The Soteriology Series

Salvation a Free Gift

The good news is that God has provided a way for people to be saved by faith apart of works, this being the expression of God's grace (unmerited favor).
Rom 3:20-24 No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Again the fact that it is apart from works is explicitly stated.
 Rom 4:4-6 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
Eph 2:8,9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
Guaranteed
Upon coming to faith in Christ a person is guaranteed eternal life, their fate being finalized and their destiny secure as if they had already passed from death to life. "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24

The Essential Content of Saving Faith

Faith in the Promise of Christ

Paul likens saving faith to that of Abraham in believing the promise of God. Gen 15:5 "Look up at the heavens and count the stars— if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be." Paul noted, "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about— but not before God. What does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'" Rom 4:1-3 That is, God gave Abraham a promise, and simply by believing the promise of God Abraham was reckoned righteous, and even prior to doing any work of faith associated with the promise. Likewise Jesus said, "he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." John 5:24 And of course we have John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Thus the conditions for salvation expressed in these indicates salvation is obtained by faith in the promise of God, apart from works, and even apart from a person taking action in applying their faith.

Saving Faith Doesn't Doubt the Promise of God

To doubt the promise of God is unbelief. Those who doubt are not qualified to be saved by faith. Trust, confidence, no doubting, these are characteristic of saving faith. Of Abraham's faith, as a model of Christian faith, Paul writes, "he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." Rom 4:20,21

Saving Faith Doesn't Fear Condemnation

"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" Rom 8:1 Since the promise is that if one trusts in Christ to take care of one's justification, then to fear that one may end up in hell is to disbelieve the promise of God, to not trust in Christ to take care of it, and as such to be disqualified and indeed to end up in hell. Essentially those who fear going to hell are on their way there.

This is not to say that those who are confident they are going to heaven won't end up in hell. For there are those who have entrusted their destiny to something other than Christ. Like they may be putting their confidence in themselves, their own goodness, or their own good works, or in their affiliation with this or that religious institution, none of which qualifies one to be saved.

Saving Faith Doesn't Rely Upon Works

To work to be saved is to disbelieve the promise of God. Such people are typically identified by their claims that one must do a ceremonial work to be saved, or that to be saved one must change their behavior - which a work, or that  one must work to maintain their salvation status - these are all expressions of those who disbelieve the promise of God.

While those who have been saved go on to do works of faith as a saved person, it is quite a different matter, contrary to the gospel, to indicate that one must do works to obtain or maintain one's salvation status. To confuse the means with the effects of salvation is to reveal oneself as an unbeliever.

Contrast with Salvation by Works Catholicism:
SIXTH SESSION, CANONS CONCERNING JUSTIFICATION: "If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 24). Council of Trent

Faith in the Person of Christ
In addition to trusting God's promise, there are many verses which indicate that faith in essentials facts about Jesus is are also a precondition to be saved. Such as
Believing the fact of the resurrection of Christ. (John 5:24; Rom 10:9)
Believing the fact that he is the Son of God (John 20:31; Heb 1:1-3)
Believing the fact of his incarnation into human flesh (1John 4:2; Php 2:6-8; John 1:14)
Believing the fact of his being the Creator (John 1:3; Heb 3:1-4)
Believing the fact of his Lordship (Rom 10:9)
Saving Faith Embraces the Implications of These Facts

There are implications to all these fact, both about the promise and the person of Christ. The fact that he is the Creator leads to discover our meaning and purpose in life not from ourselves, but from him. And I'll talk later about the implications of the promise, but what I would like to focus on now is the implication of Christ being Lord.

Faith in the Lordship of Christ

Rom 10:9 If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Believing in Jesus as Lord first of all incorporates believing in him as the Lord God. Besides the references made previously supporting his deity and like verses, the very phrase "Jesus is Lord" and similar verses like Acts 2:21 "whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.", are quotes used by the apostles, but taken from the Old Testament, the context of which is referring to the Lord God of Israel. They are saying the Jesus is that Lord, the Lord God almighty.  (For more evidence see http://bcbsr.com/topics/lord.html) Thus one must believe that Jesus is the Lord God to be saved.

However, there's also a reason why God is referred to as Lord God in the Old Testament. The concept of "Lord" is one who has command over another. Thus God doesn't want himself to be viewed as a "god" who creates us and then leaves us to our own devices, to do whatever we want. Rather he commands, he speaks commands, and insists people obey him. This is Jesus' concept of Lordship, "Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?" John 6:46 Incorporated in saving faith is the intention to do what Jesus commanded, whether such commands come directly from him or from those he sent. For he also said, "If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also." John 15:20 "whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me" John 13:20 And John himself writes, "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us." 1John 4:6

How is Believing in Jesus as Lord not a work?

As I said, part of what it means to believe in Jesus as Lord is to intend to do what he commanded. Is that a work? No. An intention, while a part of saving faith, is not a work, it is an attitude. Attitudes are not works. You can't miss a day of work due to unforeseen circumstances and then demand to be paid simply because you intended to come into work.

You take for example Luke 19:8,9 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house" Here Zacchaeus announced his intentions, but before acting on his intentions, he was saved. It was the attitude and not the work which was important.

However such an attitude needs to be genuine. Those who embrace saving faith embrace the implications of that faith. Consider the parable of the unforgiving servant of Mt 18. At first posing as one who accepts the concept of grace, he was disqualified from receiving grace because his attitude did not reflect that of his master. Likewise there are posers in the Christian community who do not follow Jesus' example.

Paul writes, "Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many (Christians) live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." Php  3:17-19
Assurance of Salvation

While salvation is a free gift not contingent upon one's performance, the saved can be identified by the effects of that gift. For with the gift comes regeneration which has an inevitable effect upon one's behavior such that "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:9,10 The primary theme of the Epistles of 1John is to identify those born of God and distinguish them from children of the devil among the Christian community. And lest people misconstrue the above verse as referring to sinless perfection, it is not. Throughout 1John he uses a nuance of the Greek, utilizing the present tense to refer to lifestyle and the aorist tense to refer to events. So while those born of God may have events of sin, it is not characteristic of their lifestyle. For a technical analysis of 1John in this basis see  1John Lessons. Furthermore those born of God will inevitably persevere in the faith, and if some allege to have faith in Christ but fall away that indicates they were never really of the faith to begin with. "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." 1John 2:19 For more evidences of salvation read 1John.


Soteriology Critiques

Historic popular Christianity significantly deviated from the gospel from about the 2nd or 3rd Century onward, fulfilling Paul's words, "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock." Acts 20:29 and "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." Gal 5:9 And while there are many areas of theology one could consider, I'm just critiquing the denominational history of Soteriology. That is, the theology of doctrines concerning salvation. The first major deviation is Catholicism.

The Origin of the Catholicism

The Sect of the Circumcision

The most serious deviation from a Scripture view of salvation is found in those who make salvation contingent upon one's performance. While today this soteriology can be found in various sects of Christianity, I believe it's origin to be from a deviant sect found in the church at Jerusalem spoken of in the New Testament where, Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." Acts 15:1  Turns out these men came from the church at Jerusalem, where resided the Eleven apostles and James who end up writing to the Gentiles concerning those men, "We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said." Acts 15:24

This was in response to Paul going down to that church to make them aware of the situation whereby their people were preaching this to the Gentile Christians. There he met privately with those who seemed to be leaders to present his gospel to see if they were on board with him. "I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders" Gal 2:2b Acts records that some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." Acts 15:5  Apparently these were the category of men that had taken upon themselves to preach such an idea to the Gentiles. They were not only members of that church but also on the leadership team. And while Luke, speaking in a generic sense, calls them "believers", Paul says what they really were. "This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves." Gal 2:4

Celebrity Status doesn't matter

So the church at Jerusalem had been infiltrated by false brothers who went around preaching a false salvation by works gospel, right under the noses of Peter, James and John. How could Christians of such caliber have been so negligent? If you read through Acts the way I do you'll find it's not the first time, and it's not the last time. No one should be above scrutiny, not even the apostles, not even James. Paul comments, "As for those who seemed to be important— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance" Gal 2:6 Why does Paul make this comment but to tell us that one's office, one's popularity should not deter us from scrutinizing even the most religiously elite among the Christian community, including the apostles, and James. If it made no difference to Paul, it should make no difference to the rest of us.

The Neo-Circumcision

The sect of false brothers in the church of Jerusalem Paul often refers to as "the circumcision", though on occasion he'll use that term to generically refer to Jews as a separate connotation of the term. These false brothers still exist, though only in small numbers, particularly among the Jewish Christian sects. However from the events of Acts 15 arose sects which derive their soteriology from the "Circumcision", which I call the "Neo (meaning "new")- Circumcision". And while the Neo-Circumcision sects such as Catholicism generally don't advocate the ceremony of circumcision, it can be said that their soteriology is rooted in the viewpoint of the sect of the Circumcision.

The Circumcision:
You must go through a religious ritual and follow laws to be saved.

The Neo-Circumcision:
You must go through a religious ritual and follow laws to be saved.

Same thing. Many of the Salvation by Works Christians sects attempt to mislead people into thinking they don't believe in salvation by works. In many cases, like with Catholicism, they'll parse between two types of salvation. The first being "initial salvation" or they may refer to it as "justification" which they say is by faith alone apart from works, but for them that is just the start of the process of salvation culminating in "Final salvation" which involves works. They don't believe that if a person is initially "saved" by faith he will finally be saved. Salvation is not actually salvation if the person ends up in hell. So if salvation is not finalized upon coming to faith in Christ, it's not salvation.

But concerning Final Salvation, take Catholicism. According to the Catholic Catechism it says under the topic "Final Salvation"
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2.htm#2068
The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them; the Second Vatican Council confirms: "The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments.
In fact what the Catholics refer to as "Commandments" go beyond the 10 Commandments as they add a plethora of commandments like if you wear a condom you're guilty of a mortal sin. Can't find that in the 10 Commandments. Likewise other Neo-Circumcision non-Catholic sects, like the holiness Pentecostals will have their own plethora of commands they have to comply with in order to be saved. It's a different gospel. Yes, they'll claim it's scriptural. But they'll misread scripture to get at it.

The Acts 15 Decree

Here's what happened in Acts 15 as I see it, which resulted in serious misconceptions and the rise of Catholicism and other Neo-Circumcision sects over the last two millenia. Paul presented his gospel to the leadership at the church of Jerusalem. Peter completely agreed with Paul. But James picked up on something Peter said. Namely speaking to the Circumcision on the leadership team there Peter said, "Why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?" Acts 15:10 Peter was referring to their making salvation out to be conditioned upon one's compliance to the Law of Moses. Paul writes extensively on that point in Galatians such as "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law." Gal 3:10,11

What James does is try to find a compromise. He literally compromised the gospel. He took Peter's comment of the Law being too hard to keep, and what he did was that instead of rejecting the Law altogether as a means to salvation as Peter and Paul did, he simply cherry picked a few commands from the law and made the Gentile's salvation conditioned upon their compliance to those regulations. James says, "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." Acts 15:19-20

Consider how arrogant that statement is. Who does James think he is that he could tinker with the gospel in this fashion. Indeed one wonders whether a number of Paul's statements in Galatians were directed at James. Such as "even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" Gal 1:8 And Paul's emphasis concerning the origin of his gospel, "I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." Gal 1:11,12 That in contrast to James' fabricated gospel. For soon thereafter in Galatians Paul references the events of Acts 15. Nor does Paul speak of this decree in any of his epistles, not even in Galatians, but rather in fact often writes contrary to them. James imposes dietary restrictions on the Gentiles as a condition for salvation. Paul writes contrary to James' decree, for example, "Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it." 1Cor 10:25,26 And the context indicates that even included meats sacrificed to idols if it didn't bother one's conscience or that of another.
Catholic Councils and Canon Law

Catholicism took hold on James' example in Acts 15 as endorsing the idea that you could convene councils which could tinker with the gospel and make salvation contingent upon man made Catholic Canon Law. James is the father of Catholicism.
Negligence and Hypocrisy in the church at Jerusalem

How was it that the leadership team at the church of Jerusalem included those of this heretical sect of the Circumcision? And that in light of the fact that Peter sided with Paul with regards to the gospel. Peter was not as respected in the church there as some make him out to be. Notice James' statement previously "It is my judgment". James had such a dominant role in that church that others, even the apostles were mere rubber stampers in comparison. Perhaps Peter had a misconception of humility being a trait in which you allow others to walk all over you.

Furthermore consider in Acts 11 when he returned preaching to the Gentile Cornelius, and that even reluctantly. This is how he was welcomed in his own church, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." Acts 11:3,4 Note the prejudice. Obviously if even an apostle has to come up with an excuse to preach to the Gentiles, Gentile Christians were not welcomed in that church. This despite the fact that James himself hypocritically writes, "My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality." James 2:1 Paul writes, "there is no difference between Jew and Gentile" Rom 10:12 and he preaches the same gospel to both. But in the church of Jerusalem there was reckoned a difference between Jew and Gentile. James even made a distinction between the two in his tinkering with the gospel. And then Peter abandons his responsibility to the Gentile Christians, abandoning the Great Commission given him, abandoning the fact that he himself admitted that Christ had called him to preach to the Gentiles, and decided to make his ministry exclusively to the Jews, along with John and James. "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews." Gal 2:9 Though while they (James, Peter and John) agreed to this, Paul apparently didn't agree. For he continued to minister to both Jew and Gentile alike and never even mentioned the decree in any of his epistles even though in Galatians he spoke of the meeting.

Peter Rebuked for Fear and Hypocrisy

"When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group." Gal 2:11,12

Likely what happened here is that James wanted to make sure that the regulations he had imposed on the Gentile Christians were being observed. Interesting to note, first of all, who did James send? He sent the very category of people who had been preaching a false gospel to begin with - the group of the circumcision. Likely the same false pharisaical brothers among the leadership in Jerusalem who had insisted, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." Acts 15:5 (Kind of an - in your face Paul - moment) Paul noticed that Peter was apparently afraid of these guys. Doesn't say why he was afraid, but it appears that through James' influence and his circumcision cronies, and Peter's fear and insecurity lead to the rise of Catholicism. If Paul had taken a more direct approach from the start in dealing with that sect, rebuking James directly for what he explicitly said in tinkering with the gospel, as he had publicly rebuked Peter for what Peter only implied by his actions, Catholicism and the rise of other Neo-Circumcision sects, may have been rooted out from the start. Nonetheless in his battle against the Circumcision Paul has left us with ammunition in his epistles against such sects.

Scrutinizing James

I pointed out some of the conflicts between James and Paul from Galatians and the events of Acts 15. Likewise there are conflicts between the epistle of James and that of Paul's epistles, particular Romans chapter 4 and James chapter 2. While Catholics inserted James into the Bible, I say, "As for those who seemed to be important— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance" And that includes James. Even Paul expected himself to be scrutinized. "Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" Gal 1:8 And he commended those who scrutinized him. "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11 When subjecting James to such scrutiny I find he falls short and as such, to me, is not scripture.

I'll go into the apparent contradictions between the epistles of Paul and James, but to note, I have studied intensively the various view points, debated them online regarding views that allegedly resolve apparent contradictions between the two and found all such alleged resolutions to be wrong. Basically the Neo-Circumcision Christians try to read Paul in light of James, reading their salvation by works ideas into Paul's epistles, while many non-Neo Circumcision Christians tend to read Paul into James, viewing James' reference to justification by works merely referring to works being an indicator rather than a cause of one's salvation.

A few of us, including myself and Martin Luther view Paul and James as in fact contradicting one another, Paul advocating justification by faith apart from works, and James advocating works along with faith being necessary pre-conditions for salvation. Among the objections Martin Luther notes in his introduction to the epistle of James "I do not regard it  as the writing of an apostle, and my reasons follow. In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works". Not that Luther speaks for me, but just to point out that the forefather of the Protestant Reformation holds the same opinion as I do in this matter. So I'm not alone in this opinion. I do not regard the Catholic epistle of James as scripture. And in all my debates with Catholics they'll always run to James to support their justification by works idea.

James vs Paul

Perhaps the most obviously contradictory passages are the following:

Paul in Romans 4:2-6
 "if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." (Gen 15:6) Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works"

James 2:14,20-24
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? ... You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," (Gen 15:6) and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
James is talking about salvation as he says in James 2:14, and so is Paul. Both quote Gen 15:6, which I show in bold, demonstrating that they are talking about the same kind of justification. But they had different and incompatible interpretations of that verse, along with the obvious contradictions between the rest of the two passages. Paul utilized Gen 15:6 to support his contention that justification is by faith apart from works. For Abraham was given a promise in Gen 15:5 and then before taking any action on the promise he was right then justified - and that in the same sense that believers are today under the gospel, apart from issues of works or performance.

While James views Gen 15:6 as not being fulfilled right then, but rather was a prophecy which was not fulfilled until over a decade later when Abraham did a work of faith associated with the promise. Thus James believes you must have faith to be saved, but you're not saved until you do works of faith. Thus in James saying "faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:17 he is indicating that Abraham's faith was dead until Gen 22 when he offered Isaac and the promise of Gen 15:6 was fulfilled. Now if James is right, Paul is wrong. The two interpretations are inherently contradictory and irreconcilable.  One of these two is wrong and must be disregarded. My conclusions is James is wrong. If he were standing in front of me "I would opposed him to his face, because he is clearly in the wrong." James doesn't know what he's talking about. And what he is makes no difference to me, God shows personal favoritism to no man. (Gal 2:6)

Disarming the Neo-Circumcision

Discarding James from the arsenal of Catholic Soteriology reduces their defense to pile of rubble - vain postulations of the infallibility of Catholic forefathers and of Catholicism itself and misinterpretations and mishandling of the writings of Paul and of the four gospels. But other than James, one of the most common defense Catholics give to support their salvation by works theology is a misinterpretation of Romans 2:7 which they claim is proof the Paul supports their Neo-Circumcision claims.

Rom 2:7 "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life."

This verse is frequently utilized not only by Catholicism but other Neo-Circumcision - salvation by works - sects among non-Catholic Christians. Yes in that verse Paul is talking about salvation by works. There I said it. But look at the context. From Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20 Paul is talking about justification by law, including this verse. But his conclusion is:
"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Rom 3:20-24
No one is qualified to be justified by Rom 2:7 because no one lives up to it. No one persists in doing good. All end up sinning. Sure "good people" will be saved because they are good. But under such a principle, "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." Rom 3:10-12

And this relates to another passage the Neo-Circumcision often reference. Namely Luke 18:19 (or Mk 10:18) in which Jesus is approached by a man who says, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" To which Jesus responds, "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good— except God alone." Likewise the Neo-Circumcision think that they are "good" people. They haven't embraced what Jesus said here that no one is good. Then Jesus, seeing as this man thinks he's good, challenges him with the Law. Paul does the same thing in Romans as I pointed out. The Bible itself is written this way - the presentation of the law precedes the presentation of grace. Not that salvation is contingent upon one's compliance to the law as these other sects say, but rather "through the law we become conscious of sin." Rom 3:20 and "the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." Gal 3:24 Thus to be justified by faith a person must abandon one's reliance upon the law as a means of justification, which is what the Neo-Circumcision fails to do. The law is like an X-ray, it's usage is to diagnose, not to heal, and if fact too much reliance upon it can damage.
Disarming the enemy is one way to win the battle. "Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it." Col 2:15

The Works of the Law

Typically Catholicism's spin on the verses where Paul speaks about salvation by faith apart from works is that they interpret "works" to only mean certain works - namely ceremonial works under the Law of Moses, but that living up to works such as not sinning, living up to the 10 commandments, all the moral laws are all conditions for salvation.

But notice what laws Paul references when he speaks of the righteousness of the law in contrast to the righteousness which is by faith.

Romans 10:4-6 Christ is the fulfillment{or, completion, or end} of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness of the law,"The one who does them will live by them." (Lev 18:5) But the righteousness which is of faith says this ..."

The righteousness of the law involves doing the very things that Catholics insist a person must do to be saved. For if we go back to the context of Lev 18:5 which Paul references we find such things as not committing sexual immorality, be holy, respect your parents, observe the Sabbath, do not make idols, do not steal, do not lie, do not swear falsely, do not pervert justice, do not slander, do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. To name a few.

Thus Paul is saying, in contrast to Catholicism, that making salvation out to be contingent upon such things as obeying the ten commands and loving your neighbor as yourself is contrary to the righteousness which is by faith. Thus Catholicism makes itself out to be as much an enemy of the gospel as the legalistic Jews were.

Non-Catholic Neo-Circumcision Sects

Along with Catholicism there are non-Catholic Neo-Circumcision sects. That is sects that believe that salvation is contingent upon your performance. Typically these can be identified by their rejection of the doctrine of Eternal Security, individuals like Dan Corner, and the predominant denominations being Pentecostal and Methodists among others.


Reformed Theology


Reformed theology is composed of Lutheranism and Calvinism. And though they came along in the 16th Century, their views of election find their origin in Augustinian theology of the 4th Century.  According to Reformed theology a person is fated to eternal life prior to birth, and that not based upon God's foreknowledge of their faith. That is the "U" (Unconditional Election) in the Calvinist's "T.U.L.I.P" acronym. As such under Reformed Theology the elect are never in their life in danger of going to hell as they are predestined prior to birth to go to heaven and nothing can change that fate, and logically as such such people have been saved insomuch as they are guaranteed eternal life and are eternally secure in their fate. Thus Reformed Theology removes faith in Christ as a pre-condition for salvation.The apostle answers the question "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" with "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" which logically contradicts "Unconditional Election". Under Reformed Theology a person cannot do anything to make themselves elect to eternal life.

Those of a Reformed Theology don't believe in salvation by faith. They believe in salvation by election.The difference between Lutherans and Calvinists on this point is that Calvinists believe only the elect can come to genuine faith in Christ, while the Lutherans believe that anyone can come to genuine faith in Christ, but that the non-elect will eventually lose their faith.

Consider what John Calvin himself wrote in his Institutes:
Institutes of the Christian Religion Chapter 21.
Of the eternal election, by which god has predestinated some to salvation, and others to destruction. (title is calvin's)
"All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation"

"The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny; but it is greatly caviled at, especially by those who make prescience its cause."
Calvinism's Concept of Imputed Guilt

Another major aspect of Calvinism I object to is the idea of imputed guilt, much of which they hold in common with Catholics. Imputed guilt is the idea that God reckons people guilty of crimes they haven't actually committed. That itself would seem to be a definition of injustice. And in conversing with Calvinists over the matter they often end up saying, "God is not just in human terms." To which I respond that they can drop the phrase "in human terms" seeing as the Bible was written to humans. If they are preaching to humans, they should just come out and admit that according to their theology God is unjust.

First the God of Calvinism is unjust in reckoning everyone as guilty of Adam's sin, a sin of which they didn't actually commit seeing as they were not even alive at the time. This is different than the proposition that we suffer consequences or affects of Adam's sin as innocent victims of unjustified suffering. Rather Calvinists propose that God actually reckon people guilty of and not simply victims of Adam's sin. Secondly they reckoned that God reckoned Jesus guilty of the sins of the world, sins of which he was innocent, and poured out His wrath upon him on the cross. This in contrast to the view that Christ suffered as an innocent victim of unjustified suffering and on that basis earned the compensation necessary to pay off the sins of the world (as it's a matter of justice to compensate victims of unjustified suffering). The latter scenario does not have God pouring wrath upon Christ, but rather stepping aside for the wicked to do their thing. Note Peter says, "This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men" Acts 2:23 Calvinism leads one to conclude that God was one of those "wicked men", as opposed to taking a passive role in allowing him to suffer.

There are other aspects of Calvinism I object to, but I'll just mention these.
Free Grace Soteriology

Many non-denominational churches, along with groups that follow Darby like Watchman Nee's Local Church and the Plymouth Brethren are of a Free Grace Theology. Those of a Free Grace soteriology would say they trust in Jesus to save them, not relying at all on their works or performance to qualify them to be saved. I agree with them on that point. They believe in Eternal Security as I do. But where they are off is on two related points, first being viewing one's allegiance to Christ as their commander is optional with regards to being a condition for salvation, and secondly denying the power of regeneration.

The first may stem from the second. By denying the power of regeneration, they view that there is no guarantee that such a believer will characteristically behave as a child of God should, or even continue in the faith, seeing as there's nothing that locks those things in.

Based on the denial of the power of regeneration they end up having to misinterpret much of scripture in order to fit their theology into it, including the Lordship of Christ. For example what they'll do with Rom 10:9 which indicates that confessing Jesus as Lord is a condition for salvation, is they'll say "Lord" simply refers to his deity, and not to the idea that it's an expression of one's intention to do what he says. And they take verses like Gal 5:19-21 which ends "those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." and claim that "kingdom of God" is only referring to Jesus 1000 year millenial reign on earth, during which they introduce varying degrees of a purgatory concept for those Christians who don't measure up. One Free Grace sect even suggested that Christians who don't measure up are cast into hell fire during that 1000 years, but then are saved from that afterwards. All these inventions I've critiqued on my theology page, so I won't go into a thorough analysis here, but simply point out the distinction for those unfamiliar with this view.

Summary

So to summarize:
While the conditions for salvation are to trust in Christ as Savior and Lord
How about the demographics?

There are about 2.42 billion people in the world claiming to be Christians
Of the Neo-Circumsion sects of significant numbers:
Of those of a Reformed theology about 190 million
Of those of a Free Grace theology, too few to mention

Now granted that there may be those who believe the gospel, but who out of ignorance associate themselves with one of the above heretical denominations. But then again Jesus said in John 10, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me .... But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice." So I don't expect they would stay long. And much for the same reason I would expect those who falsely claim to believe the gospel would, in the long term, end up actually believing the gospel or "falling away", revealing their fraud. As John said, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." 1John 2:19 And "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:9,10

But adding up these rough denominational numbers and it appears, based on their soteriology,  90% of the "Christian" community doesn't believe the gospel. The only major denomination we're left with is Baptist, and that along with some non-denominational churches. So indeed "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" and "though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved" Rom 9:27 Same holds for the Christian community.
"Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Mt 7:13,14

The Necessity of Bereans

"Bereans" are those who dare to scrutinize ideas in light of scripture and are bold enough to make their opinions known even if it means persecution  and expulsion from the Christian community. "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ," 2Cor 10:5 Without Bereans the church would end up like the church at Jerusalem. But in fact much of that is the case today where almost universally in my experience institutional churches are anti-Berean. We are the Jeremiah's of our day thrown into the mud pit by the institutional authorities. We are the watchmen on the wall of whom few if any listen. We are despised and forsaken of men. Men of sorrows and acquainted with grief, like those from whom men hide faces, being reckoned smitten by God. But we are in good company.

The Church needs more Bereans.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Jun 09,2019