Discernment - Part 2
Friday, December 6, 2009 at 1:45am
A person's salvation can depend to some extent on doctrinal
Since this point is so often contested in our day, it deserves closer
Almost everybody who acknowledges
Jesus Christ in some way will agree that those who completely and
explicitly reject Jesus Christ are lost.
people find it difficult, however, to believe that some might sincerely
think themselves to be following Jesus Christ and yet,
due to heretical belief, be lost.
Jesus Himself promised,
"Seek, and you shall find"
7:7); should not those who seek for Christ find Him?
And do not many sincere members of groups which evangelicals label
heretical truly want to find Christ? They
may read the Bible more studiously
than many an evangelical church member; they
may express an ardent desire to know
God and obey Him; they may
zealously proclaim the message of Christ as they have been taught it.
Are they not, therefore, seeking
Christ, and will they not, then, in accordance with His promise, find
Christ? And if so, how can
salvation depend on doctrinal beliefs? These questions may be
answered by keeping the following biblical principles in mind:
Not everyone who acknowledges Jesus as Lord will be saved.
This follows directly from Jesus' own words:
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the
kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in
heaven will enter."
Matthew 7:21 (NASB)
Simply acknowledging that Jesus is Lord does not guarantee a
person's salvation. The acknowledgment
might be mere lip service,
as demonstrated by refusal to obey
Him as Lord (Luke 6:46). Or someone might call Jesus "Lord"
and not mean the same thing as what the Bible means by it.
This leads us to a second
Many who claim to acknowledge Jesus actually believe in "another
and are either deceived or
deceiving. This follows directly from
2 Corinthians 11:4. Many
who speak of faith in "Jesus"
have an understanding of who and what Jesus is that
differs so much from reality that
in truth they do not have faith in the real Jesus at all.
For example, if a person thought Buddha was another name for Moses,
we would not normally consider him a Buddhist, no matter how piously
and moralistically he lived out his belief in "Buddha."
someone who denies
the biblical view of Christ (2nd
person of the one Triune Godhead (2)
should not be identified as a
Christian, no matter how religiously he follows his belief.
Some people who believe in
"another Jesus" are no doubt insincere, and
Paul warns of "deceitful
workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ" (2
Cor. 11:13). I like to think the best of people,
even people with whom I have serious disagreements. But I have
become acquainted with a few persons about whom I have had to
conclude, reluctantly, that they are
simply liars. These people
know on a conscious level that
the message they proclaim is false.
"But I am afraid
that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will
be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."
2 Corinthians 11:3
On the other hand, some people, even members of Christian churches,
can be "led astray"
Cor. 11:3) by
such deceivers. Thus, it
is possible for sincere people, even people who were part of the
fellowship of true Christians, to be deceived into following
that such people are perfectly innocent -- rather, they are
like Eve who, though deceived by the serpent (2
Cor. 11:3), was
guilty of sin and held accountable by God (Gen.
Those who are zealous in religious matters are not necessarily saved.
Romans 10:2 Paul says of
his Jewish brethren who rejected Jesus, "They
have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge."
Zeal, of course,
implies sincerity -- that
is, the mental state of believing
that what one is promoting is based on truth. The Jews who
rejected Jesus were for the most part zealous, and therefore sincere
in this sense -- but they were
still lost (Rom.
Their zeal was, in particular, for a right standing with God
-- but they sought it on the
basis of their own works, as if salvation was by works, rather than
receiving the righteousness which was available in Christ through
Matthew 23:15 addresses
zeal of another kind -- zeal in seeking converts.
The Pharisees were extremely
zealous in missionary work, but all they succeeded in doing was
leading more people into their error. Zeal in witnessing
or evangelizing does not indicate that a religious group is God's
people. (Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses come to mind).
Unless God's Spirit draws a person, then they cannot truly seek God.
Sin has so perverted the desires of all human beings that
none of us, by our own natural
wishes, is looking for God. When people do seek God,
it is only because God has first
"sought" them and drawn them toward Him by His grace (Luke
When people therefore appear to be
"seeking God" -- when they
study the Bible (2
attend meetings, pray,
change their lifestyles,
attempt to obey the commandments,
even speak of their love for God
and Christ -- yet
persist in worshipping a false God, or honoring a false Christ, or
following a false gospel (Gal.
2 Cor. 11:4),
we must conclude that they were
not really seeking God. Rather,
they may have been seeking
spiritual power, or security, or peace of mind, or warm
relationships, or knowledge, or excitement, or anything other than
In saying this, I am not claiming
that all genuine Christians on the other hand have sought purely and
simply after God. No, our
testimony as Christians must be that we were also following our own
divergent path when God sought us, stopped us in our way, and led us
up a new and narrow path leading to salvation in Jesus Christ
Anyone who truly desires to know the truth about God and His way of
salvation above all else can and will be saved.
This is the other side of the coin
from the previous point. Jesus promised that "the
one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (John
However, we must come to the
true Jesus on His terms.
Judas came to the true Jesus, at
least outwardly (actually,
Judas did not know who Jesus really was),
but he did not come on Jesus'
terms and was consequently lost (John
The cost of abandoning heresy is usually great
loss of friends,
embarrassment of admitting error,
threat of the heretical teachers that all who leave their teaching will
Salvation is available for anyone who
by God's grace puts truth (and the One who is truth) above these things.
(1) See "Seven
Men Named Jesus"
(2) See "Is
the Trinity Biblical?" and "There
is only one God"
If I were to keep quiet, the stones would cry out !
or email me if you have questions.