Past Tense Salvation by Faith and Future Tense Judgment by Works

In the comments of my video on 2 Peter 1:3-11, I wrote this.

I just don’t get you guys. You wrote, “To clarify, faith grants us salvation.” That is not clarification. Did you watch the video? Do you know that James said that we are justified by works and not faith only? You would “clarify” things by saying “faith grants us salvation”? That is not clarifying, that is ignoring 2 Peter 1:3-11. It is ignoring James 2:24.

You also wrote, “If you’re saying that faith does not get us to heaven, then I must disagree.” Of course. Your tradition, like Floyd Barackman’s tradition, teaches you to ignore the plain meaning of 2 Peter 1:3-11. Of course you must disagree.

You have Romans 3:28 and Ephesians 2:8 and several other Pauline statements that salvation is through faith apart from works. I have a great explanation for those that does not twist anything. They are all PAST TENSE; every one of them. We were (past tense) saved from our slavery to sin because of faith and faith only. Our slavery to sin was the ONLY problem in the Old Testament. The judgment was not a problem. The judgment was always just and always by works. The righteous live, the wicked perish. God doesn’t want the wicked to perish, so if they stop their wickedness, he will forget it and reward them for the righteousness they did afterward. That is an Old Testament promise (Ezek. 18:20-30). That judgment is just. Jesus did not die to change the judgment, but to change us so that we would not be wicked. Now we can arrive righteous at that just judgment of God.

This is written all over the New Testament. Those who patiently do good will receive eternal life (Rom. 2:6-7). Those who sow to the Spirit so that they don’t grow weary in doing good will inherit eternal life (Gal. 6:8-9). Paul says not to be deceived about that last point (Gal. 6:7). Unclean, immoral, and greedy men, Christians or not, will have NO INHERITANCE (“not any”) in the kingdom of God and Christ (Eph. 5:5); instead, if they behave like the sons of disobedience, they will receive the judgment of the sons of disobedience (Eph. 5:6). Those who have done good will be resurrected to life, and those who have done evil will be resurrected to condemnation (Jn. 5:28-29). When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, we will receive the deeds done in the body, WHETHER GOOD OR BAD (2 Cor. 5:10).

All those references to being judged by works are in the future tense. Yes, we “WERE RECONCILED” to God by Jesus’ death, and now we “SHALL BE” saved from wrath by his life (Rom. 5:9-10). Combined with all those other passages I pointed out, Paul is telling us that now that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared for us to walk in” (Eph. 2:10), we better do them. We can do them by letting his life live through us and by sowing to and walking by the Spirit (Gal. 2:20; 5:16; 5:24; 6:8-9).

This all fits the plain meaning of Paul’s words with no twisting whatsoever, and boom(!), what do you know? It exactly matches James’ words in James 2. No twisting needed. We can say with James that we are justified by works and not faith only because faith brought the grace (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 5:2) which freed us from slavery to sin (Rom. 6:14, also rest of chapter), taught us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Tit. 2:11-12), and made us a people zealous for good works (Tit. 2:13-14). We can also understand why Peter said that now that we have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Pet. 1:4), we must diligently add to our faith (2 Pet. 1:5-7), because by diligently adding those 7 things to our faith, we will make our calling and election sure and get an abundant entrance into Jesus’ kingdom (2 Pet. 1:8-11).

You cited a modern authority, raised and trained in Reformation tradition. I know this because you can’t get faith alone from the Bible because the only occurrence of the words “faith alone” in the Bible is in James 2:24, which says “not by faith alone.”

I am going to cite you a better authority. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was appointed to his position by the apostle John. Well, probably, but if not, then he was appointed by the bishop who was appointed by the apostle John. He wrote, in chapter 1 of the only epistle that we have from him, “into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that ‘by grace ye are saved, not of works,’ but by the will of God through Jesus Christ” (ref). In chapter 2 of the same epistle, he wrote, “He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, etc.” (ref). Saved by faith, present tense, judged by works, future tense.

He knew what I now know because of him and others from the second century, salvation by faith alone refers to being delivered from slavery to sin. We are only delivered from punishment for sin because we stop sinning (every page of the New Testament). And because we are no longer slaves to sin, we do his will and walk in his commandments (Polycarp), and we have confidence at the judgment because we live like him in this world (John, 1 Jn. 4:17).

See also Jesus Died for Aphesis.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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5 Responses to Past Tense Salvation by Faith and Future Tense Judgment by Works

  1. cgatihi says:

    Hi Paul,

    I discovered some of your books over the last couple of weeks and your blog here yesterday. I’m very thankful to God to find a brother who is able to so clearly articulate some of the ways I’ve felt my theology evolving over the last couple years. Thank you for serving our Lord Jesus Christ and His church.

    Regarding pistis as a covenant word as mentioned by the last commenter, are you aware of the recent work of Matthew Bates in which he argues for pistis in the NT context being understood as allegiance? When pistis is understood as embodied fidelity/loyalty in this way, it seems to inherently be a concept that’s bound up with covenant relationship. Perhaps that’s what the commenter is getting at?

    After reading this particular post of yours yesterday, I read this blog post by John Piper this morning:

    Even though Piper has been used by God to help me grow in my love for and understanding of God’s Word in ways that I’ll eternally be grateful for, as my theology evolves as already mentioned, I find myself more and more not so inclined to some of his theology. I can’t put my finger on it but I’m trying to process through what appears to me a tension between a post like this one you wrote (and others on this blog I’ve noticed upon brief perusal in which you talk about assurance) and this article by Piper. If you have some time, I’d appreciate your thoughts (even briefly) on this article by Piper as it pertains to assurance.

    Thanks brother,

    • Paul Pavao says:

      Hi Chris, I’d be glad to. I only read the first paragraph of the article. Piper wrote, “God doesn’t just require holiness; he promises it to his people. Therefore, the holiness that God requires of his people on their path to glory is absolutely certain.” My answer is that he does promise holiness to those who are faithful. On the other hand there is ant a book or letter in the New Testament that does not have multiple exhortations not to give up and multiple warnings of punishments for giving up. What Piper is missing is that IF we continue faithful and submitted, then God has promised us holiness. Colossians 1:22-23 says exactly what I just said, and there are surely a hundred passages saying the exact same thing in multiple ways.

      Faithfulness isn’t measure by theology. I understand why Piper is misled, and he is living a holy life and exhorting Christians to live a holy life. Thank God for him. I loved this article he wrote:, but if he is telling people that this final salvation will just happen because God will make us holy whether we devote ourselves to him or not, he is not living in the real world nor in the world of the apostles. People have to exhorted to continue to the end because it is through many troubles that we enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:somewhere around verses 15-23). We have to “pursue” holiness if we want to see God, and a lot of people don’t.

      • cgatihi says:

        “Faithfulness isn’t measure by theology.” Amen brother. Such a simple statement but something we can so easily miss (as I often have).

        Piper wrote: “God doesn’t just require holiness; he promises it to his people. Therefore, the holiness that God requires of his people on their path to glory is absolutely certain.”

        You wrote: “My answer is that he does promise holiness to those who are faithful.”

        I think one way to reconcile what Piper is saying with what you’re saying (I think they’re both true) is that, YES, God does promise holiness to His people (Piper); but the way we
        PROVE that we are His people (and that the promise applies to us) is by being faithful in pursuing holiness and running that race with all the blood, sweat, and tears it requires until the end (you, if I’m understanding you correctly).

        I think where Piper missteps (unless I’m misunderstanding him) is by talking about God’s people as though a profession of faith in Christ (initial entrance) infallibly makes one part of the people of God in such a way that God’s promise of holiness to His people apply to ANY one who has professed faith in Christ. To be fair to Piper, I don’t think he means this. But I see how he can easily be understood to mean this and how a doctrine like election can very easily be misapplied simply on the basis of a profession of faith at a point in time.

        Does that sound right?


  2. Paul Pavao says:

    Do you write poetry, KalEl? I always chuckle (happily) at your signature, with its various descriptions, though the signature is missing from this comment. I’m not really aware that pistis is a covenant word. Do you care to elaborate? I mean, obviously you are using that to agree with me, so can you give me evidence/backing so I can say the same thing? Because of my fight for honesty and clear reasoning with evangelicals, I like to cross my t’s and dot my i’s.

  3. Paul are these individuals not aware that the Ancient word for Faith is “pistis” a Covenant word ?. From my studies the word Faith is a Covenant word of action – Allegiance, Commitment, Confidence, Dedication, Devotion, Discipleship, Faithfulness, Fidelity, Follower, Loyalty, Obedience,Trust, and in this Saint,Christian Biblical Context It Is To The Person And Work of He Who Is God, God The Son, Son Of God, Vice Monarch, Lord, Lord Of Life, Redeemer, Savior, King Master Of The Universe, He Who Bought, Purchased,Ransomed us from the clutches, grasp,hold of satan and his legion over us Christ Jesus, Jesus Christ Of Nazareth. And it is an ongoing action. And as you point out it starts with forgiveness with past sins and as one accepts, access, activates, grabs hold of, receives, holds on to Grace [ Which is also a Covenant word as well Anciently from my understanding] it takes effect and makes Grace effective in there Spiritual/Temporal lives to Change them and Save them. Anyway that was my lay Latter Day Saint Lay member thought on this topic. May True Grace Be With You And All You Love. The Atonement It Is The Central Doctrine, Washing My Garment/Robe in His Blood, In His Eternal Debt/Grace, He Died To Make Man Holy – It’s Not Just 6 Words To A Song, they Have Eternal Meaning.

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