Volume 25, Issue 27 (July 2, 2023)
By Kyle Pope
“Are you saved?” the lady asked me, as we stood and talked at my front door. “I hope that I am,” I said, “but God will judge.” A man and woman from a denomination came to my door years ago, as they were canvassing our neighborhood. “You can be sure of your salvation,” she continued, “If you will accept Jesus as your personal Savior.” These words were not unique. They could have been spoken by any preacher, or member of a denomination anywhere in the world. They have an element of truth to them, but they stem from some false concepts of salvation that overshadow any truth they might contain.
Man’s Need for Salvation. Jesus said that He came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Paul wrote that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). When we sin we separate ourselves from God and become lost in sin. To die in this condition means eternal punishment. Man stands in need of salvation from sin. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Yet, how does this salvation come to us?
The Wrong Method of Salvation. In Acts 16:30, when the keeper of the prison asked Paul and Silas “What must I do to be saved,” he was told, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). The text describes him acting upon this belief by washing the stripes of Paul and Silas (an indication of repentance) and being baptized (16:33). In Acts 8:35 when Philip taught “Jesus” to the Ethiopian nobleman, the man asked to be baptized (8:36). When he was he came up out of the water “rejoicing” (8:37). In spite of these clear teachings, most denominations teach that if someone desires to be saved, the method by which he or she acts upon this faith is prayer. “Repeat with me the ‘Sinners Prayer’” they are told, “and you will be saved.” The problem is there is no example of a lost sinner praying to God as the method of accepting salvation! In fact, the Bible teaches that God’s ears are not open to the prayers of sinners (1 Peter 3:12).
The Wrong Access to Salvation. When a person comes to recognize his or her need for salvation, the denominational concept teaches that if you “ask Jesus to come into your heart” you will be saved. Paul taught the Galatians “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (3:27). Paul taught the Romans that one is “baptized into Christ Jesus” which is to be “baptized into His death”(6:3). He goes on to explain that this union together in the “likeness of His death”(6:5) gives one the hope of resurrection unto life. To teach that someone is in Christ and thus has access to the salvation that is in Christ, before he or she has done what the Bible teaches is false doctrine!
The Wrong Conditions of Salvation. Having convinced people of a false access to salvation, the denominational concept goes further to teach people that this salvation is not conditioned upon their faithfulness to God’s word. John taught that “if we walk in the light as He is in the light” it is then that “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). If we should stumble, John goes on to teach that we must confess and turn from sin in order for God to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). Jesus taught “he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). The denominations teach that it is not necessary to be faithful in life, sound in doctrine or consistent in worship to be saved.
False Assurance of Salvation. The Hebrew writer taught that the Christian can have “boldness” to come before God because of the “blood of Jesus” (10:19). We can be assured that when we abide in Christ our sins will be forgiven and we have the hope of salvation. The denominations, after telling people that there are no conditions upon which their salvation depends, then tell them that if they really have faith they can “be sure they are saved.” Paul shows the fallacy of this notion. He wrote that, while he knew nothing “against” himself (i.e. anything he knew that might condemn him) he was not justified in this (1 Cor. 4:4a). Rather, “He who judges me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:4b). In fact, although he was an apostle in the church, he worked every day to bring his body “into subjection” lest he “should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Confidence in one’s salvation does not mean having false assurance or imagining that God requires nothing in obedience to Him.
A Different Gospel. In Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia he rebuked them for turning “...from Him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel, which is not another...” (Galatians 1:6b- 7a). He went on to say that some “pervert the gospel” (Galatians 1:7b). From what he writes in the epistle, the nature of this “false gospel” had to do with turning back to elements of the Old Law (5:4), binding circumcision (5:6) and Jewish Christians practicing segregation from Gentile believers (2:11,12). Paul doesn’t call these things different “opinions.” He didn’t say, “you see it your way, I’ll see it mine.” He didn’t say that doing and teaching different doctrines is practicing “Christian liberty.” On the contrary, he said such falsehood robbed one of the liberty that is in Christ (5:1, 13). That being the case what must we conclude today about a “gospel” that teaches a way to salvation the Bible doesn’t teach? What must we conclude about a “gospel” that teaches access to and assurance of a “salvation” the Bible never promised? We must conclude that it too is a “different gospel” which in fact “is not another” but is a false perversion of the gospel of Christ.