Salvation

by Mike Ratliff

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 ESV)

The very first time I raised concerns about the Kansas City Prophets and the International House of Prayer over 10 years ago over their extra-biblical activities, I was rebuked by another Christian with this statement, “You just don’t understand what is going on. If people’s lives are being changed then God is working so you should just shut up.” Back in 2006 when God opened my eyes to what the leadership at our church was doing with the Purpose Driven stuff and I raised the alarm I was rebuked again with pretty much the same argument. I was told that I should just kick back and cooperate so that the church could peacefully go Purpose Driven so that God could work there and people’s lives could be changed. When I began commenting on the old Slice of Laodicea blog about that same time, those PDC apologists who hated our firm stance against it said very much the same thing. If you listen to Rick Warren speak when talking about what a great ministry Saddleback Valley Baptist Church is, he will always try to emphasize the thousands of people whose lives have been transformed or changed. I noticed the very same theme in the advertisements for The World Revival Church in Kansas City. Their ads on our local TV channels seem to always talk about the hundreds of lives transformed or changed through that ministry. 

This is the common apologetic thread in all of the marketeers of the  “ministries” who attempt to “sell” them to potential “customers” with the promise of “change” or, if it is made to an already “churched” group or person, then it will be from a “transformation” perspective. Is this what Biblical salvation is all about? This may surprise some, but transformation or the transformed life is not part of the Biblical Gospel. Neither is deliverance or liberation when used in a temporal context. What is the definition of Biblical salvation?

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:8-10 ESV)

What does it mean that “you will be saved?” Obviously it involves the heart, believing, justification, confessing with the mouth and being saved. Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (Romans 1:16). Here it is in Greek, “Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ· δύναμις γὰρ Θεοῦ ἐστίν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, ᾿Ιουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ ῞Ελληνι.“ Here is my translation, “Not for I am ashamed the gospel of the Christ power for of God it is to salvation to all the one trusting, to Judean both first and to Greek.” The word I translated as “salvation” is σωτηρίαν the accusative, singular form of σωτηρία or sōtēria, which means safety, deliverance, and preservation from danger or destruction. It is clear in much of what is preached today that this concept of salvation is either not understood or has been changed into a different concept with less offensive focus. If our salvation is a form of rescue or deliverance then that means that we we’re saved from something. Some tone that down into a “deliverance” from problems or some other “temporal” thing that is totally out of context from what Paul was writing about here.

What is the Biblical definition of salvation? It is nothing like that offered by today’s “new theology,” which is, “liberation from the oppression of this world’s structures.” Instead, true Biblical salvation is the sole act of God whereby He by His mercy and grace eternally redeems His elect believers and delivers them from their sin and the resultant spiritual death through the once-for-all redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross. The Apostle Paul would agree with that definition and would say that any other doctrine disagreeing with it, adding to it, or subtracting from it should be cursed (Galatians 1:8-9).

A false Gospel doesn’t have to be really “out there” to be heretical. It can simply be too easy like that of the Seeker-sensitive churches that never talk about the necessity of repentance and preach a Law based works-righteousness with very little Bible centering. Salvation is not about self-esteem or trying harder to do right. It is not about meeting people’s felt needs. It is not about sentimentality. It is not about so-called “spiritual manifestations” that cause goosebumps and people running around screaming, falling on the floor and, jerking and being all about “feelings.” No, the true Biblical Gospel is about sin and the Saviour.

Soli Deo Gloria

24 thoughts on “Salvation

  1. Amen!
    We at one time belonged to a church that removed the sign (that said what it was), and later changed the name to “Light house” (plus refusing to call it a “church”; calling it “church” would offend people, and drive them away).
    And this was before the “Purpose-Driven” movement!

  2. A friend asked me a question the other day that intrigued me…I am curious how you would address it…the question was, “Is our will to reject God stronger than His will to save us?”

  3. Dear Mike,

    “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in REVERENCE prepared an ark for the SALVATION of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Hebrews 11:7 (Caps emphasis mine)
    *Your post encouraged me to look at all passages related to salvation. Hebrews 11:7 has never stood out to me before, but in light of your last several posts it was poignant. The remnant that adhere to Sola Scriptura, (Scripture alone)and the Bible being without error are looked at like Noah. Noah was mocked and generally viewed as a fool. But Noah had been granted faith and God impressed upon him things not yet seen, just as true believers (by God’s mercy and grace, not by anything we have done) have received the truth of God’s word and out of REVERENCE for our Holy, Just, and Almighty God are preparing for our final Day of Salvation which will be the return of Christ or our death – which ever comes first. We already wear the helmet of salvation that we got when we trusted Christ as our Savior and by following the narrow path our actions are condemning the world because the “world” hates the obedience that testifies to the Truth of Jesus Christ and ultimately glorifies God… Just a thought. May God richly bless you with all spiritual blessing! charisse

  4. Thanks for this article. I was praying last night what I should teach the women’s-biblestudygroup, and God showed me that I should speak about the cross and the reason why Jesus came and had to die on that cross. I was reading scripture this morning, for example Romans, the gospel of John, and now I see this article you wrote.

    I my region (in the Netherlands) there is a church that is drawing people with big stories of transformed lives, and all the prosperity that God wants to give. The church is growing fast. But when you look on their website, you can’t find the gospel of the cross and repentance. It is all about our destiny and how we will build the kingdom (dominion theology). It is so sad to see many young people go to that church because of the great music, the use of modern multimedia, the fun. But the church does not preach the gospel of the cross…

  5. Amen Charisse, thanks for that. I studied Hebrews 11 last night prior to writing this post. I had intended to write about saving faith, but then after I did the cross-referencing and looked up some of the words in my Greek Lexicon, I decided to concentrate on σωτηρία the result of God working through the gift of saving faith in us as we believe the Gospel and turn in repentance to the Son for Salvation and away from sin.

    You are right, if we focus right here, the moles in the visible Church who hate the truth or who have no patience for it, are exposed and their hatred comes forth with their man focused rebuttals and “that’s not fair” comments. Well, as I have said more times than I can count, this truth is God’s truth. His truth is truth regardless of who believes it or not. Those with that child-like faith who are set to believe God regardless are those whom He has regenerated and are believing. What we have got to do on this side of that is make sure that we are not corrupted by the world and our enemy and the flesh by allowing what is false to enter into our minds as something of value replacing or pushing aside what is truly of value.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. Stand firm Janet! Yes, I am sure that that “church” is growing and drawing the young with all of that false gospel and glitz. Stick to the truth, pray, and wait for the Lord. He will draw out of there His own. Teach the cross and live the cross. When we encounter these false gospel people we don’t have to be mean or obnoxious with them. Just be firm. Some of us with the speaking gifts like the gift of prophecy, which I have, on the other hand, will speak the truth to them directly… I am always amazed when that happens. In any case, there are times when I wonder why God has allowed this to happen. Perhaps it is to awaken His people to get serious about prayer and the Gospel.

  7. Amen, Mike!
    The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the truth in God’s perfect timing. Even if people don’t seem receptive to the true gospel as you are speaking to them…you just do not know what could be going on inside of them. Seeds are possibly being planted even if your sharing is met with some ridicule.

    When people say lives are being changed or transformed what is the evidence? Outward evidence? Anyone can go along with a group. Is there even any long term evidence that we can look at? How can we look at thousands of people’s changed lives for evidence? I don’t believe that. I would believe this- a longing for Christ and to know Him, a longing for Him to come, a desire for His word, a desire to obey His word because we revere Him and most importantly, which the Holy Spirit would ensure, a desire for devotion to Christ alone above all else.
    God bless, Mike and have a good day at work.

  8. Thank you Mike. There are many false gospels, but only one true gospel. God saves the sinner from the punishment that he justly deserves and the saves him from power that sin had over him. Generally, it is not God’s will that the sinner be delivered from pain (God calls many of us to suffer with Him and for His glory and our ultimate eternal good), nor delivered from poverty (God calls many of His own to suffer need for the benefit of others’ provision), nor of a lack of “purpose or meaning” in life (our emotional self satisfaction is not the end or purpose of the cross, but it is God and His glory). Man is not the ultimate purpose of God, but God is the purpose of God; and His glory will be established in the heavens and the earth, partly through His creation and redemption of people. What a difference between fallen and depraved mankind, and the Creator, holy, pure, and all powerful, who is perfectly just and rightfully wrathful against all sin. Proclaiming God and His glory is so very different from the false gospels promoting man and his glory.

  9. Back when IHOP started, I was in the Foursquare church in Portland. A friend of mine there was talking about this IHOP thing and she was organizing a trip to Kansas City. She had been in touch with Mike Bickle and now she was sure that we all had to go.

    She insisted that this is where you could receive a touch from God. I argued that I was with God 24/7/365 right there in Portland.

    After she got back from Kansas City, she got involved with a local group that was starting a Portland “chapter” of IHOP. She eventually left that Foursquare church and we lost contact, so I’m not sure what she’s doing now.

    I sure hope she has seen the truth because she really meant well. I know she was sincere in her desire to see people grow closer to God, but she just couldn’t see that that closeness can be had anywhere, not by going to a specific place to receive an “anointing.”

    Now I hope I haven’t used the IHOP acronym too much. :)

    http://www.kansascity.com/2010/09/14/2224629/ihop-the-pancake-maker-sues-ihop.html

  10. That lawsuit is big news here in KC Carol. I have had “conversations” with some who are all over this Mike Bickle stuff too. They were also enamored with the Toronto Blessing and the Latter Day Rain stuff as well. When I pointed out to one of those fella’s that what they were doing and saying was extra-Biblical I was told that God speaks through prophets today things that are not found in the Bible. My response after a long silence… Well then, how can you know that it is true? What do you do when what these fella’s are prophesying don’t happen? Blank stare… Yeah, well, I think God used that whole thing to draw me closer to Him and His Word so, in that anyway, it was a healthy thing for me, but it sure damaged my relationship with some people.

  11. Mike, when I left that Foursquare church, it happened to coincide with a major church split. I left because the pastor used the Bible less and less, while using secular books more and more.

    As I was leaving, so were a bunch of other people, but not for the same reason. It turns out, a group of people felt that while somewhat pentecostal, it wasn’t pentecostal enough. They felt that the pastor had stifled a “move of God,” not because he used the Bible less frequently but because he had begun to “experience” God in a very emotional way and then seemed to pull himself back.

    This group felt that because he had pulled back he had squelched a revival. So, they left and started their own gathering.

    It’s funny because a lot of people think that I left for the same reason that group left. When I tell people I left because the Bible wasn’t preached, they just look at me like I’m speaking Chinese.

    I know that the prophetic people were very much into feelings and emotions. Some of them just wanted to appear more spiritual because they had “a word from God.” Others just liked the high of the spontaneity. But others really seemed to think they were hearing from God and they were sincere. In any case, I lost a lot of “friends.”

    Two years later, God showed me His doctrines of grace. I’ve always felt like I didn’t belong or that I was on a different page. When God opened my eyes, it all made sense.

  12. (Relating to my previous comment and your response…)

    Does that mean that those not elected are predestined for hell?

  13. Hey Mike something I feel waqs revealed to me (and tell me if you think Im wrong) is people dont understand Salvation. They ask the age old question Can you lose YOUR savation and I say I hope so. Because if it is my salvation it would be like my rightousness…..FILTHY.. Salvation is repentance unto Jesus its his plan and HIS work. we are a part of it only if we choose to walk in it. And we cant even do that if we are not called by his wonderful spirit into that light. I have written a paper called “Salvation is a Lifestyle”.. Not a prayer,emotion or anything else we choose to deem it. Just as people ask me where do you go to church? .. My reply is I am the church..Do you mean where do I go to worship?
    people have to know there salvation does not lie in some organization…Its in Christ alone…..thank you Higgy

  14. Higgy, I suppose I would have been one of those who had “my own” salvation that I grew up with as a child and was truly saved as an adult at the age of 34 back in 1986. However, while I agree that true salvation is that lifestyle you talk about, it begins with regeneration and that turning by faith in repentance and belief to Christ as Lord and Saviour. It starts there and continues in that walk you are talking about. If people say they have it, but that walk is missing then they more than likely don’t have it.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  15. Thanks for your reply Mike…interesting chapter in Ephesians…I guess what I am asking is, what is the cut-off point between worthiness and unworthiness? What is the cut-off point between those who are saved by mercy and those who are not? Who are the pure ones?…would love your thoughts on this…thanks

  16. Ricky, no one is saved according to their worthiness. Read the next chapter especially Ephesians 2:8-10. We are saved by grace through faith alone apart from works or merit.

    God’s electing grace is His choice period. Romans 9 covers this very well.

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