I quoted from your earlier comment,
As [I] run the race of Christianity realizing that one infraction against the pattern/law of the N.T. is a sin and that it is possible for me to break one of those laws unaware, I run the race not with uncertainty, but I rest my confidence in God and His mercy for those sins I do not know I commit. While I cannot a draw a line in the sand and say that x amount of sin done out of ignorance will keep me out of heaven, I don’t worry about such things because I pray on daily basis asking God to forgive me of things I have committed willfully and for those sins I am not aware of. I also ask that if I am guilty of sin unaware that it by some means it might be made known to me so that I can remove that offense from my life. Overall, I put my trust in God, and continue to press forward to the goal of heaven and I make the necessary changes along the way.
As I stated in a later comment, I largely agree with this statement. I asked you whether this statement applies to those in the independent Christian Churches. You’ve declined to answer.
I have no desire to trap you. If this is not truly your position, then please correct it. If it is truly your position, then it surely applies to all who’ve been added to the church.
It’s a critically important question because it focuses on what determines our continued salvation. You see, I’ve said before that 20th Century Church of Christ teaching has two views of apostasy. There’s the rule that you just stated — and stated much better than most — that we remain continuously saved for sins that we are unaware of or committed out of ignorance. Obviously, you don’t condone willful ignorance. It’s just a fact that we all sometimes make the wrong judgment about what the scriptures say or how to interpret them.
The other rule is that all who are guilty of unrepented sin are damned. And many apply this rule with great vigor to those outside the Churches of Christ and to those outside their segment of the Churches. This is the philosophy of Contending for the Faith. It’s the philosophy of many who are much less legalistic as well.
Now, those who damn the independent Christian Churches generally conclude that because they use the instrument, they are guilty of unrepented sin, even though they pray the same prayers as you. And, to me, this is the greatest error of what I call 20th Century Church of Christ theology. It’s hypocritical because it insists on applying one standard to itself and another to others. And in the Churches of Christ, this is the biggest issue we struggle with — because every single division in the 20th Century Churches has been over this issue. Had the Churches applied the standard you assert to others, not a single division would have occurred.
My goal isn’t to trap you but to demonstrate to you that you are right.
Your follow up question is about the Plan of Salvation — and I agree that the Plan of Salvation is a good place to go from here because the Plan of Salvation, well understood, demonstrates my point (and yours) very well.
For the sake of space, let me just say that I don’t greatly disagree with the Plan of Salvation as traditionally taught in the Churches of Christ, going all the way to Walter Scott and Alexander Campbell. I do have some differences, and I’ll explain those here.
“Pattern.” I object to referring to the Plan of Salvation as a “pattern.” I agree with K. C. Moser that “Plan of Salvation” isn’t that good of a term, but “pattern” is much more problematic to me. You see, the scriptures never refer to the way of salvation as a “pattern,” at least not in any translation I’m familiar with. I’m a fan of Alexander Campbell’s advice that we should call Bible things by Bible names.
But my thinking is more fundamental than that. “Pattern” is too man-centered, as though this is something we do all on our own, and the scriptures are much more Christ-centered. I’ve heard the good news preached with barely a mention of Jesus or what he’s done for us. Sometimes it’s all about what we do — and the 5 Steps approach is entirely focused on our side of our salvation. We hear, we believe, we confess, we repent, we submit to baptism. It’s true, but it omits what God does.
The other problem with “pattern” is the term presumes that the pattern must be perfectly replicated to be effective. The least mistake and we didn’t satisfy the pattern and we remain damned. And this is precisely the kind of thinking that Jesus died to rescue us from (Heb 8 – 9, for example).
Baptism. As you know, my view of baptism doesn’t accord with 20th Century Church of Christ theology. Like Campbell and Lipscomb, I don’t believe it’s essential that the convert know his baptism is for the remission of sins at the time of his baptism. It is for remission of sins, but that’s what God does. The scriptures don’t require us to confess our faith in the effects of baptism — because no such faith is required.
Also, as you know, I believe that God no more requires a perfect baptism than perfect faith or perfect repentance. For those who want to delve more deeply into the question, I’ve explained the scriptural basis for my views in Born of Water.
Going deeper. Let’s consider what happens when we restate the Plan in more Christ-centered terms.
First, “hear,” “believe,” and “confess” are all about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can’t believe the good news until we hear it. We can’t be considered a candidate for baptism until we’ve said that we believe.
Second, “repent” does not mean “repent of each and every sin so that you are no longer engaging in any of those sins.” That would require perfection. Rather, the scriptures usually use “repent” in the sense of a change in direction or loyalties.
(Acts 3:19-20) Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you–even Jesus.
(Acts 20:21) I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
That doesn’t mean that it’s okay to sin. Rather, it means that we turn away from our former lives toward the kind of life God calls us to. You’ve very appropriately quoted Rom 10:9 —
(Rom 10:9) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Repentance is submitting to Jesus as Lord. That is, repentance is not a one-time “I’m sorry” for what I’ve done in the past. It’s a commitment to live under the authority of Jesus forever.
Thus, we can fairly state in Christ-centered terms —
Hear/believe/confess = accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God
Repent = accept Jesus as Lord
In both cases, “accept” isn’t mere intellectual acceptance. The demons do that. “Accept” means commit to change your life as those truths require.
Now, there’s a great deal of overlap between “believe” and “repent,” as you can’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah and not also believe that he is Lord. Another way of putting it is that “repent” means to put your faith into action, because the faith that saves requires submission to Jesus as Lord.
Of course, the scriptures sometimes use “faith” in both senses, which is why we very often see it stated that all with faith in Jesus are saved, with no reference to penitence, because “faith” can and often does carry that sense —
(John 3:18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
When Walter Scott invented the “five-finger exercise,” he excluded “hear” and included “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” You see, he preached all of Acts 2:38.
The Spirit is critically important because the Spirit helps us to actually turn our faith into action. God works in us through the Spirit to help us be faithful to the end.
(Rom 5:5) And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
(2 Cor 3:18) And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
(2 Th 2:13) But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
One of the great mistakes of 20th Century Church of Christ teaching was to minimize the work of the Spirit, leaving Christians with the impression that they are on their own. But the reality is that the Spirit is given to all Christians to help them become more and more Christ-like.