“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.””Matthew 1:21 ESV
Christ came to redeem a specific people from their sins. Christ did not redeem all men at the cross, because Christ did not pay for the sins of all men at the cross. He only paid for the sins of those who were given to Him by the Father before all of creation. Those people were chosen before creation so that the purpose of God in election would stand, and that their works would not be considered in any way. Only the people for whom Christ died will be saved.
A lot of people claim to be saved. Most religious people assume that they are saved. They also assume the salvation of other religious people. This makes sense for the most part, since most religious people are at least vaguely familiar with the concept of God’s punishment of sin, and they are hoping to avoid that at all costs.
These religious people talk about Jesus. They call Him “Lord.” They believe that He is the Son of God. They believe that He died on a cross and rose again. But they are not regenerated sinners, because assenting to these undeniable truths (and they are true) is not the same thing as believing the gospel. In fact, most of these people despise the gospel and think it is foolishness, or think the gospel isn’t what matters. Instead, they think their sincerity and their religious practices are what matters. They don’t really come out and say this-instead they say I’m causing division by saying that people who don’t believe the gospel aren’t saved. Or they will say that one doesn’t need to understand the gospel to be saved, they just need to believe in Jesus (whatever that means). Or they will say that the historical facts are the gospel. Or they will accuse me of requiring perfect knowledge to be saved.
As someone who firmly believes and espouses that the evidence of true conversion lies in believing the gospel (i.e. the objective testimony of God concerning Christ as found in the scripture), I am frequently asked a question that goes along these lines–“when a person believes and understands that there is nothing whatsoever that they can do to be saved, and they are trusting in Christ’s death on the cross for their sins, are they saved?” Let me explain my thought process as well as what I believe that scripture teaches before I answer the question. I will return to it.
The message of the gospel never comes as a personal message. The Bible, in no place, says “Jesus died for YOU.” It also never says “IF YOU believe that JESUS died for YOUR sins, THEN you will be saved.” The gospel, as presented in scripture, always comes as an objective and declarative message. Just like the text from Matthew cited above-He will save His people from their sins. That is a declarative statement. It puts forward a proposition that is true regardless of what one thinks about it. It doesn’t require anything from the person reading it to make it true. It is a statement about what Christ would do, irrespective of the actions of anyone else. He will save His people from their sins. Will save-not “might save” if they agree or accept.
The gospel is a DECLARATION of good news to the elect of God and only to the elect of God. It is not good news to every person everywhere, because it is not an invitation or an offer OF ANY KIND. It is an exclusive message-Christ only acted as a substitute for certain people. Therefore it is always to be presented as an objective truth, never as a condition.
Faith is ONLY given to elect sinners; there is no reprobate sinner who has ever been given faith. Saving faith (that is to say, faith that God has given as a gift to a regenerated sinner) first alights upon the objective message of the gospel-that the death of Christ satisfied the wrath of God against His elect and because of that legal satisfaction, God is just in forgiving His people and imputing to them the righteousness of Christ. It (faith given by God) must necessarily first agree with that objective proposition BEFORE appropriating the subjective truth about Christ having died for that specific sinner’s sins, because that is the way the truth is presented in scripture-objectively.
That is also how the gospel is always to be preached. A preacher should NEVER presume that everyone under the sound of their voice is one for whom Christ died, and therefore should never presume to tell any specific individual “Christ died for you.” Rather, they should declare what the Bible declares-Christ died for His people and will save them. Want to know if you’re one of those people? Repent and believe the gospel.
The Bible tells us that those who believe have eternal life. Believe what? Believe the gospel-the objective truth concerning Christ. Recognizing that one is an elect sinner for whom Christ died is a matter of deduction, because the Bible tells one that those who believe the testimony of God have the Son. The testimony of God is not “Jesus died for you and if you trust that you will be saved.” The testimony of God is Christ satisfied the demands of God’s law against His elect by bearing their sins on the cross and God is just in forgiving them and imputing to them the righteousness of Christ based on Christ’s merits ALONE. Do you believe the testimony of God concerning Christ? Then that means that you’re an elect sinner and you possess eternal life. Praise God!
Believing that Jesus died for your sins is not believing the gospel, because Jesus dying for your sins is not the gospel. That Jesus died for YOUR sins is a conclusion one comes to AFTER believing the gospel. The gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness in why He is JUST in forgiving certain sinners and why He is just in condemning everyone else. It explains through the work of Christ why God is just and the justifier of the ungodly.
With all of this in mind, let’s get back to the question from above-“when a person believes and understands that there is nothing whatsoever that they can do to be saved, and they are trusting in Christ’s death on the cross for their sins, are they saved?” My answer is a question-what gospel did they hear regarding the person and work of Christ?
Most people have heard and believed a false gospel. The Arminian gospel, which is the most widely spread satanic lie in the world, is the most popular false gospel out there. It goes something like this-God loves all men everywhere, and sent His son Jesus to die for all men, and now you have to make a decision to allow him to save you or his death won’t count for you. Most people who call themselves “Christians” believe this false gospel.
This is not only a false gospel, it teaches a false christ. One CANNOT separate the Person of Christ from the work of Christ and still be talking about the Biblical Christ. You can say that Jesus is the Son of God all day long; you can say faith is not a work all day long; you can say Jesus died on a cross and rose again all day long. If you believe that Christ died for all men and that most of those people will perish because THEY fail to make the right choice, you are talking about a false Christ, no other things that you claim to believe which very well may be true matter.
It really doesn’t matter if this false gospel contains the historical facts (Jesus died on a cross and rose again), because this false gospel replaces the biblical testimony of the work of Christ for a false conditional message which requires a response from the sinner to effectuate the cross. Not merely that, it makes Christ out to be a failure, since most people for whom He died in this universal atonement scheme will perish, and it makes God UNJUST because He still sends sinners to hell in spite of the fact that his son allegedly already paid for their debts. It makes God into a thief.
This is damnable heresy and it is not be defended, made excuses for, or treated with kid gloves. You don’t play nice with a rattlesnake you find on your property, you cut it’s head off and bury it. Why? Because a rattlesnake is dangerous and it can kill you. False gospels are dangerous and they will kill you.
I’m sorry, and I don’t mean to sound trite or arrogant, but if you believe this false gospel, you are unconverted. I’m not here to stroke egos or provide false assurances of salvation. You believe in a false christ that cannot save. If you think you were saved by believing this false gospel and have recently added the 5 points of Calvinism to your theological system, you too are unconverted, because you have not yet repented of your dead religious works-you haven’t flushed your time in false religion as dung. Bad trees don’t start bearing good fruit-their roots are bad. You don’t grow into the truth having started from falsehood. You are converted to the truth, and begin to grow from there. Bad trees can’t produce good fruit, and good trees can’t produce bad fruit. No converted sinner still thinks they were saved believing a false gospel.
The problem I see today in many online circles is that people are ok with this false christ who cannot save. This is true even of those who call themselves “Calvinists.” They are willing to embrace Arminians as brethren rather than calling them to repentance. These same people will rail against anyone who says that believing a false gospel cannot save, in spite of allegedly learning that Arminianism is false. They are willing to buck against anyone who claims that there is only one gospel that saves.
I believe one of the main reasons for this problem is that most “Calvinists” are really just closet Arminians-former Arminians who have not repented of dead works and merely added 5 points to their underlying false gospel. You see it all the time-I was saved as an Arminian, but I recently learned that it was really God who chose me for salvation…but I was truly saved when I thought that I had made the right choice all those years ago. Tragically, they are all deceived.
Everyone thinks they’re going to heaven. No one assumes that they are on the broad road to destruction. No one assumes that they are one of those of whom Christ will say “I never knew you.” They assume that applies to someone else. They assume that they don’t know anyone to whom that applies. They assume that they and their families and friends will be welcomed by Christ into the kingdom.
The people in Matthew 7 assumed all of those things as well. They assumed that they were Christians. They assumed that Christ died for them at the cross. They assumed that they had produced mighty works for God. They call Jesus “Lord.”
This is especially chilling. Arminians call Jesus “Lord.” Tolerant Calvinists call Jesus “Lord.” Catholics call Jesus “Lord.” Charismatics call Jesus “Lord.” Mormons call Jesus “Lord.” All these groups believe that Jesus died and rose again. But which Christ are they believing in? A false christ who died and made salvation possible based on something in the sinner.
Christ only died for His elect. He secured the salvation of ONLY those people at the cross. If the true Christ did not die for you, believing that a false one did will not help you. Check your gospel. The ONLY way you can KNOW (have biblically based assurance of salvation) if the true Christ died for you is by believing the true gospel. If you believe a false gospel, you have not yet been converted. If you die without being converted, then you were not one for whom Christ died. Rest assured that all of God’s elect will be saved and brought to the knowledge of the truth-they will all be brought to believe the true gospel. The evidence that Christ died for you is that you believe the true gospel.
“”Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”Matthew 7:21-23 ESV