Heresies Concerning Salvation
By David J. Stewart
There is MUCH misunderstanding today in the religious world concerning Biblical salvation. One of the major problems is that people fail to realize that salvation is of God alone, and not men. King David exclaimed in Psalm 89:26... "Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation." Jesus is the ROCK of our salvation. This is plainly taught in the New Testament... "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1st Corinthians 3:11). Far too many preachers today are ADDING steps to salvation--requiring people to walk isles, or pray a prayer, or be willing to turn from sin, or feel sorry for their sins. You can't show me any of that in the Bible.
This subject needs to preached about on a regular basis, because the damnable heresy of LORDSHIP SALVATION has infiltrated our churches, and is leading multitudes into Hell. What is "Lordship Salvation?" Lordship Salvation is the unbiblical teaching that a person MUST depart from their sins to be saved. Lordship Salvationists pervert the true meaning of the word "REPENT" in the Word of God. In 2nd Peter 3:9 we read, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." The Greek word for "repentance" here is "metanoia" and literally means "a change of mind." Not a change of lifestyle; BUT, a change of mind.
Although a changed life should follow after one's salvation, the Bible is filled with examples of Christian's who continued to live in rebellion and sin, such as Lot, Samson, and king Solomon.
Turning from Unbelief verses Turning from One's Sins
"And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." -Mark 1:15
Carefully notice in Mark 1:15 above that Jesus didn't say "repent ye, and turn from your sins." No, Jesus clearly stated, "repent ye, and BELIEVE THE GOSPEL." It is plain to see that Biblical repentance is a change of one's mind concerning sin and unbelief, which causes that soul to turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. Jesus never once said to a person, "Give up your sin and I'll save you." No, rather, Jesus said "Go, and sin no more" after making them whole (John 8:11).
A person DOES need to repent of their sins to be saved, but that change begins in the mind and may take some time to show in that person's personal life (1st Peter 2:2). The ONLY repentance which God requires of a man to be saved is for that man to acknowledge his condemned sinful condition, and then TURN to the Savior in faith for the forgiveness of those sins. I certainly think it would be reasonable for a repenting sinner to desire to turn from his sins; BUT, as we learn from countless believers in the Bible, that's not always the case. Judges 16:1 states, "Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her." I am NOT condoning sin, I am simply saying that Christians at best are still sinners.
Lordship Salvation and the Pentecostal Charismatic heresy of losing one's salvation are related monsters. Lordship Salvationists ADD works to faith to get saved, and the Charismatics ADD works to faith to STAY saved. Regardless, these two damnable heresies are both rooted in works salvation!
Please read What is Biblical Repentance?
The Change Comes AFTER a Person is Saved, NOT before
The internet is plagued with heretics who are teaching that a person must forsake their sinful life to be saved. 2nd Corinthians 5:17 reads, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Please notice that a man does NOT become a "new creature" until HE IS IN CHRIST (saved). The change comes after a person is saved, NOT as a requirement to be saved. If a person claims to be a Christian but is living a wicked life, then I personally would also doubt that person's salvation; however, God sees the heart (2nd Samuel 16:7). By all indications, Lot in the Old Testament was no Christian; yet, 2nd Peter 2:7 calls him a "just" man. Lordship Salvationists are sanctimonious (i.e., hypocritical in their beliefs) in that they are sinners themselves. The entire notion that a lost sinner must give up sin to be saved presents a serious indictment against Lordship Salvationists--"For all have sinned..." (Romans 3:23). Let he who is without sin among you teach Lordship Salvation.
I understand it is frustrating to see professed Christians living in open sin; BUT, I am not going to start teaching damnable heresy by saying that sinners must forsake their sins to be saved. Salvation comes through childlike faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing may be added. Once a man becomes a new creature in Christ, then he should begin to change. We must keep 1st Corinthians 3:15 in mind... "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." Many believers will receive no rewards in Heaven because of a wasted life of sin, but they will still be saved--so as by fire. In other words, they just barely escaped the flames of Hell. We're going to be surprised one day at who we see in Heaven--murderers like Moses, adulterers like David, whoremongers like Samson, prostitutes like Rehab, cheats like Ananias and Sapphira, liars like Peter, etc. We should all be in good company--"For all have sinned..." (Romans 3:23).
Borderline Lordship Salvation
We must be extremely careful when we tell lost sinners that they need to "be willing to turn from sin" to be saved. I have read many Gospel tracts that give the impression that a person MUST forsake their sins to be saved--which is NOT true at all. I know a Christian gentleman who has written some wonderful Gospel tracts, but he teaches people that they must "be willing to turn from sin" to be saved. I know for a fact that the man doesn't believe in Lordship Salvation. I realize that he is trying to establish the element of guilt in the sinner. Many people will readily admit they are sinners, but have no realization of their condemnation under God's Law. They cannot be saved until they become GUILTY before God (Romans 3:20). So I realize why this preacher uses the statement "be willing to turn from sin"; HOWEVER, I have a problem with it because it can easily be misunderstood to mean that a sinner cannot be saved without MAKING AN EFFORT to turn from sin (and that would be works salvation). What If an unsaved man realizes that he is a sinner under the condemnation of God, deserving of hellfire, and wants to come to Christ for salvation; but he has a problem with fornication and just doesn't think he can forsake that particular sin? Do you mean to tell me that he cannot be saved? Did you ever stop to think that the woman taken in adultery in John Chapter 8 DIDN'T come to Jesus voluntarily--she was brought forcefully against her own will by the Pharisees! And yet she found salvation because of her faith in the Savior. Jesus DIDN'T say one Word to her about "being willing to turn from her sins." No, He forgave her, and then said AFTERWARDS... Go, and sin no more.
So, I am leery of the phrase "be willing to turn from sin." A much better way to word a Gospel tract, in my humble opinion, would be to word it this way... "Admit you are a sinner, under the condemnation of God's Law, deserving of Hellfire." This is vastly different than requiring a person to be willing to do anything. That word "willing" is dangerous. If I say to you... "I'll let you borrow my wheelbarrow if you're willing to clean it out when you're done," what am I actually saying? The implications are obvious--I expect you to clean out my wheelbarrow if you borrow it. This is exactly the same type of implication that I fear is often conveyed to lost sinners through the statement "be willing to turn from sin." To me, the obvious implication is that some self effort concerning personal sin needs to be made to be saved. Biblically, God does not ask us to give up anything to be saved. Salvation is a FREE GIFT (Romans 5:15), paid for by Jesus' blood (1st Peter 1:18,19).
"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 3:16
Feeling Sorry for Your Sins
I would like to discuss this matter of feeling sorry for one's sins, because I've heard some preachers teaching it nowadays. Now, let me say forthright that I do not believe every preacher who disagrees with me is a false prophet. Not at all. I DO think that many of today's preachers, some of them well known, are a bit haphazardous in their wording of their Gospel tracts and Gospel presentations. Be that as it may, you CANNOT show me anything in God's Word that requires a sinner to FEEL SORRY about their sins to be saved. The great difficulty in requiring such a feeling is that it makes salvation RELATIVE, i.e., how sorry does a person have to be to be saved? What if a person is sorry for their sins, but not sorry enough to be willing to forsake their sins? Does this mean that God will not save them? You see, this is a critical matter.
Thankfully, salvation is not as complicated. Men complicate things. Salvation is simple, and the Word of God WARNS us in 2nd Corinthians 11:3 about those who complicate the Gospel message. There is much confusion today in our churches concerning salvation because of various heresies which have corrupted the simplicity of salvation. Lordship Salvation is a heresy rooted in self-righteousness, i.e., it requires a person to forsake their sin to be saved. Pentecostal Charismatics follow a damnable heresy similar to The Perseverance of the Saints, both of which are firmly rooted in self-righteousness, i.e., you can lose your salvation is you quit the Christian life. BOTH of these demonic heresies are rooted in self-righteousness, and fail to rest solely upon the finished redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
By the way, Christ's work of redemption was finished at the Mercy Seat in Heaven, not upon the cross as so many naively believe... "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24). All of the prophecies concerning Christ had been fulfilled at the time Jesus said... "It is finished." This is clearly evidenced in John 19:28.
Guilt Necessary for Salvation, Not Sorrow
So if a lost sinner doesn't need to FEEL sorry for their sins, then what does need to happen for them to be saved? Romans 3:19 gives us the answer... "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." The word "guilty" in the Greek is "hupodikos" and means "under judgment, one who lost his suit; of liable to punishment from God" (SOURCE: Enhanced Strong's Lexicon). Hence, a person must realize their GUILT to be saved, i.e., that the condemnation of God is upon them because of their own sins. This is vastly different from a FEELING of sorrow or remorse over one's sins. Do you see the big difference? To FEEL sorry for one's sins is an act of self-EMOTION; whereas, GUILT is a matter of self-AWARENESS. The two are often NOT connected. Many convicts are sorry (emotionally) for their crimes, but only because they got caught. They have no genuine awareness of the sins they've committed. Likewise, a person may walk down to a church alter and cry with emotion over their failures in life; YET, have NO awareness that they are under God's condemnation and awaiting judgment. So you see, a feeling of emotion, i.e., sorrow over one's sins is not Biblical repentance. Biblical repentance is when a lost sinner becomes AWARE that they are under the condemnation of GOD'S LAW for their own sins, and they TURN in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting upon His shed blood to forgive and take away those sins... "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ..." The reason why salvation is found alone in Christ, and why we are to believe ONLY upon Him, is because Jesus paid the price for our sins with His precious blood. Muhammad never did this. Confucius never did this. Buddha never did this. In fact, if you'll look in those graves, you'll find the bodily remains of each of those men; but Jesus' tomb is EMPTY, because He is alive forevermore. What a Savior!!!
The Word of God does not require anyone to feel sorry for their sins to be saved; rather, we only need to become aware that we are "liable to punishment from God." Many people today readily admit that they are imperfect and sinful, but few believe that they are under God's condemnation, and bound for the Lake of Fire. They have NOT "become guilty before God" as Romans 3:19 states. Thus, they cannot be saved until they become aware of their state of condemnation. How can a person be saved who does not believe they need saving? If a lost sinner doesn't realize their guilt and the condemnation to Hell facing them, they why would they want or need a Savior? Thus, many people today have churchianity without Christianity, and religion without salvation. They are superficially following the "teachings of Jesus," but they don't know Jesus as a personal Savior. There is little GUILT in our churches today. Few religious people today are aware that they are under the condemnation of GOD'S LAW and deserving of Hell-fire. They go to church as a mere social event, and find self-gratification in doing good works; but they are going about to establish their own righteousness, instead of submitting to the righteousness of God, which is Christ Jesus! (Romans 10:2-4). Jesus proclaimed in John 6:29... "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."
There are several variations of this damnable heresy in our churches today. One such heresy is The Preservation of the Saints. This is the demonic teaching that a believer must CONTINUE in the faith as proof of salvation. This damnable heresy is one of the 5-points of Calvinism, named after it's author John Calvin. Let me say right now that all 5 points of Calvinism are lies of the Devil. John Calvin and his teachings were Satanic. We are to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word, not men. Calvin taught that a man who is truly saved WILL persevere to the end; however, this is simply a backdoor approach to works salvation. If we weren't saved by doing good works, then we cannot be lost by doing bad works. Salvation is of God.
Some groups today, such as Pentecostal Charismatics, adhere to similar damnable teachings, claiming that believers can lose salvation if they stray away from God. This heresy is rooted in SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS, just as is Lordship Salvation. As mentioned earlier, Lordship Salvation and the Pentecostal Charismatic heresy of losing one's salvation are related monsters. Lordship Salvationists ADD works to faith to get saved, and the Charismatics ADD works to faith to STAY saved. Regardless, these two damnable heresies are BOTH rooted in works salvation! How can we lose a salvation which was never ours to earn in the first place? I ask you again... if we can't be saved by doing good works, then how can we be lost by doing bad works? It's disturbing that the Assemblies of God, and other Charismatic groups, would fail to see this critical truth in lieu of clear Biblical teachings. Salvation is of God, NOT men. Man has NO part in God's salvation of our soul. Jesus paid a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay.
There is nothing humanity can do to merit, maintain, or keep God's FREE gift of salvation. Romans 5:15 calls salvation a FREE GIFT! Why do men make salvation so difficult? A gift cannot be earned--if ANYTHING is required in return, then it is NOT a gift. A good parallel of what Charismatics are doing with salvation is what televangelists are deceitfully doing with their BUSINESS. They often say, "If you'll send in a $25 GIFT to our ministry, then we'll send you these books in return." What a scam! They're selling things as a business; yet they pay NO taxes because the money received is labeled as a GIFT. Truthfully, the money wasn't a gift because you only gave the money to get something back in return. Do you see the deceit in this? It is very common today. Just as everything else today, even the word "gift" has been perverted to mean getting something back in return. Charismatics will swear on a stack of Bibles that they aren't trusting in any self-righteousness to save them; yet, they believe that God's free GIFT requires us to give something back in return. Now Romans 12:1 speaks of our "reasonable service" as believers, in lieu of what Christ has done for us at Calvary; but this has absolutely NOTHING to do with God's free GIFT of eternal life. A gift is a gift, and there can be NO strings attached if it is genuinely free. Romans 6:23 declares that eternal life is a gift, paid for with Jesus' shed blood... "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
You cannot lose your salvation! You may lose the "joy" of salvation as king David did for a while, but you'll never, ever, lose your salvation. The reason is because salvation is of God, purchased with Jesus' precious blood (1st John 1:7).
How to Refute All Salvation Heresies
Anytime someone tries to pass off a heresy concerning salvation, you just stay focused on the words FREE GIFT in the Bible and you'll have all the ammunition you need to contend for the faith. Salvation is a FREE GIFT. Concerning the word "gift" in Romans 5:15 and 6:23, VINE'S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT WORDS states...
"...a gift of grace, a gift involving grace" (charis) on the part of God as the donor, is used (a) of His free bestowments upon sinners, Rom. 5:15,16;6:23;11:29..."
If I say to you... "Neighbor, I have a free gift for you that I bought with my own money. You can have it if you'll just clean up your yard," would it truly be a gift? No, because it is conditional upon you cleaning the yard. This is NO different than what the Lordship Salvation crowd is doing--they expect people to clean up their sinful lifestyle to be saved. In the Biblical salvation that God offers, He wants to come into your yard (i.e., your life) and help you clean it up, but only after you've received His free gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Do you see the difference? Lordship Salvationists require a sinner to clean their yard to get the gift; but God wants to help you clean up the yard AFTER you've received the gift. A gift cannot truly be free if there is any form of compensation whatsoever. The Bible declares that eternal life is a FREE GIFT from God, paid for by the blood of Jesus', and available to anyone who will receive it.
Furthermore, what if I said to you?... "Neighbor, you can keep that gift I gave you as long as your yard is clean; but if you allow the yard to become a trash heap, then I'll have to take my gift back." Would it truly be a gift? No, of course not! When we hold to the fundamental teachings of the Word of God, heresy has no room to grow, and no place to hide. Salvation is a FREE GIFT! You cannot earn it. You cannot do anything to keep it. You cannot lose what was not yours to give in the first place. If salvation can be lost in any way, then God would be a liar for calling it a "free gift." Charismatics are calling God a liar when they teach that salvation can be lost. By the way, the Roman Catholic Church teaches a similar demonic doctrine, i.e., that salvation can be lost by committing what they call "mortal" sins. Of course, Catholics have no salvation to lose in the first place, because they are trusting in their self-righteousness to save them (Mark 7:6-13; Romans 10:3-4; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). God hates self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6).
According to The Barna Group...
More than half of all adults (54%) believe that if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in Heaven. (2006). -SOURCE
In sharp contrast, the Word of God warns us in Ephesians 2:8-9... "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." We are further warned in Romans 10:3-4... "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." So what is wrong with people? The Word of God clearly states that our works of self-righteousness are a road straight to Hell. Romans 3:20... "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." Is it improper or unkind to say that most people are complete idiots? Like it or not, it's the honest truth. Is it any wonder why Jesus said in Matthew 7:13,14... "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
Sadly, very few people ever come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Nearly everybody in America is familiar with the basics of the Christian philosophy, i.e., the Gospel; but they've never OBEYED THE GOSPEL. We are warned in 2nd Thessalonians 1:8... "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." You may be the sweetest, kindest, and most generous person in this world; but you will split Hell wide open and suffer in flames and unthinkable torment if you DIE IN YOUR SINS. What you need is to die in the Lord... "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord..." (Revelation 14:13). Your good works have absolutely nothing to do with your sins. It's your sins that will send you to Hell. You need to have them taken away by the precious blood of Jesus.
Yes, there are many heresies concerning salvation today, "...but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). And one final verse that I love with all my heart, because it shows the mercy and preciousness of our God... "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." What a precious statement... BUT TO HIM THAT WORKETH NOT!