There was a time that most everyone thought that the sun revolved around the earth. Even for many Christians it seemed to make sense at the time. If God had shown himself so interested in mankind, then everything must revolve around man.
It may seem like a sad reflection on human ignorance, but many Today are stuck on a similar error of mistaken vantage point. When it comes to beliefs about salvation—or whose names are on the guest list for the Pearly Gates—that heliocentric fallacy from centuries past continues to haunt the pulpits of many Churches.
In our family study through the book, Claiming Christ, we have finished our review of specific passages of Scripture from every book of the NT on a sampling of what the Bible has to say about real Christians. We now embark on a series of Q&A topics related to understanding biblical Christianity in contrast to popular sentiments that carry a similar label. Our current chapter takes a more specific look at the doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved”.
Although it preaches well, and is well suited towards audience appreciation, the idea that all church members in attendance on any given Sunday ought to revel in their assurance of salvation is a Sun-around-the-Earth problem. Just as the heliocentric belief was often defended in its day due to a mistaken premise on homo-sapien -centricity (ie: man should be the central focus of everything), so it often is with modern professions of salvation.
Claiming salvation for all is a problem of perspective; namely, a mistaken view that man is so important that each person deserves the chief seat on the eternal gondola to heaven. In this vein, we are often told things like, “It doesn’t matter what you do, you can’t even sin your way out of heaven”, or “You are all guaranteed salvation”, or “Grace is unconditional, so your assurance of salvation is unconditional”.
Although there is truth mixed in there, these statements and many others like them, don’t take into consideration…and I mean PRIMARY consideration…God’s perspective.
People want to feel secure. We want to be told that everything will work out (even though we have a nagging suspicion that our friend is just saying what they think we want to hear). We are even willing for people to lie to us; anything other than face the difficult truth that things may not always work out in our favor, like they seem to do in the movies.
And yes, I fully recognize that by even bringing up such a distinction here, I am undermining my already limited popularity standing. But as important as man is in the glorious plan of God, the Sun does not revolve around man’s earth, and no, not everyone who claims Christ is going to be saved (see Mt 7:21 for Jesus’ own words on this).
So, even though it is popular for ministers to tell their congregations not to be concerned, to chin up because they are guaranteed to be saved, to celebrate because any of their loved ones who had been with them in church and have recently passed away are now smiling down on them from heaven—none of this is God’s perspective, let alone biblical.
God’s perspective is outside of time, but we don’t often take that into consideration. God’s perspective sees reality all as one thing, whereas we are limited by labeling things as past, present, and future. God’s perspective is holy, righteous and perfect; need I say that our perspective, even of godly things, is always flawed. And God’s perspective continues to be completely veiled to non-believers and partially veiled to believers; either way his view point is not fully clear to anyone. (And yes, that impacts my clarity as well, but we are not having a who-is-more-right discussion here; we are highlighting the supremacy of seeking God’s perspective over man’s).
Consider when Jesus told the thief on the cross next to him that “Today you will be with me in paradise”—but Jesus spent the next three days NOT in paradise. Therefore, if we take his statement from a human perspective, we will misunderstand him. It is imperative that we interpret from a higher vantage point. (This particular passage has been reviewed in an earlier post).
Consider that the Bible gives us a glimpse into God’s perspective when it says that “God calls things that are not, as if they are”. From a human stance, some things are not real, not seen, not occurred; they are not (yet). The writer is cluing us in on a key to understanding Scripture. At times, God identifies things as a forgone conclusion—as something we might hear as past tense—when in our reality, they have not yet occurred. If we speak of them in such a way that we cause ourselves and others to assume they have occurred, then we mislead people, because that is not what he is saying.
This is the problem with many modern teachings on salvation. They take select statements by God in Scripture that give the appearance as unconditional, as guaranteed, as a forgone conclusion, and then put peoples names to them. But they don’t compare those statements with others in the same Holy Book that show that God intends it to be taken differently. They will also avoid any of the warnings or commands, even though they are part of revealing God’s perspective, because their audience would likely recognize the disconnect between their ra-ra preaching and what the Bible calls “the fear of the Lord”.
This is why the prophets record God’s perspective on the assurance of salvation with these words: “If I tell the righteous man that he shall surely live, but in the end he does wicked, he will not surely live”. (Again, this passage has been reviewed previously).
The point in bringing this up here is simply to demonstrate that we must seek God’s perspective and not a man-centered view point when interpreting Scripture. The fact that we are human makes this a particular challenge, but then perhaps that is why we are advised to “live by the Spirit and not by the flesh”.
If simply reading the Bible is not sufficient to gain God’s perspective, then what else is needed?