It’s Monday Grace!
It has always been popular to see salvation as a sliding scale, a continuum of righteousness and acceptance. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Yet, both the legalists and liberals of the faith see that same continuum. They just see it differently.
I have known legalists and their teaching for many years. For most of them, salvation is a goal. They strive for salvation, but can never be sure. The only ones truly saved would be those at the top of the scale, and they have to stay clean in order to maintain that status. Salvation is based on behavior.
Yet, the legalist sees himself as having something. He may not be as saved as he would like to be, but he is more saved than others. He knows his place on the scale. Better than most, not as good as some. The legalist sees himself as “in,” but he isn’t so sure about you. Only those who reach a certain level of salvation are “really saved.”
The folks I sometimes call the “liberals” of the faith also believe that some are more saved than others, but they think that all are “sort-of” saved. I have known them for many years as well. Their names and associations may have changed, but the basics of their beliefs are much the same. They don’t like the idea that some are in and others are out. All, in their perspective, are “really saved,” but some are more saved than others. Some, they suggest, know they are saved, while others do not.
The idea of a sliding scale seems right to the world and the flesh. It seems fair somehow. Everyone is good until they show they are not, the liberal says. Everyone is evil until they show themselves to be good enough, the legalist says. That makes sense in a world apart from the Lord. So, of course, we carry those perspectives into the church, because the church is just a better version of the world for many.
But the gospel knows nothing of a sliding scale or a continuum of salvation. Instead, there is a fulcrum, a specific point at which the decision is made. Jesus is that focal point.
Paul referred to Jesus as the “stumbling stone.” Because eternal relationship with God was determined only by relationship with Jesus, many would not be saved.
Jesus said it this way:
“These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come. Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?” And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”” (John 8:20–24, NKJV)
Simply put, sin condemns and Jesus saves. To add much more to the gospel message is to risk misrepresenting the mystery. This message is clear. All are lost until they come to Jesus. Jesus is the focal point.
Those who die without Jesus will die in their sins. Those who come to Jesus will be saved. Sins are washed away only by the blood of Jesus. If Jesus doesn’t save you, you are not saved.
Of course, both the legalists and the liberals have answers for this. The legalists say that Jesus made salvation possible, but we have to do something more to be fully or truly saved. The liberals say that Jesus gave salvation to everyone, no matter what they believe or do.
That’s not what Jesus said. He said that faith in Him was required. Knowing Him, however that is defined, is the door to salvation.
“if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
If you do not believe that Jesus is the Savior, the Lord of All, then your sins are not washed away. You are still under condemnation. If you never believe, you will die in your sins.
That’s not my opinion. That’s not just my teaching. That’s what Jesus says. Sin condemns and Jesus saves. Very simple. Very clear. Some are in and some are out.
The center is Jesus. Always.