Can a one-time act of faith "save" if it does not continue? Can it cease and still receive the promise? Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). If Abraham's faith ceased (stopped), would imputed righteousness cease?
From Scripture, we know that "faith" begins as a complete one-time action (aorist tense) but continues in the Christian life as is brought out by the Greek present tense.
Commands that are given in the present tense are expected to have continuous, or repeated, application. When using the present tense, if we would supply the following words or phrases to the Bible reader, we would significantly enhance his or her understanding of Bible passages. These words are: repeatedly; that is, over and over again, constantly, continuously, customarily, as a habit or lifestyle, or uninterruptedly.
Consider the following passages and how the Greek present tense affects them:
John 3:16 — For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth (present tense: believes and continues to believe) in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Hebrews 10:14 — For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (present tense: those that are set apart and continue to be set apart, that one offering has perfected forever. The New King James Version says "being sanctified." The New International Version says "being made holy.").
1 John 3:9 — Whosoever is born of God doth not (present tense: i.e., he does not continue to sin as his lifestyle, showing an unrepentant heart) commit sin; for his seed remaineth (present tense: God's seed remains and continues to remain) in him: and he cannot (present tense: as his lifestyle or uninterruptedly) sin, because he is born of God.
Mark 1:15 — And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye (present tense: i.e., repent and continue to repent as often as the situation or need arises), and believe (present tense: i.e., believe and continue to believe) the gospel.
John 5:24 — Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth (present tense: and continues to believe) on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
Luke 15:7 — I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth (present tense: and continues in repentance), more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Acts 17:30 — And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth (present tense: and continues to command) all men every where to repent (present tense: and to continue in repentance).
John 6:47 — Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth (present tense: and continues to believe) on me hath everlasting life.
Romans 4:5 — But to him that worketh not, but believeth (present tense: and continues to believe) on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Acts 26:20 — But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent (present tense: and continues in repentance) and turn (present tense: and continues to turn) to God, and do (present tense: and continues to do works, or deeds, that prove your repentance) works meet for repentance.
Conclusion: The present tense is used hundreds of times in Scripture. It is not my intention to show all the scriptures that relate to this subject. The truth about saving faith is that it is continuous and is taught by both Arminianism and Calvinism theology, although they come from different perspectives.
Calvinism, which professes eternal security, teaches that genuine believers may stumble or fall, but they will nevertheless persevere in the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 1:8). Those who believe in eternal security believe also that true Christians have experienced a death to sin and will not continue in it (Romans 6:1‑3). Those who would later turn completely away from Christ show that they were never truly born again (1 John 2:19).
Arminian theology teaches that genuine believers can fall away from the Christian faith. They generally believe and teach that those who do fall away lose, or forfeit, their salvation. Their system makes no room for so-called Christians (those by name only) to live in continuous rebellion or deliberate sin with no fruit that proves their repentance.
The Apostle John said "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves" (1 John 1:8), but he also said, "Whosoever is born of God doeth not commit sin" (1 John 3:9). Here we have a paradox, but not an inconsistency in Scripture. All Christians sin (1 John 1:8), but all Christians also obey (1 John 2:3). Sin and carnality are still present with Christians, but sin cannot be their master or distinguishing trait (1 John 3:9). True repentance and faith requires a change of mind, a change of heart, a change of direction, even though it is not perfection (Acts 26:18 and 1 John 1:8). "Fruit" is still a test of faith's reality and genuineness. Faith is a firm supernatural conviction that governs the true believer's behavior and results in accompanying actions. This is shown from the examples of faith in Hebrews, chapter 11, that results in corresponding actions. In other words, what we do is the outcome of what we believe. The book of James 2:18 says, "Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works."
When the apostles speak in a negative way about works, they are referring to "works of the Law"; that is, anything one is doing to earn, or work for, their salvation.
The Scriptures also speak of the fruit of salvation, which is good works, or works of faith. Those are the works, or actions, that proceed from repentance and faith (Acts 26:20, Matthew 3:7‑10, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, and James 2:14‑26), they show the evidence of salvation. The unity that is expressed between both repentance and faith is that they both have the same fruit or evidence: good works. We are not saved by good works, but we are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:8‑10 for the contrast of being saved by and unto). Works are a test of faith's reality, and grace that does not eventually affect one's life and actions cannot be considered being the true grace of God (Titus 2:11‑12). Jesus teaches that by fruit, true believers will be known (Matthew 3:8, 7:16‑20, 25:34‑40; John 13:35, 14:23; Acts 26:20; Romans 2:6‑11; James 2:14‑18; and 1 John 3:10).
- Commands that are given in the present tense are expected to have continuous, or repeated, application.Answer
- Read John 3:16."For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16According to the present tense in the Greek, what is John 3:16 stating?Answer
- Read 1 John 3:9."Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." - 1 John 3:9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin. What does this mean?Answer
- Read Luke 15:7."I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." - Luke 15:7There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents and continues in repentance.Answer
- Read Acts 17:30."And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent." - Acts 17:30God commands all men everywhere to repent and continue in repentance.Answer
- Read Acts 26:20."But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance." - Acts 26:20What is this verse stating?Answer
- Read 1 John 2:3."And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." - 1 John 2:3What is the outcome of having a personal relationship with God, that is, knowing Him?Answer
- Read James 2:18."Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works." - James 2:18James says, "Show me your faith without your works (which is impossible to do), and I will show you my faith by works, or by what I do.Answer
- Read 1 Thessalonians 1:3."Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father." - 1 Thessalonians 1:3Works, or actions, that proceed from faith are referred to as works of faith.Answer
- Read Galatians 2:16, 21."16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 21I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." - Galatians 2:16, 21Works of the law are works that people do in order to try to obtain salvation or righteousness (verse 21). They cannot save, they have no saving power.Answer
- Read Romans 2:7‑10."7To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile." - Romans 2:7‑10These verses are describing the fruit of what two groups of people?Answer