Seeing as how we’ve been discussing the Reformation, I thought maybe I should post on something that was very near and dear to those of old who, in God’s good timing, were the great stalwarts standing against those peculiar teachings of Rome that were void in biblical support. I have, in previous articles (both here and here), discussed just a small bit on the great doctrine of Scripture as well-articulated in the Reformation by the Reformers called Sola Fide, i.e. Faith Alone. Martin Luther said that the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone is one upon which the Church stands or falls. If she denies this truth, she falls. If she affirms it, she stands.
My friends, we are in a second period of darkness concerning this truth. This time, however, it is not merely the Roman Catholic Church which holds men captive to such falsehood. No, it is the majority of those “churches” who call themselves evangelical. Just because people may hold unwittingly to such beliefs does not justify the believing thereof. The Scriptures are exceptionally clear on the doctrines of Who justifies, how justification is secured, and to whom justification is given. For those who profess a strong belief in Scripture there is no excuse to believe the utter nonsense that is touted by most “evangelical” churches of this day.
Sadly, I must say that, in my experience, Baptist churches are the most ridiculous perpetuators of this muddying of Justification by Faith alone. By “Baptist” I do not mean Particular (Calvinistic) Baptists, but semi-Pelagian Baptists (Inconsistent Arminians). How so? Well, they hold to a very weak version (for lack of a better term) of Perseverance of the Saints. They believe in the eternal security of the believer, a.k.a. “once saved always saved” (OSAS). However, because they reject other major points of biblical doctrine (i.e. total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, etc.), they have no solid foundation upon which to base their belief in OSAS. They make one’s profession of saving faith equal to possession of saving faith, when clearly such is not always the case.
To what does this lead? It leads to the false assurance for many many lost people who think, because of their one-time aisle-walking-sinner’s-prayer-praying experience, they are saved from eternal hell. In turn, many other pagans see the ungodly lives of these professors and think, “Oh, so you can live however you like, and still go to heaven. Hmm…I don’t buy that.” You may ask, “Josh, why are you babbling on and on about this?” Because it is important to the major theme of this post. Semi-Pelagian Baptist churches are churning out thousands upon thousands of these professors that are not possessors, thus perpetuating this weak (and false) version of OSAS.
You think, “How does this apply to the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone?” Well, a proper and clear understanding of the simple doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone would clear all this mess up in a heartbeat. Saving Faith (which is believing in Christ alone by faith alone, thus being justified before God), according to Scripture and example, always leads to a life of good works and perseverance in the faith. These professors who lack possession would be “found out”, disciplined, and either converted or further hardened in their condemnation and not be seen as Christians at all.
You then have other flavors of evangelicals who believe in a works righteousness and sinless perfectionism. These are the two extremes. One believes that you can live sinfully without repentance, so long as you once professed Christ, etc., while the other believes that you can only be saved by being in a non-sinful state at the time of death or rapture (a whole other post altogether!). This second group (typically Pentacostals, Assemblies of God, and other various Charismatic type evangelicals) lack any doctrine of Assurance of one’s salvation. This, also, is due to a misunderstanding of Justification by Faith Alone.
You see, if in Adam all men fell (and they did), then all men were condemned. All were born unable to keep God’s law perfectly. Keeping all but one law would not do. Thus, all men, by nature and practice, are condemned. How can such a people be redeemed? Well, they must keep the law perfectly. Can they? No. So what happened? God had a plan all along. He sent His Son to die on behalf of a people He had elected for and to Himself (John 6, Eph 1, etc.). These men, being by nature children of wrath (Eph 2), would be redeemed because of Christ’s perfect obedience to God’s law, and His perfect, sacrificial, substitutionary death in their place. Christ bore the wrath of God for the sins of the Elect that they would be…..JUSTIFIED. That’s right. They didn’t earn their own justification before the Holy God. Christ did.
So, this second group, if they could understand the essence of what justifcation is, how it was secured, and to whom it is applied, they could understand the doctrine of eternal security of the believer, and the assurance thereof. Yet, because they think somehow they can earn some brownie points with God by their wretched good works, they’re blinded to their own depravity and need of redemption from the Perfect Lamb of God.
So this second dark age has hit us. The doctrine of Sola Fide once again is non existant to a dying world. What will we do? Lord, let a fire be stoked underneath our laziness, contentedness, and complacency, that we would burn with the passion of a Luther, Calvin, or a Knox to decry the foolish lie that there is any other way to be made right with God, other than faith alone in Christ alone. May it be so!