At this point, the way we lose our salvation should be obvious. If we enter by faith, we leave by giving up our faith.
As we covered in the last post, faith has three elements.
We even made up a cool chart (perfect for drawing on boards when teaching Bible class) —
Believe: Believe Jesus is the Son of God: Jesus is Messiah: Faith
Trust: Trust Jesus to keep his promises: Jesus is Savior: Hope
Repent: Be faithful to Jesus: Jesus is Lord: Love
So this what it means to become saved. Undo any of these three, and you fall away and lose your perfected state, free from condemnation. How does that happen? Well —
You can fail to believe in Jesus as Messiah —
(1Jo 4:2-3 ESV) 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
You can fail to submit to Jesus as Lord —
(Heb 10:26-27 ESV) For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Notice that it’s not mere sin that destroys and damns. It’s the sin of rebellion. The quoted passage is a conclusion drawn by the Hebrews writer from a discussion going back to Hebrews 3. For example,
(Heb 3:14-16 ESV) 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?
The sin of rebellion, or going on sinning deliberately, happens when we no longer try to submit — but rather go our own way without regard to God’s will — not occasionally. We all rebel for a moment here and there. It’s about a change in the direction of one’s life.
(Heb 12:15 ESV) 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
This is a reference to —
(Deu 29:18b-20 ESV) Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 19 one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. 20 The LORD will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.
And, this takes us full circle back to —
(Deu 10:16 ESV) 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.
Finally, a failure to trust God’s promises damns. And for the Churches of Christ, this is our greatest weakness. The most prominent such warning is —
(Gal 5:4-6 ESV) 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Did you see it? Paul refers to faith, hope, and love (in that order!) in this key passage on falling away.
Positively, our faith (meaning primarily trust, in this instance) allows us to wait for our hope — through the Spirit, because the Spirit empowers us to trust.
But Paul warns them that they aren’t doing this. They’ve been separated from Jesus and fallen from grace because they seek to be justified by law. And it’s not that law is bad, but that law is not faith — and the only thing that counts (KJV: avails) is “faith working through love.” Law is not faith working through love, and therefore law does not save.
God’s promise, going back to Abraham, is to save by faith. Attempt anything else, and you lose the promise. Trust God’s promises, and you have God’s promises.
And so why does Paul so focus on faith, hope, and love? Because in them, by the power of Jesus’ sacrifice and by his authority as Messiah-King, we are saved.
Did you notice that went through all this material about how to be saved and didn’t mention the Five-Step Plan of Salvation? It’s not that I disagree all that much. Rather, I just think it helps to see salvation in terms of faith — which is how the New Testament teaches it — so that we aren’t constrained by tradition. It helps to sometimes see familiar things from a new perspective. It might even help us understand our traditions better.
For example, in the Five-Step Plan, we manage to get all the way through it and not mention Jesus: Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess, Be Baptized. Not a word about Jesus — not until we take the trouble to define our terms.
What do we hear? Well, “hear” comes from —
(Rom 10:14 ESV) How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
Jesus. We hear Jesus. And yet our preaching often so focuses on “hear” that we forget what we hear. Why Jesus? Because hearing should lead to our believing “in him.” We believe in Jesus and so we must hear Jesus!
Indeed, this is one of the great weaknesses of Michael Shanks’ Muscle and a Shovel. He teaches the rules without teaching Jesus.
Hearing or reading. The Word of God must be preached (taught and heard) or it must be read by the individual. …
Believing. God’s Word must be believed with the entirety of the heart and mind.
(Kindle Locations 7817-7797). Shanks uses “Word” for the Bible, and so he quite literally replaces faith in Jesus with faith in the Bible. You see, when we rattle off “hear, believe, …” it’s easy to forget the texts on which the Five Steps are based. “Hear, believe …” is quite right but only if we mean those words in the sense in which Paul wrote them. When our slogans get too removed from the text of the Bible, we easily slip into very serious error.
We hear, believe, and confess Jesus. We are baptized into Jesus. It’s all about Jesus, and people were saved by the name of Jesus long before there was a Bible. We are not saved by the Bible or believing in the Bible or hearing the Bible or confessing the Bible!
Repentance is taken from Acts 2:38 and refers to making a change in one’s life. In particular, it refers to a change in loyalty. Rather than being loyal to myself, I will be loyal to Jesus — submitting to him as Lord.
And so, hear, believe, and confess speak to the element of faith (pistis) I call belief. “Repent” speaks to the element of faith I call faithfulness. And so we have faith and we have love. What are we missing?
Hope. Trusting God’s promises. Relying on Jesus to save us by faith. It’s just not in the Five Steps. Even though faith as trust goes back to Abraham, we’ve left trust entirely out of our formula. Why?
Well, in part because trust is not explicitly in Acts 2:38 or Roman 10:9-11, which are the proof texts for the Five Steps. But it’s more because, well, we don’t really trust God to keep his promises. Despite God’s repeated assurances that we are saved by faith and not works, we keep insisting on being saved by our works. And so it’s not surprising that we haven’t noticed that we teach a faith that requires no trust — and hence a faith without much in the way of hope.
To go back a couple of posts, when we refuse to define when our sins are continuously forgiven and when our sins damn, we leave our members with precious little hope — and leave them miserable in their uncertainty. After all, how do we know that we’ve gotten every single solitary rule about worship and the use of the church treasury and church cooperation and fellowship halls and kitchens and on and on and on exactly right? And if we get one of the inferences from silences wrong, how do we know it’s not one of those salvation issues? How do we know? It’s a religion without hope.
What’s the solution? Well, believe God’s promises.
(Rom 8:1 ESV) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
(Heb 4:16 ESV) 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Heb 10:21-22 ESV) 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
(Heb 13:6 ESV) 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
(Joh 5:24 ESV) 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
(Joh 6:47 ESV) 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
(Joh 11:25-26 ESV) 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
We should be able to read these and respond from deep within “Of course! Praise God!” But we’ve been trained to point out the exceptions, the limitations, the caveats, the howevers, so much so that we find those who actually believe these passages to be hopelessly ignorant. But we are the ones who are hopeless.