What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Soteriology is the doctrine of salvation – how does one get reconciled to God? It is my desire to show you how essential it is to grasp this doctrine rightly and how humbling and wonderful it is to comprehend what the Lord God has done in redeeming people. salvation

While there are many religions in this world, with myriad differences, they all have a few things in common and many differences. But no matter the religion, no matter the salvation, no matter the god, all systems of religion, including biblical Christianity, are based on salvation by works. All systems of religion are based on salvation by works. The differences lie beneath that truth. All but one system bases salvation on the works of those who need to be saved. The sole exception is based on men being saved by the finished work of another, a particular man who had no sin of His own to pay for. A man who is God and paid the price for others. The Lawgiver became the Law keeper for Law breakers. This exception, as I’m sure you already know, is our faith – biblical Christianity, based on the work of the God-man, Jesus.

Among professing Christian groups, many variants and shades exist, with most falling into self-saving works of the creature. These views are known as Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism, Universalism, etc. All of these are variations of synergistic modes of salvation – systems in which creator God is at best a co-pilot in redeeming people. The Scriptures, which are our only rule for truth and faith and godliness, depict God as the One Who created and sustains all things, directing the paths of kings and storm clouds, saints and Satan. Properly understood, the Word of God reveals a monergistic mode of salvation – children of God are born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God alone (John 1:13). Since Scripture cannot be broken, monergistic salvation and synergistic salvation cannot both be true. The passages that appear to contradict each other do not. Our understanding and comprehension are limited and twisted by sin – the Word of God is perfect and by it the Lord searches out our intentions and thoughts. To rightly understand this doctrine of how sinners are made right with holy God, we must humbly submit to the Word of God and cry out for wisdom from the Spirit of God.

This dispute over how a sinner is reconciled to Holy God has been raging among men since Cain’s offering was refused. In the early 17th century a protest was filed with the ruling church court in the Netherlands by activist disciples of Jacob Arminius. Here are the five articles contained in the protest presented to the Council of Dort:

  1. God elects or reproves on the basis of foreseen faith or unbelief.
  2. Christ died for all men and for every man, although only believers are saved.
  3. Man is so depraved that divine grace is necessary unto faith or any good deed.
  4. This grace may be resisted.
  5. Whether all who are truly regenerate will certainly persevere in the faith is a point which needs further investigation.

Only the third point reflects biblical truth and was later denied by many of this view. The bedrock of the Arminian objection to monergistic salvation is the notion that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom and that ability limits obligation. This is complementary to the Pelagian view that God would never command man to do that which man was incapable of doing. However, the Scriptures are replete with commands from God to the creature to do that which nobody but God can do, such as be ye perfect, and love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. These commands are meant to drive self-righteousness from us and draw us to Christ. The Arminians claim God gives every human the ability to believe on Jesus, and that God will never refuse anyone who exercises that ability and comes to Him in the faith that God gives to everyone; but only some exercise it and are saved. If this is the case, who gets the credit for the sinner’s salvation? And what do we do with 2 Thess 3:2 which tells us not all men have this faith?

Most professing Christians hold to Arminianism, having never heard anything else because most churches do not teach the whole counsel of God’s Word. I personally believe that all Christians are born spiritually as Arminians because we are only accustomed to what our natural senses can discern. And when one is born again, the first thing he is aware of is that he chose Christ; without yet knowing that Christ first chose and first loved him. The Arminian system makes sense to the natural mind, confirmed by natural senses. It shows up in our language: when we say someone “accepted Christ” we imply the person needing salvation decided to get saved. But Scripture denies this. This is why it is of utmost importance that evangelism be firmly connected to and rooted in discipleship. A new-born child of God must be shown and taught the Bible – what he was before he was raised from the dead and what soil preparation the gardener performed to make the seed take root.

In understanding what it means for anyone to be redeemed, to have been reconciled to Holy God, to be made into a new creature, we must grab hold of the biblical reality of our union with Christ. Ephesians 1:3 tells us we were blessed with every spiritual blessing by God the Father – that these spiritual blessings are in the heavenly places and they are in Christ. We mortal sinners get no heavenly, spiritual blessings apart from being in union with Christ, in communion with Christ.

There are several terms that describe what happens when a person is raised from spiritual death, referred to as the order of salvation:

  1. Predestination: Rom. 8:29 & 30; Eph. 1:3-6 & 11-14
  2. Effectual Calling (Regeneration): John 1:12 & 13; 6:44, 63-65; Eph. 2:1-5
  3. Faith/Repentance:
    (Faith) – Eph. 2:8,9; Acts 13:48, 16:14
    (Repentance) – 2 Cor. 7:9 & 10
  4. Justification (Legal Declaration): Rom. 5:1 & 2; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:16
  5. Adoption: Rom. 8:15-17, 23-25; Gal. 4:4-7
  6. Definitive Sanctification: Rom. 6:1 & 2; I Cor. 1:2; 6:9-11
  7. Progressive Sanctification: Eph. 4:11-16; Phil 2:1-4, 13-15
    (Preservation of the Saints) – John 6:37-40; 10:27-30; Phil. 1:6
  8. Glorification: Matt 25:31-34; 2 Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 1:21-23; 3:20 & 21

The first of these, predestination, took place before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Predestination is not a reaction to The Fall. God has no “Plan B”. Predestination is “Plan A”. The balance of the steps in this process take place in time, although regeneration, faith, repentance, and justification cannot be separated; we know that they happen in this order but are unable to plot them out, they are so tightly connected. But notice – regeneration comes before faith and repentance. That which is dead cannot develop root nor produce fruit. The soil must be prepared before the seed can sprout. If we do not properly understand this, we are vulnerable of being drawn aside into the Arminian camp, who claim that the spiritually dead sinner exercising faith in Christ causes regeneration. It is this level of attention that is required to discern between good and evil, as we are told in Hebrews 5:14 – But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. We have the same fine degree of difference with the Roman Catholic doctrine of “salvation”, wherein the sinner is infused with grace and thereby enabled to be holy and pleasing to God, but never arriving at any assurance of having been saved. The Scriptures teach that sinners are imputed the righteousness of Christ and are thereby justified by grace that is apprehended by the faith that was itself a gift to us – lest anyone boast in anything other than the cross of Christ! Nothing in my hand I bring, only to the cross I cling – this is how we all come to saving faith, no matter what our senses or churches tell us.

Kevin DeYoung, in Chap 7 of his book, The Hole in Our Holiness exhorts us: “… it’s appropriate … to talk about an “order of salvation”, whereby we are called by the Spirit of God, born again, moved to faith and repentance. Justified, adopted, sanctified, preserved, and glorified, we must never separate these benefits from the Benefactor. Every blessing in the order of salvation flows from our union with Christ.” John Murray is quoted as saying, “Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation, not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ.” We often talk about gifts we get from God – provision in things of this world, for the most part – and need to remind ourselves to not confuse the gift with the Giver. So it is with this greatest gift of all; while we will not truly understand the depth and richness of God’s saving grace towards elect sinners, we must not get so fixed on that spiritual blessing that we lose sight of the One in Whom we have that blessing. If we be not in Christ, we are not His and we vainly imagine that the blessings of redemption and reconciliation are ours. Contrary to what the pope said, sincere belief in whatever god you have chosen is not going to reconcile any sinner to holy God. Responding to a list of questions published in a newspaper, Pope Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”

Sin is not the failure of a creature to obey his conscience! Sin is not a bad habit, a hurtful hangup, or “something less than God’s best” – as a couple of well-known preachers have called it (referring specifically to homosexuality). An inadequate understanding of sin necessarily results in an inadequate understanding of grace, redemption, reconciliation, and a number of other orthodox doctrines of the Christian faith. Sin is a moral act, word, or thought that contradicts the expressed will of God for human beings. In other words, it is a covenantal breach with the Divine covenant maker. It is not limited to the will, the intellect, or the emotion. Sin involves the whole person.

What is the practical aspect of getting this doctrine – how is one saved? – correct? There are many examples from church history, but this one is my favorite. If you have read any history of the church, you should be aware that the Church of England went through an extended period (after their separation from Rome) wherein they had difficulty finding regenerate pastors. Wesley and Whitefield and Spurgeon all rubbed up against this. In fact, both Wesley and Whitefield came to saving faith in college, after they each had spent themselves in trying to make themselves pleasing to God; following the doctrine of salvation of the Church of England. One pastor in the Church of England discovered this in a rather unique way.

William Haslam was an English country parson who was a hireling of the state, a warm body to fill the pulpit in small country church. One Sunday in 1851 following a period of deep conviction of sin, Haslam ascended into the pulpit with the intention of telling his congregation that he would not preach again to them until he was saved and to ask them to pray for his conversion.

He began to preach on the text ‘What think ye of Christ’ (Matt 22:42), taken from gospel passage handed down from the mother church. As he read about the Jewish leaders who did not see Christ as the Messiah, he saw himself as one of them – a Pharisee who did not recognize that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. Haslam said, “I do not remember all I said, but I felt a wonderful light and joy coming into my soul, and I was beginning to see what the Pharisees did not.” At that moment, the Holy Spirit breathed new life into him and the effect was so obvious and marked that a local preacher who was present stood up and shouted ‘the Parson is converted, the parson is converted! Hallelujah!’ and the people rejoiced loudly and with much commotion.

If one fails to see the dire consequences of sin, the hideous nature thereof; if he fails to see Holy God as the judge who weighs the universe in His hands; if he doesn’t see rightly the King of glory Who paid the price for sin that man could never pay – he will die in his sin and be lost forever.

The doctrine of soteriology is not a dry theological construct that has no relation to how we live. It is the very core of the identity we as Christians have – that of being found in Christ. The jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” So they (Paul and Silas) said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” It is simple in one aspect – believe on the Lord Jesus. But oh how deep and rich is the salvation we have in Christ Jesus! We are found by Him, secured in Him, preserved in Him, saved and sanctified in Him. We walk in Christ, labor in Christ, obey in Christ. We live and die in Christ; and we conquer and overcome death and hell in Christ!

The Apostle Paul fought against false doctrines that taught justification by any other means. It is an essential doctrine upon which our faith rests. All other systems of salvation rest on self-worth and deny the depth of man’s sin and the sufficiency of Christ’s finished work.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  (1 Pete 1:3-5)

If Pelagius was right, Christ died for no purpose. If Scripture is right, and we were dead in our sins and trespasses, our life and worth depends on the death of Christ – in our place, to placate the wrath of God the Father.

Soteriology? It’s a matter of life and death.

The Little God Who Can’t

The Little God Who Can’timages

Is God unable to save everyone he loves?  Here’s more thought on a delicate subject.

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In reading about the life of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, one cannot help being struck by the enormity of what a failure it all was.  There were grand and glorious promises made to the Hebrew people about their life in their promised land, but the writings of Moses also contained prophecies about a crashing destruction that would come upon their nation in the end.  What was God doing?  Why would he create such a grand experiment in the life of humanity knowing that it would only end in failure and tragedy?  Was God unable to make such a great and elaborate plan a success rather than a failure?  The answer, of course, is made plain in the New Testament.  God’s full intention was to show and prove to all people that man has sinned against the God who made him and fully deserves eternal death.  It was and still is a hard lesson to learn.

In our world today man still has not fully understood what it was that the failure of Israel taught us — that man cannot save himself by being “good” and keeping laws — or even by making correct decisions. Even a large part of the Christian community today believes in a religious system that leaves the far greater part of humanity in a burning hell rather than “saved” because they have not “done” something to make themselves acceptable to God.

To many Christians today God is a failure. He means well, but He just can’t get what He wants. He supposedly wants to save the whole world of humanity from hell, but that obviously is not happening; and people that he (supposedly) dearly loves are being separated from him for eternity. Popular Christian belief today requires that a person must first hear the gospel, believe it, then repent and confess their sin.  Then they can become born again and go to heaven. The truth is , however, that for the first 4,000 years of human history there was no New Testament gospel as we have it today.  And even in modern times the greater part of the world’s population still has not heard it.

Has Israel’s failure to save themselves in Old Testament times now become God’s failure in our time?  The choice of heaven or hell is now (supposedly) in the hands of man. God is excluded from the contest (gamble). He wants everybody to be eternally “saved,” but the losses are terrible, and hell is filling up with unbelievers who do not choose God. What can God do? He is powerless. He made the rules and now He must abide by them. Will He grieve forever because people He loves are in a state of eternal torment? Is this the God we believe in?  Is something wrong?

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Radio Pastor Loren Henry Wilson

Quotes (916)

The tragedy is often that the “one-hundred-per-cent god” is introduced into the life of the sensitive by the comparatively insensitive, who literally cannot imagine the harm they are doing. What is the way out? The words of Christ, “Learn of Me,” provide the best clue. Some of our modern enthusiastic Christians of the hearty type tend to regard Christianity as a performance. But it still is, as it was originally, a way of living, and in no sense a performance acted for the benefit of the surrounding world. To “learn” implies growth; implies the making and correcting of mistakes; implies a steady upward progress toward an ideal. The “perfection” to which Christ commands men to progress is this ideal.

The modern high-pressure Christian of certain circles would like to impose perfection of one hundred per cent as a set of rules to be immediately enforced, instead of as a shining ideal to be faithfully pursued…Such a distortion of Christian truth could not possibly originate from the One who said His “yoke was easy” and His “burden light,” nor by His follower St. Paul, who declared after many years’ experience that he “pressed toward the mark, not as though he had already attained or were already perfect.”

J.B. Phillips
“Your god is too Small”

Jonathan Edwards taught “Salvation by Works”!!!

All the “Easy-Believers®” who want to toss men like John MacArthur and Paul Washer under the bus for teaching that the life of a true Christian will be radically different from a Non-Christian because the believer’s life will be marked by repentance from sin, obedience to Christ, and “fruits worthy of repentance”–these “Easy-Believers®” will also have to consign the great Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards to the same fate.

***SARCASM ALERT!!!***

Jesus IS Lord in the gospels

Part 1 of a new series, going through the Scriptures and showing that Jesus is not waiting for us to call Him Lord–“HE ALREADY IS!!”

Over the last few years, a growing heresy has crept into the church. It is the belief that you can get saved today, call upon Jesus as your Savior, and then, when you feel up to it, sometime down the road, you can give Him the privilege of confessing Him as Lord. Or not—it doesn’t matter! Whatever you want—it’s all about you! You may hear, in many churches, an appeal for the people to “Make Jesus Lord today!” That is about as heretical a statement as you will ever hear.

The people who teach this atrocious doctrine accuse us of linking salvation with works—as if confessing Jesus as Lord is a “work.” Whenever I hear these accusations I often wonder—“Why would they want to deny Jesus His rightful glory as Lord? Do they not want people to think that He is Lord?” What I hope you will take away from this series is the fact that if you want to be saved, you MUST confess that Jesus is Lord.

The overarching Scripture for this series is Romans 10:9 (ESV)IF you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. What is the opposite of this statement? That if you don’t confess that Jesus is Lord, you will not be saved. It’s really that simple. Remember, these are not my words—this is what is clear from the Scriptures (unless you don’t want to believe the Scriptures).

The best place to start is in the Gospels themselves. We’re going to see that in the gospels that Jesus is declared to be Lord. In fact, Jesus is called “Lord” 124 times in the gospels alone. Granted, many of these are simply repeated in more than one gospel. But since it is the Holy Spirit who spoke to the writers, don’t you think that maybe God thinks this is a wee bit important?

So let’s begin, and see who it is that calls Jesus “Lord.”

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Jesus referred to Himself as “Lord”

  • Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5“For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
  • Matthew 21:2-3, Mark 11:3, Luke 19:30-31“Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her…And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them…”
  • John 13:13“You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for I am.”

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Continue reading

Quotes (778)

“Paul does not say, [in Philippians 2:12–Ed.] ‘Work out something that will tell for your salvation’; he says, ‘Work out in the expression of your life the salvation God has worked in.’ If we think for a moment we shall soon know how much we are saved—What does our tongue say? what kind of things do our ears like to listen to? what kind of bodily associates do we like to be with? These things will always tell not only other people but ourselves what kind of salvation God has worked in. In regeneration God works us into relation with Himself that by our bodily expression we may prove Whose we are.

If you are trying to be a Christian it is a sure sign you are not one. Fancy trying to be the daughter of your mother! you cannot help being her daughter. But try and be the daughter of someone else’s mother! Unless God has worked in us we shall hinder Him all the time by trying to be His children; we cannot, we have to be born from above by the will of God first, be regenerated; then our working is not working to help God, it is working to let God express through us what He has done in us so that we may prove we are the children of our Father in heaven (see Matthew 5:43-48).

So many of us put prayer and work and consecration in place of the working of God; we make ourselves the workers. God is the Worker, we work out what He works in. Spirituality is what God is after, not religiosity. The great snare in religion without genuine spirituality is that people ape being good when they are absolutely mean [not ‘mean’ as in ‘angry, &c.’ But rather, ‘mean’ as in ‘useless to God’–Ed.]. There is no value whatever in religious externals, the only thing that is of value is spiritual reality, and this is spiritual reality—that I allow God to work in me to will and to do of His good pleasure, and then work out what He has worked in, being carefully careless about everything saving my relationship to God.”

Oswald Chambers
1874-1917