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“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” — 2 Corinthians 11:3
A while back, I put up some rubber wall base in our house. It has an adhesive backing to it, so it wasn’t supposed to need any additional glue. Just peel and stick. The problem was that the wall base I used had been stored in my garage for several years and no longer retained its stickiness. Shortly after application, it began to pull away from the wall. I pressed it back in place and, of course, it simply came off again. I realized I had two choices. I could either get new wall base or add some glue to the existing wall base. After all, it was pretty clear that the stuff I had wasn’t going to remain in place without a little help.
So why am I telling you about home improvement solutions? Because far too many people today treat the gospel of Jesus Christ like a old piece of wall base that won’t stick on its own. They are afraid of the simplicity of the gospel. “Belief is not enough,” they say. “You need to add just a little something extra to it, in order to be certain that it will stick.”
The problem with this way of thinking is that it contradicts the Word of God. The Bible actually condemns it. In Galatians 1:8-9, Paul warns that anyone who preaches a gospel contrary to that which he had preached, is accursed. As a matter of fact, he repeats it twice…IN A ROW. If I remember anything from my days in school, it’s that whenever a teacher repeats himself, you can be sure it is on the test.
Paul defended the grace of God over and over throughout his epistles. Romans 5 paints a beautiful picture of God’s amazing grace. In this passage, we learn that salvation and justification are part a free gift package offered to ALL men. We have access to this free gift through FAITH in Jesus Christ. This free gift is only made available to us because of Jesus Christ’s obedience (not ours). He had to die. He had to shed HIS blood. It is ONLY through faith in Jesus that we can experience reconciliation and peace with God. We are not able to add a single thing to what God has already done. All we can do is receive it.
Romans 11:6 makes it perfectly clear that if we add ANY works to grace, it ceases to be grace. Grace is God’s undeserved favor. We can’t earn it. It is freely given by God to those who BELIEVE. Romans 3:4 says we are “justified freely by His GRACE.” If you add anything to “FREE” it ceases to be “FREE.” This is not complicated. In fact, it is amazingly simple. We just make it complicated.
Oftentimes, we start out great. “Just believe,” we preach, “and you can have life everlasting.” Then fear creeps into the message. “What if they backslide? What if they continue to walk as if they had never accepted Christ? What then? We’d better add something, just a little something, to make sure their salvation is true and to make sure it sticks.”
So we muddy the waters a bit. We add to the gospel.
“You’ve got to promise to stop sinning.”
“You need to walk in obedience.”
“You need to live out holiness.”
“You need to be committed.”
“You need to make Jesus Lord over every area of your life.”
“If God isn’t Lord of ALL, He isn’t Lord at ALL.”
“Believing isn’t enough. You need to persevere!”
“If you live your whole life for Christ, only to backslide in your final days, it is proof that your faith was NEVER real to begin with.” “You were under a satanic delusion.”
“You cannot be a child of God without being one hundred percent sold out to God. Fifty percent is not enough. It’s all or nothing.”
“If you aren’t living out the Ten Commandments, you are living in sin and are destined for the fiery pit of Hell.”
It may not always sound exactly like that. Most times it comes across very subtly. Often the grace gospel is taught from one corner of the preacher’s mouth, while works spills from the other corner. No matter how it is presented, if it costs you anything, it is NOT the true gospel. Grace that is not free is not grace.
Yes, God wants us to live in holiness. Yes, God wants us to surrender to his Lordship. Yes, God wants us to be obedient. But these are NOT requirements FOR salvation. They are the work of God in a believer AFTER salvation. They are the result of a believer that is walking in the Spirit. How can we expect anyone to live a holy life, or even promise to live a holy life, if they have not yet received the Holy Spirit? Are we really to believe that the gospel could more accurately be stated as, “Clean yourself up so God can save you?” That is utter nonsense!
When we try to earn our salvation through commitment, obedience and perseverance (the primary tenets of Lordship Salvation), we rob God of His glory, we diminish the power of the Christ’s sacrifice and we fail to recognize the depth of our own sinful depravity. Salvation is not about what you can do for God. It’s entirely about what God has already done for you.
Rather than overstating my point I will let the Bible speak for itself. I’ve included a few verses below that will prove salvation is an absolutely free gift to all who would believe, independent of any works on our part. This is by no means an exhaustive list. It is just a small sampling of a consistent biblical theme. I also have purposefully omitted those verses that deal with discipleship, confession, repentance, baptism, and rewards not because I reject them, but because I feel that these terms are greatly misunderstood by much of the church and need to be addressed separately, which I will do at a later time.
“…Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them,WITH MEN IT IS IMPOSSIBLE; but with God all things are possible.”
— Matthew 19:25-26
“…WHOEVER BELIEVES in him should not perish but have eternal life.” — John 3:16
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be SAVED THROUGH HIM.” — John 3:17
“WHOEVER BELIEVES in the Son has eternal life…” — John 3:36
“If ANYONE ENTERS by me, he will be saved…” — John 10:9
“I GIVE them eternal life, and they will never perish” — John 10:28
“But these are written so that you MAY BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you MAY HAVE LIFE in his name.” — John 20:31
“…EVERYONE who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” — Acts 2:21
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is NONE OTHER NAME under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” — Acts 4:12
“BELIEVE in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” — Acts 16:31
“…the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES…” — Romans 1:16
“Therefore, since we have been JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” — Romans 5:1
“reconciled to God BY THE DEATH OF HIS SON, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by HIS LIFE.” — Romans 5:10
“but God shows his love for us in that WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, Christ died for us.” — Romans 5:8
“…so BY THE ONE MAN’S OBEDIENCE the many will be made righteous.” — Romans 5:19
“For WITH THE HEART one believes and is justified…” — Romans 10:1
“For EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD will be saved.” — Romans 10:13
“the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the POWER OF GOD.” — 1 Corinthians 1:19
“…in Christ GOD WAS RECONCILING the world to himself…” — 2 –Corinthians 5:19
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ HAVE PUT ON Christ.” — Galatians 3:27
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is NOT YOUR OWN DOING; it is the GIFT of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” — Ephesians 2:8-9
“Who saved us… NOT BECAUSE OF OUR WORKS but… grace” — 2 Timothy 1:9
“WHOEVER BELIEVES in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. WHOEVER HAS THE SON has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to YOU WHO BELIEVE in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” — 1 John 5:10-13