THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
Salvation and Doctrine
By John Copper
Many religions that consider themselves to be Christian teach unbiblical theology. What we actually need to believe to be saved gets muddy. Can you believe in purgatory or the Mormon description of Jesus? And why does God let us hear false doctrine if He wants us to be saved?
It should be stated at the outset that no person comes to Christ with a perfect, mature understanding of who Jesus is; this is something that is learned over time, through the study of the Scriptures. In Jesus' day, the Pharisees did not understand who the Messiah would be — they did not see the suffering servant of Isaiah 52 and 53, they only looked for the conquering Messiah of Daniel 2:46; 7:13-14 and others. Because the Pharisees were the teachers in Israel, the disciples likewise had an imperfect understanding of who the Messiah would be. After the resurrection, the disciples on the road to Emmaus were confused; they did not understand that the Messiah had to die first (Luke 24:13-35). Not until Jesus revealed Himself to them during the course of their conversation: "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). While it is necessary to believe in Jesus for salvation, it is not necessary to have a perfect understanding of His Eternal Being and Nature; this knowledge comes through discipleship, from studying the holy Scriptures.
Every person who comes to Jesus for salvation brings with them a host of false doctrines; this is true whether they are converted from Roman Catholicism, Humanism, Buddhism, or whatever. Every person has a worldview through which they observe the circumstances of life and on which they base their daily decisions. The process of discipleship (Matthew 28:19-20) involves the breaking down of this unbiblical worldview and replacing it with an informed Biblical worldview. This is the meaning of Paul in Romans 12:1-2: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Italics added for emphasis, ESV). It is the responsibility of each individual believer to be discipled, for example in a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church (2 Timothy 2:15). Doctrines that are incompatible with the Bible, such as the Mormon doctrine of Jesus, or the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, must be discarded and rejected. Any system of religion that depends on a man's merit to earn salvation, such as Roman Catholicism and Mormonism, must be rejected as a false religious system. The doctrine of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, is only taught and subscribed to in Biblical Christianity; all other religious systems harbor a works-based salvation; the Bible alone teaches that no person will be saved through individual effort (Romans 3:20), but only through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22).
Finally, our ignorance is not caused by God. He made man such that man was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). He made man in His own image, and as such man had wisdom and knowledge, as evidenced by Adam naming all of the animals in the Garden, and walking and talking with God in the cool of the day (Genesis 2:19-20; 3:8 ff). Man became ignorant of God through deliberate sin and disobedience. In fact, God intervenes to correct us and to teach us the Truth, and has throughout history. First, God has placed in each man an innate knowledge of the essential attributes of His nature, which are also displayed in the creation (Psalm 19:1-5; Ecclesiastes 3:11; Romans 1:18-23). He has given us His word, the Bible, by which we are to be instructed and trained (2 Timothy 3:16); finally, He has given us His Son, the exact representation of His Being (John 14:9-11; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-3). Because of the testimony that God has given us concerning Himself, through His creation, His word, and His Son, men are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Any ignorance of doctrine or practice is the fault of the person, not God.
All people are guilty of sin (Romans 3:23), "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV). In the transaction of salvation, God has given the believer everything he/she needs for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), but the believer is required, "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love." (2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV). This is the essence of discipleship, and it is incumbent upon all who call on the name of Jesus.
Image: Courtesy Kersley Fitzgerald
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | False-Teaching | Jesus-Christ | Other-Religions
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