Sunday, August 15, 2010

Simply Christian, Part 4

Another Point of Confusion: Conditional Salvation

I have said much about this topic in prior Posts, so I will not reiterate the Scriptural arguments I previously set forth against this doctrine. But I find a link between the belief in water baptism/the Lord’s Supper being essential for salvation and conditional salvation. The link may be more simple than I thought; that link being legalism. It is not my intent to impugn anyone, but rather to point out. Let us consider: Either Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sin was perfect or it was not. If it was perfect then sin (not sins; but the entire issue of sin in a legal sense) was dealt with forever at the cross. John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus would take away the sin (singular) of the world, John 1:29. These were not individual sins that Jesus paid for; Christ was made sin for us so we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 2nd Corinthians 5:21; of course also paying for our “sins” as well.

When the Father poured out His wrath upon the Son at Calvary He was punishing sin in totality, which Jesus had become in payment for us. This Jesus did once for all, Hebrews 10:10. The only way that water baptism could be essential for salvation is if part of the payment for our sins was not covered by Christ’s blood: “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,” Romans 4:4-5. Faith is not a work; the only thing that stands in contrast to all else: “For by grace have you been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9. It is a clear matter of understanding what was accomplished at Calvary.

I am well aware of verses such as Colossians 1:23 and Hebrews 3:14 that speak of being presented before God blameless if we continue steadfast in the faith. The writer is not referring to salvation. In Colossians he is referring to maturity: “to present you unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and steadfast, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven...to [you] God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present you perfect (mature) in Christ Jesus,” Colossians 1:22-23, 28. Paul does not want us to remain babes in Christ, but to grow into maturity, to continue in the faith; that is not to merely REMAIN in the faith, but PROGRESS in it. Paul wanted his efforts to yield fruit.

Hebrews 3:14 teaches that we are made partakers if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence to the end. Please note that the Christians being written to are already partakers of the heavenly calling, Hebrews 3:1. We are being encouraged to enter God’s rest; the reference being made to disobedient Israel who refused to heed God, and obedient Israel who accepted God’s will. Salvation again is not the issue, but service. Those who are truly partakers in this sense are God’s co-workers (1st Corinthians 3:9) and fit for useful service, such as Israel entering Canaan under Joshua to fight the Lord’s battles. Jesus taught that the difference between bearing fruit and having everything burned hung on our abiding in Him, John 15:1-8.

Paul teaches that some Christians are vessels of honor, while others are vessels of dishonor; yet both reside in the “great house” of God, 2nd Timothy 2:20-21. Are you merely a believer? Or are you a disciple? Both are saved. One receives reward for services, crowns for their steadfast faith. The other will enter life because they believe, but will take their place at the lowest room so to speak, Luke 14:8-11. Stressing faithful service transforms Christianity into a life-long work; not grace. Salvation in such a view is not a present possession; were it so it would be eternal. I cannot reiterate often enough works and garce cannot mingle, Romans 11:6. The focus (like emphasis on sacraments) is on what we do for God, rather than what God in Christ has done for us.

Sin was a debt that had to be paid for. Christ potentially paid that debt for the whole world by His death on the cross, 1st John 2:2; 4:14. When we believe that Christ died for our sins (1st Corinthians 15:3-4) that debt is settled: we become the righteousness of Christ in God. Any service would meet a theoretical condition before a believer could receive this free gift, Romans 5:15; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8. But God declares that ANY work is not faith, Romans 4:4-5; 11:6; Galatians 2:16, 21. Faith alone is the sole condition to be met (John 3:15-18; 36; 5:24, 40; 6:29, 35, 40, 47, 51; 7:38, et al.) You would be “making a payment” that Christ already made in full, John 19:30. Salvation by water baptism/the Lord’s Supper were initiated by Rome; a highly apostate church that preaches a gospel of works. Since Augustine (and prior) the bishops of Rome have taught that water baptism regenerates and brings one into the church; the Lord’s Supper is to be received as necessary installments on the road to eternal life.
To be Continued.

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