Friday, July 2, 2010

Two-Step Plan of Salvation Part I

My wife and I were sitting in the living room of an elderly couple we wished to influence for the Gospel. The man was admittedly a non-Christian. He was not hostile to the Gospel but from he understood from the Gospel explained to him by his wife, and the life she lived, was not a believer. The wife was a different story. In a completely self-aggrandizing manner would all but flush with excitement in telling us how she was saved when she was sixteen-years old.

When I asked her how she got saved her bubbly explanation was something very close to this:

"When I was sixteen-years old, I made a decision, as an act of my will, to believe in Christ. Years later, in my adult years, was taught about the 'baptism of the Holy Spirit' and how to speak in tongues."

She confirmed, when we questioned her that, "that was it."

That was her salvation experience. A two-step process which began with "her decision" and culminated with her "baptism in the Spirit" some years later.

Any fruit of the Spirit, any manifestation of her regeneration, was limited to her own self-enhancing, self-exaggerating, self-power, and self- reputation protestations.

What is wrong with this picture?

Until the 1800's this idea of decisionism, or decisionalism salvation, not to mention the "baptism of the Holy Spirit", evidenced by speaking in tongues, was never a part of an explanation of the Gospel of Salvation. Through those centuries there were theological and doctrinal debates concerning various doctrinal position on different Biblical truths, however, there was no "decisionism" salvation. We can thank Charles Finney for introducing decisionism salvation to the church.

Finney, a theological Arminian, rejected the Biblical doctrine of total depravity. He held to the error that man could exercise himself Godward salvifically. Man could "decide" himself in and out of a state of salvation with God. So pervasive was his error that he taught that one could lose one's salvation while in heaven. Amazingly, Finney had huge followings.

Decisionism salvation has as its root, its very foundation, that man "can" exercise himself toward God in a salvation sense when confronted with the facts of the Gospel. It means that man is not hindered him from seeking God, and if man likes what he sees, can choose Godward.

Is this God's plan of salvation? Is this what the Bible teaches? Do the pages of Holy Scripture teach than man has some righteousness left in him, some light, that he, when hearing the Gospel, can "make a decision as an act of his will" to believe in Christ?

Let's look first at what the Bible teaches as to the exact state of man's nature or what the Bible calls mans "fallen nature." But before jumping in the Biblical texts let me ask a series of questions:

One: To decide to believe in Jesus would be a righteous decision, would it not?

Two: To decide to believe in Jesus, to be able to make a decision regarding the death on the Cross would mean one would have to understand the message, would it not?

Three: To decide to believe in Jesus would mean that one would have been seeking God, or the decision itself would or could mean one would mean the "lost" had been seeking Jesus, would it not?

Four: To decide to believe in Jesus would have to mean one did something "profitable" and "good", would it not?

Five: To decide to believe in Jesus would not mean a destructive and miserable thing was accomplished, would it not?

Six: To decide to believe in Jesus would be to choose a way of peace, would it not?

Seven: To decide to believe in Jesus would mean one would have to have decided to "fear" God (reverential trust and awe), would it not?

Now let's read what God says in His Word:

As it is written:

" There is none righteous, no, not one;

11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.

12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one."

13 " Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit";
" The poison of asps is under their lips";

14 " Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness."

15 " Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;

17 And the way of peace they have not known."

18 " There is no fear of God before their eyes." - Romans 3:10-18 (NKJV)

How would any man or woman be able to make the righteous decision to exercise ones self towards God if there is none who righteous, no, not one? (vs. 10)

How can any man or woman make a decision to be saved if there is none who (the message). (vs. 11)

How can any man or woman decide to seek God unto salvation when there is none who seeks after God? (vs. 11)

How can any man or woman make the profitable decision to come to faith in Christ when all have become unprofitable? (vs.12)

How can any man or woman do the good thing of believing Christ unto salvation when there is none who do good, not one? (vs. 12)

How can any man or woman clear his or her path to Christ when destruction and misery are in their ways? (vs. 16)

How can any man or woman choose the peaceful way of salvation when "the way of peace they have not known?"

How can any man or woman "fear God and keep His commandments" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 KJV)?

And, God has commanded us to be reconciled to God.

"Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:20)

(The phrase "be reconciled to God" appears in the Greek text in the "second aorist imperative" and in the dative case. It carries the meaning of "Get reconciled to God and do it now.")

According to the Truth of Scripture, man is not capable of exercising himself Godward to believe on Christ unto salvation. Isn't that what the Bible is saying?

When someone asks me how I know I am saved I tell them:

"While I was yet dead in my trespasses and sins, a child of wrath, a son of disobedience, even as the rest, God made me alive in Christ Jesus saving me by His grace."

This is what it says in Ephesians 2: 1-10:

"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

I love the way the King James Bible puts the first verse of this text:

"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;" (Eph 2:1)

That's it. That's what the Bible says is the Gospel message: "and you hath He quickened (made alive) who were dead."

Let me illustrate: Do you remember the story of Lazarus who died and Jesus raised him from the dead? He was the brother of Mary and Martha and not the Lazarus of Luke 16:20. Jesus' friend, Lazarus had died from an illness and though his sisters sent for Jesus to come that he might heal Jesus' friend and their brother, Lazarus died and had been interred by the time Jesus arrived.

So that His disciples might believe, the John 11 texts says, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He ordered the tomb stone to be removed to the objections to the sisters. Their brother had been dead for four days and there would have by this time developed a stench.

Once Jesus' orders were carried out, He cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." (John 11:43)

Just how could a dead man, one dead for four days, rise up and walk? For that matter, how could a dead man hear the command to rise up and walk? But, walk Lazarus did. He came forth from tomb alive.

Before Lazarus could hear the command to come out of the tomb and before he could rise and walk, he had to be made alive or quickened in order to obey Jesus' command to walk out of the tomb. Take note of the order: dead, made alive, obedience.

This illustrates what the Ephesians 2 text is saying. How can a man dead in his trespasses and sins obey the command to be reconciled to God? The spiritually dead man, in order to hear and obey the command of God to be reconciled to Christ, must be quickened or made alive first so that he can "come forth" and believe in Christ unto salvation.

This was the first error of our woman friend mentioned at the beginning of this essay. She was telling us in essence what Paul called, "another Gospel."

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1:6-9 NIV)

Our friend's gospel, her testimony, if you will, is that "she chose" herself into heaven. She believes and advocates another Gospel.

If is "her deciding to receive Jesus" that she might be saved is the Gospel, then why should she, or anyone else, need Jesus? Why not use the force or power of your will to be good and sin no more? If our friend "made a decision, as an act of my will, to believe in Christ," then why not skip the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)" and just choose to be a good girl. From what do you need saving if your will, your decision making power, is untainted by the fall of man?