Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Unbiblical Salvation Language, pt. 1

Either Thomas Ross or myself have written "Lordship salvation" related posts in the past and if you want to get caught up on at least what we've already posted, then please do [his will be TR and mine KB, both with numbers to differentiate):  KB1, KB2, KB3, KB4, KB5, TR1, TR2, TR3.  Here are articles either he or I talk about Keswick theology:  TR1, KB1, KB2, TR2.  I haven't written on Keswick perhaps as much as I should.  Thomas Ross is preparing a 1000 page doctoral dissertation on sanctification that will surely break down Keswick for someone.  Until then, but without further delay, read this post.


A lot of salvation language gave me trouble in both my early and middle childhood.  It was the normal salvation-speak in evangelical, fundamentalist, independent Baptist, and other groups of churches galore.   In the Nye-Ham debate, Nye mentioned the game of telephone.  Perhaps this lingo for churches developed like the game of telephone.  At one time the language used was biblical and, therefore, legitimate, but it degraded like something that has eroded over time.

This will not be the depth of historical study to explain to you exactly where this language came from.  I want to make an educated guess, i.e., say what makes the most sense to me.  The Bible presents only one way of salvation, and not everyone likes it.  You say it how a person would more like to hear it and it catches on -- it works.  It sticks.  You want salvation to be easier for people because you want it to be that they're saved, so you say it in a way that it will be easier and they accept that.  Because it works, you keep doing it.   A paraphrase is made of a paraphrase of a paraphrase and the last iteration becomes accepted as what the Bible actually says.  The talking points no longer reflect the Word of God, but they are treated as if God said them.  In some cases they're slightly off, but key words or thoughts are either missing, added, or a combination of both.

Before I get into the ones I have heard the most, I want to clarify that someone can elaborate or expose the words of the text in a helpful way.  Just because different words are used, that mean the same thing, doesn't mean that the doctrine has been twisted.  When you're trying to get across a verse or phrase in the Bible, you might restate in a way to help people understand.  That's all fine, and it's not what I'm talking about with unbiblical salvation language.

Accept Jesus as Your Savior

Everyone should "accept Jesus as his Savior."  I'm thrilled if someone does that.  Some who use those words in their gospel presentation might be using them in a biblical sense.  I say that, because I've read these words in the midst of a lot of others in a way that doesn't leave it as the only or main point.  Let's be honest and accurate here though.  These words should not stand alone as a saving response to the Lord Jesus Christ.  They shouldn't stand as the crucial, most practical point in a salvation presentation.  They are not biblical salvation language.

"Savior" is found 24 times in the New Testament.  That might sound like a lot, but it isn't compared to the value that is being placed upon it in these plans of salvation.  The terminology itself isn't found in the Bible, but you'll get 88,700 of those exact words on the worldwide web (334,000 of "accept Jesus Christ as your Savior" and 210,000 of "accept Jesus as Savior," and those only with the Americanized spelling of Savior -- the latter gets 187,000 more results with the Anglicized version).  This language is very popular.

The term "Savior" is found only 3 times in the gospels and twice in Acts.  It is used more times in Titus than those combined (6).  And that's before we ever get to how the title "Savior" is being used.  In its second usage, one of the very earliest of the gospels, Luke 2:11 reads:  "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."  You remember that verse?  City of David -- think Davidic Covenant, then Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  He's the Lord, which would hearken to all those Old Testament promises of the Lord, like Psalm 2:2, as one of many, many, many examples:  "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed."  Lord is used three more times in Psalm 2, more times than Savior is used in all four gospels.

When you start looking through those 24 uses of "Savior" in the New Testament, you get to the first in Acts (one of only two), and that usage in Acts 5:31 reads:  "Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins."  If you were hearing that verse that day, you might think that you also should "accept" Jesus as "Prince," since He had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, after hanging on a tree.  He's going to come back as Judge, because he is "Prince," and you might have some time to turn to Him, to follow Him, and get forgiveness of sins, since He's Saviour.  Sure, that's harder to say than "accept Jesus as Savior," but it is much more complete, gives a fuller picture.

If "accepting Jesus as Savior" were such important language, then why doesn't that occur once in the Bible?  If the concept of "Savior" were so important, or even the word, then why didn't the apostles use it all the time in their preaching?  Now, believe me, I am for using the title "Savior," but definitely not in exclusion of "Lord" in the presentation of Jesus, and not even as the main point, since it isn't the main point.  Will He save?  Yes.  But He won't save while your mind is still made up that you're going to do what you want to do.

As you keep looking at the title "Savior" in the New Testament, you'll see it used almost exclusively on behalf of and directed toward believers, because Jesus is being described as their Savior. But why is He their Savior?  Is it because they've accepted Him as Savior?  It doesn't say that.   The tone of those passages is that He's been so good to them, as their Savior, that they owe Him a lot.  Savior isn' being used in a presentation of the plan of salvation there.

Four of the 24 times "Savior" is found, it is found in the following way, all in 2 Peter:  "Lord and Savior," Lord always coming first.  Eight of the 24 times "Savior" is found, "Lord" is also found in the same verse.  If we count "Prince" in Acts 5:31, that goes for 9 of 24.  Even when "Savior" is used, it gets used with "Lord" over one-third of the time.

Romans is the great salvation book.  Do you agree?  45 times in 39 verses, "Lord."  Zero times, "Savior."  As Paul explains the great doctrine of salvation so much in that book, he doesn't mention "Savior" at all.  Does this mean anything?  It does.  But you won't find "accept Jesus as Saviour" in the book of Romans.  You can't.  So how does it appear as the clinching point in so many plans of salvation for churches -- in their tracts and on their websites?

We have something preached by an angel, who flies around the earth so everyone can see him, in Revelation 14:6 called the "everlasting gospel."  It would be interesting, wouldn't it, to know what the everlasting gospel is?  The next verse begins that everlasting gospel:  "Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters."  Does anyone wonder why the angel doesn't just say, "Accept Jesus as your Savior!!!"?  Perhaps he's talking to people who are already believers, since "fear God" and "worship him" are only sanctification concepts that can't be done until after someone is saved.  Should we accuse the angel of preaching works salvation?  But, of course, I speak in jest.

If someone wants Jesus as his Savior, He's not going to get that by merely "asking Jesus to be His Savior."  If He doesn't want Jesus as Lord, Jesus won't be His Savior.  If He won't fear God, repent of His sin, deny Himself, and turn to Jesus Christ for Who Jesus really is, He won't be saved.  Is that so hard to add to the equation in the explanation?  But won't people find "accept Jesus as your Savior," much easier to accept?  Sure.  But is that what Jesus our Savior gave us as an example to do?

Romans 6:23 says that "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Eternal life is a gift.  So how we get that gift is by simply accepting it, right?  It doesn't say, but we could listen to Peter, on the day of Pentecost, who said, "Repent . . . and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).  He said, "Repent and you get the gift," not "accept the gift and you get the gift."  Eternal life is through Jesus Christ our Lord.  "Through.  Our Lord."  You get to that gift through Jesus Christ our Lord.

More to Come.


Anonymous said...

Wow! What a interesting post! I definitely would view it like you wrote, but it somehow has been made clearer still. Thank you for that.

d4v34x said...

I'll put this here to stay out of the way of the main discussion on this, but, Bro. B, you've done it now. :)

Hang in there.

Bobby Mitchell said...

Every time I deal with a person who tells me they want to be saved one thing I'll say is: "Jesus is the only One Who can save you. Do you know Who and what He is? He is The Lord. He wants you to know He is Lord, and as Lord He wants control of your life. You have to know Who He is (Romans 10:9-14). He wants to make you His servant, His slave. He wants to save you so you can serve and glorify Him. Are you sure you want to be saved by The Lord Who wants to take over your life? The only One Who can save you is the One Who wants to control you."

If they don't want Him, The Lord...then they don't want Him. He is what He is, The Lord. It's not about making Him Lord, but realizing He is and submitting to Him as Lord.

Read Acts and you will see the Apostles thundering "Jesus is Lord" on every page. He is Lord, therefore He can save! I can't imagine preaching anything less than the Gospel to any lost person. And if I'm preaching the Gospel then I must tell them Who this Jesus, Who died and rose again is, and He is Lord!

Bobby Mitchell said...

Instead of "accept Jesus as Saviour," why not preach, "repent" and "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ"?

Isn't that a novel idea!!!

Kent Brandenburg said...

Bro. Mitchell,




Kent Brandenburg said...

Hey Readers,

I noticed SharperIron has linked here, and someone said the emphasis of my problem was with "Savior," and perhaps I'll speak more to that. My problem is actually with singling out that one attribute of Christ, "as Savior," and leaving out the other attributes necessary to believe about Jesus -- Lord and God. I especially say "Lord" because that is highlighted in the NT, and there is a reason Lord can be left out. As well, like a SharperIron commenter was saying, "accept," as I see it, falls short of "believe" and "receive." Accept is more of an intellectual acknowledgement of a fact. I accept Him as Savior might not be to believe or receive. However, accept can mean "receive." I would rather the basic understanding of take or receive that is found in the Greek word translated "receive."

Anyway, I believe there are more problems with "accept Jesus as Savior" than just Savior.