By Dr Hank Lindstrom
The simple gospel message is being corrupted every day by the use of terms or phrases that Christians use to invite the lost to be saved. These terms demand or imply that human works or human effort is a part of the plan of salvation! Biblical salvation is wholly of the Lord and is “Not of works, lest anyone may boast (Ephesians 2:9)”. The unsaved listen carefully to every word that we say when we present the gospel. Therefore, we need to be careful of what we say because what we say is what the lost will hear! You might say, “I don’t believe in salvation by works”, but use some of the terminology used below to present salvation. The problem is that you will be held accountable for what you say, because that is what the lost will hear.
CONTEMPORARY TERMS THAT ARE NOT THE GOSPEL are terms that relate to the Christian life and NOT SALVATION. When applied to salvation they add works in a subtle way. The following is a list examining common terms and phrases that become corrupted when used for salvation. To require these things of a lost person, would be adding works to salvation (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
1. “You must be water baptized to be saved.” Water baptism is not required for salvation. (Ephesians 2:8, 9) Since salvation is not of ourselves, it can not be by baptism.
2. “I am asking you to commit your life to Jesus Christ.” This implies a promise to live your life for Christ to be saved. Additionally, it is often presented as a commitment of the total emotion, will and intellect of the person. This is a subtle way of asking the person to keep the first commandment. (See Matthew 22:36,37). Love is a commitment. Faith or belief is TRUST. Notice the emphasis is upon YOUR LIFE NOT THE LIFE OF CHRIST GIVEN ON THE CROSS FOR US! This is works. Salvation is made dependent upon how you live your life.
3. “Be willing to repent of your sins (turn from sin).” This makes salvation the result of your change or works. This phrase never ever occurs in the Bible. The Greek word repent [meta-noia], when translated, does not mean to turn from sin but means a change of mind. This change of mind is included in Biblical faith.
4. “Surrender your life to Christ.” This implies you are going to live for Christ to be saved.
5. “Give your heart to Jesus Christ.” Salvation is not giving, but receiving the gift of God. (John 1:12)
6. “Make Jesus Lord and Master.” Implies works as necessary to be saved. Salvation is God’s gift.
7. “Invite Jesus into your life.” You must TRUST Christ to be saved. This is NOT the plan of salvation.
8. “I am going to ask you to confess Christ publicly. If you are not willing to openly acknowledge Him before men, He will not acknowledge you before His Father which is in heaven.” Used as an arm-twister to get people forward in a public meeting.
9. “I want you to follow Christ tonight, give Him your all. You come as the invitation is given.” Following Christ is necessary for discipleship, NOT salvation
10. “You must be converted, Jesus said, there must be a change.” The apostle Peter was converted three years after he was saved. It implies works. (See Luke 22:32). Jesus never said there must be a change for salvation
11. “I have broken God’s laws. I am ready to change my way of life and receive Christ, and follow Him, no matter what the cost.” Jesus Christ paid the cost of salvation in full on the cross of Calvary.
12. “Confess your sins.” Makes salvation something of self. (See Ephesians 2:8).
13. “You must keep the Ten Commandments.” No one can be saved by the commandments. (Romans 3:20)
14. “You must do the will of God to be saved.” God’s will for salvation is to TRUST Christ. (John 6:40)
15. “I am asking you to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.” The words, “and Lord” implies works or obedience.
16. “Turn over your life to Christ.” Implies works or obedience.
17. “Forsake all.” Makes salvation of works.
18. “Put Jesus on the throne of your life.” Implies that you will obey Christ to be saved. Living the Christian life will not save you.
19. “Promise to live for Jesus.” Clearly implies works for salvation.
20. “Let Jesus into your heart.” TRUST Christ to be saved. He indwells in those who trust in Him as a consequence of their salvation
21. “Get your life turned around.” Makes works a part of the plan of salvation.
WE RECOMMEND THAT THE TERMS ABOVE NOT BE USED WHEN TALKING ABOUT SALVATION!
Eternal life is free! Romans 5:15, 16
Eternal life is God’s gift! Romans 6:23
Eternal life is not of works! Ephesians 2:8, 9
Eternal life is received by faith only! Romans 4:5
In fact, eternal life is not received by, attained by, kept by a person’s works, conduct or behavior. WE ARE SAVED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH! “For by GRACE are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8, 9).” “But we believe that through the GRACE of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved (Acts 15:11).”
GRACE by definition excludes all WORKS! “And if by GRACE, then is it no more of WORKS: otherwise GRACE is no more GRACE. But if it be of WORKS, then is it no more GRACE: otherwise WORK is no more WORK (Romans 11:6).” According to this verse, ONE work added to grace would render it no more grace.
GRACE PLUS WORKS = NO SALVATION and CHRIST PLUS WORKS = NO SALVATION
READ: I Corinthians 1:17; Galatians 2:21; Galatians 5:2-4; Romans 11:6; Romans 4:16 and the following quotes:
“There is a vast difference between coming to Jesus for salvation, and coming after Jesus for service. Coming to Christ makes one a believer, while coming after Christ makes one a disciple. All believers are not disciples. To become a believer one accepts the invitation of the Gospel. To be a disciple one obeys the challenge to a life of dedicated service and separation. Salvation comes through the sacrifice of Christ. Discipleship comes only by sacrifice of self and surrender to His call for devoted service. Salvation is free, but discipleship involves paying the price of a separated walk. Salvation can not be lost because it depends upon God’s faithfulness, but discipleship can be lost because it depends upon our faithfulness.”
DEHAAN, M. R. Hebrews. Zondervan Publishing House, 1959. (p. 117)
“There is no more piously subtle abrogation of the Gospel than to tell a sinner that he must not only believe in the Savior, but dedicate himself to do God’s will, crown the Savior Lord of his life, etc., etc. Obviously, dedication and service are highly desirable, but they are the privilege and the duty of the saved, never a condition of salvation for the unsaved (cf. Romans 12:1, 2).”
UNGER, MERRILL F. God is Waiting to Meet You. Moody Press, 1975 (p. 117, 118)
“It is our purpose to discuss the Scriptural doctrine of repentance. It is important because so many minds have been confused concerning the simplicity of salvation by the perversion of the Scriptural teaching of this important doctrine … The doctrine has suffered tremendously from an erroneous concept held by most men, for when the word ‘repent’ is used, it brings to mind of the average individual the thought of sorrow for sin… And this sorrow for sin is usually called ‘repentance’. But there could be nothing further from the concept of the Word of God than the idea that repentance means sorrow for sins. From the Word of God we discover that the word translated ‘repent’ means ‘a change of mind’… Now, such a change of mind as the Scripture enjoins when it speaks of repentance may produce a sorrow for sin, but it will be the result after one has seen his sin in the light of the holiness of God and has changed his attitude toward it.”…
PENTECOST, J. DWIGHT. Things Which Become Sound Doctrine. (p. 61, 62).