Once upon a time, Christians believed that salvation was of the Lord and that believers were called by God to live holy lives. The first belief was built on the Scriptures that claim that man is dead in his trespasses and sins and thus requires a divine act to call him back to life (Ephesians 2:1-5). Astute disciples realized that if it were necessary for God to call someone to spiritual life from spiritual death, then He must be in control of the process, not the spiritually dead men. Their hypotheses were confirmed by passages like John 6:44 and Romans 9:10-12. And it was these ideas that led such believers to fully understand then that those whom God chose to save would certainly persevere in the faith, since it was God who was totally behind their salvation from start to finish (Philippians 1:6).
These Christians, being fully aware that salvation did not begin with man attempting to be obedient to the law, but rather with God calling dead men to Himself, then naturally understood God's righteous requirements to be a good and holy way to please the God who bought them with His blood. And so they delighted in righteousness and hated the sin that lingered within them (Romans 7:7-25).
And then sometime later, enemies came into this happy fold and introduced destructive teachings, denying the sovereignty of God in salvation - placing the means for gaining access to eternal life in the power of man's decision. Explanations of the gospel turned into cheap offers to escape hell, if only the hearer would "decide to accept Christ" or "invite Jesus into his heart". To further the erosion of sacred doctrine, those who bought into this "easy believism" were also told that once they were saved, they were always saved, and that they should never again question their secure place in heaven. If did not matter what they did after they "prayed the prayer", they were always and forever 'saved'.
This deadly seed took a couple of generations before its crop was ready to harvest. But then, almost before anyone knew what was happening, churches began to wane. Children and grandchildren of faithful patriarchs left church never to return. Worse than this absense, though, was the teaching that lingered on in the parents hearts: that their children were still 'saved', even though they weren't living like it. Now one evil became two. One group believed that they had a right standing with God because of a decision that was made sometime in the past, even though there was no evidence of such salvation in their lives, and the other group felt as though there was nothing that they could offer the first group since they had already "accepted" the gospel.
The enemy wants us to believe these two cardinal false doctrines: that salvation is in our own hands by virtue of our decision and that we should never question our salvation. Such teaching takes the focus of salvation off of Christ and then blinds the minds of the deceived to any danger.
The apostle Peter, however, has provided a wonderful corrective in 2 Peter 1:10, "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities (as listed in verses 5-7) you will never fall." In Peter's way of thinking (inspired by the Holy Spirit - verses 20-21), a believer's own pursuit of holiness is an indicator of whether or not God has truly chosen to save that person. Think of how different that is to the false doctrine that says that our decision makes our salvation sure regardless of our behavior. They are completely opposite ideas!
We need to return our thinking to the way our spiritual forefathers thought as they were guided by the God-centered Scriptures rather than the man-centered culture. As the Lord said, we should "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls" (Jeremiah 6:16).
We will hopefully begin this week over at TrueBaptist.org to examine some of these historical Baptists who held firm to this "faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Be sure to bookmark the main site (http://truebaptist.org) and check it regularly or subscribe to the RSS.