle through which faith is brought to full development, with a goal in view at the termination of this development.
“The goal” of faith is spelled out in no uncertain terms in 1 Peter 1:9: “Receiving the end [Greek: telos] of your faith — the salvation of your souls.” The Greek word telos, translated “end” in 1 Peter 1:9, is the root form of the work teleioo, translated “perfect” in James 2:22. “Faith” is brought to maturity, full development, through works, for one great purpose — in order that the one possessing this faith might, in the coming day, realize the salvation of his soul and occupy a position as a joint-heir with Christ in His kingdom.
All Christians have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10), and God has outlined the works that He wants each of us to do. As individuals in Christ follow the leadership of the Lord in their respective callings, performing these works, their faith is, “day by day,” progressively being brought to full development. This is not something that occurs over a short period of time, but, rather, something that occurs over the entirety of the pilgrim’s walk.
This is something that occurs in conjunction with the metamorphosis and the filling of the Spirit. The Neshamah, the Word of God flowing into man’s saved human spirit, progressively (through the action of the indwelling Holy Spirit) produces the metamorphosis and the filling of the Spirit. At the same time, works emanating from this entire process connected with faithfulness progressively bring “faith” to its full development, to its goal (ref. chapters 2 & 3). All of these things are working together in the lives of Christians in order to produce Spirit-filled, mature Christians who will realize the purpose for their salvation — the goal of their calling, the goal of faith, the salvation of their souls.
All “judgment” will be on the basis of works, and all “rewards” or “punitive actions” emanating from judgment must, likewise, be on the basis of works. The coming judgment of the saints — the time, place, purpose, and outcome — is a major subject of Scripture, and this is an area in which all Christians who have been saved for any length of time at all should be quite knowledgeable. One’s failure to properly understand this area of study can invariably be traced directly back to his failure to understand the correct relationship between faith and works.
1. Basis for Judgment — Works
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by [‘in’] fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by [‘through’] fire” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
The time of this judgment will be at the end of the present dispensation; the place of this judgment will be in the heavens; the purpose for this judgment will be to “try every man’s [Christian’s] work of what sort it is”; and the outcome of this judgment will be that some Christians will be shown to possess works comparable to “gold, silver, precious stones” (resulting in their receiving “a reward”), while other Christians will be shown to possess works comparable to “wood, hay, straw” (resulting in their suffering “loss”).
The Christians’ judgment will occur before the judgment seat of Christ in the heavens following the removal of the Church from the earth; and this judgment will occur before the Tribulation begins on earth.
(There will be an interval of time, of apparent short duration, between the removal of the Church and the beginning of Daniel’s Seventieth Week [Revelation 1:11-6:1]. The ratifying of the covenant between the man of sin and Israel marks the beginning of this period, not the removal of the Church. And in the chronology of events seen in Revelation chapters one through five, events surrounding the judgment seat of Christ [among certain revealed events that both precede and follow those of the judgment seat] will occur preceding the Tribulation, which is seen beginning in Revelation chapter six.
Refer to the author’s book, Search for the Bride, chapters 12-15 for a discussion of the chronology of these events between the removal of the Church and the beginning of the Tribulation.)
Christians will be judged on the basis of their works in view of whether these works did or did not bring one’s “faith” to its goal — the salvation of his soul. Works comparable to “gold, silver, precious stones” will be shown to have brought faith to its proper goal; works comparable to “wood, hay, straw,” however, will be shown to have failed to bring faith to its proper goal. Those Christians shown to be in possession of works that brought faith to its proper goal will receive a “reward” (v.14), but those Christians shown to be in possession of works that failed to bring faith to its proper goal will suffer “loss” (v. 15).
The word “loss” in 1 Corinthians 3:15 is from the same Greek word translated “lose” in Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36, “be cast away” in Luke 9:25, and “I have suffered the loss” in Philippians 3:8. The thought behind the use of this word in these passages is to “forfeit” something already in one’s possession.
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke this loss is seen as the forfeiture of one’s soul. And this is exactly what is in view in 1 Corinthians 3:15. This is the only thing that could be in view, for the one who suffers loss will have no rewards to forfeit. He will be left with his life (soul) alone; his works will all be burned. And, in the light of related Scripture, an individual suffering loss at the judgment seat of Christ will experience the loss of his soul.
2. Basis for Recompense — Works
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward [‘recompense’] every man according to his works.” (Matthew 16:27)
This is the same thought set forth in 1 Corinthians 3:14, 15 concerning Christians before the judgment seat of Christ. All events at the judgment seat will be based on works, with “rewards” or “loss” emanating from the trial of one’s works: “The ‘fire’ shall try every man’s work . . . .”
In Hebrews chapter eleven the reception of future rewards, promises are clearly taught to be on the basis of faith, with no mention of works. The relationship, of course, is that works emanate from one’s faithfulness to his calling; and works bring one’s faith to the goal of his calling. In this respect, understanding the proper relationship between faith and works, rewards can be said to emanate from works in one place and faith in another. There is no conflict at all.
We have been saved to produce “good works” resulting in fruit-bearing, with a purpose and goal in view. Happy are those Christians who understand this purpose and goal, governing their lives accordingly, looking out ahead to the day when “He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Hebrews 10:37).