The Error Of Expecting Everyone To Have The Same Salvation Experience As Paul

By David J. Stewart

John 12:42-43, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

       I recently heard a popular Baptist evangelist/radio preacher, say that everyone should have the same Lordship salvation experience as Paul (Saul) when he got saved. Kindly, that's wrong.  Paul's conversion experience was definitely out of the ordinary. You can read the full story in Acts 9:1-16, but here are the primary Scriptures...

Acts 9:5-6, “And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”

It is wrong to demand this type of spectacular experience from anyone to be saved. The Bible is filled with plenty examples of saints who were saved quietly and without any sensationalism. Not everyone has the same immediate dedication to serve God that Paul did. Paul was raised as a Pharisee in the strictest sense of the law (Acts 26:5). Paul was a woeful threat against the new Testament Church, Galatians 1:13, “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it.”

God's Holy Spirit had been dealing with Saul's heart for a long time, which is why God said to him in Acts 9:5... “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” The word “pricks” here means “a point, that is, a sting or goad.” A “goad” is a long pole with a point on the end used to poke at livestock (like cattle) to get the herd to move. It is very effective! God had been poking at Saul's conscience for a long time, and now the chickens finally came home to roost. When the Lord confronted Saul, he instantly repented and asked God where to go from there. I love the story of Paul because it shows that some of the most stubborn sinners also have the potential to become the best Christians when they get saved.

Our text verse from John 12:42-43 plainly says that many of the CHIEF RULERS believed on Christ, but they feared persecution and didn't tell anyone. The Bible says they loved the praises of men more than the praises of God. That was VERY different than Saul's (renamed later to Paul) salvation experience. Paul's experience is definitely NOT the usual way that people respond when they get saved.

It is wrong and a false doctrine to require everyone (or anyone for that matter) to recognize Christ's Lordship as a prerequisite to be saved. You don't make Jesus Lord, He is Lord!!! The chief rulers got saved in John 12:42, but they were afraid of being kicked out of the synagogue by the Jews. They loved the praises of men more than the praises of God. That doesn't sound like Lordship to me! Obviously they weren't raring full of eagerness to go like Paul was in Acts 9:5-6. Whereas Saul said, “What do you want me to do Lord?”; the chief rulers said, “Please don't tell anyone that we got saved, because we don't want to lose the praise of our followers.”

In Romans 12:1-2, Paul writes to the believers at Rome and says, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Notice that Paul didn't mandate giving up the sinful world to be saved like Ray Comfort, Paul Washer and John MacArthur do; but rather, Paul ASKS them to PRESENT (voluntarily) their bodies as a living sacrifice to God.

Jesus paid for our sins in full, with His precious blood. Therefore, God doesn't require ANYTHING from us except to rest in what Christ did for us at Calvary. Jesus died, was buried and resurrected after three days. Christ paid for our sins. Thus, anything that we do for God as a Christian we are rewarded for, and the Bible calls it “labors.” Labour in word and doctrine (1st Timothy 5:17). Labor in prayer (Colossians 4:12). Labor in soul-winning (1st Corinthians 3:7-8; 1st Thessalonians 3:2). Hebrews 6:10, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Isn't that beautiful? God is not UNRIGHTEOUS TO FORGET our labours for Him. This is a labour of love, reaching out to others with the truth, because I want people to get saved and then walk with God, getting more people saved.

We don't labour to get saved, except to rest in Christ (Hebrews 4:11). Christ bore the heavy weight of our sins upon Himself at Calvary. Beware of any false gospel which places the burden of sin upon the sinner—mandating to forsake personal sins, make Jesus Lord, give up bad habits, requiring intent to reform, forsake the world, or make a commitment to Christ—none of these are part of the gospel message of Christ's death, burial and resurrection (1st Corinthians 15:1-4). It is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation to him that believeth (Romans 1:16).

The gospel is the power that most religious people are denying these days. 2nd Timothy 3:1-2 and 5, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves... Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” Christians are commanded TO TURN AWAY from anyone who has a superficial form of religion, but who deny the saving power of the gospel. American society is filled with such fakes and phonies. The apostle Paul warned about “ANOTHER GOSPEL” (2nd Corinthians 11:3-4). The teaching that everyone is supposed to experience the same spectacular type of conversion as Saul (Paul) is a false doctrine in the same camp as Lordship Salvation.

The Bible teaches that Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus removed Jesus' body from the cross, prepared His body according to Jewish custom and then buried Him in the tomb. But notice in the following Scripture that Joseph of Arimathaea was a disciple of Christ, BUT SECRETLY for fear of the Jews. He was saved, but silent. John 19:38, “And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.” Likewise, there are many people who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. They are trusting in the good news of Christ's death, burial and resurrection to get them to Heaven. But you'll never know it, because they are secretive about it for one reason or another. Like Pastor Curtis Hutson often said... You can't tell how much gas is in the fuel-tank of a car by the sound of the horn! Not everyone who gets saved becomes an immediate testimony for the Lord like Paul did.

The Samaritan woman at the well got saved in John chapter four, and then she went and brought back her entire city to hear Jesus speak! Amen! But many of the chief rulers and Joseph of Arimathaea kept quiet, fearing persecution. Yet, as we learn from Joseph of Arimathaea, God works in mysterious ways and you never know whose heart He's working in, or whose saved or not saved. You would have thought that it would have been Jesus' own family or His apostles (who spent the most time with Him and knew Him best) that would have removed His body from the cross and buried Him; but it was a stranger from out of nowhere and a Pharisee who came to Jesus by night in John 3:2 to learn about being born-again. Isn't that precious!

Lordship Salvation is a heresy that a person must declare “Jesus is Lord” (a false translation of Romans 10:9 in the perverted New International Version of the Bible) and cease from their sinful lifestyle to be saved. It's a backwards gospel of works by self-righteousness. God changes a person AFTER they are saved, and NOT as a requirement to be saved.

Here's an awesome Bible verse that I read today...

1st Corinthians 16:15, “...they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.”

Isn't that beautiful? They were addicted to the ministry (serving) of the saints. Every Christian believer should look for ways to help other believers, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine the Bible says (1st Timothy 5:17). It is every believer's duty, not only to reach the lost with the gospel, but also to edify fellow saints in every way that we can. All we have is each other!

Different people respond differently when they get saved. Some people cry, hoop and holler; but most people quietly and passively make a decision from their pew to receive the gospel as payment for their sins. You don't have to walk down an isle to a church alter to get saved. Most people who walk down an alter got saved before they even left the pew, having believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. They're just going down front to figure out what they just did. Amen! We're saved by faith the very instant that we believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ! A few people surrender their life at the time of salvation to enter into full-time Christian service; but most people don't make a big decision like that until they've grown in the grace of God for a few years, and of course, many people never fully surrender their life to Christian service, which has no effect on their salvation. Eternal life is the gift of God!

There are many believers who fall out of fellowship with other believers, living worldly like Lot, Samson, Demas, Joseph's ten half-brothers, the wayward man in 1st Corinthians 5:1-5, Moses' sister Miriam and brother Aaron, Jonah and Solomon. The believers at Corinth were a carnal bunch, which is exactly what the apostle Paul called them in 1st Corinthians 3:1. Paul didn't tell them to get saved. Paul addresses them as “brethren” in 1st Corinthians 1:10.

If I buy you a gift, it has nothing to do with anything else. Expecting a sinner to forsake rebellion to get saved is no different than telling your son that you bought him a Christmas gift; but he can't have it unless he commits himself to having a better attitude toward his chores, forsaking a bad spirit and stopping his rebellious ways. Would that be a gift? No, of course not, it would be a reward for doing good. Salvation is NOT a reward for doing good; it is the gift of total forgiveness of our sins, which Christ paid for with His literal precious blood.

Eternal life is a free gift (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9)—freely provided (Romans 5:15), freely offered (Romans 10:13) and freely received (Revelation 22:17). Salvation is only free to mankind because it came at a great price to God, costing His only begotten Son, Jesus, Who is the Christ.

"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

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