Staying True to the Word
Are you concerned about proper interpretation of the Word of God?
Certainly there are passages of Scripture for which people disagree on the precise interpretation. In fact, there are schools that subscribe to different theologies and as a result disagree on the interpretation of key passages. In our culture today, there are two branches of believers that disagree on what it means to receive eternal life. Both schools would say that salvation is in Christ alone by faith alone. Yet, they mean something very different when they make that statement. I would like to discuss with you today something that happened to me just the other night. To do that, I need to provide a name to the two groups discussed above.
So let’s call one group the Lordship Salvation group and the other the Free Grace group. Neither name really fits the group, but the names are sufficient to let me tell you why it is important for you and me to discern what people say and understand the two position.
What I want to tell you happened this past Friday evening. My wife was gone to visit our daughter and grandkids. I went to bed and thought that I could listen to the radio while I fell asleep. Then I heard one of those one minute bullets by a very popular pastor. This pastor is known to be a Lordship Salvation pastor. I don’t really remember the start of his message, but I do remember what he said to close his message. He said, “Even Jesus said that whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.” The passages the speaker was eluding to was Matthew 10:22 (Mark 13:11) and Matthew 24:7. I would like to consider only the Matthew 10:22 passage because the others are similar. The passage is:
And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
Why did the speaker say what he said?
Let’s consider what the speaker said. Notice that he said “whoever perseveres.” This is technical language for Lordship Salvation. The pastor was saying that one sign that a person is saved is life evidence that the saved person is living a certain type of life. This life is defined variously, but it includes the idea that each believer is living a life of faithfulness to God. These works of faithfulness demonstrate the sincerity of the commitment of the believer.
Now this sounds good to many people and they think we should be able to tell the Christian from the non-Christian based on works. According to those holding to Lordship Salvation, “The crucial test of true faith is endurance to the end, abiding in Christ, and continuance in His Word.” They then use Matt 10:22 as the proof-text (which is actually a very dangerous practice).
This pastor and others who follow this teaching believe at least three tenets:
- Obedience is part of saving faith
- In order to be saved a person must turn from all known sin and submit himself to the Lordship of Christ.
- Saving faith is made certain only if the professing believer perseveres in that faith until the end (i.e., the end of life).
So, this speaker was saying that to believe in Christ one must turn from their sin and follow Christ. If a person falls into carnality, that person never trusted in Christ to begin with. To get to this point by using Matt 10:22 as a proof text, the pastor needs to totally ignore the context of the verse and use poor interpretation techniques to arrive at the conclusion.
How should this passage really be interpreted?
The Free Grace group would see this passage quite differently.
First, the word that the pastor used in his quote “perseverance” is not in the Matt 10:22. The word used is translated “endurance” in the New King James, New American Standard, and the English Standard versions. In the New International Version, it is translated “stands firm.” The pastor used perseverance because that is the word used to convey the Lordship Salvation slogan.
Second, Matt 10:22 does not speak of soul salvation at all, but it speaking of enduring persecution. This passage occurs in the context of Jesus sending His disciples out on their first missionary trip. In giving them instructions, Jesus is telling them they will be persecuted. In fact they will be hated by everyone because of Jesus. Rather than receiving glory for their association with Christ, the disciples will undergo suffering, betrayal, and hardship. “Who endures to the end” refers to those who remain faithful to Jesus until the persecution ends. “This one will be saved” means to be “delivered by God.” This will end with the return of the Lord (v. 23). Thus, the passage actually has nothing to do with salvation from sin but from persecution (one way or the other).
Second, the passage is specifically talking about the faithful endurance of His ambassadors during the time of persecution in the Tribulation (Matt 24:13; Dan 12:12-13). Matthew 10:16–22 may have included predictions of future persecution originally part of the Olivet discourse (Matt 24:9, 13; Luke 21:12) in order (1) to place all “mission” sayings together, and (2) to use the mission of the Twelve as a paradigm for the mission of the church. Alternatively, Jesus may have repeated these warnings in His discourse about the end times (Matt 24).
This passage is an exhortation to be faithful in persecution in a threefold way.
- First, the enduring of persecution. Persecutions can be endured. They are not eternal and they are not intolerable. Therefore, be loyal.
- Second, the ending of persecution. “To the end” indicates that the trial will end someday. Trials are not forever. Therefore, be faithful.
- Third, the escaping from persecution. “Will be saved.” Deliverance comes from faithfulness in endurance. That deliverance may sometimes be the ending of life and escape to heaven. Whatever the case, it will be a rewarding saving from the persecution, if one has been loyal and faithful in experiencing persecution. Therefore, be committed.
We are called to be loyal to Christ, faithful to the Word, and committed to His mission—but we are saved before these aspects are fully implemented in our lives. These are life-long endeavors. Thus, Free Grace sees a distinction between salvation and growth while Lordship Salvation merges them together.
We need to carefully approach the Scripture and we must exercise discernment when listening to the teaching of others. The study of the Bible takes effort. It takes diligent work. Just because a pastor comes from a large church and is very popular does not mean that due diligence is being used in the interpretation and application of Scripture.