Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Beginning of Apostasy

When does a church or denomination begin the descent into apostasy? When is the line crossed from the pure teaching into the obscurity of falsehood and confusion?

How can one tell if a certain Christian group is on the level doctrinally?

While there are many warning signs to look for, the first and most obvious one is the means of salvation.

In other words, what a church, denomination, or organization teaches and promotes concerning the way of salvation is the true benchmark of apostasy.

It is so simple that we usually miss it: Whenever any condition is added to the doctrine of grace through faith, the die has been cast for declension into apostasy. If we make the gospel conditional upon any other factor than expressly required, we have created another gospel, and instead of being the good news it has now become the formula for attaining eternal life.

We are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ - plus nothing - minus nothing. Any addition of works or requirements pollutes the purity and power of the shed blood of Christ, and casts insult upon the finished and complete work of Christ.

When you add requirements to simply trusting in Christ alone for your salvation, you have in essence created a works based salvation, or as the theological elite like to call it, an anthropocentric gospel.

You may say, “But they have such sound doctrine or teach such wonderful hermeneutics”. Any such teaching will be flawed and fundamentally corrupted by their denial of the sufficiency of the atoning work of Christ’s blood for our sins.

To front or backload the gospel is to create another gospel. While many may in fact be saved through such incorrect preaching, there will exist doubts and fears that their salvation may possibly be false, spurious, disingenuous, or even be taken away should they not maintain good works and evidences of fruit.

So to nail it down: Our hope should rest on nothing else but Jesus’ blood and righteousness. In Christ alone my hope is found. Praise God that nothing can separate us from His love which is in Christ Jesus.

21 comments:

bobby grow said...

Amen, Jim!

Thus my disdain for Calvinism (I'm not picking a fight or anything ;)

IN Christ

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Are those who teach repentance as a condition for eternal life in apostasy?

Are Free Gracers in apostasy for denying that belief in Christ's deity is a condition of eternal life?

jazzycat said...

Jim,
I think the answer to your opening questions would be when clear Biblical teachings are watered down or ignored. You zeroed in on justification by faith alone that you won’t get much argument on as we all agree on that. There are many other Biblical principals that lead to JBF such as election, effectual calling, regeneration, conversion, repentance etc.

Bobby,
Disdain for Calvinism?? I did not see any attacks on Calvinism in Jim’s post. What are you getting at?

Matthew,
A few years ago a large group of evangelical leaders met and came up with some affirmations and denials in a response they called…… (The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration)
The following was number 6:

6. We affirm that faith in Jesus Christ as the divine Word (or Logos, John 1:1), the second Person of the Trinity, co-eternal and co-essential with the Father and the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:3), is foundational to faith in the Gospel.

We deny that any view of Jesus Christ which reduces or rejects his full deity is Gospel faith or will avail to salvation.

Therefore, it appears that free gracers would be in serious error on this point with this group.

The entire document and who were at this conference can be found at:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/106/53.0.html

John 3:16 says clearly that eternal life comes with a belief in the deity of Jesus.

Jazzycat

Kc said...

Excellent point and post and very well stated.

Jim said...

Bobby, hi :)

Jim said...

"Are those who teach repentance as a condition for eternal life in apostasy?"

Matthew, nice question...very juicy.

I think the point of this post is to look beyond the system of one particular group and see the broad scope. Anything that is added or required other than to simply put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation is a "work". This will ultimately lead to an apostate condition.

The mainline churches are examples enough of this compromised state, although many of them barely started off on the right foot soteriologically.

Jim said...

"Are Free Gracers in apostasy for denying that belief in Christ's deity is a condition of eternal life?"

Matthew, do you have a quote where FGer's would say that?

I personally think that the revelation of Christ as God is part and parcel of believing on Him for salvation. The JW's and Mormons believe in Jesus but not as the Son of God.

Only God can save, not a prophet, "good teacher", or any other such esteemed title.

God bless,
Jim

Jim said...

"There are many other Biblical principals that lead to JBF such as election, effectual calling, regeneration, conversion, repentance etc."

Jazzycat, there are indeed many more aspects to salvation than simply faith alone, in Christ alone. However, when preaching the gospel we are to preach Christ and Him crucified. We must avoid inserting our pet theology and insisting upon acceptance as a condition of salvation. That is indeed another gospel, and one which Paul vehemently opposed.

There is nothing new to a works based gospel, the Judaizers were the masters of this deception.

Now, discipling is where we are to instruct new converts in the means of christian living, doctrinal matters, and anything else that pertains to godliness.

Knowledge apart from wisdom and revelation is like placing a loaded shotgun in the hands of a blind man.

Jim said...

KC, thanks for the comment. I am honoured by your words.

If you have some wisdom to impart, by all means do so.

God bless,
Jim

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

""Are Free Gracers in apostasy for denying that belief in Christ's deity is a condition of eternal life?"

Matthew, do you have a quote where FGer's would say that? "

I thought you were aware that Antonio, KK Flynn and I have been arguing for this very point.

Jim said...

Matthew, I must confess some ignorance of this debate. I will try to find some of the threads and see what you guys have been saying.

If you don't think believing in Christ's deity is important, what do you think should be understood about Jesus?

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I did not say that the deity of Christ was unimportant. It is vitally important to understand the theology of the New Testament.

I simply do not hold that affirming it is a condition of receiving eternal life.

The only condition of redemption is trusting in Jesus as the one who provides eternal life, 'the resurrection and the life.' (John 11:27)

You actually commented on a post on Unashamed of Grace where Antonio made this point.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Jim said...

Matthew, I just finished reading a post by Antonio on believing in Jesus for eternal life.

Would you say that you could separate the gift of eternal life from the forgiveness of sins?

As the Pharisees rightly pointed out, No man can forgive sins but God.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

In terms of receiving a right standing before God eternally, no they cannot be separated.

I think you are confusing understanding salvation with receiving it by faith.

If we understand salvation rightly, we must recognise that Jesus must be divine. However, our partaking of that salvation doe snot depend upon this. It depends upon our trust in the name of Jesus for eternal life.

God Bless

Matthew

Jim said...

Matthew, I think your argument is somewhat hypothetical, Yes, those who trust in the name of Jesus Christ for eternal life will not be rejected by Him.

However, why would I trust Him for eternal life? It is because I have come to the realization that I was headed for the lake of fire, because of my sins, and I believed by faith that Jesus Christ had paid the price for my sins and offered not only forgiveness but His very eternal life through His Holy Spirit.

I think if someone has only a knowledge that Jesus grants eternal life to those who believe without an express understanding of why he needs eternal life, we have failed to adequately present the gospel. The good news is not good news until we realize our precarious position as enemies of God.

Also, if we understand Jesus can forgive our sins, we must understand something about His nature. Who can forgive sins but God?

This is precisely the difference between our Jesus and the Jesus of the Mormons, JW's, and any other cult.

bobby grow said...

Jim,

Here' a thread that deals with the deity of Christ and the gospel:

Click Here

In Christ

Jim said...

Bobby, thanks. I think I remember reading that post. Now that I myself have put my two bits on the table I understand where you are coming from.

We believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life, not the Jesus called Justus or any other variation. The name Jesus Christ affirms His deity and role as Saviour.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

"I think if someone has only a knowledge that Jesus grants eternal life to those who believe without an express understanding of why he needs eternal life, we have failed to adequately present the gospel. The good news is not good news until we realize our precarious position as enemies of God."

Indeed, but if the person believes in faith he will receiv what Christ offers.

Antonio said...

Not withstanding the flow of the comments, I must herald this opening post!

The requirements of the Traditionalist Lordship Salvation advocate could be multiplied:

confess
surrender
repent
commit
give
obey

etc...

Jim. This is a right on post!

glad to see you are posting again!

Antonio

Jim said...

Antonio, can you expand on the notwithstanding. I am struggling with yours and Matthew's reductionist view on the belief.

While I understand where you are coming from, is there any Biblical proof for someone believing in Jesus for eternal life, without any realization that he was the Christ, or the Son of God, or Immanuel (God with us)?

In Christ,
Jim

Antonio said...

The following is a little snippet from a Zane Hodges article on www.faithalone.org:

----------
In Jewish prophecy and theology the promised Christ was also the Son of God—that is, He was to be a divine person. Recall the words of Isaiah: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6-7). But in Samaritan theology, the Messiah was thought of as a prophet and the woman at the well is led to faith through our Lord’s prophetic ability to know her life. Her words, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet” (4:19) are a first step in the direction of recognizing Him as the Christ. There is no evidence that she or the other Samaritans understood the deity of our Lord.

But they did believe that he was the Christ. And John tells us in his first epistle that “whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (5:1)! A full theology of His person is not necessary to salvation. If we believe that Jesus is the One who guarantees our eternal destiny, we have believed all we absolutely have to believe in order to be saved.
----------

I hope this helps.

The bottom line is what is the irreducible minimum. Also, it will affect the way we do evangelism:

What we say to the convert in our gospel presentation all points to the fact that Jesus guarantees eternal life to the believer. Every detail, every tidbit, every word and syllable has to lend to that end. This includes the deity of Christ, His passion and resurrection, His virgin birth, etc. It boils down to certain assurance coming from faith in the gospel promise itself, from the one proposition:

Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. (John 6:47)

rather than one having to mark off a whole checklist of theological and orthodox doctrines in order to have assurance.

This position of mine both facilitates the gospel presentation, and the realization of certain assurance of eternal life.

I hope this helps...

Antonio