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Saved, Being Saved and To Be Saved - the life of a Christian

Created 28 March 2017

WARNING: If you are a pastor or priest, I mean no offense. My intention is to convey the importance and urgency of the matter.

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15). As a Protestant, it is almost unthinkable not to have an evangelistic mindset - to ‘go out into all the world and proclaim the Gospel’ to whomever cares to listen: preaching the word of God. That is a good thing. What is not so good is the way we have defined ‘preaching the Gospel’ and ‘making disciples’.

As I am writing this article I am also compelled to listen to the coaching provided by an on-staff youth pastor to one of his ‘subordinates’ or ‘team members’. I am a management consultant and have spent much time in business. I know what a “one-on-one” sounds like; creating rapport, getting feedback, providing feedback, setting goals and measurables, ...

Coffee Shop interview

Yes, the 'team member' or subordinate in this instance works in a regular commercial enterprise. It just so happens to bring a spiritual message across. But, in essence, it is a commercial enterprise complete with budgets, staff, branding, a marketing strategy, product or service reviews, staff development strategies, a 'bottom line', market segmentation and the employment of 'best practice industry standards'. It is commercial - there should be no doubt about that. The man and his pastor, or “leader”, like to call it “church”. The one in question here - the pastor - being in pursuit of greater attendance numbers through greater hype - “correctly laying the foundation” to “launch the service”, to use their language. That much is evident from the ‘case studies’ they have discussed and the objectives they have set.

As I said, I wasn't eavesdropping while sitting in a coffee shop - the pastor just happen to have been rather vocal about their achievements and new objectives.

Anything wrong with 'greater attendance numbers in church'

So, what is wrong with setting objectives and getting greater attendance numbers? Let me be clear; there is a lot of right in getting more and more people to hear the gospel of salvation and to see them commit a life turned towards Christ.

But that is not necessarily what is happening. Instead, what is happening is that people are being ‘lured’ to what is called “church” by way of serving their need for belonging through tradition, entertainment or fancy finishings in order to meet a god who is not the God of the Bible - a god who is appeased by a one-sentence prayer and a life of ambivalent pursuit of 'conscience clearing'; a lukewarm individual satisfied with a sad, second-rate sense of 'salvation'.

How do I know that? I see it by the fruit that is produced.

Consider what the Bible says what is the intent of the Church: ... to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10). And consider how the Bible says this is to be accomplished: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

This we know from the passages above: if a member of a gathering is not being equipped for the work of (his or her) ministry to make the manifold wisdom of God known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, then that gathering is not a Church. It may be a lot of Christians (and/or non-Christians) getting together with good intentions, but it is not a church.

Sadly, the vast majority of these assembly attenders - including the pastor or priest - will not know the difference. They will have been conditioned by 'the way things are done' to believe that their gathering in fact pleases God. But how can it really please God if it doesn't do what He fundamentally wants it to do?

Now let me say this: I was born again in a Charismatic, high-on-popular-Christian-music-and-other-popolar-speakers gatherings. I also got healed emotionally through pastors and other members of that gathering. And I got baptized both in water and in the Holy Spirit by a pastor and members of that same gathering. I also got physically healed in one of the meetings. These things have made a tremendous difference in my life. Enormous.

But, despite all these wonderful things - for which I am genuinely very grateful - this gathering did not constitute a church. Because a Church consists only of born-again members who are "being equipped for the work of the ministry".

Look at an example from the Bible, whilst Paul turned several Greeks to repentance and faith towards God during his gathering in the city of Athens, the gathering he held at the Areopagus cannot, and is not called "Church". It is just called a gathering where a Christian message was delivered (refer Acts 17:16-34).

A Church is a place where born-again Christians are equipped for the work of their ministry. If your Church is doing this, and if you are fulfilling your ministry, then you are living out the evidence of the things you hope for: faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

Calvinists' reading

But for Calvinists - including the average minister trained in the Protestant doctrine - this (the fulfilling the work of your ministry) is somewhat of a non-issue as far as it relates to salvation; they argue that because He is sovereign, God has assigned or "predestined" some people to salvation and some to destruction and no-matter what they do - or not do - they cannot change His mind. It is a done deal.

Interestingly, there is a group of people who subscribe to a similar form of determinism: Moslems.

I have stated in another article that I believe that the Greek word translated "predestined" has been applied to mean 'determined without choice' whereas a more accurate rendering would have been 'limited in scope or choice of options' - see the Greek word and an explanation in the footnotes[1] .

But, you should make up your own mind on the issue.

Free will vs Predestination

Getting saved

The second thing that is wrong with the way Christians are “preaching the Gospel” has to do with how "getting saved" is defined; it is often defined as a once-off event - done and dusted. To be fair, I held that view for a very long time. But now I am not so sure. What I see in Scripture - quite incredibly - is that believers have a past, present and a future salvation. It is a process. This does not mean that I am saying 'believers need to work their way to heaven'. I am not saying that at all.

Now we are entirely in the hands of the Bible translators here and the extent to which they correctly translated the Greek tenses which have been translated into the past perfect, present continuous and future tenses. But it seems quite clear from the Bible that a singular view of a past once-off event does not sufficiently cover what God has to say about salvation. This is a big deal, because if indeed the past once-off event of salvation is not sufficient, then I suspect a whole lot of professing Christians have no idea what they (or we) are in for.

It has been confronting to read from Peter's work how salvation seems to be an ongoing thing. First, he encourages existing Christians in 2 Peter 1 to 'make your salvation sure' so that they were never stumble. In other words, Peter is saying to existing Christians, 'don't get slack - this thing can go pear-shaped; these are the things you must do so as to ensure your salvation'. Did you get that, .... must do, ... ensure your salvation: Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:10-11).

Clearly, Peter did not see salvation as a once-off past event where the issue would never be monitored. Clearly, Peter believed that there was a sense of personal responsibility on the part of the believer to "make their call and election sure".

Now imagine Allan and Suzie - sitting in the front pew of their church along with their children, serving as home group leaders and deacons in the congregation. Or imagine, Victor and Annabelle, not being home group leaders but attending church 'whenever they can fit it in'. Imagine that in their gathering on Sundays, because it is said that 'salvation is a past event' only, they are not being encouraged to be doing the following: giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

Imagine Allan and Suzie were comfortable that their salvation was a done deal and that nothing could change that. Well, if we could ask Peter's view on it, he would say, he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-11). Brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:10-11). Family pew cartoon

Now, be honest, when last did you hear a sermon on this? And how long has it been since the time before then? I mean no disrespect to pastors, priests and other ministers of faith - they have a really tough job given the way Christians have come to 'run church'. But the reality is this; unless the pastor, priest or other minister of faith shows the congregation these things from Scripture, that pastor, priest or other minister of faith is either 1) ignorant, 2) not at all a teacher/preacher, or 3) has not been diligent in the work of their ministry.

What exactly did Jesus instruct about evangelizing?

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and 1) make disciples of all the nations, 2) baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 3) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

So, what does it mean to have made disciples, to have baptized them, to have taught the new believer? What does it mean to fulfill Jesus' last instruction to Christians everywhere?

The thing that distinguishes His disciples from the world is that they make their election sure. They never rest on their laurels. Their salvation is ongoing. They increasingly and continuously subject themselves to His will. And they do as He says in the knowledge and reliance that what He wants them to do, is that which is good and right. They hear Him clearly as He speaks to them through His word. Image of Evangelising

Salvation is available to whom?

Salvation is available to the following people:

Deception is available to which Christians?

Deception is available to the following people:

Lost salvation is available to whom?

Lost salvation is available to the following people:

Christian Salvation: Past, Present and Future

The completeness - or need for completeness - for salvation is noted very explicitly by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole 1) spirit, 2) soul, and 3) body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

This verse tells us that there are three aspects of our entire being or personality which need to be 'saved' or "preserved blameless" - spirit, soul and body. By inference, if we genuinely follow Him - verse 24 tells us that He is faithful to ensure that it will happen. The key is thus obedience[2] and trust[3], also defined as 'having faith'. And so, it appears as if, along with the three aspects of our personality which need to be saved or "sanctified", there are three time spheres in which this takes place. In one case - the spirit - salvation is completed by having been "born anew". In the case of the soul and the body, they are both in the process of being saved as well as having had some aspects saved already. Physical and emotional healing is a good example of this, but it is not limited to it. Getting rid of addictions and bad habits as well as having our 'inner man' aligned with the character of Jesus constitute 'a process of salvation':

 
PAST
PRESENT ONGOING
FUTURE
Scripture
completed salvation of the spirit
-
-
ongoing salvation of the soul
-
-
ongoing salvation of the body
-
-
partial salvation of the soul
-
-
partial salvation of the body
-
-
complete salvation of the body and soul
-
-

 

Suspecting that some amongst us may feel that they 'have made sufficient progress' or 'are making sufficient progress', consider how the writer of Hebrew had stern words for those who reasonably should have progressed to teaching others but who were yet to understand the fundamentals of Christianity (refer Hebrews 5). If this is not you, well done!

Here's how we might know if this is the case for us - see what Jesus says about those who have been sufficiently discipled; those who have been equipped in the churches - these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17-18). Elsewhere, Jesus has a more complete list of instructions (refer Matthew 10). I cannot yet count all of the things noted here. How about you?

The point is that, in the end, when God looks at us 'on the day of the Lord', He should find a holy person, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16) and pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (12:14).

That once-off event during during which you and I repented and believed was the best thing that has ever happened to us. But it does not end there, as Paul reminds us: Do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believedThe night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Paul the Apostle)

The lazy and wicked servant burries his or her ministry regardless of their regular attendance of Christian gatherings. (Matthew 25:26)

The good and faithful servant makes sure that they attend a gathering where industry and entertainment is absent but where indeed they are being equipped for their ministry, where they learn how to listen out carefully to what He says and in obedience do what He wants them to do, trusting. (Matthew 25:20-26)

Footnotes:

Lose heart - And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

[1] Strongs dictionary translates this word to mean 'invited', 'called by God for salvation' or 'appointed to a certain function'. Called may very well mean ‘called to fulfill a certain function’, or ‘called to a certain time’, or ‘called for a certain purpose’. So, to hang a doctrine - Predestination, meaning, 'I had no choice in getting saved' - on a verse which may reasonably be interpreted otherwise, is not good practice. The Greek word translated “predestined” - proorizo - is from the root Greek word horizō which means ‘to appoint’ or 'to limit' or 'to mark out the boundaries'. So, it is reasonable to conclude that certain Christian office holders or (early) Church members may have been appointed in their role before time began much like John the Baptist was - the span of their influence or power or abilities being limited in advance so as to work within bigger plan for mankind. But that does not mean that all Christians across the span of history had no choice whatsoever in coming to God in faith.

So, the argument that ‘God chose me - I did not choose Him, and thus He will not unchoose me’ has a false premise. It stands only by a very narrow interpretation of the Greek word proorizo, so as to mean ‘fully determined beforehand’. Again, as noted, this cannot reasonably be because proorizo is also translated ‘to establish boundaries beforehand’. If this interpretation is used, then it means that God determined the boundaries of believers’ faith, and/or their roles and/or their purpose before time began. But it does not mean that He chose only some. Thus, believers’ faith had limitations as he says through Paul in Romans 12:3-8. [back]

[2] Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:1-2) [back]

[3] Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; (proverbs 3:5) [back]

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Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptural. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

 

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