The Assault on Christ's Eternal
Salvation (Pt. 1)
By William Handschumacher
A Special Rock of Offence Commentary
This is Part 1 of a six-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available
"For the wages of sin is death, but
THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE
IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD."
Did you notice that Scripture uses the word "eternal" to describe Christ's salvation? Some Bible translations use the word 'everlasting' instead of eternal - since both words carry the same definition. As applied in Romans 6:23, eternal means that Christ's salvation, once received, is never ending. This unique characteristic of New Testament salvation is made possible by Christ's sacrificial blood - provided as payment for all human sin. However, this payment had not yet taken place under the Old Testament program ... where salvation was not eternal, but conditional upon obedience to its commandments and tenants.
In this study, we will learn about a dominant religious error operating within the world-wide Christian Church that works to discredit Christ's eternal salvation ... and seeks to replace it with the previous Old Testament conditional salvation ... which is not eternal and can be lost. It is important to recognize this error (and the rather large group of professing Christians who embrace it), because it corrupts God's original intentions for the salvation His Son died to give us.
A Sad State of Affairs
Few Christians would disagree that an unprecedented wave of sin is currently washing over the whole world. Lifestyles that just a few decades ago were considered wicked and sinful - are taught to young children in the public school system. Perversions of every kind are socially acceptable. Society now considers the Biblical definition of right and wrong - to be expressions of intolerance and hate. All of these distortions has resulted in the killing of more than 80 million innocent unborn babies under the label of; "a woman's right to choose". Many more examples can be cited. As a result, various church leaders are right to be concerned when these influences affect the moral climate of a congregation.
Churches and denominations respond to these societal changes in three ways. First, those on the "religious left" twist their Bible teachings to make the popular 'sins of society' appear to be acceptable to God. Scripture calls this apostasy. Secondly, there are a few who correctly ignore the cultural changes and continue teach the truth of Scripture - regardless of who it offends. But, the third response (and the group it represents) is the one we seek to discuss in this study. These are God loving and well-intentioned ministers (and their followers) who redefine or even rewrite Scripture to 'force' the moral change they want to see - by making salvation dependent upon the Christian's moral conduct. Some Bible scholars refer to this as "spiritual authority abuse", but it's actually far worse.
On the Surface - it Seems Right
This latter group has actually been around since the first century. Their modern-day counterparts reverence the Bible as God's Word and generously quote Scripture in all their sermons and teachings. Yet, God considers their doctrine so dangerous that He warns about it beginning in Acts chapter 15. Saint Paul continues the same warning in his Epistle to the Galatians. So, how can anyone who loves God and preaches the Bible be so dangerous?
They refuse to respect the Bible's
context...or what Paul refers to
as; "Rightly Dividing the Word of
God" (See 2 Timothy 2:15).
The Bible is divided into two major covenant programs, often referred to as the Old Covenant given to Israel - and the New Covenant given to the Church ... where each is governed by a vastly different sets of rules. The Apostle Paul states this truth in the following way...
"Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic.
FOR THESE ARE THE TWO COVENANTS...
(Read Galatians 4:21-31 for the entire account)
The Bible commands that these covenants be kept separate and "rightly divided" to correctly interpret its truths (See 2 Timothy 2;15). However, if you mix them together (treat them as being "one undivided program") - especially when giving instructions about how salvation is obtained and kept - your rock solid 'Bible teaching' quickly moves into the realm of heresy, often without your knowledge.
How it Works
Under the New Testament redemptive
program of Christ, God removes
human merit and religious behavior,
which were previously required to
possess salvation under the Old
Testament program. As a result,
salvation (eternal life) now becomes
an unmerited and undeserved gift
after the cross.
(See Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5-7,
The heresy works by reinserting these
requirements (after God removed them)
and then claiming (or strongly
suggesting) that His salvation will
be revoked if these 'reinserted
requirements' are not satisfied - and
maintained. As a result, God's Gift
becomes nonsensical and meaningless.
Today this popular doctrine is often
referred to as "Lordship Salvation" and
some simply refer to it as "Legalism".
But, it also travels under countless
other denominational names and
labels too numerous to discuss here.
Baptist theologian, Dr. Ernest
Pickering, comments on this
dangerous yet popular brand of
"One of the chief objections to the notion of ‘Lordship salvation’ is that it adds to the gospel of grace. It requires something of the sinner which the Scriptures do not require. The message of salvation by grace proclaims to sinners that they may receive eternal life by faith alone whereas the message of "Lordship salvation" tells sinners they must be willing to give up whatever is in their life that is displeasing to God. At the point of gospel presentation they do not know what things those are, nor does the personal worker seeking to point them to Jesus know. There is a vast and significant difference between believing on Christ for salvation and learning from Him as our Lord....None of us are happy with shoddy, fleshly, and disobedient Christians.
But the remedy for this condition is not found in changing the terms of the gospel. Well over 100 times in the New Testament, we are told that salvation is by faith or through believing. It is a very serious matter to add an ingredient to the gospel of salvation which is not found in the New Testament.... Our task is to keep preaching the plain, simple gospel of free grace. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to produce in true believers those qualities of righteousness which we all devoutly long to see."
[Lordship Salvation, by Dr. Ernest Pickering, published by Baptist World Mission, P.O. Box 1463, Decatur, AL 35602]
Dr. Andy Woods of Sugar Land
Bible Church also warns about
this same doctrine in the
What's Wrong with Lordship
Many offshoots and expressions of Lordship Salvation have been around since the first century. It's not something new. Yet, before examining this error in more detail, we need to review the nature and characteristics of authentic New Testament salvation as revealed by both Jesus and Saint Paul.
We understand that many readers are already familar with this material - so please stay with us.
We receive eternal life as a free and unmerited gift by simply placing our faith in Christ. Jesus referred to it as being 'born again' - or 'the new birth'. According to the New Testament - and contrary to popular church teachings - no special works, behavior or obedience is required in this initial stage where salvation (or eternal life) is received. As outlined in the following Scriptures; it involves simply asking the Lord Jesus Christ, in faith, to save us by believing in His bodily resurrection and then “calling upon the name of the Lord”.
"But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:8-13)
"...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7)
Salvation and the Holy
Spirit are Inseparable
At the exact same time salvation is received, God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence in (or indwells) our physical body and remains forever (See the words of Jesus in John 14:16-17, John 16:4-16, Matthew 28:20 and Hebrews 13:5-6). The New Testament refers to this indwelling of the Holy Spirit as ‘sealing’ - which is a one-time event. Contrary to popular legalistic church teachings, a Christian is not ‘sealed’ when they are saved, then unsealed when they sin – then sealed again when they repent.
The ‘sealing’ happens only
once and remains in force
until Jesus Christ returns
at the end of the age. In
the Bible, when God 'seals'
someone - it's permanent.
It is also important to understand that God's salvation is always tied to the Holy Spirit. This is true under both the Old and New Testament programs. If anyone "has the Holy Spirit" they also possess salvation. But, if they don't have the Holy Spirit - they don't possess salvation regardless of how 'righteous and holy' they try to live. Under Christ's New Covenant program, the Holy Spirit dwells inside God's people, rather than 'outside and upon' ... as was the case under the previous Old Testament program. This is why both Jesus and Paul taught that once the Holy Spirit comes to indwell; He remains forever and salvation remains with Him. This "eternal indwelling" was made possible at the cross and officially began on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." (Romans 8:9-11)
We can now understand why King David, after his grievous sin with Bathsheba, tearfully pleaded with God; "Not to take His Holy Spirit from him" ... because there was far more at stake than just losing the Holy Spirit. David lived under Old Testament Law, where God's Spirit would leave when sin was committed ... which also caused a loss of salvation. King Saul, David's predecessor, experienced the same tragic consequence when he committed sin. (See 2 Samuel Chapter 12 along with Psalm 51)
This is the conditional way
the Holy Spirit operated
under the Old Testament (or
Old Covenant) program that
governed before the cross.
But ... after Jesus established the New Covenant through the spilling of His blood at the crucifixion, God ended the old program and started "the new and living way of Christ" (Hebrews 10:19-23) where ... once the Holy Spirit comes to indwell a Christian, He never leaves. Contrary to popular yet false church teachings, this is why no true Christian should fear the removal of the Holy Spirit, which would also cause the loss of salvation. After the cross, all Christians should certainly desire to turn away from any sin in their life; as instructed in Romans 6:1-4. But, they should also rest in "God's guarantee", that provides the assurance that sin does not have the power to unseal ... what the Holy Spirit has sealed.
This is what God's Word means
when it says...
"For sin shall not have
dominion over you: for
ye are not under the
law, but under grace."
This is Part 1 of a six-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available
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