In 2015 I attended my church’s annual Men’s Retreat at Land O Lakes in Brooksville, MS. It was a good but rainy weekend. We had about 25 men at the retreat and our guest speaker was Dr Fred Chay. Dr. Chay is the Dean of Doctoral Studies at Grace School of Theology. He did an amazing job talking about the differences between man-made theologies that twist and distort Scripture and what Scripture actually says. It is sad to see that most of the churches in America today hold to what theologies say rather than taking scripture as it is. Whenever I listen to a sermon or read stuff from Christian authors, 9 times out of 10 a false gospel is presented. Sadly, most church laymen won’t recognize this false teaching.
As I’ve previously written, most of these false Gospel presentations combine Justification and Sanctification. This problem leads to unbelievers thinking they must do good works in order to be saved. Of course the teachers of this confusing false gospel messages have some type of philosophical semantic loophole that they use to explain how their conditions for salvation aren’t good works, but that is simply an attempt to make scripture fit their theologies. I believe that many of these teachers of this false Gospel mean well. I think many of them are saved. I just think that their minds have been twisted by false teaching of theologies that do not line up with scripture. I pray for them and I hope that their blinders are taken off and they see the simplicity of the Gospel of God’s amazing grace!
Dr. Chay gave a list of the most common phrases used by teachers that teach this false gospel.
1. “Give your heart to Christ”
2. “If any man wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me”
3. “James 4:7-10 is the clearest presentation of the gospel: “submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double minded.”.”
4. “May the Lord reveal to the sinners that the only way for them to be saved from their sins is to repent with godly sorrow inn their hearts to the Lord.”
5. “We have the warning of Christ that He will not receive us into His Kingdom until we are ready to give up all, until we are ready to turn from all sin in our lives.”
6. “Do we literally have to give away everything we own to become Christians? No, but we do have to be willing to forsake all.”
7. “Come forward and follow Christ in baptism.”
8. “No one was ever saved by simply believing without a commitment and the manifestation of righteousness.”
9. “Repentance, confession, and submitting to the lordship of Christ are the intrinsic elements of gracious salvation and transformation.”
10. “Believing in Christ is: believing God is the loving Father and that Jesus Christ is God and that all that He says is true and have an unswerving, unchanging, unquestioning obedience to that belief. That is saving faith.”
11. “How are we saved? We must accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. That’s the beginning, but then we must come to Him as Lord and commit our entire life to Him. And there must be the manifestation of the fruit of repentance.”
“These are just some of the conditions that the New Testament says we must meet in order to inherit final salvation. We must believe on Jesus and receive Him and turn from our sin and obey Him and humble ourselves like little children and love Him more than we love our family, possessions, or our own life. This is what it means to be converted to Christ. This alone is the way of Life everlasting.”(pgs. 65-66).
Likewise, another popular theologian, author, and pastor John MacArthur lists three conditions for salvation in his book “Hard to Believe”:
“It’s pretty simple. Anyone who wants to come after Jesus into the Kingdom of God – anyone who wants to be a Christian – has to face three commands: 1) Deny himself, 2) take up his cross daily, and 3) follow Him.” (pg. 6).
Those 11 phrases and the two quotes from these well-known authors are prime examples of how this popular false gospel of faith plus good works is presented.
Scripture tells us many places that the sole requirement for salvation is to simply believe.
Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
In Acts 16:30-31 we read: ” ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…’.”
John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
The purpose of the book of John is stated in chapter 19 verse 31: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name“. With a book with that evangelistic purpose, you would expect for it to tell how to receive everlasting life. If what all the 11 phrases and the quotes from the pastors say are correct, you would expect to see those conditions of good works listed in this evangelistic book to tell people how to be saved, yet not once in the entire book are any of those conditions listed. On the contrary, over 73 times in that book alone the word “belief” or “faith” is used as the sole means by which one is saved.
Adding all these other conditions for salvation is in complete opposition to scripture. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things are great things that we should do as believers, but they are all listed in scripture as acts of good works that we should do AFTER we are saved. We are not obligated to do these things. Yet, we should do them out of love and thankfulness to the Lord. These good works are a part of our sanctification, our Christian life, becoming more and more holy and Christ-like. These things are not automatic or inevitable for all Christians. More times than not this attitude and living a life of good works in service and commitment to the Lord comes from discipleship and spending time in in the word and in prayer.
These things are not conditions for eternal life, but are conditions for walking in fellowship with God, sanctification, and receiving rewards in the Kingdom.
Eternal life is given freely as a gift from God, received simply by believing in Christ for salvation. Being saved is only the beginning of the Christian life. Yes, many who have simply believed do not grow in their walk with the Lord, they remain as babes in Christ, but Scripture tells us that God wants so much more for us. Although we are saved and will spend eternity with Him, there is so much more that He wants for us. Yes, getting saved is great, and that is how we receive everlasting life, but that is not all that is available to us as believers. He loves us and wants to fellowship with us here and now in our earthly bodies. As believers, if we choose to accept His offer of fellowship, He can bring about amazing experiences for us now.
In his book, “Absolutely Free!”, the late Zane Hodges describes this amazing experience that Christ offers specifically to believers:
“The Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, offers Himself to individual believers as a divine Guest. If they will respond to Him, if they will love and obey Him, He will make their hearts and lives His personal habitation so that their experience will be like having supper with their Savior. Across the common ‘table’ which they share, they can communicate freely and He can make Himself known to them. He can manifest Himself to them… Yes, our bodies are the temple of God (1 Co 6:19-20). But our lives—our earthly experiences—can likewise become His place of residence.” “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … that He would grant you … to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” (Eph 3:14, 16-17)
But did not Christ already dwell in their hearts? Most assuredly He did. Yet Paul can conceive of a special kind of inner experience of the Savior, which he associates with inward, spiritual strength (Eph 3:16) and with ‘being rooted and grounded in love’ (Eph 3:17). “
No, love is not an automatic response which every believer inevitably gives to God. The Christian is not a robot who has been programmed to love the Lord and who can do nothing but what he or she was programmed to do. The very thought is unnatural and abhorrent.
God did not create machines. He created real flesh-and-blood human beings. And when humankind fell in the Garden of Eden and lost the capacity to love their Maker, God redeemed them through the cross and re-imparted this capacity to every believer in Christ. Now He calls His children to the kind of loving obedience which is rooted in a gift of life that is absolutely free. ‘We love Him because He first loved us’ (1Jn 4:19). But God Himself loves us freely and He loves us with infinite spontaneity. So He obviously desires that our love for Him should mirror His own for us and be spontaneous in return.
For that reason, in the New Testament Scriptures, God seeks our love. He encourages and invites it, and He promises to meet it with an experience of rich fellowship with Himself. He desires our love greatly, to be sure. But He will never compel it: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.’ ”
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There is no doubt that faith in Christ saves us. When we are baptised, God’s grace cleanses us of all our sins. Should we die at that moment, we would go straight to heaven. Your error is to assume that once one is “saved”, one may not lose one’s salvation. Scripture is replete with evidence that we may lose our salvation. But you come to scripture with the preconception that “once saved always saved” is unquestionably scriptural. It is not. Therein lies the problem.
As to different pastors preaching different doctrines, you could not be more right. Listen to this 3 minute video on youtube by pastor Francis Chan: