BEWARE OF FAKE
by Ed Stevens
Apostasy, a falling away from the truth, is foretold for these approaching last days. Thus, the various flourishing and expanding religious organizations existing in our midst today should cause us to thoughtfully search God's Book of truth to see whether they are propagated in the way of truth or in the "way that seemeth right unto a man" but ends in the "ways of death" (Prov. 14:12). It can not be successfully denied that but few of Adam's race have been truly pleasing to God. Those following Cain's approach to God have far outnumbered such as followed Abel's example. Cain sought God's favor by service, or "works", which is bribery. He proudly offered his own production of "the fruit, of the ground", rendered hopelessly useless in having the stamp of the curse affixed thereto by God's own just decree. But Abel sought unmerited favor from his Creator wholly through the atoning blood of a substitute to cover his acknowledged sinfulness. He believingly offered a lamb from his flock as being typical of the coming "Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). He was accepted; Cain was not.
Is Satan cleverly combining these two approaches to God, especially where increasing numbers of "converts" are being added to religious groups? The Scriptures reveal Satan as being an arch counterfeiter. His greatest concern is that no one may be saved. Hence he is termed "your Adversary." His masterpiece of deception is the preaching of "another gospel" with such skilled persuasion and flesh-attraction that his unwary listeners come to repose placidly in the evil one
(I John 5:19, R.V.) instead of becoming "new creatures in Christ" (II Cor. 5:17). Oh, that this study on false salvation might awaken such!
Satan, "the father of lies", has ever tried to persuade the human race, beginning with mother Eve, not only to question the veracity of God's Word but also to impugn His purely good intentions and thoughts toward man. From almost any pulpit one may hear John 3:16 glibly quoted and perhaps also that salvation is by grace through Jesus Christ, but it is affirmed in almost the same breath that (a) the permanence of salvation depends upon obedience, i.e., one is on probation; or (b) salvation is man's own responsibility, for when light is received only living up to that light avails in order to reach heaven; or (c) one is merely placed on the same ground where Adam was before he fell—on trial to keep God's favor.
Propagation of Error
Error is propagated and can be given seeming support by Scripture not only by isolating verses therein regardless of the context and the uniform teaching of the entire Word, but by deliberately wresting the Scriptures. No portion of Scripture "is of any private interpretation" either as originating "by the will of man" (II Pet. 1:20,21) or purporting to contain all God has to say on a given subject. Lack of "rightly dividing the Word of truth" as admonished in II Tim. 2:15 and I Cor. 10:32 is also a prevalent source of error. The Bible must be rightly divided to "distinguish the things that differ" (Phil. 1:10 Mar.) since it deals with three classes of people, the Jew, the Gentiles and the Church of God. Certainly all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction IL righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:16, 17).
As to being obedient and "on trial" thank God, His Son was put to that test for all mankind and being perfect therein He "became the author of eternal salvation unto all that obey him." referring, of course, to "the obedience of faith" — faith in the gospel (Heb.5:9; Rom.6:17; 16:26; Ga1.3:1; II Thes.1:8).
Luke 12:47 is usually quoted to support living up to light received in order to be finally saved: "And that Servant which knew his Lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did according to His will, shall be beaten with many stripes." Plainly. the Lord Jesus as a "minister of the circumcision" (Rom. 15:8) referred here to God's former chosen people, the nation Israel, now "cast away" temporarily (Rom. 11:15, 25-29), all of whom were called "servants" though they were not, of course, all saved, for we read in John 1:11, "He came unto His own and His own received Him not," and to some of them the Lord said, "Ye are of your father the devil" (John 8:44).
At Pentecost (Acts 2) God began to form "the Church which is His (Christ's) Body," composed of the individual Jews and Gentiles taken out of all nations. Every member of this Church of Christ's building is saved and has become a "new man" through faith in Him. "And the Lord (not men) added to the Church daily such as were being saved." Their names are "written in heaven," not "in the earth." Please read Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:47; 15:14; Eph. 2:14, 15; 3:1-9; Heb. 12:23; Jer. 17:13.
What About Sinning?
It is taught by many that unless sin ("all unrighteousness"—imperfection "is sin," I John 5:17) is confessed at least before death, one is doomed to everlasting destruction. Confessing sin is not associated with faith whether one is saved or unsaved; we are saved "through faith" only, and all the way by faith alone. The forgiveness of confessed sin referred to in I John 1:9 deals with a Christian's restoration of fellowship with God (see context) and has no connection whatsoever with obtaining or retaining salvation. See David's prayer given in Ps. 51:12. "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation"—his joy was lost but not his salvation.
Heb. 10:26,27 is much quoted as teaching forfeiture of salvation through sinning, which is not the case: "If we sin willfully (in treading under foot the Son of God—v. 29) after that we have received the knowledge of the truth (not salvation, notice), there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins but a certain fearful looking for of judgment (see John 5:24 here) and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries". Notice, no reprieve, no provision as by confession. Truly, all lost souls come under this indictment, for Christ "lighteth every man that cometh into the world" and God's Spirit convicts the world of sin because they believe not on Christ (John 1:9; 16:8, 9). Not loss of salvation but rejection of enlightenment is also the warning found in Heb. 6:4-9 and II Pet. 2:1, 20-22. By carefully examining Ezek. 18:24; 33: 11-13; II Sam. 12:13; I Cor. 5:1-5; 3:15; Heb. 12:5-11, we see that chastisement and even premature death may come to God's people as a result of yielding to the flesh rather than to the Spirit, but salvation is not forfeited. There is no possibility of "backsliding" from a saved state to an unsaved state taught anywhere in Scripture, yet how much do we hear it preached!
John 15:1-8, Another misunderstood passage, speaks of relationship between Christ as "the true vine" and men as branches. Clearly, in verse 6 branches are spoken of as not having made true union with the vine (as grafts) hence they are withered and fruitless and are "burned". Counterfeit branches can also be said to be indicated here—they who profess to be in Christ but are not. All who are united to Jesus Christ do bear fruit in some measure, compare the parable of the sower in Matt. 13, verse 23. A united "branch in" Christ (v. 2) failing to bear fruit is in danger of being "taken away" or cut off in judgment, physically.
Let us remember just here that God's infallible Word tells us in I John 3:9, "Whosoever is born of God Both not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin because he is born of God". Yet I John 1:8,10 speaks of sin in the believer. Do the Scriptures contradict? Never! This "he" who "cannot sin" is the "new man" described in Eph. 4:24 as being "created after God in righteousness and true holiness". He is the "new creation in Christ", having God-life as in contradistinction to the "old man" which has only Adamic life, which God pronounces as only and always sinning and which must be "mortified" (put to death) or "put off" (Col. 3:1-9). Very many preachers and teachers seem to be totally ignorant concerning the fact that sinlessness and everlasting life abide only in this new creation entirely apart from the Adamic man. The God of all grace be praised that thus it is that "Now are we the sons of God" (I John 3:2) and once a son, always, just as in earthly families. God will never cast away His children who indeed, constitute the mystical "body" of His own dear Son. the Lord Jesus Christ. They are inseparably and eternally united with Him (Rom. 8:38, 39; John 6:37; 14:16).
When bluntly asked, "Can one fall out of Christ?" the false teachers will promptly answer, "Yes", or subtly say, "We can not (or, 'may not') judge", though in their preaching they deny this. Matt. 7: 21-23 is usually brought in here: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ... many will say to me in that day, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name ... then will I profess unto them, I knew you". The word "never", you see denies their ever having been His own, for "the Lord knoweth them that are His" (II Tim. 2:19).
"It Is Finished"
The lure of error in regard to salvation can be described in few words. The law, or works as a principle of life, has always been preferred to grace by the natural man, because it presupposes some ability in man to perform it and thus gives him something to be proud of. Pride is man's greatest barrier to heaven. It is the outstanding characteristic of all unsaved people. The true gospel of grace without works is too humiliating for them. It makes them angry! Only the humble minded understand and appreciate the full scope and meaning of the Savior's words on the cross when He died saying, "It is finished" (John 19:30).
What (as planned "from the foundation of the world") was finished? It was the work of redeeming mankind, a work in two phases: (1) Perfect obedience to and fulfillment of God's righteous law had been accomplished by God's own Son, the only one who ever did or could thus fulfill that law. It was done vicariously, i.e., in the place of man (Rom. 5:18, 19). (2) The penalty for all mankind's sin had been paid in full, for "the wages of sin is death"—separation from God, which the Lord Jesus actually experienced on the cross when He cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt.27:46). This, too, was vicarious, "that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb. 2:9). "God was in Christ reconciling the world" unto Himself, not imputing (charging) their trespasses unto them". "For He bath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (II Cor. 5:19, 21). "He was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification" (Rom. 4:25).
Unbelief is now the only sin that condemns men to an agonizing Christless eternity (John 3:18; 16:9). "If ye believe not that I am He ye shall die in your sins"—sins being "retained" when the gospel of salvation in Christ is not believed (John 8:24; 2v:23). Only because of the inexcusable and unpardonable rejection of God's Son "who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree" (I Pet. 2: 24) will all unbelievers be forsaken of God throughout all eternity, bearing their own sins in their own (resurrected) bodies in the "lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Rev. 21:8; Matt. 25:41). Our just and holy God pleads with all flesh to turn from this terrible fate into His way of escape. He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9). "Behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Cor. 6:2). Unsaved reader, now is your opportunity! Tomorrow may be forever too late! "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).
Faith And Works
James 2:14-26 has been much misinterpreted to teach salvation by works. Verses 14 and 24 are especially dwelt on: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith and have not works? Can faith save him? Ye see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only". The R.V. reads: "Can that faith save him?" The context explains that the true, living faith of saved possessors of salvation is always evidenced by righteous works (the fruit of the indwelling Spirit) and this is contrasted with the dead merely professed faith of unsaved religious professors whose only works are the sinful "works of the flesh" (see Gal. 5:19-23). All their "righteousnesses are as filthy rags in God's sight" (Isa. 64:6).
What James says about Abraham being "justified" (declared righteous) by "faith and works" has nothing whatever to do with how Abraham was saved. His "works" referred to here occurred twenty or more years after he had "believed God, and it (alone) was counted unto him for righteousness" (Rom. 4:3). All this can be proved by reading James 2 and Romans 4 along with Gen. 15 through 22. You will then see that James does not insinuate that Paul is contradictory. He simply says that men will say, "Show me" (v. 18), in that they require visible evidence of true salvation in its accompanying divinely empowered good works.
"If any man teach otherwise and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing . . . (I Tim. 6:3, 4). "A man is not justified by works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ; even we have believed in Jesus Christ that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law. for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ died in vain" " . . . if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness would have been by the law." (Gal. 2:16, 21; 3:21.)
How can a man "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1) perform God's will when it takes LIFE to do so, a life he does not have until he is "born again" as a saved man?
There are many who teach that none are saved unless, in addition to faith in Christ, he obeys God's commandments. Of these who "take away the key of knowledge" (Luke 11:52), our Lord said, "Woe unto you! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, for ye neither go in yourselves neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in" (Matt. 23:13). The wickedest, most heinous crime a man can do is to pervert the gospel of the grace of God! In the light of eternity he is public enemy number one!
In preaching Christ to Jews who trusted in law-keeping for justification before God Paul declared, "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 13:38, 39).
In trying to evade this sweeping judgment upon adding works to faith for salvation, some, as for example, the so-called "Jehovah's Witnesses" (offshoot of Russelism), profess to be under the new covenant, not under the "old Jewish covenant with its ten commandments". (The new covenant is, of course, still future for literal Israel who had the old as is seen by reading Jer.31:31-37; 32:36-44; Heb. 8:8-12) These false "witnesses" (for Satan) herald in different words the same false works gospel: one must "live up to God's requirements—obedience to God's commands" to be eligible for "the kingdom".
Proud religionists would deprive our blessed Lord of part of His glorious work of redeeming man by accepting some of it that God may be favorable toward them and then think to serve Him to obtain deliverance from "the wrath to come" This theology is of Satan, who well knows that half a Savior is no Savior at all. Again, anyone who professes to accept Christ on the assumption that though his past life is blotted out his admittance to heaven is going to be earned by right behavior, is only religiously, yes, piously still on his way to final and eternal separation from God in the lake of fire.
We are warned in II Cor. 11:14, 15 that "Satan is transformed as an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed, as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works". We ask, Who else could this refer to if not to people who teach falsely on the all important subject of salvation? Think of it! Does Satan sponsor preaching "righteousness"? Yes; but it is not God's righteousness!
From verse four of II Corinthians eleven we learn that fake assurance (of a limited and deceitful variety) can very well accompany fake salvation, for those who are beguiled and corrupted from "the simplicity that is in Christ", through accepting "another gospel", believe on "another Jesus" and "receive another spirit". The heaven-born blessed and full assurance of being definitely saved and sure of heaven rests only in the hearts of those who have humbly complied with God's true way of salvation. Only such can have a personal intimate acquaintance with the Lord Jesus Christ and do have the indwelling Holy Spirit bearing witness with their spirit that they "are the children of God" (Rom. 8:14-16). The comfort and joy of this assurance is reflected in their very faces.
The utter futility of including law, or works for salvation is clearly seen in the experience of every unsaved person who is trying even in the slightest degree to live the life only a true Christian can live, i.e., the Christian life in regeneration. He is doing what he does not as one who is accepted with God but with a view to becoming acceptable. All is done in the energy of the flesh; he has no experimental knowledge of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. For him the Christian manner of life in enabling grace is impossible of attainment; he finds it only an irksome "yoke of bondage".
The True Gospel
I Cor. 15:1-5 very plainly states not only what the gospel is—what to believe to be saved, but also wherein is our standing: "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you THE GOSPEL which I preached unto you, which also ye have received and WHEREIN YE STAND; BY WHICH ALSO YE ARE SAVED, if ye keep in memory what I have preached unto you unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS according to the Scriptures; and that HE WAS BURIED, and that HE JOSE AGAIN the third day according to the Scriptures; and that HE WAS SEEN of Cephas, then of the twelve". Notice in Acts 10:36-44 how, through Peter's preaching this four-point gospel, Cornelius and company were saved. See also Paul's preaching it in Acts 13:26-33, 38, 39. Just as all our sins were put upon Christ when He died on the cross, so all His righteousness and perfect sinlessness is f put upon us the moment we believe this good news "with the heart."
To affirm that no one can know for sure in this life whether he is forever saved betrays not only ignorance of God's Word but apparently an unsaved condition. "He that believeth on the Son HATH EVERLASTING LIFE" and he "shall not come into judgment (condemnation) but is passed out of death (spiritual separation from God) into life", or union with God—"He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit". He has been "quickened" made alive in possession of Christ's "endless life" and is in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit "forever". Please turn to John 3:36; 5:24; 14:16; I Cor. 6:17; Heb. 7:16; I John 5:9-13 and read these precious truths.
The word "hath" in John 3:36 firmly indicates immediate and everlasting possession of God's gift of eternal life. Then, too, all believers are "sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest (or pledge—God's own unbreakable pledge) of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession", meaning, the glorification of their bodies at Christ's return (Eph.1:13,14; I Thes. 4:13-17; Rom. 8:30). The Scriptures do teach eternal security—in Christ, not in us. It is not debatable. It is the only true gospel. To deny this teaching is to disparage the grace of God and His Word, as well as the efficacy of the atoning sacrifice of God's Son. It requires too much space to quote these additional references :—John 10:28; 11:25; 13:9, 10; I Pet. 1:5; Heb. 9:12; 10:14; 13:5; Phil. 1:6; Cor. 1:8, 9; Psa. 37:23, 24, 28; 23:6; 21:4; 22:26. Just remember that God does not "repossess" salvation as merchants do earthly things when payments fail. "The gifts and calling of God are not repented of" (Rom. 11 :29) .
In opposing these precious truths religious unbelievers will argue, Then all there is to it is just believe, and you can sin all you want to. It proves that they do not know what salvation is—that it is not by faith plus works, but by a faith that works. To believe "with the heart" in Christ and His redeeming work means nothing less than subsequent crucifixion of self through God's enabling power and to live by Him, in departure from all iniquity, as stated in Gal. 2:20; 5:24; II Cor. 5:15; II Tim. 2:19. We may not preach grace at the expense of Christian living. Eternal redemption is not eternal exemption! To be saved is to be "His workmanship (not ours), created in Christ Jesus unto (not by ) good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). A "new creature in Christ" does not want to sin, he hates sin. "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (II Cor. 5:17). It is written of false teachers, "If they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them". "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom. 15:13; 16:17,18).
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