Seeing that we live in a day and age when the Reformed, traditional Protestant, classical “lordship salvation” Gospel is not being preached by very many pastors—it follows that only soteriological errors are going to be prevailing in the minds of church goers. I believe that a number of salvation errors are prevalent today:
1. Universalism – The belief that either there is no Hell, or Hell is not a literal eternal fire, or that Hell is a temporary place like Purgatory—and everyone eventually goes to Heaven.
2. Antinomianism – The belief that Jesus has ushered in an age of lovable, friendly lawlessness through faith in His blood. God’s grace and forgiveness are so liberally distributed in Christ that there is no need for any moral law other than the rule to love your neighbor: and usually “love” takes on a shallow sentimental meaning; or a tolerance of carnality, and sees holiness and morals as divisive, unnecessary “legalistic” subjects.
3. Perfectionism – The belief that God expects all Christians to obey all of His commandments perfectly, without ever tripping up, slipping up, making mistakes, giving into temptation, etc. And that perfect, flawless righteousness is required continually for salvation from Hell. It is a misinterpretation of the word “holiness”: as in the Scripture “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Note: the Bible does not say, “Without perfectionism no one will see the Lord.” On the contrary, the Apostle Paul describes holiness in the present-tense as an imperfect, spiritual warfare, empowered by the Holy Spirit for obedience to the moral commands of God (Romans 7-8). Paul describes his own holiness in the present-tense again as “going on to perfection…but not as though I have already attained this, or were already perfect” (Hebrews 6:1; Philippians 3:12, KJV). Perfectionism is a misunderstanding of the following words: holiness, “perfect” (synonymous for “righteous” in the Bible), righteousness, godliness, moral, etc. The misunderstanding implies flawless sinlessness; and implies no such concepts as: the Christian’s ongoing need for God’s grace in the cross, forgiveness by faith, or even ongoing repentance for freshly committed sins.
Christians must get a handle on Romans 3-8 to comprehend their own salvation, and how they should view their life under God’s rule. God is a righteous Judge over all of mankind, but for those who trust in Jesus, He is a loving Father. If Christians refuse to understand this, it will have a negative effect on their relationships with family, friends, and everyone. A correct understanding of the Gospel of Grace and Holiness will bring balance and fulfillment to the Christian’s life. “The grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12). But an incorrect understanding can only result in confusion, anxiety, distress, strife, unneeded conflict, and foolish separations of concepts such as this: The Christian has only two options before him:
(1) He can be a perfectionist or “legalist” and never have any fun; and think that everyone is always wrong and he is always right; and he does not rely on continual, ongoing repentance from sins, or ask God for forgiveness daily or weekly.
(2) He can be a cheap grace antinomian who tolerates ridiculous amounts of lawlessness, immorality, and sinful behavior all in the name of grace, love, forgiveness, and relationships; to allow for so much latitude in “friendship evangelism” as to corrupt any remaining morals in his or his children’s lives.
Martin Luther and the traditional Protestant reformers would say neither of these ways is living out the Biblical Gospel.
Unfortunately, John Wesley, the Methodists, and the Holiness Movement brought perfectionism to some degree into the body of Christ:–and Christians are still confused about this. Yet even Wesley lived as the Apostle Paul: in a progressive, growing, imperfect state of holiness.
Live neither as a perfectionist, nor an antinomian!
Live as a Christian! Pursue a holy life; refuse carnality in all its forms; and always remember that glorification occurs AFTER death, and not before (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
In the meantime, we Christian pilgrims are on a progress towards New Jerusalem. The walk we walk is a life of holiness under the cross of Christ, sprinkled clean from an evil conscience by the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:22), under the grace and law of Christ, walking in all of His commandments blameless (Luke 1:6), pursuing what is right with absolute purity of intention, and personally CONFESSING and REPENTING when we make things go wrong. “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9).