Salvation Army Heresy

by David J. Stewart | December 2005 | Updated July 2016

       There is no question that General William Booth (a Methodist) did much good for society by founding the “Salvation Army.” However, I have a serious problem doctrinally with the official position of the Salvation Army on salvation. They teach...

“We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.”

SOURCE: 1878 Foundation Deed Of The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army follows the heresy of their founders, William and Catherine Booth, who considered salvation a “state” that could be lost if one failed to continue in obedient faith. May I say, salvation is NOT a “state,” it is a new birth. It is a second birth, a spiritual birth. The teaching that salvation is a “state” that is conditional upon “continued obedient faith” is demonic works-salvation. Our salvation depends solely upon Jesus Christ, because of what He did to pay for our sins on the cross, and sprinkling that shed blood on the heavenly Mercy Seat (just as the Old Testament high priest sprinkled the lamb's blood on the mercy seat in the holy of holies). Beware of a bloodless theology which has crept into the churches. 1st Peter 1:18-19b, “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, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

The Holy Bible teaches that we are saved by believing “the Gospel.” What is the Gospel?

1st Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

There you have it! “The Gospel” (i.e., Good News) is that Jesus Christ DIED on the cross for our sins. He was BURIED. And Jesus bodily RESURRECTED three days later for our justification. The Bible warns us about religious phonies who “having a form of godliness,” but “denying the power thereof”... “FROM SUCH TURN AWAY!” (2nd Timothy 3:5). I heard radio ministers teaching listeners to “invite Jesus into you life” and to “follow Jesus” and to “turn away from your sins,” but none of these are the Gospel. You cannot receive the new birth in Christ Jesus by “surrendering your life to serve Christ.” You cannot receive the new birth by “being willing to turn away from committing sins.” You cannot receive the new birth by “asking Jesus to come into your heart.” You may do all these things and yet never have been saved at all. Jesus exclaimed, “YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN” (John 3:3-7). The Bible teaches that it is “the Gospel” which is the power of God unto salvation. Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

We are saved by BELIEVING THE GOSPEL. 1st Corinthians 1:21, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” TO SAVE THEM THAT BELIEVE!!! There is no mention of turning away from sins, which is a common misunderstanding of what it means to repent. Biblical “repentance” is the Greek noun metanoia (or the verb metanoeo) which simply means “a change of mind,” or respectively “to think differently.” Since the word itself doesn't tell us what to change our mind about, we must look to the Scriptures for supplemental (additional) information. We read in Acts 20:21b about “repentance toward God.” Thus, repentance is changing our mind toward God, which always results in believing the Gospel. Mark 1:15b, “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.”

The believer's salvation is secure in Christ's finished work of redemption. The blood has been applied to the heavenly Mercy Seat. The price for the Church has been paid with Jesus' blood (Acts 20:28). The place is the Mercy Seat, in the heavenly Holy Place, in the presence of God the Father (Hebrews 9:12, 24; 12:24). JESUS PAID IT ALL!

I KNOW I am saved because eternal life is rooted in the PROMISES of God (Titus 1:2); and not upon how good I'm doing in life as a believer. My salvation is secure in Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with my efforts. Eternal life is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). A gift has no strings attached. Our part is simply to trust upon the name of Jesus. God does the saving (John 1:12-13).

The implication is that salvation can be lost by not continuing in faith. I believe this teaching was more out of ignorance of the Bible than anything else. I believe that William Booth was a true believer and that those in the salvation Army are saved; but they do adhere to the heresy that salvation can be lost. Salvation is a free gift from God, which cannot be lost. Those who claim to no longer be Christians were never saved in the first place. 1st John 2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." If saved, always saved.

The Salvation Army is vague on exactly what they believe. Dr. John MacArthur errantly teaches...

“Don’t believe anyone who says it’s easy to become a Christian. Salvation for sinners cost God His own Son; it cost God’s Son His life, and it’ll cost you the same thing.”

SOURCE: Dr. John MacArthur, Grace To You, an updated quote from his book 'Hard To Believe', page 93.

MacArthur is espousing a false Gospel of works salvation. Lordship Salvation is a lie of the Devil, NOT based upon the Word of God. Likewise, the Salvation Army is also preaching a false Gospel, by teaching that salvation can be lost due to lack of obedient faith. I don't care if a Christian deliberately commits adultery and murder, they are 100% safe and secure in their salvation. The reason why is because eternal life is a free gift that Jesus Christ paid for with His own precious blood. The sinless Lamb of God died on the cross as my sacrifice, and He raised up the third day as my High Priest (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 4:15-16). John MacArthur is a religious fraud, a servant of Satan, who teaches that children cannot be saved, and Jesus' blood is not on the heavenly Mercy Seat.

A person who claims to have lost faith never had faith to begin with. They may have ascribed to the philosophy of Christianity for awhile. They may have joined a religious organization for awhile. But they only had churchianity without Christianity. The Bible clearly teaches that salvation is a FREE GIFT of God (Romans 5:15,6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). A gift cannot have any strings attached if it is a genuine gift. To teach that a believer has to continue in “obedient faith in Christ” is incorrect doctrine. Salvation occurs in a split second, the very moment you believe upon Jesus Christ as your Saviour. Once you're saved, you can NEVER lose your salvation. If someone professes that they are no longer a Christian, then it is only because they weren't a Christian to begin with. The spiritual birth is as irreversible as the physical birth.

Ironically, pastor Harry Ironside (1876-1951) was a captain in the Salvation Army and he strongly taught the Eternal Security of the Believer. I am a big fan of Pastor Ironside and he was doctrinally correct in my opinion. It is sad that the Salvation Army's doctrinal statement doesn't reflect this important doctrine of the Christian faith. A correctly understood Gospel—Christ's death on the cross for our sins, His burial and bodily resurrection—mandates eternal security.

Here are the words of Dr. Harry Ironside, who has it exactly right . . .

WHEN THE LEGALIST comes insisting that salvation is by obedience to God's holy law (which in itself is just and good), he is preaching another gospel, for the Word of God declares, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight." 

SOURCE: Dr. Harry Ironside, from the Gospel tract, Another Gospel?

In total contrast, the Salvation Army teaches a form of religious legalism, and I quote...

“We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.”

SOURCE: 1878 Foundation Deed Of The Salvation Army

Continuance? Continued obedient faith? The TRUTH from God's Word is that you DON'T have to continue doing anything to remain saved. Once you've been born again, you've been born again!!! Once you get saved, your relationship is forever settled in Heaven. You are God's child and He is your Heavenly Father. Though our fellowship with God may be broken due to sin, our position in Christ never changes. Salvation is not of mankind, but is of God. Salvation is receiving, not giving. Our only part in salvation is only to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:40; Acts 16:31). God does all the rest. 

How Permanent Is Your Salvation (an awesome classic MP3 sermon by Pastor Hank Lindstrom, 1940-2008).

Please don't be deceived by the Devil's lie my friend, you don't have to give up anything to be saved. There's a lot of heretics running around ADDING turning away from sins to simple faith in Christ. We call 'em the “Lordship Salvation” crowd. Now please don't misunderstand me, being saved doesn't give us God's permission to sin, but God's simple plan of salvation does NOT require us to do anything more than believe the Gospel to be saved. Salvation is simple (2nd Corinthians 11:3). The whole idea of a “gift” is that it is completely free. Romans 5:18, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Salvation is a FREE GIFT! 

Anyone who comes as a guilty sinner, condemned under God's Holy Law, and trusts upon the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive their sins will be saved. Acts 10:43, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Whether they “continue in obedient faith” or not is irrelevant to their salvation. The Bible is filled with examples of carnal believers who continued in sinful living, such as the sexually immoral man in 1st Corinthians 5:1-5... Paul told the church at Corinth to address the issue... “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (verse 5). Salvation is without works. Eternal life is a gift (Romans 6:23), freely given (Romans 5:15), and freely received (Revelation 22:17).

I don't care if my preaching harelips every dog in the county, it is THE TRUTH. I hope that I make someone angry at the Salvation Army, because it matters what we believe. William Booth was just a flawed man, like me, capable of doctrinal error. We all make mistakes, quite often. Mr. Booth was wrong in his doctrine, sincerely adding works to faith alone in Christ, which is unbiblical. If you receive Christ's sacrifice on the cross as full payment for your sins, believing that God raised Him up from the dead, you are immediately and forever saved. Nothing can ever jeopardize a believer's position in Christ as God's child. Galatians 3:26, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

A little bit of doctrinal error may seem harmless, but it only takes the tiniest misinformation to pervert God's plan of salvation into a lie of the Devil. The religious group in Matthew 7:21-23 spent their lives serving Jesus Christ, yet the Lord said the horrifying words to them... I NEVER KNEW YOU: DEPART FROM ME, YE THAT WORK INIQUITY!!! Big deal, the Salvation Army serves God in the name of Jesus—so did Judas Iscariot! John 3:3, “YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN”!!!

Salvation Army in Bed With Rome

Caught Between Grace And Works (MP3 sermon by Pastor Ralph Yankee Arnold)