The Gospel, as the most important teaching in the entire Bible, is not something any person can afford to get wrong because this so great a salvation was the very reason our dear Lord and Savior endured a life of suffering on our behalf to die on a cross so that we could spend eternity with Him. Therefore, all Scripture is essential. Every believer needs to have the right attitude when approaching the truth to not fall for the many false teachings common within (and outside) the church. The main thrust of this study is to get the reader to see what salvation is, what is needed for it to occur, and what it entails.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
Because of this teaching’s extreme importance, it only makes sense that Satan has concentrated so many of his efforts toward destroying the church, and what better way to do so than to cloud the path that makes one a member. Most of the damage comes when someone distorts the gospel through some dark satanic lie. If a person doesn’t even get saved, then the devil has no reason to worry. But he has a more difficult task for those who have discovered the narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14). Satan often works through false teachers disguised as men and women of God, known as wolves in sheep’s clothing, to exploit the vulnerabilities of weak-minded believers. This barrage of lies has proved highly effective in the church at large, and there are many counterfeit groups out there that will often claim to be the “true church.” Such organizations often assert to be the only ones who know the way of the gospel, but they are nothing but cults.
52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
12 But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
Satan has opposed the way of eternal life for as long as man has been on this earth, so it is no surprise that we see so many false gospels in our day and age. The evil one’s goal is to lead as many people astray as he possibly can to somehow “thwart” God’s plan of salvation. Of course, we know that ever since Christ’s death on the cross, Satan’s plan of victory has become an impossibility because our Lord paved the way of salvation for all who would ever desire to take it. Having won the victory over sin and death, all people now have the chance to receive God’s gift of salvation to be saved. How one obtains this offer of eternal life is something we will discuss after our introduction.
55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospel is not a complicated thing to understand, nor should it be. If it is so simple that a child could receive it through faith, we can be sure it is not a complicated process. Yet, so many have made it out to be something that it isn’t, often through adding or taking away from it. It has become challenging for many people to accept because of its simplicity.
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
On the other hand, some people take the gospel’s simplicity to mean a person doesn’t need to do hardly anything after getting saved. But such people who teach this don’t know what it means to be a Christian. Entering into the spiritual battlefield through faith is simple. But fighting the war itself is difficult—all the more reason for the prospective believer to count the cost before deciding to follow Jesus (Luke 14:25-34).
It is very troubling just how many lies exist about how one enters into the family of God because something so simple has become so confused. It breaks my heart to see so many people led astray by false teachings because they either compromise so much eternal reward that could have been theirs’, or they compromise their eternal life altogether. Whether a person is a believer or not, allowing false teaching to infiltrate into one’s heart is bound to cause much damage.
I am not attempting to make any sweeping judgments on any groups or individual denominations and organizations. This study aims to present the gospel in its’ true form and refute many of the false teachings that concern it. Only the Lord knows those who belong to Him, and I am not attempting to judge others’ salvation in any way, just the false teachings themselves. Such lies need to be exposed for what they are to benefit other believers’ spiritual growth and unbelievers’ salvation. No matter how long a person has walked with Christ, for those genuinely interested in growing spiritually and pleasing the Lord as they should, questions about the issues brought up in this examination are ones that they will eventually cross paths with and have to sort out (unless they have already done so).
The Lord is the judge, and He knows all things. But lies are to be condemned because they threaten the faith of other believers and those wishing to become part of God’s family. We should never take false teaching lightly! This work aims to benefit the growing believer who seeks to deepen their faith in the gospel by which they stand.
3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.
Few things will damage a believer more than false teaching relating to salvation because the true gospel of Jesus Christ is what saves us. Salvation is the very foundation by which all other things about the Christian life rest. Without being in the realm of life, (assuming the teaching opposes salvation by grace through faith alone) a person would not be capable of pleasing the Lord in any way, nor would they ever spend eternity with their Savior in heaven. And few things will hinder a believer’s growth more than fearful doubts spurred on by the evil one in getting a person to question the legitimacy of their faith (assuming they are struggling with false lies about the gospel). In other words, Satan loves to attack believers by trying to get them to believe that their salvation is illegitimate, a common tactic he uses to slow the growth of those seeking to follow their Savior wherever He leads. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people who doubt their “salvation” who are unbelievers, for in their case, their doubting is a good thing perhaps designed by the Lord to get them to see the truth to come to Him and accept the gospel. After all, many people live in deception because they think they belong to Christ when they do not. But the evil one often targets believers with many of the false lies mentioned in this study to get them to compromise the truth. The Lord knows this, and the best way to counter these attacks is to thrust back against them with the sword of the Word of God, rightly studied, understood and applied. If we take care of the Bible, then it will take care of us, and if we seek it with all our hearts, with all our mind, and with all our strength, then answers and deliverance will come to us.
12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
The most important (and only) source of information in discovering the gospel is the Bible, which tells us everything we need to know in our current evaluation. But accurate interpretation, as well as a good understanding of Scripture, is required to do this. So I have taken the highest care to accomplish the desired goal. This is not a soteriology study but a presentation of what the gospel is. We will aim for simplicity, meaning we will confirm the truth and refute the lies as simply as possible. Therefore, with all of this said, let’s examine the gospel of Jesus Christ.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
1. The Gospel - What it is
1.1 Faith in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ
A person receives the Lord by believing In Jesus Christ (which is the same as believing in His person and work). That is the gospel, plain and simple. Our Lord purchased this salvation with His precious blood by taking the penalty of our sins on Himself for us to receive His free gift of eternal life, which cannot be earned or worked for in any way. In doing this, the Lord Jesus rescued us from eternal death. For all who accept this most gracious offer through faith, God will welcome them into His family.
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. 18 The one who believes in Him is not judged; the one who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This belief in Jesus Christ is not merely an intellectual appreciation but complete trust and commitment. True saving faith is complemented and proven by an obedient life because true faith will always have something to show for it.
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
Salvation is by faith through grace alone, for God’s gift is free and cannot be worked for in any way.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
1.2 What about Repentance?
Repentance is not some separate act from faith but simply another side of the coin. Faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin because faith is a commitment that cannot occur unless the person who believes genuinely desires to turn away from their old self and live a life of obedience. Believing is repenting because saving faith means completely surrendering oneself over to God. Therefore, repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action. That is what true saving faith produces because faith is evidenced, completed, and perfected through works, not that salvation is by works, of course. Turning to God in faith is a reaction to changing one’s mind toward sin and the world. The Greek word for repentance in the New Testament is metanoeo (μετανοέω), which means to change one’s mind or attitude. This change results in a person turning to Christ in faith, and genuine faith always has something to show for it.
26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
19 “So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.
It was for this very reason (faith being the same thing as repentance) that Peter could say to all the unbelieving Jews around Him in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We should notice that Peter does not say “repent and believe,” but simply, “repent.” That is because no one would have believed in Christ unless they had changed their mind about Him, themselves, and the world. All those who turn to Christ in faith repented by doing so. That is why faith and repentance are linked (two sides of the same coin). Repentance is not some “extra step” after faith!" That is adding to the gospel! In other words, simply believing in Jesus Christ is enough because it is a result of someone having changed their mind about Jesus Christ.
Finally, although slightly unrelated, another confusing point we need to clear up is the common misunderstanding of Romans 10:9-10. No believer has to undergo a separate step of saying “Jesus is Lord” after having believed in Him initially in order to be saved. A person who has believed in Jesus Christ has already acknowledged and submitted to His lordship. All of that is already wrapped into simple belief in God’s Son. Confession, in this case, is what one does with what one believes so that all true believers (those who have put their faith in trust in Christ in the past and are still believers in the present) will naturally confess Jesus as Lord if called upon to do so. They will not deny Him before men but will acknowledge Him. True believers do not hide their faith or lie about it.
32 “Therefore, everyone who confesses Me before people, I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before people, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
1.3 The Need for Endurance
Salvation is by faith through grace alone, but faith must stay in the equation for that person to enter God’s kingdom. Only believers are saved; unbelievers are not because they have rejected the person and work of Christ regardless of whether such people were true believers at one point or not (some do fall away). The word “believes” in John 3:16 is a present active indicative (present tense attributive participle) that tells us that faith must remain until the end for a person to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Likewise, the three passages below show beyond a shadow of a doubt that all believers are in the process of being saved (present action). This means that although we are saved positionally (being a believer at present means staying in the sphere of “justified”), there is a chance we may deliberately fall from that place by choosing to turn back. Since this is the case, believers are those who must continue to believe, since we are not, as of yet, experiencing our eternal life.
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
2 By this gospel you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
A good understanding of Scripture and a little knowledge of God’s character can help us see why the Lord has designed things this way. Before we look into some of the many passages that show that salvation depends on continuous faith, we need to discuss a few things first.
For one thing, God is just, and this means that He doesn’t force people to do something they do not wish to do. If a believer no longer wishes to continue believing and instead turn back and go their own way, the Lord will grant that request, but not without pursuing that individual. God doesn’t merely throw His hands in the air and give up on one of his straying sheep immediately. On the contrary, He pursues them until they either return or refuse to come back. No matter what they do, the Lord knew what their actions were going to be ahead of time, and even for those who refused His rallying cries, He still ran after them out of great love so that they would return.
12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
Looking at this verse above, we see the phrase, “if he finds it,” showing us that there is a possibility our Lord may not find the lost sheep. Luke’s version “until he finds it” (ἕως εὕρῃ αὐτό) focuses on a more positive outcome but in no way suggests by approaching it this way that the shepherd will find every sheep. A believer who stubbornly refuses the Lord’s chastisement and gives up on their faith cannot be brought back because coming back is entirely up to the individual themselves, something they may choose not to do. Our Lord pursues them because He loves them, and it was not His will that they should perish. For that discussion, we look to the passages below. But God never forces anyone to come back because that would be violating their free will. We shall discuss this topic more in-depth later in this study, but we need to understand the fundamental truth that free will is why we are here on this earth to choose either for or against God. It is part of our makeup as human beings, and as we shall see later, it’s one of the ways we share in the “image” and “likeness” of God.
9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Some may say that faith is a work because continued belief means relying on one’s own efforts to stay saved. But faith has to have an object, and that object is Jesus Christ. By continuing to believe in Him, the Lord is the One who saves us because He takes our faith and empowers it through His grace. Christ accomplishes the work of justification and sanctification within us, and faith is what makes all of that possible.
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Not only this, but Scripture is unequivocal that faith and works are not the same things.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
The Bible makes it very clear that believers can commit apostasy. We see a prime example of this in the parable of the sower and the four different types of soils.
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
The seed sown along the path represents those who refuse the gospel. They reject Christ to go and follow Satan, submitting to his power instead. They are unbelievers headed for the lake of fire.
The seed sown on rocky soil speaks of a person who was once a genuine believer but commits apostasy later on by turning away from God because of significant testing that comes their way. These people receive the gospel with joy, believe for a while, and abandon their belief in Christ. For faith to be temporary, a true living faith had to exist, and the context clearly shows us here that faith was alive and active at one point in the person’s life, meaning they were a believer at one time. But they fall away from the faith due to some problematic trial or tribulation because their faith (represented by their small and weak root, which could not expand in the shallow rocky soil) was too weak to see them through it. When trial and tribulation come, they are unprepared to endure it. And for those who argue that this rocky soil category isn’t referring to believers must explain why trials and tribulations (testing) come their way? God does not test unbelievers because they have no faith to grow. Testing and tribulation come only to believers, not unbelievers. Luke 8:13 describes this group best—
13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
We can sum up this verse with the following points—
1. Someone who receives the Word can only refer to a person who became a believer. Unbelievers, no matter how enthusiastic, have not received the gospel if they are still unbelievers.
2. True believers (Christians) are those who believe. Unbelievers do not. Our context clearly shows that these individuals received the Word in FAITH. They believed!
3. As we have just noted, unbelievers have no faith and therefore nothing to warrant testing, persecution, trial, or tribulation. God only allows believers to undergo testing to further refine and strengthen their faith, to prove its quality. This passage cannot refer to unbelievers.
4. In order to fall away from the faith, you had to have faith to begin with. An unbeliever who stays an unbeliever is not capable of falling away from something they never had.
Thus this category clearly shows the need for endurance in the believer’s life. Those who fall away have believed in vain.
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
The seed sown on thorny ground refers to believers and unbelievers (apostates). These marginal Christians, who, although saved, live a mostly wasted life. The reason is due to their greater desire to live as if the world is their home. They allow the worries and distractions of life to become their number one priority, meaning they put God in second place. Some of them fall away by committing apostasy (as one-third of believers will do during the tribulation) in that they abandon the faith when the pressure is on due to their greater desire for earthly security over their spiritual health.
So what we have in the thorny soil group are lukewarm believers, most of whom probably endure but some of which fall away. In other words, this category consists of committed believers who endure and the uncommitted who fall away (which means they would fall back into the rocky soil category). Although both are meant, it is most probable that this category mostly consists of marginal Christians (most of whom stay faithful to Christ but don’t grow, progress, or produce for Christ as much as they should). This “thorny ground” is where most believers of our day (known as the church era of Laodicea Revelation 3:14-22) and most during almost all of the 2,000 years of church history would fall. In our modern time, the reason is because of the believer’s lukewarm attitude toward God. Most have put the world before their Savior and are thus wasting and squandering precious time they could be using to grow, progress, and produce for Jesus. The result is spiritual complacency.
The phrase “becomes unfruitful” mentioned in the thorny ground category should not be translated to mean “no production whatsoever” in the case of those who don’t fall away. All believers who endure to the end will have something to show for their time on earth, even if most of their lives were wasted. The best and correct way to interpret this phrase is to state that these believers are not producing as they should. Their production rate is low, though they still produce to some degree nonetheless. However, this applies only to believers who do not fall away. For those that do, nothing they did in the past will matter in the end because they gave up. Not only was their production stunted, but their faith choked.
The seed sown on the good soil are believers who live their time on earth as they should, growing, progressing, and producing for the Lord. They grow to basic spiritual maturity, pass the excruciatingly strenuous tests of their faith meant to refine and strengthen them, and come into using their spiritual gifts in the ministries the Lord has called them to carry out. They then reap a bountiful crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty, with the size of the crop depending on how well they served the Lord. The believers in this category know what it means to live the Christian life and act accordingly to God’s Word in thought, word, and deed. These people understand their purpose on earth and allow God to fulfill it in their lives.
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Other Passages that Support the need for Continuous Faith
These passages below do not form a comprehensive list, but they are the most straightforward and forceful in their message.
2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
The “word” preached to Paul’s audience above is the gospel by which all converts come to Christ. Salvation is held fast through faith. If a person doesn’t hold to it, then their time of past belief will have meant nothing, which means their faith was in vain because it did not last.
14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,
What else could the “beginning of our assurance” be other than then a person’s faith/acceptance in the gospel of Jesus Christ when they initially believed ? Believers must “hold” fast to the gospel. That is their responsibility, not God’s! The Lord empowers their faith, but the individual must choose to exercise it by submitting to Christ.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”
The words above (whether read in Greek or English) studied within the context clearly indicates a warning against apostasy. This is further reinforced by verse twenty-three, which says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” and verses thirty-five and thirty-six, which read, “ Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” Likewise, verses thirty-eight and thirty-nine state, “But my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Clearly, verses twenty-six to thirty warn believers against becoming unbelievers (the whole tone and tenure of Paul’s message in this context). Believers are not enemies of God, a description that, in this context, could only describe unbelieving apostates. Paul is speaking to believers (for if we deliberately go on sinning) by warning them about those who used to believe but no longer do. There is also the phrase, “Let us not give up meeting together.” There were some apostates who had left the congregation by abandoning legitimate Christianity through embracing Judaism which taught a false gospel by works of the Law (instead of by grace through faith alone).
Some within the audience (who used to be believers) to whom Paul addresses these words had fallen back into sacrificing animals as if Christ never came and the old covenant never ended with the new. To continue sinning in this manner was to refuse Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and could only lead to apostasy (something Paul was attempting to save his believing audience from) resulting in the complete death of faith (since continuing in the mosaic rituals was an act of unbelief). Under the old covenant, sacrifices demonstrated the believer’s faith in the coming Messiah (even though they did not take away sins by themselves Hebrews 10:4). But since He already came and died for them, the killing of animals was no longer an act of faith but of unbelief.
So our passage describes those who have already crossed the line into apostasy (Paul uses those individuals as a warning example for his audience) because of the words, “who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace.” These sentences describe past actions as already having taken place. And this is further reinforced by the example of those who set aside the Law of Moses. The Law stated that the punishment for such a crime was physical death. So our Hebrews passage contrasts the physical death of those under the old covenant to the spiritual and eternal death of those under the new. That is why the context states, “How much worse punishment," do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” The point is that eternal spiritual death is a far worse punishment than a physical death by stoning or what have you. It is true that some of those who profaned the Mosaic Covenant were apostates. But there is no question that some of them were already unbelievers. And there is no mention about what would occur for those who wished to repent because that is not the passage’s point. It is comparing the more tolerable physical death of those who were under the Law to the unbearable future eternal death that awaits those under the new covenant which they have come to despise.
Those who set aside the Law of Moses mentioned in verse twenty-eight were those in ancient Israel who rejected Christ’s ways and laws for their own of worshipping idols (you shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3). This sentence is a reference to Deuteronomy 17:2-8 which describes what we said in the last sentence. So some of those who did this and never chose to repent committed apostasy by departing from the living God (that is, to despise the old covenant Law). To do the same under the new was worse because it was made possible by the blood of Jesus Himself! During the old covenant days, the believers looked forward to Christ’s death on the cross through animal sacrifices. To deny Christ then already had its own consequences, but how much more to deny Him after He endured all that He went through to fulfill the promise of eternal life with His own physical and spiritual death on the cross?
4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Likewise, Hebrews 6:4-6 also presents the same warning as that of Hebrews 10:26. But we need to point out what this passage is not saying. It is not saying that a believer who temporarily strays from the flock has no chance or ability to repent. Instead, these verses are talking about a person who has stopped believing altogether and deliberately continues to remain in that state (they don’t care about their sins of unbelief and have since made up their mind). As with Hebrews 10:26, to keep on sinning in a manner that expresses unbelief in Christ (acting as if He never came and died on the cross through continuance of the now obsolete rituals of animal sacrifice- as is seen from the theme and topic of the surrounding context) was to continue to “re-crucify” the Son of God, an act already accomplished by Jesus Himself.
The descriptive phrases and words, those who have “been enlightened,” “tasted of the heavenly gift,” “who have shared in the Holy Spirit,” and “who have tasted the goodness of the word of God” can only refer to those who once believed (born again believers). No unbeliever (unless they had at one point believed) has ever had a share in the Holy Spirit because they never possessed the Holy Spirit at any point in their lives. Romans 8:9b testifies to this when it says “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” Likewise, there is also the passage below.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
To have the mind of Christ referred to in verse sixteen in our passage above means to possess the Holy Spirit. Paul contrasts those who have it (believers) as opposed to those who don’t (unbelievers).
Regarding Hebrews 6:4-6 again, verse six clarifies that they have “fallen away.” And the words, “to bring them back to repentance” means they were on the right path but have left (departed from it through apostasy). They cannot “be brought back” because they refuse to do so as long as they keep acting as if Christ had never come and died on the cross by continuing to sacrifice animals and practice all the other obsolete practices of the Mosaic Law (acts of unbelief and rejection) which looked forward to Christ’s death. This behavior is the same as saying to God, “Jesus never died on the cross,” even though He did. Therefore, Hebrews 6:4-6 describes apostates that Paul used as an example to his reading/listening audience as a warning for them to continue on in the faith. Believers cannot continue to re-crucify the Son of God all over again and subject Him to public disgrace because that behavior bespeaks unbelief.
7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
Verses seven and eight of the two verses right in the same context of our passage (Hebrews 6:4-6) are often misconstrued to mean that this refers to “loss of eternal rewards.” But that is clearly not the case based on everything we’ve examined above. What other meaning could the words “worthless” and “cursed” have other than that of a believer gone apostate? These are not words that describe the end result for someone who is still saved, and a good example of this is the metaphor Jesus used on the sermon on the mount regarding believers being the salt of the earth. That passage too describes a Christian who stops believing altogether. Matthew 5:13 says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” The saltiness mentioned here refers to the believer’s service and witness to the world (unbelievers) and to those within the body of Christ (believers). As long as a person is a believer, some witness within their life will be present and they will (as long as they endure in their faith to the very end) still produce and have something to show for the rest of their time on earth. That is to say, these individuals have retained at least “some saltiness.” But unbelievers have no flavor at all. Therefore, those who revert to their prior status before their initial reception of the gospel will be thrown out of the kingdom (or have left on their own as was truly the case). In His justice, God can have nothing to do with unregenerate sinners who don’t believe in Him (since Christ’s spiritual death on the cross no longer benefits them because of their unbelief). Therefore, they cannot share in His kingdom.
Also critical to the proper interpretation of verses seven and eight is the phrase “produces a crop.” All believers will have something to show for their time on earth. But if a field has nothing but thorns and thistles, it produces nothing because it is worthless. This can only refer to an unbeliever who has nothing to show for their time on earth because they stopped believing altogether. On the other hand, even the least productive Christian with very little fruit to show at the Bema seat will still have been considered to have been productive to some extent.
Another passage that has the exact same meaning (the need for endurance on the believer’s part) as Hebrews 6:7-8 and Matthew 5:13 is John 15:1-8 below. Since we have already explained the other passages above (and because the one below has the same meaning), there should be no need for us to further explain and examine it here.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean (positionally through faith) because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
The verses above are very clear… neglecting our faith is to neglect our salvation because we must hold fast to our faith to the very end. The words, “so that we do not drift away” show that this is indeed a possibility for any believer (otherwise there would be no need for a warning). If we throw our salvation away through apostasy, then there is “no escape” from eternal judgment." Only believers are saved; unbelievers are not.
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
To continue, there is a conditional responsibility in the verse above. Believers are to “take care,” meaning that it is their responsibility to make sure they continue to believe. That is their job, not the Lord’s. He does the work of saving us, but we have to keep believing if His grace will benefit us in any way. Grace cannot be absent of faith. It is part of God’s loving character, His unmerited gift.
Something vital we need to remember in this discussion is that long before man ever came on the scene, one-third of angels had rebelled against God and departed from Him; we know them as demons or fallen angels. Since then, they have made up their minds not to return to their Creator. However, we must remember that any straying believer can come back if they so desire. But fallen angels have no such longing, for they would rather spend eternity away from God because they have already made up their minds and have no intentions of changing them.
For human beings, dying in unbelief will bring condemnation. Speaking of the angels that fell, they will spend eternity away from God. So “ how could God be just in allowing angels who committed apostasy to suffer eternal death, but not human beings who do the same?” That would be unfair, and this leaves us with only one option, that being that only those who stay committed to Christ through faith will see eternal life. If angels had free will to rebel against God, why would humans not have the same choice? The verse below expresses this very clearly.
8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
Just as how one-third of angelic kind departed from God, so we shall see a repeat of this during the tribulation, except this time one-third of believers will fall away. This event is known as the great apostasy, and it will occur in the first half of the tribulation, only to be completed in the second half. The pressures brought on by those horrible days will be too much for the weak in faith to handle because they will not be prepared to cope with the severe testing to come their way. As a result, many will go and serve the antichrist by taking his mark.
The word apostasia ἀποστασία, is the Greek for the English transliteration of apostasy and means “standing away” or “separation” from something. Believers separate themselves from God by forsaking Christ through reverting from believer to unbeliever status. Having once “stood” in the gospel, they now “stand away” from it.
We see this great apostasy prophesied in Daniel, but then later on in Revelation.
9 Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. 11 It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. 12 Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. 2 Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
Matthew 24:10-13 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 mention the great apostasy as well.
10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,
Regarding the end times, there is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, the wise representing serious believers who stored up enough faith to get them through the tribulation, and the foolish representing many lukewarm believers who did not prepare ahead of time as they should have. They failed to get ready because they did not pursue spiritual growth seriously enough to have a sufficient amount of faith to make it through those dark days. The oil represents faith, the darkness represents the tribulation, the bridegroom represents Christ, and the door represents the entrance into the millennial kingdom. Only those whose “light” of faith does not go out will enter this kingdom.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5 Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
Apostasy does not occur by committing a single sin or even a lot of sins (believers can struggle with chronic sin for a long time before they overcome it) because that would mean that salvation would be by faith and works, not by faith and grace alone; please see discussion further below, “The Lie of no Security Salvation-Works.” Sin is antithetical to faith in that it damages it, but salvation is only lost when a person has turned back and wholly rejected Christ, i.e., they are officially no longer believers. Of course, sin can contribute to this process because it harms faith by hardening the heart; think of how fire burns paper. Once a person has reached a certain point, the Lord eventually gets pushed out of their lives to the point where they are no longer believers (a free will decision to reject Him) and thus, following Him. Sin can’t stay with a person for the rest of their lives without consequences. Continuous, unrepentant, idolatrous sin (as just described) will lead to complete apostasy resulting in loss of eternal life if said individual puts it above God in their lives. Such people have committed idolatry by worshipping another god (idolatry is the same as rejecting Jesus Christ (unbelief) because idolaters will not inherit God’s kingdom 1 Corinthians 6:9). But idolatry is not limited to sin only but can be anything we decide to put above the Lord to the death of our faith, including money, people, etc.
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Regarding sin, apostasy only occurs when a person gives their life over to it completely with no regrets or remorse, i.e., no intention of returning and changing their ways (idolatry). Believers care about their conduct—unbelievers do not. No person can continue in sin without that type of behavior damaging (and eventually killing) their faith completely. It is these people (unbelievers) that 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 describes.
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
We need to also keep in mind that apostasy does not always have to involve sin. As the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:18-23) shows, some believers may turn back because of testing in the form of difficult trials and tribulations meant as tests from our Lord to strengthen their faith. They did not count the cost (Luke 14:28-35) and thus, suffer the “shipwreck” of their faith because they ended up facing something that (in their own view) they did not sign up for. But they did sign up for it but failed because they did not count the cost. Spiritual tests from the Lord and difficult life circumstances can all contribute to the process known as apostasy (a believer reverting to an unbeliever). Something difficult may happen in the believers life that causes them to get angry or upset at God and give up on Him later on. There is then the issue of false teaching and being led astray by a false gospel. Or worldly and secular causes could be involved, such as a believer falling for all the arguments for (for example) evolution or atheism—more satanic lies. There are so many potential causes for apostasy that it would be impossible to come up with all of them. Needless to say, the reader should understand this issue by now and be encouraged to never abandon their faith at all. Don’t throw away your faith, regardless of what is tempting you to do so!
35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
Other passages which demonstrate the need for perseverance include (but are not limited to) Colossians 1:21-23, Hebrews 3:6, 2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 Corinthians 10:12, John 15:5-6, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:3-7, Hebrews 10:26-31, 1 Timothy 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:18-19, 2 Peter 2:20-22, Hebrews 3:12-19, Romans 6:16, Romans 11:22-23.
James 2:14-24 Explained
Since salvation is by faith through grace alone, and Christ covered all our sins, past, present, and future, how does one interpret James 2:14-24? Lets’ examine it below.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
A lack of any obedience or good fruit can reveal someone as an unbeliever since all true believers will manifest a changed life to at least some extent. The believer’s faith will be evidenced or manifested by good works (obedience in resisting sin and temptation and in bringing forth fruit through ministry).
The works mentioned here in James are not the works of the Law Paul mentions in Romans. True saving faith naturally expresses itself through obedience and spiritual production (bringing forth fruit John 15:8).
However, James 2:14-24 applies to both believers and unbelievers. If believers aren’t walking in fellowship with God through faith, then not having active faith is useless because no good work can be done. If we aren’t walking in the Spirit through faith, our faith is momentarily dead because it is inactive when it shouldn’t be (such as the man who says “go in peace, be warmed and filled”). On the other side of the coin are unbelievers who claim faith but have nothing to show for it since they do not actually believe in and follow Christ. In their case, no works are an indication that they have no saving faith in Christ at all. Our James passage is addressing both believers and unbelievers.
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Helping others is not something that earns us salvation because it is by faith through grace alone. Instead, works are an indication (evidence) of belonging to Christ (true faith in Him which backs up the claim of possessing it). However, even believers still fail, which means that they don’t always walk in faith. So not helping out a brother in need (as is the case in our verse) could indicate a believer not living out their faith as they should or an unbeliever who isn’t saved at all.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
True saving faith produces (is evidenced by works), whereas a simple belief or appreciation for the existence of God is not sufficient for salvation. Because of this, it will have nothing to show. The demons are a perfect example because they do nothing good for God and even oppose Him! So even though an unbeliever may be a good law-abiding citizen who is kind toward others, nothing he does means a thing to God. No matter how friendly or pleasant they may be, they are still God’s enemies who stand condemned because they have not believed (committed themselves to Jesus Christ by following Him faithfully to the end in true saving faith).
And again, these verses also apply to believers who are not living out their faith as they should (an inactive faith is useless).
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
Abraham’s faith was “declared” by his obedience to the Lord because of what he did. But Abraham was already saved long before he offered his son Isaac on the altar (most likely when he first obeyed the Lord to leave his homeland). Thus, his most incredible act of faith in offering up his son Isaac was a declaration of it in addition to all the other times Abraham had acted in belief toward God. Abraham’s faith would continuously be demonstrated throughout his lifetime as obedient work after obedient work continued to declare his righteous genuine standing with God. But Abraham was justified the first moment he believed.
5 And He took him (Abraham) outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
What we have in our James passage is not a moment of Abraham getting saved a second time , but a test that “declared,” and “demonstrated” his belief in action that it was genuine. The passage then goes on to say that his faith was “completed” by his works. When he offered up his son Isaac, Abraham did not have a salvation experience. Instead, this sacrificial act “declared” his faith; think of someone shouting out a message at the top of their roof. This act of Abraham offering up his son Isaac shows just how far he had matured in his walk with Christ since his conversion. The whole tenor of this James passage is true versus false faith. Real faith produces!
Think of it this way-works speak for faith. Salvation is not by works. But without them, our faith could not declare itself, and the light of our salvation as believers could not shine (Matthew 5:13-16). The believer’s faith is manifested and expressed by what they do. Some level of works will/must be present with a person who is a genuine believer. If we really do believe in and follow Jesus Christ, we will have something to show for it in this life on earth and in eternity in the next.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Salvation is by grace through faith alone. Faith and the Holy Spirit naturally produce righteousness in a believer’s life, and all the more so if that faith is growing. But if a person’s faith is decreasing, so will the works, and if apostasy resulting in the complete death of faith occurs, then nothing will be produced by that individual because their faith is dead. No matter what other counterfeit faith a person claims, they will not have works to show before God because they don’t have the Holy Spirit (our present time living under the New Covenant) to produce them.
Foreknowledge, Election, and Predestination - How They Work in Salvation
Predestination and free will cannot exist without each other. However, people still have free will to choose for Christ. In other words, God did not choose some for heaven and some for hell. This teaching is incorrect, for, as we have stated earlier, a person’s destiny depends on whom they choose to serve (God or Satan). God is not the author of sin, and He doesn’t force people to reject Him. To believe this is to completely misunderstand God’s character and His plan and purpose for humanity. After all, free will is the very reason we are on this earth (to replace the fallen angels that WIllFULLY rebelled against God). Sin came into the world through a disobedient free will choice made by Adam and Eve, resulting in Christ’s need to sacrifice Himself so that all people could have a way unto eternal life.
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Free will is the very reason we have commands in the Bible. Adam was “commanded” not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But, of course, it was not God’s will for Adam to disobey because the Lord is not the author of sin and death. Because of Adam’s sin, physical and spiritual death would become the lot of all people. But thanks be to God who provided salvation from eternal death in the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ!
Listed below are some very straightforward passages showing that Christ died for all. All people have free will to choose for the Lord to be saved, and as we shall see later on below, predestination is what makes free will possible by enabling it, not taking it away.
2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Christ’s blood was the propitiation for the sins of all people who would ever live (John 3:16). Christ died for all men because He loved all men and desires all to be saved, as the verse below shows.
9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
One must ask, how could God send some to the lake of fire if His desire is for all men to come to repentance? The verse makes this clear—God desires the salvation of all people, and those who reject Him did so because they chose to do so, not because the Lord made their decision for them, a concept that does not fit the passage above.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Believers are justified by FAITH alone, suggesting a free-will decision to choose for Christ. If God chooses some individuals for heaven and others for hell, then faith is no longer faith. Faith cannot exist without free will! Plus, we have commands in the Bible for a reason.
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
We have already talked about continued faith as the only condition for salvation (Matthew 13:18-23). For more on that, please see that section above. Believers can believe and then fall away, showing very clearly God doesn’t force someone to continue in Him just as how He doesn’t force anyone into His kingdom.
14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
If God cannot be tempted by evil and cannot tempt anyone to sin, how can He choose for certain people to receive Him, but for others to reject Him? Our Lord told us a kingdom could not be divided against itself, so why would the Lord oppose His kingdom by keeping people from entering it? Why would He work in the devil’s favor in sending some to hell in only dying for the “elect?” Or is Christ divided?
22 Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23 And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” 24 Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” 25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.
A. Foreknowledge, Predestination, Calling, and Election - What They Are
Free will and predestination complement each other, meaning you cannot have one without the other. It is for this reason that they are both mentioned in Scripture. God knew and planned for all who would come to Him in faith long before human history ever began. That is foreknowledge, God knowing who would get saved throughout the entire span of human history from start to finish. Predestination is God incorporating those free will decisions of those who would come to Him into His plan, making free will an actual reality. The next thing that takes place is God calling an individual who will receive His offer of grace. Once that person accepts Christ, then that individual is now elected, referring to a person’s status as a member of God’s family and their entrance into it. The passage below demonstrates these concepts we have mentioned.
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The verse straight above talks about God calling everyone, God’s free gift of salvation is available to all people. However, most reject this gift (God does not refuse them), and thus few ever constitute the chosen, those whom the Lord foreknew would come to Him in faith. God’s foreknowledge and putting it into action by His will to allow history to run its course means that free will is a God-given gift to humanity. But it’s only possible if history plays out. All that God foreknew He approved to happen by predestining all human history events into His plan. Calling refers to God’s desire for a person to believe, grow, progress, and produce in and for Him. God calls everyone, but those who are specifically “the called” are those who enter into the family of God through faith. These people are referred to as “the chosen (Matthew 22:14).” They refer to those individuals whom God foreknew would come to Him, all made possible through predestination, i.e., God making “choice” possible by decreeing human history to occur for a specific amount of time.
7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory;
23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
As seen from this last passage, the elect spoken of in 1 Peter are so according to God’s foreknowledge. This verse clearly shows that election is based on foreknowledge made possible by predestination.
So when we think about what we have seen above, free will did not come about by man’s will. God created man, and it was Him alone who granted humanity the ability to choose. God created free will, gave man the ability to exercise it, and made it possible by hitting the “start” button, allowing all of His foreknowledge to become a reality through the course of human history.
To further reinforce what we have briefly commented on above, I encourage the reader to visit this section on Ichthys discussing the biblical terms mentioned in Genesis, “image” and “likeness,” and what it means for man to share these two unique qualities with their Savior.
To conclude, being made in the image and likeness of God means having the ability to exercise authority and respond to it through free will choice (as discussed in the link).
2. A non-Comprehensive List of some of the Most Prevalent False Teachings
2.1 The Lie of No Security Salvation
The lie of what we call “no security salvation” teaches that all it takes is one sin to be committed, and next thing you know, you’re out of the family of God until you come back and confess. Not only is this untrue, but this teaching is not supported anywhere in Scripture. People who affirm this lie often cite passages such as Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 because they state that people who commit the non-comprehensive list of sins mentioned in those verses will not inherit the kingdom of God. The verses above are correct but do not mean a believer can lose their salvation over one sin. Unbelief is the only sin that Christ could not die for. But all sins we commit (past, present, and future) were paid by Christ on the cross.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
With the above said, what do the passages below mean?
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
We have already discussed how sin contributes to apostasy. It is not the direct cause, but rather, often (though not always) a significant contributor in that it hardens the heart. The more an individual sins, the weaker their faith grows until, eventually, a person is forced to decide to continue believing or reject Christ; apostasy occurs from this negative side of the decision (idolatry by giving oneself over to sin to serve this new “god”). But sin does not always have to be involved (we have already discussed that above).
For this reason, people who practice gross immorality will not inherit eternal life because they have rejected Christ by deeming Him less important to them than whatever they pursue. God is not good enough anymore because said individuals have turned away from Him in high-handed rebelliousness without remorse (a free-will decision on their part which is what causes the breakup). This scenario is different from someone who struggles with sin or falls into it for a while but overcomes their struggles. God does not throw us out of His family for one or multiple sins, but idolatry (engrossing in whatever worldly pleasures) is the same as unbelief because no servant can serve two masters. A believer can’t put sin first in their lives and try to serve God. Our passages below apply to more than just money; they apply to anything we put above our Lord, whether it’s sin, or anything else in life.
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
No person is without sin, and whoever claims they have none makes God out to be a liar. Not only that, but when we do wrong, we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ, the righteous who intercedes on our behalf. Christ died for all our sins, past, present, and future. There is no such thing as sinless perfection in this world because all men are sinners who fall short of God’s glory, meaning we all stumble in many ways. Believers have the power to rule over sin in their life thanks to the Holy Spirit, but this does not mean they will ever be perfect in their application.
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
Some may bring up the challenge that king David lost his salvation when he committed adultery with Bathsheba (""take not thy Spirit from me"" Psalm 51:11). Of course, that is not the case. The Holy Spirit was given differently during old testament times as opposed to how we receive it today. Ever since the Jewish and Gentile Pentecost, the Spirit has come to indwell the person who has accepted Christ permanently. But the Holy Spirit did not reside in believers in this manner during Old Testament times.
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
We contrast the above passage with the passages below, which show that the Spirit came upon specific believers during old testament times to empower them for particular tasks the Lord had for them to accomplish. In David’s case, the Spirit came upon him to be God’s chosen king of Israel, and would empower him to carry out the work the Lord had for Him to do, and in addition to this, acting as a sign of David’s kingship.
10 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
Immediately after this section of the passage in the next verse, we see that the Spirit had departed from Saul, indicating that God gave Saul’s kingship to David. Because of his carnal disobedience, the Spirit no longer empowered the once king of Israel to carry out his duties since the Lord had rejected him. As discipline, the Lord sent an evil spirit to torment David’s future foe.
14 Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.
Other passages that show that God’s Spirit would come upon people who were already believers to empower them for specific purposes and tasks are Numbers 11:24-30, Judges 14:5-6, Judges 6:34, and Judges 3:9-11. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit during Old Testament times was selective and temporary.
2.2 Water Baptism
For a fuller and more thorough and comprehensive teaching on the subject of water baptism, please see “A Special Treatment on Water Baptism.”
Many people have made the widespread mistake over the past 2,000 years of church history that water baptism is necessary for salvation or that it is something we should be continuing today. Many of those who support its continuation believe it to be a declaration, pledge, or sign of putting one’s faith in Christ, such as we see in many protestant (Baptist) denominations. Others see it as an absolute necessity to be saved (you can’t be without it). With that said, we will address this subject.
1. John 3:16 shows us what we have to do to get saved. We see no water baptism mentioned. There are no commands or injunctions in any passage in Scripture relating to salvation where water baptism is required.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
2. 1 Corinthians 12:13 shows us what our Lord has to do (or does) to bring us into His family. That is the process. We see no water baptism mentioned.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
3. Ephesians 4:4-6 shows us how many baptisms there are. The only baptism that this “one baptism” could be is the baptism of the Spirit. We see no water baptism mentioned because it cannot place any person into Christ (only the Spirit can do that). Just as there is only one Lord and faith, there is only one (instead of a combination of two) baptisms. There is no “duo” of water and spirit baptism here.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
4. John 1:31 gives us the purpose of water baptism and why it was used before and in the earliest days of the growing church.
31 I myself (John the Baptist) did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he (the Messiah) might be revealed to Israel.”
Water baptism was never something that the church should have continued practicing, whether those doing it believe it necessary for salvation or as a memorial or declaration of their faith in Christ, etc. Some also do it as some pledge to show their commitment to the Lord, but this is also unnecessary. By itself, there is nothing wrong with this ritual (as long as it occurs without the belief that it is necessary), but it should have died out long ago. Baptism had a particular purpose for a specific time. John used it to reveal the Messiah to Israel and prepare their hearts in repentance for His coming onto the scene. To believe that water baptism somehow became the new covenant version of circumcision completely misunderstands the whole point and purpose of Christ’s coming. Our Lord and Savior came to fulfill all things, for His blood and the coming Spirit were/are the signs of the new covenant. The new covenant was all about fulfillment, whereas the old looked forward to the coming Messiah in practices and rituals such as animal sacrifice, circumcision, and water baptism. But since Christ has come and died on the cross, no such rituals are needed. As Dr. Luginbill notes—and as I also agree—water baptism was the interim between the two covenants, a shadow of the Law with the sole purpose to prepare the nation of Israel for Christ’s appearance. But that time has come and gone. The book of Acts was historical and transitory, telling us precisely what happened. But water baptism is not seen practiced or advocated in any epistle (or in any book in the New Testament after Acts), and that is for a reason. It is no longer something the church needs to practice at all and it died out in the early days of the church.
Those who claim that water baptism is the new covenant sign just as circumcision was for the old have no Scripture to back up their claims. There is no single verse flat on its face that supports this notion. There are recorded instances of it taking place after Christ’s death during the transitory period of Acts, but nowhere in Acts or the rest of Scripture was it commanded as something to continue. It is recorded from the instances mentioned but nowhere commanded. Nor are there passages that mention any spiritual effects from it (other than that its purpose was to reveal Christ and prepare for the spiritual realities to replace it). Not only that, but those who practice it today can’t agree on how to do it and the meaning of the ritual itself. And the reason for this confusion is because the Bible doesn’t tell us the purpose (other than the ones that applied to Israel and the early church) or the meaning of water baptism. If this ritual was so important for us to carry on, then we would have clear cut passages showing us exactly what we need to know (as was the case when God told Abraham about circumcision). Again, no such passages exist because this ritual was only temporary.
Thus, to argue that water baptism has significant meaning and purpose behind it (to practice it today) is to argue from silence. Scripture tells us what water baptism was for and that it was superseded by Spirit baptism. We see no clear commandments in the New testament to continue practicing water baptism as a new covenant sign.
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Baptism did continue after Christ’s death on the cross (we see this in the book of Acts). Many believing Jews and gentiles received it because they wanted to be a part of what others got to partake of—getting to perform the ritual that announced and revealed the Messiah to Israel. It was now their turn to have Christ’s coming announced and revealed to them in this way, and the apostles utilized this ritual for evangelization purposes (even though it was not necessary). However, even the apostles would take time to learn that this wasn’t something they had to continue doing because learning the truth would not and is never an overnight process. Again, Acts is a book that tells us about the TRANSITION from the old to the new covenant. It is not an epistle and does not prescribe water baptism as some doctrine to accept and be obeyed (we don’t see that anywhere in the Bible). That does not mean there aren’t any legitimate teachings and doctrines in the book at all, there most certainly are! But there also things that were only for a certain period (we can include the sign gifts here).
One of the biggest mistakes those who continue practicing water baptism make is that they rely on 2,000 years of church tradition (scholarship and church fathers) instead of the actual Word of God itself. Many traditionalists will cite that most very intellectual scholars over the years of church history who have studied the Scriptures have concluded that baptism should continue because of their understanding of the text. And yet, we know that tradition does not dictate or come before the truth because they are often (and are, in this case) false and vulnerable to human error. The fact of the matter is, most in the church have gotten it wrong throughout most of her history. But this is not the only thing that the majority of Christians have misinterpreted, and there is little surprise in that since the church has not been conducting itself very well this whole time. In fact, for the first fourteen years of the church age after the apostle John passed away, our Lord rebukes the church era of Ephesus for abandoning their first love, i.e., referring to their original passion and love for the truth. This all in less than fourteen years into the beginning of the 2,000 years we know as church history today. It is sad to say that right after its inception, believers already began running into extensive problems because of the misguided attitudes of most of its members. All was well when the apostles still lived, but major trouble had already begun to infiltrate the church when they had all passed from the scene. As the years went by, the truth became less and less of an issue. After the apostle John’s death, it would be easy to see how something like water baptism was revived and carried on from there.
People who attempt to put most of the 2,000 years of church history in good light are misguided because they have studied it from the lens of human beings, but not Scripture itself. What does the Bible have to say? All that we need to hear, and unfortunately, most of it is not good news despite what many have claimed. Far too many see the church from a human viewpoint, and for this reason, they think they and those before them are/were on good ground doctrinally and theologically. But they are/were not on many points, and our Lord tells us this in His message to the seven church eras mentioned in Revelation (they cover all 2,000 years of the church’s existence). Better to trust in God’s evaluation of our history as written in His Holy Word than in secular and fallible books and writings (and this goes for the works of the “church fathers” as well) written from the eyes of imperfect human beings. Given a choice between the two, whose point of view should we take, God’s or man’s? Scripture always comes out on top. All authority is in Jesus Christ, which means that His Word reigns supreme.
Ephesus—The Loveless Church
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
As seen from the passage above, most believers had forsaken the love and zeal for the truth they once had before the apostles had passed from the scene. So it is easy to see how complacency and false beliefs began to creep into the church from its inception. Although much zeal revived during the era of Smyrna , the church would then start to plummet to even lower levels of spirituality over the next 1,080 years of its existence. As our Lord also says in our passage above, “if you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” The church is a lamp because it is a light to the world, as all believers are supposed to let their light shine (Matthew 5:16). But because of their growing indifference to the truth, our Lord had to take away the witness of the church era of Ephesus by removing it after only twelve short years of existence. This event would then usher in the church era of Smyrna, an extended period of persecution that our Lord allowed to occur to shake the believers of that period out of their complacency. The ten days represent the ten evil emperors of the Roman empire who heavily persecuted believers during their wicked reigns. Our Lord praised this era for their endurance under persecution because they held fast to their faith.
Smyrna—The Persecuted Church
8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. 11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
But this zeal would only last for this particular era. Once the period of Pergamum begun, so many problems crept back into the church again, starting a downward spiral for the next 1,080 years until it consisted of almost no actual genuine believers at all by the era of Sardis. The church at that point was all but dead, with only a small handful of true believers alive during those 360 years.
Pergamum—The Compromising Church
12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
Thyatira—The Corrupt Church
18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’ 26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Sardis—The Dead Church
3 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. 4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Throughout the past two-thousand years of its history, most of the church has been in a pretty abysmal state based upon our Lord’s evaluation of it in Revelation. Even the believers of Philadelphia praised by our Lord were still wrong on many things; baptism included for those who supported its continuation. The main reason our Lord gave them a good report was because it consisted of believers who began putting the truth first (though they still had a long way to go even after their time period). Additionally, Philadelphia consisted of many who participated in the protestant reformation, kickstarted by Luther and others. These believers came out of the catholic church, risking death and persecution to preach the true gospel of grace through faith alone, not works as the Roman church had done for years. By so doing, the truth began to be taken seriously again. This revival resulted in an explosion of evangelism, teaching, church planting, and other ministries for the next few hundred years until it all ended with the inception of the final era of lukewarm Laodicea, a period we believers currently live in today and the last time of the church age before the tribulation’s commencement.
Our job as believers in our present time is to continue advancing and perfecting what the believers during the era of Philadelphia had begun. Although they were courageous and got a good few things right, the reformers got a lot of stuff wrong. Philadelphia had a lot of unlearning to do despite their commendable and noble deeds. One might expect that future believers such as those alive today would have learned from their errors and made corrections. Unfortunately, that is not the case because our current church era of Laodicea sits in a pathetically lukewarm state which does not prioritize the truth. During the reformation and beyond, the believers had “little strength,” as our Lord says, less time and resources to properly search and study the Word. Yet, they performed better in proportion to what they had compared to most believers today who have more time and resources to advance in biblical study.
Philadelphia—The Faithful Church
7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Instead of refining the truth and making corrections to all the mistakes that past believers have made, the church today continues to fall back on many of the false and unbiblical beliefs and traditions passed down to them by their predecessors. By failing to adjust, we have learned very little since the passing of Philadelphia. The reformation should have continued! Poor handling of the truth has led to most believers choosing to plop down in one spot doctrinally and barely budge to check whether their views align with Scripture. As a result, Laodicea continues to rest on the past incomplete work of those before them when we should have continued filtering and refining the teachings passed down to us. Why is this? Because the church has gotten a lot of things wrong over the years in their doctrines and practices. Even though the believers of Luther’s time and beyond are still inexcusable for everything they got wrong, they have more of an excuse than we do because of fewer resources, time, venues, and opportunities to study and learn the truth. In addition, they had a lot of pressure and persecution to deal with from the Roman Catholic Church. And yet today, believers continue to fall back on the work of the past, which was far from complete. Is a house that is half-built suitable for habitation? The church should be much further advanced today, yet it has stagnated ever since Philadelphia came to an end.
11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Laodicea—The Lukewarm Church
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. 21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Putting one’s faith and trust in church history as a means to an end when searching for biblical truth is utterly foolish because it puts one’s faith in man instead of God (Psalm 118:8). It is essentially no different from piggyback riding off other people’s beliefs just because they said so. God doesn’t grant truth to the most intelligent but to those who have the biggest hearts toward Him. Even though our mind is still involved in the process by helping us to understand what we read, our faith is in Christ Proverbs 3:5-6). Our mind and heart must therefore be attuned to the power of Christ’s Spirit through faith.
As an additional note on everything we have discussed above, we must remember that Israel had a terrible history of apostasy and moral degeneration long before Jesus came on the scene. We have the time between the testaments during the Maccabean and Hasmonean periods, when the Pharisees, Sanhedrin, and other religious parties arose. These were the highly respected individuals before and during Jesus’s time who put on an outward display of righteousness yet were filled with nothing but “dead man’s bones” (Matthew 23:27). They were supposed to be the experts in the Law and yet misunderstood and got so much of it wrong by adding to it their own set of forms, rituals, and traditions. We see with them and Israel a prime example that we should not place our faith and trust in church history, individuals, and tradition. It is for this very reason why we have people asking the question, “but how could most of the church be wrong about water baptism for so many years?” Well, it turns out that most believers have been failing to pursue the Lord as they should have during those two thousand years. As a result, most of church history is replete with spiritually poor Christians. The same thing goes for the sad history of Israel from the period not long after Joshua and David into the time when Christ came to earth. Most people in human history have rejected the Lord, while most who have believed in Him have displayed very little zeal for God (which will be revealed when Christ comes back for His second and final time). This sad reality has been the case ever since the church began with Adam and Eve.
Things were not well when Christ came on the scene the first time and they aren’t good presently either. It is for this reason why the church will have to go through the tribulation in order to rid itself of the apathy it has held toward the truth for so long. Israel was not ready for their Messiah when He first came to them—will we the church be ready for His second coming? The great apostasy will show that many will not be prepared. However, the good news is that most will endure to the end (albeit barely in the case of many). As Luke 18:8b says, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?””
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?
For more in-depth information on the seven church eras, please see Part 2A of the Coming Tribulation series on Ichthys.
In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul describes how a believer has entered the family of God. He notes that it was by the Holy Spirit’s baptism, for nowhere is water baptism attributed to having any of these powers in Scripture. Paul then goes on to say, “and we were made to drink of one Spirit." He continues to describe how salvation occurs, or what took place and had to happen for a believer to enter into God’s family. If water baptism was needed and crucial in this process, why does Paul not mention it? He would have only been giving a half-truth of the salvation process in this verse because he omitted another critical step. But he didn’t include it (water baptism) because it is not necessary. If being immersed in water had some extraordinary power to save and bring an individual into the body of Christ, Paul would have had NO CHOICE but to include it in his description.
13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
The final part of verse thirteen speaks of the believer receiving the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ after having drunk of Him by accepting Him as Savior, for He has said, “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give Him shall never thirst.” And we know that Jesus described Himself as the water of life, which also explains our Lord’s use of the word “water” (not baptism) when He describes to Nicodemus what must occur for him to be born again (John 3:5). A person is born “of the water” by the Word (the Gospel message) which saves us when we believe it in our hearts (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 5:26; John 13:10). John’s use of the word “water” is a symbol or metaphor to describe a spiritual rebirth.
38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
The baptism of John was a temporary act used by John the Baptist to prepare the nation of Israel for the coming Messiah. Therefore, the only baptism a believer needs to undergo today is the Holy Spirit’s baptism, something the Spirit automatically does to a person after they put their faith and trust in the Lord. That is the Holy Spirit’s baptism, and John anticipates this when he says the following below—
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry**. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit** and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Spirit baptism replaced water baptism. Only the Spirit can place a person into Christ. The Spirit does not need man’s help to accomplish something that only He and He alone can perform.
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
2.3 Sabbath Keeping
Some believe Christians must keep the traditional Old Testament Sabbath (as well as the Mosaic Law and many of its rituals which is obviously false) to receive salvation. But keeping the Sabbath is the only command from the ten commandments not repeated anywhere in the New Testament. It has changed from being a ceremonial one-day event to a seven-day, twenty-four-seven spiritual rest. How can this be? The New Covenant Sabbath (a SPIRITUAL rest) means resting in the power of the Holy Spirit at all times since all believers receive the Spirit permanently. Instead of physical rest, we have a spiritual one in Christ to live a holy life. So this command in the ten commandments still applies to believers today but in a different form that Jesus inaugurated through the new covenant with His death on the cross. The old testament Sabbath (a physical rest on one day alone) symbolized and represented the spiritual “sabbath rest” (this time on all seven days 24/7) that was to come with the permanent indwelling of the coming Holy Spirit. The physical looked forward to the spiritual, just as the Jewish animal sacrifices (physical rituals) looked ahead to the spiritual and physical death of Christ on the cross. Christ was the reality and fulfillment of all these things. Like animal sacrifice, the original one day sabbath has been done away with and fulfilled by Christ.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The apostle Paul anticipated the slandering of believers by the legalistic Jews who still held to the Old Covenant way of life by saying that no person should judge another based on celebrated festivals, new moons, and sabbaths. There is no reason why Paul would not have included the old covenant sabbath here as well in his general list (etc., etc.)
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
We conclude that there is no particular day to worship the Lord as we should be doing this every day at ALL times (Sunday is not the new Sabbath). Therefore, believers need not celebrate the Sabbath as the nation of Israel did (Saturday) under the Old Covenant. Instead, we keep the “sabbath” by keeping in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). The result is progress and production (spiritual fruit) in the believer’s life. For no person can live for Christ unless they are living in the Spirit’s power. But trying to please God in our flesh and what we do is to “work” to grow spiritually and earn God’s favor. Not only is this not possible, but it’s downright sinful. Christ is our rest, and He is the vine from which we the branches grow and produce.
5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.
2.4 Feelings and Emotions
Although feelings of peace and joy (as just two among other examples), which are fruits of the Spirit manifested in the believer’s life, often accompany salvation (and continue on throughout the Christian life), there are dangers that can come from telling someone how they have to feel to be saved the moment they receive Christ (our examples below). Salvation does not have to attend some emotional display of some sort because that would be putting conditions other than faith into the gospel.
When speaking of living the Christian life in general, our sinful nature will attempt to manipulate our behavior by getting us to act according to how we feel by giving our minds nothing but adverse reports about a difficult situation (or telling us all is right just because we are happy and joyful when we shouldn’t be (James 4:8-9). Make no mistake, walking in the Spirit can and will naturally lead to feelings of peace and joy and what have you. But those feelings can (on the other hand) be deceptive and lead us astray if misunderstood and mishandled. The Spirit assures us we rest safe in our Savior’s arms and that we can overcome any obstacle no matter how difficult. However, our flesh, feelings, and emotions included will often tell us otherwise. They are very misleading because they will lie to us, which works hand in glove with the goals of the sin nature. We will make bad mistakes and poor decisions if we act based on how we feel instead of what the Spirit tells us.
For this reason, we never lean on our intellect, feelings, emotions, or abilities for help in time of need. Instead, we follow (rely on) the Holy Spirit wherever He leads, not our flesh, because to follow it is to follow the path of sin because failure is guaranteed every time. The Lord will tell us nothing but the truth, and if we listen to His still small voice, heeding it at every turn, we need not fear making any poor decisions at all.
17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
As believers, we have the power to control what we think and how we react to our circumstances. But responding in a godly way requires us to be under the control of the Spirit at all times, for only in His power can we react accordingly to our situations by resisting the flesh and the devil. Having free will means we can choose to obey Christ by surrendering ourselves over to Him so that He directs our thoughts and actions. That is what it means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. It implies surrendering our mind (attention and focus) over to Christ so that He can work within us.
However, we can choose to resist Him, and by doing so, we remain vulnerable to our thoughts, feelings, and emotions backfiring on us. For example, a rider cannot ride a horse if the horse continues to oppose him by bucking and kicking all the time. So too, we must not resist the Holy Spirit by allowing whatever circumstances, motives, or feelings to take over and dictate what we do.
It is hazardous to believe that just because one may not feel saved at a particular moment (due to fear, doubt and sin) does not mean the person in question is an unbeliever (the crux of our argument and the main point we are attempting to make here). Many believers fall into fear over their salvation because they aren’t sure whether they belong to Christ or not, even though they know they have put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus and have manifested a changed life. Satan loves to target believers this way because fear is often a manipulative emotion paralyzing any person’s faith if they entertain this negative feeling for too long. It has a terrible tendency to cause us to do all kinds of irrational things, which can end up leading to more failure down the road.
Yes, believers are to examine themselves, as the verse below states, but it is not uncommon for many faithful believers who know they are born again to experience feelings of fear and doubt. Fear is a relatively common satanic attack, and the fact that any believer would care about their salvation is a crucial indicator that their faith is legitimate.
5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
It is often a huge struggle for many believers to believe they stand forgiven of their past sins (they let their feelings lead to doubt when they shouldn’t). They may have fallen into habitual sin for a time and now want to get out because they care about pleasing their Lord. They may struggle with feelings of fear and condemnation because of all their mistakes, which may cause them to doubt their salvation. They may figure, “since I feel afraid about my standing with God because of all my past or present sins, do I still belong to Christ?” These matters are between the individual and the Lord. But the believer should not assume that all that has happened was because they have lost their salvation (or that they were never saved at all).
If a person is a believer, they are saved. And believers who show this concern manifest an evident sign of their salvation because they are upset about displeasing God. Those with saving faith will not give their lives over to sin completely (1 John 5:18) but will eventually overcome it. That is not to say genuinely committed believers can’t fall into habitual sin and even go astray for a time, for that they most certainly can, do, and have. It isn’t uncommon (inexcusable as it is). And as mentioned previously, the Lord may use fear as a way to get a believer to stop sinning. That is a good thing in and of itself, but it is foolish to automatically conclude that feelings of fear and guilt indicate that one is no longer part of God’s family. Of course, the Lord never tempts or lies to us, meaning He will never tell us a lie. If anything, the believer is being disciplined by the Lord with mental anguish meant to correct their behavior. For we must remember, God only disciplines His children (Hebrews 12:4-11). He does not do so with unbelievers because they do not belong to Him. All believers receive discipline because we all stumble in many ways and have down periods. Satan, on the other hand, will use the lie (you aren’t saved) to discourage the believer to give up. But God can use grief over our bad behavior as a way to get us to stop engaging in that which put us in the “hole” to begin with.
2.6 Public Pronouncements and Altar Calls
Another false teaching about the gospel is that a public proclamation is needed for a person to receive Christ as their Savior. This teaching is entirely wrong and has nothing to do with the process of salvation whatsoever. Nor does it matter whether someone believes in the Lord Jesus quietly in their heart or speaks it aloud. Faith is faith.
A typical proof passage that supporters of this teaching will often use is Romans 10:9-10.
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
The Greek word for confess is homologeo (ὁμολογέω) and means to acknowledge something, a profession of allegiance. Paul was not teaching that a public confession of Jesus is necessary for a person to come to Christ because the location does not matter. What matters is that faith comes from the heart, and by the mouth, we express that faith (see below).
However, our Lord expects us to make a public confession if the circumstances require it. A believer affirms his faith in Christ by presenting it before men when asked or needed to do so (Matthew 10:32-33). It is a sign to other people that we belong to God, but it’s not necessary for the initial entry into God’s family, as where our salvation occurred is unimportant, whether in private or in public. But believers do not hide their faith because confession is what one does with what they believe. This teaching is not “lordship salvation.” It is just letting others know that one is a believer. Believers do not have to participate in an altar call or any other public church rally to receive salvation because a person can believe anywhere at any time.
2.7 The Sinners Prayer
There is no such thing as the sinner’s prayer in the Bible (although it depends on what a person means by it), nor are there any specific creeds one must cite to get saved. Belief is belief. This issue is very similar, if not the same as the false belief that repentance and faith are two separate steps in salvation; please see that section for more information. As we have already seen, faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin because one cannot cry out in faith without having had a change of mind. It is this change of mind that results in a person going to God in faith. Belief is the only step one needs to undergo in the salvation process, for all these people know they are going to die and are very well aware they are sinners. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is repentance, which results in a change of behavior in the person, starting inside first, and then working its way outside through the believer’s conduct.
30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
2.8 Church Membership
Another false teaching says that entering into the kingdom of heaven is only possible through being a member of a particular church (the Catholic church as one example) or a specific denomination. But salvation is in Jesus Christ alone, not a building, congregation, or individual. The church rests on Jesus Christ, who is the very foundation of the rest of the “building,” consisting of all believers who have put their faith and trust in Him.
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
No person, building, denomination, or group can ever grant salvation. Such teaching does not come from the Bible but rather from men who suppress the truth. Simply put, this is a tradition that has no biblical basis because it was human-made and developed over time. If a person is a believer, then they are in Christ. And if they are in Christ, they are in His church as part of His bride or body.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2.9 Reasons and Motivations for Getting Saved?
Some within the church believe that people who got saved only because they didn’t want to go to hell aren’t true believers. It is not uncommon to hear of people who got saved to tell you, “I didn’t want to go to hell, so I cried out to God.” Is the accusation leveled against them true? The answer is an obvious no. There is no passage in Scripture that says a believer has to want to get saved for another primary reason other than to escape hell. This teaching borders works-based salvation and puts another condition other than faith on the gospel. Faith is faith. Anyone who desires to come to Christ for salvation may do so. Genuine belief in Jesus is the same thing as repentance because no one can believe in the Lord without a change of heart, so there is no escaping that.
God can and does use multiple ways to bring believers to Himself, and fear of eternal death is not only rational but a perfect incentive for a believer to cry out to their Savior! All that matters is that a person comes to Him in genuine faith, and whoever does so will not be turned away. Whoever is thirsty may take of the water of life without cost. “Whoever desires” may come to Christ. There are no conditions (such as reasons and motivations) for that desire mentioned in Revelation 22:17. Either salvation is by faith alone, or it isn’t. You can’t have it two ways. All that the Lord asks us to do is come, and whoever does so will not be refused if they approach their Creator in saving faith.
37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
2.11 Tongues and Other Sign Gifts are not Necessary for Salvation
The title speaks for itself. The miraculous gifts given by the Spirit during the early days of the church are no longer available today. They were never necessary for salvation because the gospel has always been by faith through grace alone. Please see The Sign Gifts for more information.
1. Salvation is received by grace through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is a free gift, which means we can’t work for it.
2. Belief in Jesus Christ is not mere appreciation for the facts but a complete and committed faith and trust in the Lord Jesus.
3. To repent IS to believe in Christ because faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin (Acts 16:31). Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action. This change of mind results in genuine faith, which produces works (James 2:14-26), for saving faith always has something to show for it.
4. Saving faith is a lasting faith. Believers must continue to believe until death because only believers are saved; unbelievers are not.
5. True faith reveals itself through works, though works can’t earn salvation because grace is received through faith alone. Faith working with the Holy Spirit naturally produces fruit in a believer’s life, indicating the genuineness of their salvation.
6. Water baptism is not required for salvation. This ritual was only for a specific time and purpose (to reveal the Messiah to Israel) and is no longer valid. Therefore, it is not something we need to practice today.
7.Keeping the old covenant sabbath is not necessary for salvation. The new covenant sabbath is a twenty-four-seven, day by day, moment by moment, walking in the Holy Spirit’s power. It has gone from a physical to spiritual rest—from one day to every day.
8. Feelings, or emotions play no role in the salvation process. Salvation is all about faith in Jesus Christ.
9.It is not necessary for a person to publicly pronounce Christ or answer an altar call to receive God’s grace. Faith is faith, and location plays no role in the process.
10.One does not need to recite the sinner’s prayer to receive the gospel because it isn’t found anywhere in the Bible.
11.Salvation has nothing to do with being a member of any particular church or denomination. Eternal life is found only in Jesus Christ and no one else.
12.Christ died for all men. Every person has free will, and God does not violate that.
13.The sign gifts mentioned in Acts and 1 Corinthians 12-14 are no longer operational today. Tongues and other miraculous gifts do not follow or proceed a salvation experience. Not only is that not possible today, but those who believe it necessary to confirm their reception into God’s family are adding works to the gospel. Salvation is by faith through grace alone, and true saving faith will demonstrate itself in a changed life to varying degrees.