What if We’re Wrong?

A VERY COMMON question that I hear when speaking to someone about the Church of Christ, the Bible or obeying the Gospel is, “What if you’re wrong?” It’s a fair question, so let’s answer the question about salvation, from the viewpoint as a member of the church of Christ compared with the viewpoint of the major worldviews.

Calvinism, which is the foundation of the doctrines for the Baptist, Lutheran, and most protestant churches, teaches salvation “by faith only”. Every teacher of that doctrine, regardless of church affiliation, has said that when a person believes that Jesus is the Christ, then that person is saved. They cite passages like, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” Ephesians 2:8. They go on to teach that a person who is saved by faith can never lose their salvation regardless of the sin they commit.

If we’re wrong, then we’re still saved. Members of the church of Christ believe that salvation IS BY FAITH. On this we agree. The difference is that we understand faith to INCLUDE obedience to God’s word. We cite the only passage in scripture that actually says, “by faith only.” That passage is found in James 2:24, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”

They may argue that we’re adding to salvation and that salvation is by faith plus nothing, therefore we (members of the church of Christ) are not saved. The problem with this logic is that they forget their own teaching. A person who believes that Jesus is the Christ cannot ever lose their salvation. Once again, members of the Church of Christ are still saved even if we’ve committed the sin of addition under their doctrines. (If any are saved at all when you look at their false doctrine on predestination which says that God alone chooses who will be saved & lost and neither can ever change regardless of belief.)

Modern day Judaism teaches that one is saved if the balance of their life is good. One Jewish teacher said, “In Judaism, it is entirely up to you. If you do good, you will get good.”

If we’re wrong, and they’re right, we’re still saved. The byproduct of obeying the gospel, which includes becoming a faithful “do gooder”, puts us into salvation according to modern Judaism. We believe, according to scripture, that we should avoid evil and do good. In Galatians 5:16, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Read the rest of that passage and you’ll see more of what I mean.

Buddhism has a final goal of achieving Nirvana which is a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. The right way to Nirvana, “… starts with understanding of suffering, not by mere mind, but by the purified mind.” The Sallekha Sutta is one of the key suttas that describes the true meaning of Practice towards attaining Nirvana. This describes that Right View (Samma Ditti) is the most important factor that Buddhists should develop to start to become selfless.

If we’re wrong, and they’re right, we’re still saved. In Scripture, a Christian is to be selfless and to purify the mind. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” [Romans 12:2]. Also in Ephesians 4:23 “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;”

A Christian is also commanded to be selfless. Verses like Matthew 25:31-46 and Philippians 2:3 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”

Islamism is a bit more difficult because it’s confusing. On one hand, you have millions practicing the “peaceful religion” of Islam, and on the other, you have radicalized and violent practitioners that seek to kill anyone that rejects Muhammed. How are we to know if they’re right or wrong?

We can know by consulting their own book the Quran. It says, “If thou (Muhammed) art in doubt concerning that which we reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scriptures before thee.” [Sura 10:94 – Yunus]. The Prophet Muhammed was told to refer to the Christians for fuller spiritual understanding! There are even more passages within the Quran telling the Muslim to consult the book of the Jew & the Christian in addition to the passages that talk about Jesus and Mary in a positive light.

Therefore, according to their own book, they are to read the Bible. The Scriptures are the foundation of what we believe, [1Timothy 3:16]. Jesus said in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” If we’re wrong, and they’re right, we are told to go back to the Scriptures and once again find ourselves obeying the Gospel!

Catholicism says that the Pope is the head of the church on earth. The word Pope comes from the Latin word “papa”, which means father. A quick look at Scripture and we find Jesus saying, “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” [Matthew 23:9]. Again, members of the Church of Christ have it right.

I’ve gone through many of the worldviews and answered the question, “what if we’re wrong” and have found that, according to their views, we’re saved. Shouldn’t THEY also answer the question? Let’s do that for them.

My denominational friend, if you’re wrong about your religion, your denomination or your practices, you have no way to change it at the judgement day. Therefore, REPENT before it’s eternally too late. 

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Luke 13:5 

 

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Justified by Faith

THE FAITH ONLY crowd will “prove” their belief by quoting Romans 4:5. “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” They may even go further and include Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Then, if you press them, they will quote Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Let me say here and now that I believe each of these passages, just not how THEY believe them. Their problem is that these passages are quoted out of context and interpreted without that context. They come to the conclusion that a person is justified (saved) by FAITH ALONE.

What do these passages mean?

When one studies the bible, one rule that is often overlooked but must always be applied is the rule of context. A passage needs to be interpreted in the light of its context. Another consideration is that the bible harmonizes with other similar texts.

When we teach about salvation from scripture, we need to deliver, “all the counsel of God.” [Acts 20:27]

In Romans chapter 4, Paul is making a case regarding salvation that includes gentiles (those folks who were not Jews). Abrahams justification is given PRIOR to his becoming circumcised which became part of the Law of Moses [Leviticus 12:3] . Paul asks then answers, “How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.” [Romans 4:10]

The faith only folks want you to believe that Abraham did NOTHING prior to his JUSTIFICATION. This simply is not true. When Paul said in Romans 4 that Abraham was justified, he is referring to Genesis 15:6. However, by that time, Abraham had already OBEYED God by leaving his homeland in Gen 11:31-12:3.

It is this OBEDIENT FAITH on the part of Abraham that the Hebrew writer acknowledges in the HALL OF FAITH in Hebrews 11:8. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”

It is true that Abraham was justified without the deeds of the law, which according to the context refers to the Law of Moses. Nowhere does the Scripture teach that a person is justified (saved) without works.

What about Ephesians 2:8-9?

For this passage we need to apply the same rules, context & harmony. Let us read verse 10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Once again, the context teaches us something about works.

There are 2 kinds of works, works of man & works of God. Ephesian 2:10 teaches that there are works that God has prepared. Works that God commands. Please understand what I am saying, a person is never justified by works when he places his trust in JUST the works. We are justified when we put our trust in God WHILE DOING THE WORKS HE HAS COMMANDED.

This harmonizes with the rest of the scriptures. Look at James 2, another passage that quotes this same Justification of Abraham from Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” [James 2:20-24]

Let’s look again at that HALL OF FAITH in Hebrews 11…By faith…
  • Abel OFFERED vs4
  • Enoch WALKED vs5; Gen 5:24
  • Noah PREPARED vs7
  • Abraham OBEYED & SOJOURNED vs8-9
  • Moses parents HID Moses vs23
  • Moses REFUSED, CHOSE, FORSOOK vs24-27
  • Israel PASSED through vs 29
  • Rahab RECEIVED vs30
  • Others SUBDUED kingdoms, WROUGHT righteousness, OBTAINED promises, STOPPED the mouths of lions, vs33

To follow their example, people today must obey the word of the Lord. He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” [Mark 16:16] The faith alone people, “make an error, not knowing the scriptures.”  [Matthew 22:29] When you weigh ALL the evidence, harmonize the scriptures and read the context then you will know the truth, and this truth shall set you free. [John 8:32]

THE TRUTH HAS SET US FREE…FROM WHAT?

JESUS SAID TO the believing Jews, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:31-32]

From this passage, as disciples, we must continue in His word, and from this word we will know the truth. Then this truth will set us free. Later on Jesus will say that God’s word is truth. [John 17:17]

The first question you should ask is; “From what are we being set free?”

WE ARE FREE FROM…
  • The curse of the Law of Moses. Galatians 3:10 points out “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” This was referring to the Law of Moses, for in chapter 5v4 Paul then says that a person seeking to return to that law “has fallen from Grace.”
  • The power of the Law. Romans 7:1-7 teaches us that until Christ’s death, burial and resurrection that the Law of Moses was still in effect. It wasn’t until His death were we freed from the power of the Law, “nailing it to his cross.” [Colossians 2:14]
  • The dominion of sin.Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” [Romans 6:17-18] Without the death, burial & resurrection of Jesus, “ye are yet in your sins.” [1Corinthians 15:17]
  • The guilt of sin. The guilt that most people experience is dependent upon a future punishment. In Christ, who paid the debt for our sins, Christians have been made free from the condemnation of sin. “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” [Romans 8:33] Does this mean that we can continue to sin? No sir. Rather, we have someone who cleanses us of our sin, but only if we’re in Christ. [1John 1:9]
  • The power of darkness. Because we are His disciples, having obeyed the Gospel, God has “…delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:” [Colossians 1:13] Many say that the kingdom will begin sometime later, but this scripture teach that Christians are in His kingdom now and free from the darkness of this world.
  • The fear of man. No longer bound by sin, under the power of darkness of this world, Christians are also free of what man can do to us. The Apostles faced persecution, beatings and imprisonments, even being commanded to stop speaking about Jesus. Yet, they had no fear saying, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” [Acts 5:29; 4:18-20] Though we may be persecuted or threatened for our faith, no man can ever take away our salvation. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” [Psalm 118:6]
  • The fear of death’s sting. Because we are in Christ, and freed from the bondage of sin, we no longer have the fear of death. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” [1Corinthians 15:56,57] Being in Christ, we look forward to a day when we can be with the Lord even if He comes sometime after our life on this Earth. [1Thessalonians 4:14-17]
  • The position of no hope. Becoming a Christian puts us into a living hope. This hope becomes a part of our lives and is demonstrated to the world through our lives. Peter noted that this hope shall be seen by those around us to the point that they may ask us of this hope. [1Peter 3:15]
  • The state of separation from God. Christians become children of God through adoption. Prior to our obedience to the gospel, we are separated from God because of sin, but now we are reconciled to God by the death of His son. [Romans 5:10] What a wonderful thing it is to be called a child of God. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” [Galatians 3:26]
WE HAVE BEEN SET FREE IF….

…we become one of His disciples. This begs the next question, How do I become a disciple of Christ? Remember, Jesus said, ““If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:31-32] To become His disciple we must obey the Gospel. Before He ascended into heaven He gave this command, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:” [Mt 28:19 (ASV)]

The Gospel is what calls us [2Thessalonians 2:14]. Leaving sin, we obey the Gospel which shall deliver us [Romans 6:17]. The gospel is about the Death, burial and resurrection of Jesus [1Corinthians 15:1-4]. When Jesus is preached [Acts 8:35], one will conclude the need to be baptized [Acts 8:36].

If you “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” [Matthew 22:37] then you will also do whatever he commands.

And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” [Luke 6:46]

What saves you?

WRITTEN FOR OUR LEARNING

IT SAYS IN ROMANS 15v4, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” It also says in 1Corinthians 10v11 “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”

These passages refer to the Old Testament Scriptures. The meaning being, that we should read the OT and study how God deals with mankind, and gain knowledge of how God applies His laws.

One particular story of interest is found in Numbers chapters 13-14. It’s here we find the Israelites are approaching the promised land after just escaping Egyptian slavery. They were given permission to send in 12 men to spy out the land, each man a “ruler among them.” [Numbers 13:2]

Upon their return from spying out the land, all of them report that the land truly is a land as God had described, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” [Numbers 13:27; Ex 3:8]

However, 10 of the spies also reported that the inhabitants of the land were, “strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great:”, thus giving a bad report. Caleb, one of the 12 spies, said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it;” but the 10 went against him and against Joshua.

The children of Israel were persuaded by the bad report and refused to take possession of the land as the Lord had commanded, complaining about how it would have been better to remain in Egyptian slavery. [Num 14:1-4] They even said, “If only we had come to our death in the land of Egypt, or even in this waste land!” To this God said, OK. He gave them what they requested. “Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness;” [Num 14:29a]

So…What are we to learn?

There are some similarities between them and Christians today.

First, they had been freed from bondage. We Christians have also been freed from bondage, we were enslaved to sin. “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” [Romans 6:18] We have been freed from a hopeless situation, enslaved to sin.

Second, they were between two places. Their previous condition and their future home. They were pilgrims heading to a wonderful place “flowing with milk and honey.” Christians are also between two places.  We are not in heaven, but want to go there, and we’re no longer in a lost condition. We are warned, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” [1Peter 2:11]

Lastly, some of them rejected the promises of God for this new home and refused to follow His commandments to attain it. God refused to allow these disobedient unbelievers to enter the land and obtain a rest. Christians can also reject the commands of the Lord and miss out on entering our rest, heaven. We do this be following their example of turning away from God’s commands. This comparison is drawn by the Hebrews writer in chapter 3, 7-19. This letter is addressed to Christians and has this warning, “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)”

So you see, their example should teach us to remain faithful to God. To never neglect our salvation [Hebrews 2:3], and to obey Him by “continuing in the apostles’ doctrine” [Acts 2:42; Matthew 28:20]

Can a Christian so sin as to lose their salvation?

If we do as they did, disobedience and unbelief [Heb 3:17-19], then we will have what they had, no other options. There remains no more sacrifice for sins. 

“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” (KJV) [Hebrews 10:26]