THE “ISSUE OF SALVATION” IS NOT THE “ISSUES”
The real issue when it comes to salvation is not “the issues.” In the Church we talk about this is a “salvation issue” but that is not a “salvation issue.” Of course the “salvation issues” are always determined by the “issuer.” The issues change according to the one listing them and his/her list will usually change somewhat on some things as they study more and get older and wiser. It is usually predictable how the “issues” change depending on who the “issuer” is and what University, preacher school, paper, group, or Church “issued” them to the “issuer.” In my judgment the only real “salvation” issue is whether or not we truly believe in (trust in/rely on) the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins –which faith is expressed in turning to Jesus in repentance and identifying with Him in baptism (Acts 2:36-39; Gal. 3:26-27). It is faith in Jesus pure and simple. Faith expressed in looking to Jesus for salvation (Heb. 12:1-2) and seeking to do His will for our lives as we understand it (Jn. 14:23). This is the “salvation issue.” A believer may be wrong on any number of the “issues” on the lists we issue, but if he/she has the “real issue” right (trust in Jesus), then I believe that salvation from sin has been issued. I am aware of course that there are verses such as Galatians 5:19-21 that say that those who “practice” such things as those listed will be lost. But even in those cases is there a difference in “practicing” them as a “way of life” and in participating in them because of ignorance and/or weakness? For example, “idolatry” is specifically mentioned as a “work of the flesh” that condemns one, but the weak brother in 1 Corinthians 8:4-12 believed in more than one god, did he not? Did this “issue” cause him to be lost at this point? “Envy” is also listed, but the Corinthian Church also struggled with that issue according to Paul (1 Cor. 3:3). Were they lost at that point when Paul wrote his first letter to them? If so, how do we explain First Corinthians 1:2? If we baptize an atheist because of his faith in Jesus without a chance to teach him the truth on any of the “issues” we understand the Bible to teach what is his condition while he is ignorant and/or weak when it comes to these issues? Is he lost? What if he never has a chance to learn any better, does he lose his salvation because he does not practice and/or avoid all of our “salvation issues?” If the ex-atheist who is born again is saved in spite of his ignorance and/or weakness then what about the faithful members of our Churches who have been members for a long time but are still “weak in the faith” or ignorant or simply misunderstand what the Bible teaches on any number of matters, will that “weakness” or “ignorance” or “misunderstanding” cause them to be lost? I have learned from my own experience that when we are “issues” oriented it is a never-ending battle of division, discord, distrust, dissention, and discouragement. Is what I am writing in this article a “salvation issue?” If it is and some don’t agree, guess what? I guess, according to the view of some, they are now left to wonder to themselves if they or “in” or “out!” If I am wrong about it, since Jesus has settled the “issue of salvation” for me (including my ignorance, honest misunderstandings, faults, failings, and shortcomings etc.) and I don’t rely on getting all of the “issues right” it is not really a concern for me as far as my salvation in Christ is concerned. I seek to do right and teach about the “issues” as I understand them at any given point (changing as I learn more/better), but I know that I do not have anywhere near perfect knowledge of God’s will and I struggle with practicing all that I think I know now. Furthermore I have changed my mind on some “issues” I thought I understood then, but didn’t if I understand them now. By the way, I believe that Jesus will save all of us who have been “born again” and who trust in His sacrifice for our sins even if we haven’t developed any muscle and/or don’t know where/how to look for a shovel. Salvation in Jesus is a very simple matter that we have complicated by all of the issues we regard as issues added to the only real “salvation issue!” See Second Corinthians 11:3.
Please don’t misunderstand; I am not saying that seeking to be right on all of the “issues” is not an important and worthy goal…but is being right on all of the issues essential? If being right on every doctrinal “issue” is necessary to our being saved, then no one is saved…including you or me…because no one has a perfect understanding of God’s will!! If we can be honestly mistaken about one of our doctrinal “issues,” then we can be “honestly” mistaken about them all! If not, why not? Furthermore when we really look at the “issues” listed in the “salvation issues” on the lists that we list, we issuers will usually leave out the issues that we have an issue with (pride, gluttony, worry, self-righteousness, divisiveness, fault-finding, lack of love, failing to pray as we should, failing to bear with others, failing to teach others, failing to make every effort to add the Christian graces, gentleness, meekness, being unmerciful, disrespect for our nation’s leaders, lust, complaining, criticizing, laziness, gossip, speaking evil of brethren, abusing our physical bodies, etc.) when we list the “salvation issues.” Do you suppose that inconsistent “issue” on our part could be a “salvation issue?” (I should not have brought that up, because it is bound to be added to someone’s list!) In short, I believe we need strive to be right about everything Jesus teaches and those of us who have received Him as LORD do that– based our degree of faith, level of intelligence, and state of growth. Obviously this needs to be our goal and our aim. But it is also very obvious that it is not necessary to be right about everything Jesus taught, as long as we are right about the salvation that Jesus brought! So far as I know the Ethiopian eunuch was saved without knowing anything that was written in any of the New Testament books from Romans to Revelation. But he believed in Jesus as the sacrifice for his sins and expressed that faith in being born again and he went on his way rejoicing without any help from us in figuring out all of the other “salvation issues” that we create along the way (Acts 8:26ff). I am not saying that he did not learn some things later, but I am asking what was condition while he was “ignorant” and/or “honestly mistaken” about some of the things he thought was right (as we all are now on some issues)? The point is that we are not saved by being “right” on the issues but we are saved by being “made right” by the one who got all of the “issues” right. And that, in my judgment, is the “salvation issue!” See First Corinthians 1:30-31 and Second Corinthians 5:17-21. Fellowship, cooperation, errors, difficult subjects, baptism, communion, music, worship, women’s role, work of the Holy Spirit, and other “issues” can and should be discussed by any/all believers, but the “salvation issue” has been/is settled for all of us who really believe while we are honestly and openly discussing these the other “issues.” Salvation is not in a “system of religion” or a certain set of rules, regulations, and requirements, put together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle by certain groups or Churches, but salvation is in the sacrifice of a Savior (Act 4:13; 1 Cor. 15:1-4). Jesus is the Savior whom all true believers have received as Lord (Col. 2:6-12) and therefore He saves all of those who seek to do His will as they understand it at any given point in their spiritual lives.
Thank God for Jesus!