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Defective Views of Salvation

Originally published in the Summer 2008 edition of the Enrichment Journal.

Introduction

Not all teachings that deviated from the historic, orthodox teachings of the Christian Church have been declared “heresy,” nor should they be today. Some teachings fall into the category of the silly or the absurd and can justly be ignored. Others are merely factually or historically incorrect. Still others are legitimately labeled “false doctrines,” dangerous but not deadly because they do not involve any of the “cardinal doctrines.” In practically every Protestant “statement of faith,” however, the doctrine of salvation is categorized as one of the cardinal doctrines of Christianity. This is equally true of the Assemblies of God. The official website states that “…Salvation, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Divine Healing, and the Second Coming of Christ are considered Cardinal Doctrines which are essential to the church’s core mission of reaching the world for Christ” (emphasis added). Therefore, to categorize modifications to the doctrine of salvation as heresy has clear parallels with the way the church has treated such aberrations in the past.

In addition, that we are on firm scriptural ground in zealously guarding the purity of the doctrine of salvation may be seen in the fact that it is the only doctrine in the Bible for which an anathema (“curse”) is described as being attached to those who attempt to pervert (metastrepsai) it (Gal. 1:7–8). In this passage, Paul declares “eternally condemned” (NIV) or “accursed” (NASB) the person or angel who in any way distorts the Ordo Salutis (“the Way of Salvation”) as revealed in Scripture (stated twice for emphasis, vv. 8 and 9). Evidently the Apostle considered the Ordo Salutis to be of such foundational importance, that to change it even one degree effectively compromised the entirety of the gospel. The result, he says, is the creation of “a different gospel” (v. 6). Yet despite this most dire warning for doctrinal deviation, it can be argued that the doctrine of salvation has suffered more heretical attacks than any other biblical doctrine. The purpose of this article is to survey some of the more popular heresies associated with the doctrine of salvation and to offer sound biblical teaching as an antidote to each.

Universalism

In this context, the term refers to the belief held by many that all people are the children of God, in right standing with God, or “saved.” Another version of Universalism teaches that all people will get a second chance to recognize Jesus as Lord after death and before the final judgment. As far back as most of us can remember, society at large has accepted the idea that the only criterion for judgment is that we be “good people.” We regularly hear from the standard media outlets, “One guy’s faith is no more right than the next guy’s” (e.g., The Practice, ABC, Oct. 20, 2002). The mantra, “All paths lead to God,” has been repeated so often that it has practically achieved proverbial status.

While Universalism is usually promoted as the superior end-product of mankind’s theological evolution from the primitive belief in a judgmental god to a more enlightened view of God as exclusively motivated by love, there is actually nothing new or evolutionary about it at all. In fact, Universalism is almost as old as Christianity itself. It is probable that the basic tenets of this teaching originated within second-century Gnosticism and appeared full-blown in the teachings of Clement of Alexandria (c. AD 150-c. AD 215), Origen of Alexandria/Caesarea (c. AD 185-c. AD 254), and Gregory of Nyssa (c. AD 335-c. AD 395). Of these, Origen went furthest by teaching that even Satan and his demons would eventually be purgated, reconciled to God in the world to come, and restored to their place in heaven.

In all honesty, almost every person alive has probably wished that Universalism was true at one time or another. Whether the flashpoint came at the graveside of a loved one whose personal relationship with God was ambiguous, in a conversation with a close friend who was a “sincere” follower of another faith, or when trying to decide whether to marry a person we loved passionately but whose spiritual status was unclear, most of us have hoped that God in His mercy would expand the parameters of His Kingdom to include these good, kind, loving, moral people.

The Scriptures are unequivocal on this point, however. The points along the old “Roman Road,” a method of evangelism no longer taught in most Protestant churches, are nevertheless still true. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and “The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). The inclusives of John 3:16 are still true: God does love the entire world and He gave His Son for the “whoevers” of the world, but John 3:18 is also still true: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (NASB). If all people are right with God and bound for heaven, much of the language of the Bible becomes unintelligible if not downright irrelevant. There would be no distinction between the righteous and the wicked, no separation of the wheat from the tares (Matt. 13:37–43), the good fish from the bad fish (Matt. 13:47–50), or the sheep from the goats (Matt. 25:31–34, 41), and no final judgment about which the Bible speaks so often (Job 21:30; Ecc. 3:17; Ezek. 18:20–28; Dan. 7:9-10; Matt. 3:12; 16:27; Acts. 10:42; 17:31; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:1–8; 1 Ptr. 4:5, 7; 2 Ptr. 2:4–9; 3:7–12; Jude 14–15; Rev. 20:11–15).

Society as a whole and far too many who call themselves Christians have embraced an edited version of the message of Jesus. For them, the “gate” is not “small”—in reality it is “wide”; the “way” is not “narrow”—in reality it is “broad” (but compare with the original version in Matt. 7:13–14). The pressure of political correctness and the emphasis on pluralism, diversity, and tolerance have recast the message of the church as being too “exclusive.” In today’s world, it is viewed as the height of arrogance to say that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). Likewise, anyone who states that there is salvation in no name other than Jesus (Acts 4:12) is immediately labeled a narrow-minded, intolerant bigot. Nevertheless, those of us who claim to proclaim the true gospel today must resist the pressure to compromise in order to make the Way of Salvation more palatable to the ears of our post-modern contemporaries.

Further, we have to get to the point where we can deflect criticism of our message back onto Jesus, Who is the source of the “exclusiveness” of Christianity. We have to remind ourselves and our audience that it was neither first-century nor twenty-first century Christians who first said that Jesus is the only way to heaven; rather, Jesus Himself was the origin of that teaching about Himself. In actuality, however, the exclusivist teachings of Jesus in the New Testament are in no way different from the incredibly exclusive claims of Yahweh in the Old Testament (cf. Isa. 43:10–11; 45:5–6, etc.). Interestingly, most detractors fail to lodge the same complaints against the Hebrew prophets, the Hebrew Bible, the God of the Old Testament, or the Jewish people. Similarly, in the modern day, groups like the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Nation of Islam get a free pass on their exclusivist claims, but not orthodox Christians! Therefore, when others criticize our “narrow-minded exclusivism,” we have to train ourselves immediately to place the responsibility squarely on Jesus’ shoulders, telling detractors that we did not make up the rules and that they must take their complaints to Him. Next, we must quickly remind them that it was He Who voluntarily laid down His life for them and in so doing, earned the right the old-fashioned way to draw the parameters wherever He chooses!

Limited Atonement

Although most adherents to this version of salvation are found in Reformed circles, it is appropriate to discuss “Limited Atonement” in this venue because the number of AG pastors who accept one version or another of Calvinism increases year by year, especially among younger pastors. Most are not aware that there is no small debate within Reformed scholarship as to whether or not John Calvin even taught this element of the theological system which has come to bear his name. Fewer are aware that the limited scope of salvation promoted by this doctrine derives primarily from the teachings of Augustine, who believed that the number of the elect could only equal the number of the angels who fell from heaven in Lucifer’s revolt. Most have not considered the negative ramifications that this view of salvation can have on personal evangelism and missions. Most importantly, those who accept “Limited Atonement” as a foundational element in their theology must not only proof-text their own position (Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:8; 8:32; Eph. 5:2, 25, etc.), but they must also remain unaware of, dismiss, or subvert a relatively lengthy list of scriptures that run contrary to their position.

Both Testaments are clear as to the will of God concerning the scope of salvation. Moses writes that Abraham’s descendants were to be a blessing to “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:3). Ezekiel recognized that it is not God’s plan that any perish; instead, His desire is that all come to repentance (Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11; cf. 2 Ptr. 3:9). Isaiah understood the role of ancient Israel as being “a light to the nations so that My [God’s] salvation might reach the ends of the earth” (Isa. 49:6; cf. 42:6). In fact, the usually more ethnocentric, particularistic Old Testament even ends on this same high note: “May Yahweh be magnified beyond the border of Israel” (Mal. 1:5). In other words, even in Old Testament revelation, the emphasis was upon expansion, not limitation (cf. Matt. 13:31–32).

Even more frequently and more clearly, the New Testament bears witness to this same emphasis. John the Baptist set the tone by describing the salvific ministry of Jesus, “Who takes away the sin of the kosmos” (John 1:29). Jesus invited every element of society to enter into relationship with Him (Matt. 9:10). He rebuked those who would narrow the scope of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 9:12; 23:13). He invited “all who labor and are heavy-laden” to come to Him in order to find rest (Matt. 11:28). He said that He had “come to seek and save those who are lost” (Mark 10:45), which necessarily includes all of fallen humanity (Rom. 3:23). This is because, as John reminds us, “God loved the kosmos so much that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16) Who is given the title ho soter tou kosmou, “the Savior of the World” (4:42). Concerning His death (we in the AG usually incorrectly apply these words to worship!), Jesus said, “If I am lifted up from the earth [a euphemistic reference to His crucifixion], I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). When He describes our mission, His words sound much like the language of the Old Testament: as He is the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5), so also we are to be the light of the world (Matt. 5:14), bringing the good news of forgiveness and salvation to “all the creation” (Mark 16:15) or “all the nations” (Matt. 28:19). If we follow the logic of Reformed theology, God is evidently less concerned about the “economy” of effort put forth by His fatigable human messengers than He is about the “economy” of His saving act in all His omnipotence!

In the proclamation and correspondence of the early church, the teachings of the Old Testament and Jesus are applied and clarified to an even greater extent. Paul preached that “God now declares to all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). He was sent with the message of salvation to Arabia, Judea, and to all the gentiles he could get to listen, telling everyone that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds appropriate to repentance (Acts 26:17–18, 20), three things impossible for all but the elect to do according to Reformed soteriology. Paul’s message is no different in his writings. Paul tells the churches in Rome, “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6), words reminiscent of Ezekiel’s “the wicked” and Jesus’ “the lost” and “sinners”. To the church in Corinth, Paul writes twice that Jesus died “for all” (2 Cor. 5:14, 15), shortly thereafter concluding that “God was in Christ reconciling the kosmos to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). This was evidently motivated by His “love for mankind” (Titus 3:4)—all mankind, not just a pre-selected subset of mankind.

Paul’s instructions to young pastors are equally enlightening. He reminds Timothy that “God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). In the next sentence, he declares that “Christ Jesus…gave Himself as a ransom for all” (vv. 5–6). Later in the same letter, Paul speaks again of God, “Who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (1 Tim. 4:10). It should be noted that Paul’s juxtaposition of these two groups, “all men” and “believers” (a term not synonymous with but rather a subset of the larger group), effectively dismantles a favorite argument used by Calvinists which involves a redefinition of words like “world” and “all” to mean “everyone (in the world) who is a Christian/was pre-selected for salvation.” Consistent with his instruction to Timothy, Paul reminds Titus that “the grace of God has appeared [probably a reference to Jesus’ incarnation], bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11).

Like the writers of the Old Testament, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul, the message of the remainder of the New Testament speaks only of a salvation that is available to all people. The writer of Hebrews speaks of Jesus, Who “tasted death for everyone” (2:9). Like Ezekiel, Peter notes that God is “not purposing any to perish, but [at this point, most English translations supply a verb because the author of Scripture here employs ellipsis, so whatever verb is supplied by the modern translators is parallel with “purposing”] all to come to repentance” (2 Ptr. 3:9).

John also addresses this issue. He reuses the title “Savior of the World” that appears in his gospel (1 John 4:14; cf. John 4:42). Even more helpful is his description of Jesus as “the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of (here the author employs ellipsis—mite want to put this in a footnote too)] the whole world” (1 John 2:2). This passage poses the same problem for Reformed commentators as does Paul’s juxtaposition of the same two groups (cf. the discussion of 1 Tim. 4:10 above). Here it is quite clear that there is a believing community which contrasted to the rest of the world, and John is saying that Jesus died for both!

Perseverance of the Saints/Eternal Security/“Once Saved, Always Saved”

Another defective view of salvation goes under the titles “Perseverance of the Saints,” “Eternal Security,” and more popularly, “Once Saved, Always Saved.” This doctrine teaches that once a person experiences salvation, there is nothing that person can do to lose that status. Like Limited Atonement, the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints/Eternal Security (PS/ES) was popularized by Augustine, adopted by the Roman Catholic Church, and transmitted into Protestantism by leaders such as John Calvin.

The Arminian/Wesleyan/Holiness/Pentecostal tradition rejected this version of salvation as biblically defective. The official AG website states, “…it is possible for a person once saved to turn from God and be lost again.” Today, however, the doctrine of PS/ES is as prevalent as it ever was, and is producing the same negative impact on witness, discipleship, and sanctification. Consequently, it must be examined along with the other aberrational teachings on salvation.

There are a number of favorite scriptures used to support PS/ES. Only the most frequently-used can be discussed here (for a more complete treatment, cf. my article, Does the Bible Teach Eternal Security?). One such text is John 5:24, “He who hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life,” which PS/ES proponents insist means that the believer “eternally has life.” The syntax, however, makes clear that it is the life that is eternal, not one’s possession of it.

Appeal is also made to John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me and . . . him I will not cast out” and John 10:27–28, “…no one shall snatch them out of my hand” (cf. also Rom. 8:35–39). None of these texts, however, rule out the possibility that the individual can exercise free will and choose to depart. All should be understood in light of John 15:1–16:1 where Jesus speaks of the distinct possibility of apostasy.

1 Corinthians 3:15 is among the more popular Pauline passages used to support PS/ES, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” This is taken to mean that those in rebellion against God lose not their salvation but only their heavenly rewards. The larger context, however, is about building up the church by preaching sound doctrine. At the Judgment Day, those trusting in a false doctrine or gospel (cf. v. 11) will be burned up, and those who preached will grieve (“suffer loss”) at their demise. Appeal is also made to Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” What Paul was “sure” of, however, was the Philippians’ desire to press on to maturity, the believer’s only real security (1:1–11; cf. also 2:12; 3:19).

A final favorite is Hebrews 7:25a, “Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Here, “for all time” is taken to refer to those being saved, but the second half of the passage and numerous other texts in Hebrews (vv. 3, 21, 24; and 6:20) requires that the phrase be understood as referring to Jesus and the length of His saving ministry.

In contrast to the PS/ES position which sees the believer as forfeiting the freedom to choose at salvation, the Scriptures teaches that those who trust in and obey Jesus are even more free after salvation than before (John 8:36; Gal. 5:1, 13a, etc.). Further, the possibility of apostasy is underscored by language like the phrases “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4), “fall away” (Hebrews 3:12), and “commit apostasy” (Hebrews 6:6), whereas the phrases “security of the believer,” “eternal security,” and “once saved, always saved” never appear in Scripture.

In the Old Testament, God dealt with Israel almost exclusively through “conditional covenants.” They were continually warned that if they did not live up to their covenantal obligations, their relationship with God would be nullified (cf. Ex. 32:33; Lev. 22:3; Num. 15:27–31; Deut. 29:18–21; 1 Kings 9:7; 2 Kings 17:23; 24:20; 1 Chron. 28:9; 2 Chron. 7:19–22; 15:2; 24:20; Psa. 69:28; Isa. 1:2–4; 59:2; Jer. 2:19; 5:3, 6–7; 8:5, 12; 15:1, 6–7; 16:5; Ez. 3:20; 18:12; 33:12, etc.). Grace was indeed available in the Old Testament (Ex. 34:6; Num. 6:25; Jer. 3:12; Psa. 96:15, etc.), but like in the New Testament, this was never an excuse to continue in sin and never lessened the demands of the covenant (cf. John 1:16–17; Romans 8:7b–11; 6:1-2; Luke 12:48; cf. also Romans 1:31, “covenant-breakers”).

that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt. 3:10; 7:19). Jesus also taught that only those who endure to the end will be saved (Matt. 10:22; 24:13). He said that some would respond to the Word, produce fruit, but eventually be destroyed by various things (Matt. 13:3–23). He warned that false messiahs “will lead many astray” (Matt. 24:5) and during persecution, “many will fall away” (Matt. 24:10).

The teachings of Paul complement those of Jesus. He constantly warns leaders and churches alike that apostasy is a distinct danger (Acts 20:29–30; Rom. 11:21–22; 1 Cor. 9:27; 15:1–2; 2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:21–23; Gal. 1:6; 4:1–11; Gal. 5:4; Phil. 3:17; 1 Tim. 4:1; 5:8; 2 Tim. 4:3–4). The book of Hebrews gives some of the clearest warnings against apostasy and exhortations to remain firm to the end in the entire Bible (2:1, 3; 3:6, 12, 14; 4:1, 11; 6:4–6; 10:26–27, 35; 12:15). James writes, “If anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, he will have saved the sinner’s soul from death” (5:19–20). Peter describes “false teachers who will secretly bring in heresies of destruction, even denying the Master who bought them” who bring “swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Ptr. 2:1). He also writes, “For if after they have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state is worse than the first. It would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment handed to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘The dog turns back to his own vomit,’ and ‘the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire of mud’” (2 Ptr. 2:20–22). John describes a sin that is “unto [spiritual, not physical, cf. 1 John 3:14] death” which cannot be forgiven (1 John 5:16). He promises eternal life only to those who overcome and remain faithful until the end (Rev. 2:10, 25–26) but loss of eternal life to those who do not (Rev. 2:5; 3:11, 16). To the end of the book (and thus, the New Testament), he continues to warn about the possibility of forfeiture of salvation (Rev. 22:19).

Thus, both Testaments warn of the possibility of voluntary forfeiture of one’s status with God by consistent rebellion. That we retain the option to continue in obedience or persist in mutiny against Him is evident from the many who chose the latter and suffered eternal separation from God as a result (Gen. 4:3-16 [cf. Jude 11]; 22:8, 12, 19, 20, 32–35; 24:1-2, 13; 31:7–8; Exod. 32:32–33; 1 Sam 10:1–7, 9–11; 13:8-15; 16:14; 31; John 6:66 [and cf. v. 67]; 1 Cor. 5:1–13; 1 Tim 1:19; 2 Tim 1:15; 2:17–18; 4:9; Titus 1:12–16; 2 Ptr. 2:1; Rev. 2:6, 15 [cf. Acts 6:5], etc.). If we renew our commitment to proclaim this aspect of the message of salvation, it is likely that the vitality, power, and witness that characterized the early church would be restored to our midst.

Jesus-Plus Gospel

From the first century to the twenty-first century, the biblical message of salvation has suffered from fallen man’s attempts to add steps to the Ordo Salutis. The first generation of believers witnessed the first of these attempts when Christianity was still in its infancy. According to the book of Acts, there was a movement within the early church attempting to add circumcision and observance of the entire Law of Moses to the Way of Salvation (Acts 15:1, 5). Basically, these “Judaizers” were claiming that gentiles had to convert to Judaism before they could be considered viable candidates for membership in the New Covenant community. The first “church council” was convened in Jerusalem to settle this divisive issue, and after everyone had opportunity to speak, apostolic testimony (v. 14), the Word of God (vv. 15–18), and the guidance of the Holy Spirit (v. 28) prevailed and these two requirements were not added to the Ordo Salutis.

Victory was short-lived, however, because beginning with the book of Galatians which was written soon after the Jerusalem Council, Paul had to wage a relentless battle throughout his entire ministry with “Judaizers” who persisted in their attempts to change the Way of Salvation (cf. esp. Romans 2–4; 1 Corinthians 7:18–20; 2 Cor. 11:4–22; Gal. 2:11–14; 5:6–11; Eph. 2:11; Phil. 3:2–3; Col. 2:11; and Titus 1:10). This contentious issue survived even beyond the deaths of Paul and the rest of the apostles, and Christian leaders such as Ignatius of Antioch continued to address the issue on into the second century (cf., e.g., Epistle to the Magnesians 8:1; 10:3).

Throughout the centuries, the Ordo Salutis has remained under almost constant attack. In the Middle Ages, for example, requirements for salvation included sprinkling, membership in right standing in the proper church, regular observance of communion, and regular attendance at confession. After the Protestant Reformation, many groups began to teach water baptism as a necessary step in the process of salvation. More recently a similar emphasis expressed itself within Pentecostal circles. In 1916, many pastors and churches left the newly formed Assemblies of God in a movement called “New Light.” Based on personal revelation rather than the clear teaching of Scripture, followers of “New Light” teachings claimed that true salvation required the additional steps of water baptism “in Jesus’ name only” (rather than the Trinitarian formula found in Matt. 28:19), baptism in the Holy Spirit, and speaking in tongues. The United Pentecostal Church, the Apostolic Church, and “Jesus’ Name Only” Pentecostal groups still maintain this form of the Ordo Salutis today.

In addition to these aberrant movements, similar claims were heard in the most recent revival cycle. On many occasions and in varied venues, exhortations were heard such as “Don’t dare miss what God is doing in this generation” and “If you don’t get on board with this you’ll be left behind.” Many long-time believers returned from meetings claiming to have been “truly born again” because they had experienced one manifestation or another attested nowhere in Scripture, especially with respect to the Ordo Salutis. This is not said to denigrate the many wonderful things that happened to some people and in some places; it is simply offered as recent evidence of the ease with which the most well-meaning and sincere people can find themselves caught in the age-old trap of adding to the simple, straightforward Way of Salvation preached and written about so regularly throughout the Bible.

As previously noted (W.E. Nunnally, The Sins of Generational Curse), the teaching and practice known as Generational Curse must also be categorized as a “Jesus-Plus” gospel. This is because the Generational Curse teaching requires additional steps beyond repentance and submission to the Lordship of Jesus in order to be truly in right standing with God. Generally speaking, Generational Curse requires the making of lists of the sins of previous generations, repentance for those sins, renunciations, and special prayers to break the curses that cling to the believer because of the sins of one’s ancestors. According to the clear teaching of Scripture, however, the moment we come to Jesus, whatever debts were held against us are nailed to the cross and all demonic bondages are broken (Col. 2:8–15). Not only does Jesus declare us “free” when we come to Him for salvation, He proclaims us “free indeed” (“truly free” or “completely free,” John 8:36). Therefore, as harsh as it may sound, the teaching of Generational Curse is by apostolic definition a “heresy” (Gal. 1:6–9), because it adds steps to the biblical Ordo Salutis that have no foundation in the teaching/practice of the apostles or the early church.

So what then is the simple, straightforward Ordo Salutis which appears so often in the Scriptures? It is nothing more and nothing less than this: repentance of one’s sins and trusting Jesus as forgiver and Master. Only Jesus’ blood-sacrifice on the cross could make forgiveness and reconciliation with God possible (Matt. 26:28; John 3:16; Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:24-25; 5:9; Eph. 1:7; 2:13-16; Col. 1:14, 20, 22; Titus 2:14; Hebs. 9:14, 26, 28; 13:12, 20; 1 Ptr. 1:2, 18-21; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5; 5:9; 7:14, etc.) and repentance, trust, and submission to His lordship appropriates the effects of that sacrifice to the life of the believer (John 3:16; Acts 3:19; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38–39; 16:31; 17:30; 20:21; Rom. 10:9-10; 1 John 1:9, etc.). According to Scripture, Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient in and of itself to provide for our salvation, and faith (trusting and obeying Him) alone is required to apply it to the life of the believer (John 3:16; Acts 11:17; 15:9, 11; Rom. 1:16–17; 3:27-28; 4:5, 16; 5:1; 10:3–13; Gal. 3:1-2; Eph. 2:8–9, etc.).

Conclusion

The message of salvation is crucial to a right relationship with God. It is at the heart of the good news, evangelism, and the health of the Church. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is the focus of all apostolic proclamation in Scripture. Nor is it surprising that the strongest apostolic denunciations were reserved for those who attempted to alter, add to, or complicate the doctrine of salvation. In contrast, throughout the book of Acts and the Epistles, the leaders of the early church consistently proclaimed the same message of salvation. Today, we must follow their example and resist every temptation to compromise the simple message of salvation presented in Scripture. This means that as leaders, we must know the Word of God, proclaim it in its purity and power, and earnestly and boldly yet humbly resist teachers and teachings that pervert it (1 Tim. 1:3–4; 4:1–6, 16; 6:20; 2 Tim 1:13–14; 2:15, 25-26; 3:13–14, 16-17; 4:1–5; Titus 1:9–11, 13–14; 2:1; 2:7, 10; Jude 3, etc.).

Dr. Wave Nunnally

Professor of Early Judaism and Christian Origins Evangel University, Springfield, MO

Jewish backgrounds, New Testament, Hebrew language and the land of Israel are areas of expertise for Dr Wave Nunnally. He has studied, taught and written in these areas for over… More

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