TITLE:THE "ABC'S" AND "XYZ'S" OF SALVATION
Subtitle:The Danger of "Easy Believism"
Every preacher worth his salt is concerned about evangelism and the salvation of souls. And no truly born-again preacher can just walk away from someone seeking Jesus Christ. Helping to bring God's sheep into the fold is a joyous task and a privilege to which nothing else in this world can compare. But as is the case in everything else about human nature, this wonderful area of the Christian experience has been touched by the flesh and cheapened in the process.
In the eyes of men, ministries are inspected and evaluated according to several factors--usually with the size of the congregation being at the top of the list. More often than not, pulpit committees of larger churches will not even consider a pastoral candidate unless he is a proven "soul-winner" and has a track record of "building churches." And woe be unto any poor preacher who fails to meet the expectations of the brethren in terms of church growth. The result of this purely human tendency is that head counting has become the all-consuming preoccupation of most evangelical churches. Spiritual "success" is not being achieved unless the numbers keep on climbing and this means we must make every effort to beat the bushes and send out the buses to compete for the available sinners. Promotional campaigns such as "pack a pew Sunday," "bring your neighbor," etc., etc., are constantly employed in an effort to pump up the numbers. Sound familiar? It should because it has been epidemic for many years.
Who is not thrilled when a soul comes to Jesus Christ and is born again? Who is not stirred when that individual exhibits all of the evidence of being indwelled by the Holy Spirit and then follows the Lord in believer's baptism? Who is not overjoyed when they "grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ" and faithfully follow Him through thick and thin? But who is not saddened when they see multitudes of professed believers slowly drop out of sight, never to darken the door of a church again--or see them join every church in town seeking the entertainment offered? We all know and understand that because of human nature some of this will happen under the very best of circumstances, but the enormity of the problem in our day cries out for an explanation! What do you suppose is fundamentally wrong?
The answer is at the same time simple and yet disturbingly complex. Simple in the respect that Jesus Christ is being merchandised by high-pressure salesmen to those who really do not want Him--and complex in that the salesmen do not believe that they are doing it!
Have you ever purchased something you did not want because of "high-pressure sales techniques"? If you haven't, you are among the minority! Most of us at one time or other have fallen prey to this irritatingly effective way of selling. In fact it is so effective that telemarketers use it to rake in millions each year. They exploit the fact that some individuals have such a low resistance to psychological pressure that they just can not say "No!" and stick to it. And, as a consequence, many of these people wind up buying a lot of stuff they do not want or need. When salesmen attempt to use it on me, I get angry and have upon several occasions been very rude to those who interrupt my dinner (apparently their most successful time for calling people) by trying to sell me something unsolicited. But unfortunately, the practice is not likely to go away unless laws are enacted making it a capital offense! (And I kid you not--as I typed in the word "offense", I was interrupted by another one!) We sympathize with each other because of this common affliction, yet few seem to recognize that the same psychological technique is utilized every day of the week, and especially on Sunday, to "sell" Jesus Christ to the masses.
Salvation is such a wonderful thing that we want to share our faith with others and tell them about Christ, so they too might be saved. But in our unbridled zeal and enthusiasm, somewhere along the way techniques got tangled up with doctrine. The pursuit of results led to the pursuit of numbers and the pursuit of numbers led to "whatever it takes" and "whatever it takes" led to countless tares among the wheat. And I am convinced that this whole thing will ultimately manifest itself in the greatest defection ever experienced during the Church Age--the apostasy--a mass exodus of professed "believers," which will more than likely be triggered by some event connected with the rise of antichrist. Just as sure as cookies wont stick to Teflon, those who make false professions of faith in Christ will show their true colors by deserting in times of crisis--with most having left long before! So how did all of these people wind up being church members? Well, the devil obviously planed some (and is technically responsible for them all), but the majority got a lot of help from Christians with more zeal than knowledge.
Only God Himself knows exactly how many people have "accepted" Christ because they were actually pressured into doing so. Perhaps you have never thought about it, but reaction to psychological pressure can take many forms and a desire to please can be one of them! The innermost workings of the human mind are beyond our ability to completely understand, but we do know enough to recognize that people respond to different situations in widely divergent ways. For instance, when many people are offered the proposition that eternal life is to be had by believing in Jesus Christ and praying the "sinner's prayer," they view it as being a deal too good to pass up--while others think it is ridiculous and want no part of it. Then there are those who need convincing and just a little "we know what's best for you" pressure by the preacher does the trick. This happens all the time in churches and revival campaigns where an invitation is given at the end of the sermon. Subtle--and sometimes not so subtle--things are intentionally said which are calculated to turn up the pressure on the individual, so that they might be induced into walking the aisle and "making a decision for Christ." The entire service--music and sermon--is carefully crafted to ensure the maximum effect. TV evangelists have made a living off of it for years and it is little more than pressure salesmanship. Are some genuinely saved as a result? Of that we have no doubt, because any time the simple but supernatural gospel message is included, God may use it to bring in some of His sheep. But does the Holy Spirit need these things to carry out His work? The answer is to be found in the undeniable historical fact that these methods and tactics were unheard of prior to the nineteenth century!
In his excellent book "Revival and Revivalism," the author Iain Murray documents, among other things, the rise of the American evangelist Charles Grandison Finney to prominence just prior to the Civil War. This brilliant man, theologian, and evangelist was known to have studied with great interest the tremendous revivals which swept both America and Europe prior to and including his own day. And his ultimate conclusion was that "revival could be had upon demand" using what came to be called "new measures for a new theology." He made a clean break with the old and solid Calvinist soteriological position of the Baptists and Presbyterians and adopted the Arminian doctrine of "free will." His evangelistic presentation of the gospel message also adopted several methods which he had observed being practiced among some of the backwoods churches during his early years as an itinerate evangelist. Not the least of which was the practice of giving an invitation at the close of the sermon and the use of a "mourner's bench" and "altar rail." His application of pressure to the potentially penitent resulted in scores of "decisions for Christ" and caught the attention of the clergy. Pretty soon they too were experiencing similar results by using his methods and in just a few short years the old way was largely discarded. However, it must be noted that before he died Finney was forced to admit that the majority of the "decisions" made during his revival efforts did not "stick" and the individuals in question had lapsed back into life as usual. This is a sad commentary on such an auspicious beginning, but the seeds had already been sown and we are reaping the "benefits" today.
You see, the fundamental error that Charles Finney made was in not understanding that only God can bring revival to His people. True revival is among Christians, hence the term revival! One cannot be revived as a child of God without having first been born again. The Holy Spirit does the reviving and the salvation of souls is a "by-product." But no amount of good intentions or methods on the part of preachers or evangelists can change that basic fact. Pseudo-revivals can be, and are, generated among emotionally energized crowds who have been psychologically conditioned through the skillful use of music, celebrity testimonies, etc., and sermons geared to elicit their response. Millions of people worldwide are convinced that they are going to heaven because they have obeyed the instructions of people and have walked to the front "to receive Christ." This totally unscriptural practice has been dubbed "easy believism" and is an accurate assessment of what takes place in the majority of cases. They are told to believe and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. But their behavior later on proves that most responded with an intellectual belief concerning their knowledge of Christ and their profession of having "accepted" Him as their Lord and Savior was not genuine. As many preachers put it, they had a "head knowledge" of Christ, but not a "heart knowledge."
So what lessons can we learn from the last hundred years of assembly-line evangelism? Is it possible that Finney's "new measures for a new theology" was in error? If we divorce ourselves from emotional attachments to familiar dogma and take a hard objective look at Scripture, the answer has to be yes! The theology that was popularized by Finney and refined by countless others, is based upon a framework of "proof texts" so thin as to be ridiculous. While by comparison, the position that it displaced in the hearts of the majority is supported by the overwhelming preponderance of Scripture.
If you doubt this, I challenge you to find even one verse in the Bible that instructs us to "accept" Christ, or "make a decision" for Him--using these terms. In fact, you will be hard pressed to find more than one or two that even vaguely implies it. Is it not reasonable to conclude that this fundamental principle should be abundantly supported throughout God's Word? Then in this same vein, I ask you to look for all of the verses that teach the doctrine of an unregenerate man's "free will" and his ability to "accept Christ," seeing that the Bible tells us he is "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph.2:1) and unable to understand spiritual things (1 Cor.2:14). From my own investigation I can tell you that you that when you get through with your search, you will not be able to convince a jury with all of the hard evidence you are going to find. Furthermore, the concept of free will is undeniably Roman Catholic dogma and the Council of Trent (in the 1500's) pronounced several "anathemas" upon anyone who would dare teach otherwise. This one fact alone should alert a conservative/fundamental believer as to its lack of Scriptural validity.
So this being the case, what does the Bible teach concerning the necessary elements for salvation in Christ? First of all, the number one principle that we must bear in mind is that "salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9b) and that man has nothing whatever to do with it. As a matter of fact, the salvation of God's children was a totally settled matter prior to creation, as Ephesians 1:4 very plainly tells us:
"Even as [in His love] He chose us--actually picked us out for Himself as His own--in Christ before the foundation of the world; that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
The apostle Paul verifies this in Romans 8:30, where we read:
"And those He thus foreordained He also called; and those whom He called He also justified--acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself. And those whom He justified He also glorified--raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition [state of being]" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary)
Thus we are made to understand that, as far as God is concerned, salvation of His elect ones was a "done deal" before He created the first molecule! Where so many stumble in understanding the doctrine of salvation is that they confuse "being born again" with God's decree of justification--the act that confers salvation. When Christ told Nicodemus in John chapter three that he would have to be born again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, what He was referring to was the spiritual birth that would be necessary before Nicodemus could believe. Remember that unregenerate men are spiritually dead (born that way) and totally incapable of understanding spiritual things (Eph.2:1 and 1 Cor.2:14). All of God's elect children were justified (saved) prior to creation (Eph.1;4 and Rom.8:30), but must be spiritually re-born in this life to be capable of belief. Then their response, subsequent to the new birth, is belief in Jesus Christ! Acts 13:48 (b) tells us:
".....And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (KJV)
From this we see the inescapable fact that belief is actually the result of salvation and not the cause!
Like it or not, predestination is a thoroughly Biblical doctrine and backed up with copious amounts of Scripture. God Himself, and not man, decided whose names would appear in "the Lamb's Book of Life"--and by extention, those who would spend eternity in hell. And this undeniable fact is repugnant to our deprave human nature. Men have tried their very best to find other ways in the Bible so that they can avoid facing this truth and Finney's theology succeeded for a time. It is what I call "man's last gasp attempt to have a part in his own salvation." Most, who are the least bit conservative or fundamental in their understanding of the Word of God, have to admit that the principle of a man's works helping to procure salvation is soundly condemned by the Scriptures. But apparently there is something deep down inside of our depraved nature that jsut cannot seem to let go of the desire to have the last word in our own salvation. The common complaint against Calvinist soteriology is that God does not force salvation upon anyone and man is free to accept or reject Christ. This so-called "freedom of the will" is the highly emotional cornerstone of the theology now prevalent. But I must ask a not-so-obvious question: how in the name of reason can a slave have a free will? The Bible is clear that a lost person is a slave of Satan and totally incapable of being anything else. He is spiritually dead, not able to understand the Scriptures--that which is spiritually discerned (1 Cor.2:14)--and to top it off he is a slave! As a human he possesses a will, but that will is subservient to the will of Satan. Unless and until God Himself intervenes with the gifts of repentance and faith that result in the new birth, genuine belief in Christ is not even possible! Spiritual life ("quickening by God") is fundamentally and logically prerequisite to belief, yet the majority no longer believes or teaches this basic tenet of soteriology.
Almighty God, not the individual, determines who will be saved and that decision was made "before the foundation of the world" (Eph.1:4) when He chose His elect people "in Christ." To say that one "accepts" Christ as Lord and Savior is actually demeaning to , and detracts from, the glory rightfully due Him because of what it cost Him to provide salvation. A careful study of the Word of God will reveal that God is very jealous of the praise, honor, and glory due Him and many passages speak to the fact that He will not allow man to boast about his own imagined works. For instance, Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
"For it is by free grace (God's unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ's salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves--of your own doing, it came not through your own striving--but is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law's demands], lest any man should boast.--It is not the result of what any one can possibly do, so man can pride himself in it or take glory to himself" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).
So to claim that your salvation, even for an instant, rested upon the exercise of your will is to claim that you had sense enough to recognize a "good deal" when you saw it and took advantage of it! The word "accept" is a verb and so is "decide"--as in "I made a decision for Christ." Verbs denote action and action denotes work and works are not Scriptural! Out of His wonderful and limitless grace God gave you salvation (if you in fact possess it) and you had nothing whatever to do with it. To claim that you accepted it is to demean God and detract from the honor and glory due Jesus Christ. The one and only thing incumbent upon you as the recipient is to believe--and you will, if you are one of His elect--chosen "in Christ from before the foundation of the world."
The currently popular and widely held doctrine of soteriology that is the legacy of Charles Finney, has proven to be the impetus behind the New Evangelical Movement and supplies the glue that binds many diverse denominational elements into ecumenical cooperation. Its basic appeal is that it places the onus for salvation upon the individual and if they reject it, they have no one to blame but themselves. Many are the preachers who have said words to the effect, "God has done all He can, now the rest is up to you." Whether they will admit it or not (and they are not likely to do so), this system of theology was designed to "get God off the hook" where choosing some for salvation and leaving the rest to their fate is concerned and totally ignores Romans chapter nine in the process! Calvinism is a despised doctrine today among these individuals and now you know why!
The simple fact of the matter is that God's elect are born into this world as sheep--but are dead in trespasses and sin just like everybody else--hence the parable about the Good Shepherd leaving the ninety and nine and searching for the one lost sheep. Christ originally send His disciple to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. The parable of the prodigal son is also another way of teaching this same principle. Both sheep and elect sons come into this world under a system of ownership or family relationship, without either being aware of it. The newly born sheep arrives in this world having a shepherd and the elect son having a Father! Then when the time is right, God irresistably attracts His elect one through the supernatural gospel message and grants him spiritual life via the new birth, thereby enabling him to believe--which he does as a subsequent action.Thus we are saved because we are sheep and not sheep because we are saved! The prodigal son was lost to his father, but first and foremost we must understand that he was a son and was eventually restored to his rightful position. Our salvation was never for an instant in doubt because it was predetermined in eternity past and fully paid for on the cross. Therefore those who come to understand this wonderful Scriptural fact, will never be troubled by those who try to teach that one can lose his/her salvation. We did absolutely nothing to obtain it--having received it as a gift--and it is ridiculous and totally unscriptural to teach that we can lose it. Can a son/daughter possibly do anything to change the inalterable fact of their parentage? Can they become unborn? Did they have any say whatever in their physical birth? No, and as elect children of God we have no input or choice in our second birth either.
So, if we do not "accept" Christ or "make a decision" for Him, how can we know if we have been saved or not? Please allow me to point out some unmistakeable signs:
Please understand that a genuine, elect, born-again child of God will be able to answer "yes" to all of the above. This is not to say that they are perfect because there is a maturation process that takes place in the life of a Christian and some are not as mature in the faith as others. But generally speaking, each and every genuine Christian can consider these questions and recognize them to be true in their own experience. In the final analysis, though, the greatest evidence of a person's salvation is found in their perseverance. God's elect will persevere in spite of all obstacles and never apostasize and renounce their faith in Christ. Sin, yes--backslide, yes, but they will suffer death rather than deny their Lord and Savior. We have been in a gradual state of apostasy during the entire Church Age, but the Bible tells us that there will be the apostasy prior to the tribulation period. And for this reason we believe that it is entirely possible that God may use this future "falling away" by those who are not genuine, to separate the wheat from the tares prior to the rapture. Suffering and death may well await many of God's people as the end time persecution sets in--so we had best prepare ourselves spiritually to face whatever comes. Are you ready?
If you have received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and been born again, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
If you have never placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, but have come to sense His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to receive His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you truly believe in Him as Lord and Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.
We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World Order—Kingdom of Antichrist—in their daily news.
Return to Pastoral Articles index
Finally, we would love to hear from you. You can write us at:
Cutting Edge Ministries, C/O Pastor Ron Riffe
P.O. Box 26
Gordo, AL 35466
You can also E-Mail Pastor Ronald Riffe regarding questions or comments about this article.
God bless you.