The True Danger of Preaching False Conversion

By Gary Meredith

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For example, 1 Corinthians records some of the many sins those believers were practicing — lawsuits against fellow believers, quarreling, division into factions, drunkenness, sexual sin, arrogance, discrimination against the poor. Yet Paul in his distress never accuses them of being false converts. A thousand years before that, King David, the "man after God's own heart," seduced the wife of a friend, then had him murdered to cover up his crime (2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51). Yet no one considers David a false convert.

This is not to suggest we shouldn't take sin in our lives seriously — we are to deal with it ruthlessly and never compromise or tolerate it for a moment (Luke 15:7; 1 John 2:1; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:7-9; James 1:21). But even those living in deliberate sin were not accused by Paul of being false converts, though some were at the point where he had to "turn them over to Satan" so they would learn a lesson and still be saved (1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Timothy 1:20). Again, it is not false converts but false teachers that Paul identifies as a far more serious problem, to the point of wishing them damned (Galatians 1:6-9).

Christians are tempted to sin more than unbelievers, who aren't a threat to Satan or the world. Not until we become children of God do we become offensive — "the smell of death" (2 Corinthians 2:15-16) to those doomed entities. Satan asks God's permission to attack his people (Job 1-2; Luke 22:31). We're going to fail some of those tests; that's how we learn and grow in our walk with God in the process of sanctification. But the false conversion doctrine turns our many stumblings into the evil suggestion that we were never saved. The Gospel corrects that disabling error by taking our focus off of ourselves, and onto God's amazing grace. As we mature in our faith and start realizing how many sins God has forgiven us, our love for God grows (Luke 7:47).

Christians need to understand through teaching and experience that the sin nature never dies in any believer during this life (Genesis 4:7; Romans 7:14-25). Sanctification is a lifelong process that God won't complete in us until we die or Christ returns, whichever comes first (Philippians 1:6). We all sin. That's why the Bible says we are to continually confess our sins (1 John 1:8-10; James 5:6). The Lord's Prayer was given to believers, not to unbelievers — there is no time in this life when we stop asking God to "forgive us our debts." The prodigal son was a believer when he went wild, not a false convert, (Luke 15:11-32). Jesus told us to forgive our fellow believers an endless number of times (Matthew 18:21-22). Doing so glorifies God by reflecting his nature, because He does the same for us (Matthew 5:44-45).

One more error of false conversion teaching needs correction. Proponents suggest there are so many "false converts" today because they did not genuinely repent of their sins due to the failure of evangelists to present the complete Old Testament law. They claim that without fully understanding God's holy standards that all of us have violated, false converts never realize how much they have been forgiven, and therefore do not come to true repentance for salvation (Acts 11:18; 2 Corinthians 7:10). There is some truth to the point, but that is not how the Gospel was presented in the New Testament to non-Jews. To Jews, Paul "reasoned with them from the Scriptures" (Acts 17:2). But to non-Jews, the Apostles presented a much simpler, more direct Gospel. Look at Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:30-35), Peter in the Roman centurion's home (Acts 10:34-43), and Paul with the Athenians (Acts 17:22-31) and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:30-33). After all, there weren't Bible book stores in even the most civilized cities back then. Many real converts had little or no exposure to the Old Testament. They simply accepted the good news of the Gospel on the spot in all its glorious simplicity and clarity.

This is especially true for young believers. The vast majority of Christians living today, at least in the United States, came to faith before they were adults. Though all people have an equally corrupt sin nature, children are not and cannot be as aware of it. They don't yet have the "track record" that undeniably reveals their fallen nature, which we adults acquire over the years. As Christ explained, "whoever has been forgiven little loves little" (Luke 7:47). So to prepare young Christians to mature in their faith, it is essential they are taught the correct diagnosis and cure for their misbehavior — not that they were never saved, but that they were never challenged to deal with their own sinful nature in all of its raging youthful energy (Genesis 4:7; Psalm 25:7). As they come to realize that they are no better than anyone else (Romans 3:23), they will grow in humility and gratitude towards God for his amazing grace for them, while learning to extend that same mercy and grace towards others (Matthew 6:12).

The vital truth missed by false conversion teaching is that we Christians will continue to be tempted all our lives, we will continue sometimes to fail, and our heavenly Father will continue to forgive us and love us and work in us through his mercy and grace (Psalm 51; Romans 5:20-21), thanks to the continuous intercession for us by the Son and Spirit (Romans 8:26-27; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1). Embracing that process, rather than mislabeling it, burns up our shallow, immature, judgmental faith as we learn to extend to our fallen neighbors the grace and love that was so freely lavished on us.

It is this long, humiliating, painful process of sanctification that eventually teaches us how to "act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).

Image Credit: bngdesigns; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Salvation  | Biblical-Truth  | False-Teaching

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Published on 11-9-15