But, Mark! Salvation couldn’t be that easy! Mark, there are millions of people who go to church and aren’t saved! The churches make it so easy for them and tell them they are saved so they just stop any desire for progress in their lives! They live their lives in sin and think it doesn’t matter because of what the churches teach, “once saved, always saved!”
Whew! What do you say to folks who say this? Are they totally wrong on all counts? You know they aren’t. But the solution isn’t to teach that we have to keep struggling throughout our lives to somehow, at the end, to have earned and won salvation. That just isn’t the teaching of the New Testament.
It does go against some element in our nature that salvation could just be a free gift. It just seems like a part of the natural world that we should have to do something to earn God’s grace. But a study of God’s Word in the New Testament shows that this is actually how it is. “It is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8 & 9). This is a recurrent theme of the writings of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
“But Mark! If it’s free, then they won’t appreciate it. There will be no incentive to do good! What about all the admonitions to live a righteous life? What about the Ten Commandments? So many Christians are just spiritually fat and lazy because of what you are teaching!“
Here’s a big factor in this. While salvation and eternal life are free gifts through the sacrifice of Jesus, our rewards and recompense in that eternal life to come are highly contingent on what we do with the salvation He’s given us. You talk about all those weak, lazy, often stunted Christians you may see in church? I have friends who have told me that they think only 3% of the people that we go to church with are saved. And I go to a pretty strongly Bible-believing church.
I personally think that percentage of saved folks at that church is a lot higher than that. But what are those folks doing with their lives? Are they “laying up treasures in heaven”? (Matthew 6:19) Or just accumulating things in this world? Are they really growing in the Lord? Are they really feeding His sheep? Are they withholding or scattering abroad? “He that withholds, it tends to poverty, but he that scatters abroad it increases.” (Proverbs 11:24) How much time do they spend watching worldly, sickening, foolish, Satanic TV every single day? How much time do they spend witnessing and winning souls, or sharing Bible classes with those who need it? How much are they really supporting missionaries abroad who are winning souls?
Let’s face it, millions of Christians are “living in sin” every day! They think that “living in sin” refers to something sexual. So they may have real pure sexual lives and still be “wasting their substance in riotous living” (luke 15:13) by following “the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2) and not really a path of discipleship in the Lord.
These are all things that will be part of their reward, or lack thereof in the hereafter. I’ll tell you of a somewhat unknown but extremely significant verse, slightly controversial. In Daniel 12:2, it talks about the resurrection of the saints at the coming of the Lord. Here’s what it says, “…some raised to everlasting life, and some raised to shame, and everlasting contempt.”
I believe some folks are going to be saved and go to heaven. But like it says about “He shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelatoin 21:4), some are going to have a lot of tears to wipe away when they see all they could have done in this world, but didn’t do, all the love they could have shown, all the witnessing they could have done to share their faith with others. But they didn’t. All the time they spent in frivolous worldly affairs to the neglect of God and His will and His sheep. Some are going to be in heaven but not much more than that. Very little if any reward.
So I personally believe that God “who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the acknowledging of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4) is going to see and recognize faith in His son in many people. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13) . But sadly, for very many people, very many, they are like folks who never grow in their lives beyond the mental age of perhaps 5 years old. They never grow up spiritual beyond early childhood. They remain children and sometimes little children in their spiritual lives for their entire Christian life. Because they were saved but that’s about as far as they went. This of course is heartbreaking. Some seem to almost never know there is anything else. Their churches and pastors don’t challenge them to discipleship but are content to just let their members drift along in the lowlands of spirituality.
There’s just a vast work to be done to mentor, disciple, teach and admonish the immense numbers of people who say they are Christians, believe they are Christians but so often don’t really know for sure as they just don’t know the Word. Many just are content to stay where they are. Some of these would make progress if they were shown how.