Thursday, September 25, 2014

What Can I Make the Bible Say? Works Salvation Part 1

To clarify once more before we continue our topic, I am henceforth only going to concentrate on the Christian church and the heresies within it. This by definition disqualifies all non-Christian sects and cults. Any denomination that places the Bible as a secondary source of authority/revelation disqualifies itself from being considered part of the Christian pale. Examples would include Mormonism, which places the Book of Mormon, and other teachings by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young ahead of Scripture as far as authority is concerned. Likewise with Roman Catholicism, which places tradition and a host of extra-biblical writing on par (or ahead of) Scripture.

That being said, let’s consider our first doctrine: works salvation/legalism and its resultant consequence, conditional salvation. Legalism does not always become works salvation, but it is the road that leads to this natural conclusion. When legalism gives way to works salvation, eternal security is lost and one’s salvation becomes dependant on our own effort rather than Christ’s perfect atonement.  It is a matter of what was accomplished at Cavalry that can put an end to all debate regarding this hotly disputed topic in the minds and hearts of those who honestly consider Scripture’s testimony. It is what Scripture says concerning a subject that determines what the Christian thinks, and the Bible has very much to say about the nature of salvation, it’s answer to legalism/works salvation, and what Christ’s atonement means to us.

Before we begin to examine Christ’s sacrifice for mankind and its ramifications, let’s look at some of the verses that supposedly buffer the position of works salvation and conditional security. We won’t consider Old Testament passages in our study, and as we cite such verses we’ll consider their proper context and what the writer or speaker was actually attempting to convey. I chose what I believe are the more prominently quoted texts that teachers endeavor to utilize to prove their doctrine. I will list them, and attempt to place them in their proper context; what the author intended for them to convey as far as meaning is concerned, rather than what a biased or superficial reading might portray.

#1: “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved,” Matthew 10:22.

I have personally encountered this verse numerous times when debating proponents of conditional security/ works salvation, so we shall begin our study here. In Matthew chapter 10 Jesus is giving instruction to His apostles concerning the manner of their ministry and what they shall expect. This immediate and intimate teaching expands in verse 16 as our Lord broadens the horizon as it were to indicate that not only the apostles, but future Christians, were being addressed up until the time “the Son of Man comes,” verse 23. In other words Jesus was developing a prophetic outlook that stretched on into the time of Christ’s second coming in power and glory.

This same thought is carried on during a discourse of Jesus in Mark’s gospel where we read “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows. But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. and the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved,” Mark 13:5-13. Note the extreme similarity in content with Matthew 10:16-23 and Matthew 24:4-14.

In fact, Mark 13:5-13 and Matthew 24:4-14 are the same conversation; note Mark 13:1 and Matthew 24:1 to see what instigates this long discourse from our Lord. We may then consider Christ’s initial commission of the twelve in Matthew 10 as a primer of sorts of things to come; something apparently important enough in our Lord’s eyes to be repeated in far greater detail shortly before His arrest and death. Now listen to the language of the chapter itself. Jesus warns us to beware of men in general because they will scourge (otherwise torture) His disciples, Matthew 10:17. Families will come apart due to Christ’s arrival in the lives of some members, and unbelieving members will even go so far as to have the believing members killed, verse 21. Jesus culminates by telling them (and us) that we shall be hated by all for His name’s sake; it is solely because of our voluntary association with the Lord Jesus Christ that hatred is engendered, and because of this the rest follows. But, Jesus assures us, he who endures to the end shall be saved. Since this is all reiterated in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 we know that this behavior and price for following Christ becomes radically more apparent as the end approaches. In Matthew 10:23 Jesus counsels His followers to flee persecution, and that such evangelizing will not be accomplished before Christ’s bodily return. This verse, coupled with the passages in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, suggest that it is during the Tribulation period that this especially becomes the norm as Christ’s followers suffer unprecedented martyrdom for their faith, terminated only by our Lord’s triumphant return to set up His kingdom, Revelation 19:11-21.

So the salvation Jesus refers to in this passage is actually physical deliverance from threat of death by Christ’s enemies. It has nothing to do with commandment keeping, and certainly nothing to do with forfeiting salvation if one fails to endure “to the end.” Since we know that Christians can and do still sin (1st John 1:8-10; 2:1-2), and that one sin is enough to become a sinner (James 2:9-11), and that one sin is enough to separate man from God, even forever (Genesis 3:17-24; Isaiah 59:1-2; Revelation 21:27; 22:15), then we must assume that no person alive could successfully endure “to the end.” Indeed, we are rather “kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” 1st Peter 1:5. It seems to me entirely reasonable and quite easy to demonstrate that Matthew 10:22 does not at all support the false doctrine of works salvation or conditional security.

1 comment:

  1. Another great post, Ian.

    As you point out, those who deny eternal security indicate that Christ only died for our past sins and not for those we might commit in the future, so that salvation is only partly through Christ. It still leaves us having to earn our salvation rather than trusting him, denying Ephesians 2:8 and 9.

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