“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7
Truth concerning salvation is of the highest importance . If you miss this, anything and everything else you might believe or do in the religious realm is pointless. The Galatians had been led away from the central truth of the Gospel. False teachers had come in who were teaching that a person had to keep the Jewish ceremonial law (as well as the moral law) to be saved. Paul could not have been more severe in his renunciation of this false Gospel. Listen to him rebuke those who would teach such heresy.
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” KJV Galatians 1:8-9
Damnation on all who preach any other gospel? That is a hard saying and yet that is the very indication of the importance Paul (and the Holy Spirit) put on the purity of the Gospel message. But believe it or not, a false gospel as malignant as any Paul faced is being spread among Evangelicals today. It uses biblical language. It boasts extravagant success. It is so close to the truth that its insidious false teaching is hardly noticeable. It is advocated in schools of higher learning and practiced by many of the highest profile Christian leaders in our generation. It has been accepted by multitudes as orthodox Christian teaching, which means that it is being taught, practiced and defended with a burning passion. Yet, with serpentine ferocity, this teaching has turned to bite the very ones who are defending it. I am talking about the doctrine of easy-believism.
Multitudes have made professions of faith in Christ by this method who show no evidence of genuine salvation. The number of those who fall away after professing Christ is phenomenally high. Though some may become involved in church activities, many who have professed Christ through this method never enter a church of any description. Others attend church only spasmodically.
As I write these words I am looking at the May 2, 2006 issue of the Western Recorder (the state news paper for Kentucky Southern Baptists). The lead article is entitled “Most people tell poll they don’t need church for spiritual growth.” Quoting George Barna the article states that “. . . fewer than 20 percent of American adults believe participation in a congregation is critical to spiritual growth. Barna goes on to say that 72 percent of Americans claim they personally have committed themselves to Jesus Christ, but less than 50 percent attend religious services regularly.
My question is, what would cause people to profess Christ and yet leave them with no desire to meet with their brethren? What would cause people to say with their lips that they love God but leave them living lives which show that they are fleshly minded and interested only in worldly things. What kind of evangelistic method is it that encourages people to pray the prayer and walk the aisle and calls them Christian, even though they live the exact same lifestyle they lived before their professed conversion? It is the method of easy-believism. It is a method that inadvertently changes the very essence of the Gospel message to a false gospel of human works.
The truth of the Gospel is changeless. Christ died and rose again so that sinners would be saved, and all who come to Him in repentant faith are blessed to partake of His atonement and forgiveness. Paul said it best. “Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief ” (1Tim.1:15). When Christ came into the world, he performed the external act that was demanded to reconcile us to God. There is little argument, among genuine Christians, about the fact that Christ became the sacrifice for our sins. The work of the cross was completely the work of God and specifically the work of Christ. But conversion also involves the supernatural work of God. Modern proponents of easy-believism have made it solely an accomplishment of man. In biblical Christianity, God takes the initiative even in conversion. God draws sinners to Himself. God grants repentance and God gives faith. Every true conversion experience is the result of God moving in wondrous grace. But when grace is replaced with human decisionism or a person’s salvation is based on a prayer prayed or on a person’s sincere desire to go to heaven when they die, the so-called salvation that is secured is nothing less than eternal deception.
Much of the preaching that we hear today glosses over the truth that God is sovereignly active in the salvation of sinners. Many times it is not in the body of the message but the application of the message that causes the problem. After proclaiming that God is the One who does the saving, immediately the sinner is instructed to do something physical to be saved. He is told that if he will only repeat a canned prayer then he will be saved and everything will be alright. Many times the sermon itself proclaims the necessity of God to work in conversion but in the end the sinner himself is left in charge. If you think I am wrong listen to the invitations given at the end of evangelistic television and radio programs. At the conclusion of the program the evangelist will usually come back and tell those who are listening to pray with him. Then he will pray a prayer confessing sin and affirming faith in Christ. Usually he will conclude the program with a word of encouragement to those who prayed the prayer and were sincere. They are told that if they prayed that prayer and meant it, then they were, without a doubt, saved. Finally, they are admonished to write to the evangelist and report their conversion. The same method is seen in most evangelistic crusades and at the end of Christian music concerts.
Several years ago I attended a local crusade. The evangelist did a good job of presenting Christ. He was no doubt sincere in his desire to see sinners saved. During the course of the sermon he related his own conversion experience. He said that he nearly went to hell over a 4 year old profession of faith. He had prayed the pray at that young age and yet he was truly converted later in life. The thing that astonished me was that at the end of the service he called all those who would, to come down to the front and there he led them in the same kind of prayer that he said had nearly sent him to hell. It is true that those who prayed the prayer with him were sent to individual counselors but as I listened to them counsel all I heard were counselors continuing to lead the people to repeat a prayer and then give the people the assurance that they were now children of God. Repentance was not prominent in the presentation. An explanation of the fact that one was personally offensive to God was not mentioned. Rather the emphasis was on how much God loved the sinner and how God was obligated to save the sinner if he would only pray and ask Him to. All that was needed was for the sinner to pray the prayer of faith. This may seem fine in the modern evangelistic atmosphere but it represents a subtle shift from the way the Gospel has been presented in days gone by
My purpose in writing is to expose this man-centered gospel. I am not against counseling or praying with sinners, but I believe easy-believism is, humanly speaking, the one major hindrance to real revival and is a huge stumbling block in the genuine salvation of multitudes of souls. Because of this insidious method millions are deceived into believing that they are Christians who do not show any of the life changing effects of the Gospel. I believe most of them have been deceived. I pray God will help us get back to the method of Whitefield and Spurgeon. We can trust God who begins a good work in a person to carry it on to completion.