Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Saving Faith

I never cease to be astounded at some of the things professing believers in Christ come up with in their attempts at interpreting the Bible. One recent cause for my astonishment is a graduate of a reputable Bible College using Exodus 22:16-17 as a justification for a young woman of tender years being compelled to marry the equally-naive and immature young man. The passage goes like this:

“If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.”

I wonder just what kind of “bride-price” this reckless Bible School exegete had in mind for this young lady?

I digress.

This kind of cafeteria-style Biblical exegesis (pick and choose Biblical interpretation), this recklessness, is all too apparent when such eternal life and death issues are in the forefront of a discussion of the Gospel. When this lazy, good-for-nothing method of Biblical interpretation is adhered to, the exact nature of saving faith is lost to the eternal perishing of man's soul. That is precisely why this issue is so important. Without a clear understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, can a man obtain that righteousness without which no man shall see God?

This discussion is not just important. It is a life and death issue on an eternal scale.

An idea, no, an error, courses through professing evangelicalism that a man may be saved without mentioning sin, without explaining Biblical faith, without saying a word about confessing Jesus Christ as Lord (See Romans 10:9), and without saying anything about submission and obedience to Christ's commandments (See 1 John 2:3-9). There are those, and I am talking about professing Christians, both laymen and clergy, who teach that these issues have nothing to do in presenting the Gospel in an evangelistic presentation.

This half-baked false gospel has produced shallow and insincere conversions in society. Instead of genuine conversions producing true believers who show evidence of their submission to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, there are pews filled with people who have a faith empty of any ethical meaning. In other words, their practice betrays their profession of faith. They made a “decision” for Christ, but there was no conversion. There was no becoming a New Creature in Christ (See Galatians 5:17). There is no repentance of sin.

So, what is being missed in the Gospel presentation of the 21st century?

1) Some who are in error (false teachers) preach that one may be saved with a mere intellectual assent to the “facts” of the Gospel without making Christ Lord of their lives. This is not just absurd; it is unbiblical:

“And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36)

“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. ” (Romans 10:9)

If one is truly born-again, then Christ is Lord of his or her life!

2) Crucial to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is repentance. This is not merely a “change of mind” where one moment you don't believe the facts of the Gospel and the next moment you do. It is turning from sin and turning to Christ as Lord and Savior. It is a change of mind that always produces a change of moral conduct. It is an act of God generated in the heart of those whom He has chosen to redeem.

3) What is the nature of saving faith? The object of our faith is not the facts of the Gospel but the Person and work of Jesus Christ. It not an ideology that saves us. It is a Person who saves us: Christ. A faith that saves is one that confesses that Jesus is Lord, and believes God raised Him from the dead. A person who has that faith is the one who is saved.

4) The Two-Step Plan of Salvation: There are those who teach that one becomes a Christian at their initial salvation experience in which they believe the facts of the Gospel and later, or perhaps never, he or she makes Christ Lord of his or her life. This is such a misunderstanding of the Gospel and is on the level of the charismatic-Pentecostal error of the “second work of grace.” It is to say that Christ did “His part” to save you, now you have to do “your part” in making Christ as Lord of your life. This “Two-Step Plan of Salvation” is essentially the argument that the “Easy-Believism” crowd espouses. It also reduces the Biblical requirement to obey the commandments of Christ (See 1 John 2) to a “second blessing or a second work of grace” experience.

5) Where's the changed life? A shallow and watered-downed gospel offers an “unchanged” life at the moment of salvation. It is even said that someone can fall into unbelief and still have eternal life because they once “believed.” The Bible teaches that someone who apostatizes was never a believer in the first place (See 1 John 2:19).

Some say that this error really is the old heresy, Semi-Pelagianism. The more I study this issue; the more and more I believe this is the case. This kind of fraudulence is nothing more than an appeal to the sinful, fallen nature of man with a gospel in which a turning from sin will not be required. Man is not totally depraved, the appeal goes, but “tainted” and all he needs to do is “believe” with nothing more expected or needed.

J.I. Packer said this:

“When Scripture speaks of regeneration, which it represents as a new birth, a quickening of the dead, what is in view is an inner transformation of one's being, or "heart," which makes it impossible for one to go on living under sin's sway as one lived before. The effect of regeneration is that now one wants, from the bottom of one's heart, to know, love, serve, trust, obey, and honor the Father and the Son, so that obedient devotion and discipleship spontaneously spring up where there was only resentful hostility to God before.” i