The Danger Of Wishful Theology
By Charles R. Grisham
What is the greatest tragedy that you can think of? Perhaps you immediately think of death, disease, a plane crash, or divorce. The human mind can scan the whole gamut of experiences and yet none could compare to thinking you are saved or secure and finding out too late that you are lost. I am speaking of the danger of wishful theology; believing in eternal security and therefore following a course in life that suggests you cannot be lost, no matter what, simply because you had an earlier experience with God.
Oh yes, I am well aware of all the arguments, pro and con. I have read them over and over, considered their validity, and probed their basis and content. Many well intentioned scholars have reasoned with law and grace, faith and works, and have made dangerous conclusions that shape the thoughts of thousands. If even one of their assumptions is not scripturally based, it has the potential of wrecking thousands of lives and sending them to eternity and a devil’s hell.
We know full well that we do not earn our salvation as the Scriptures tell us we receive and experience it by grace through faith. We are not told to work for our salvation, but rather to work out our own salvation, and this with fear and trembling.
Inasmuch as God’s program is a love program. He continually works in our behalf to keep us from getting off course. This speaks eloquently as to why so much of the Bible is written instructively, correctively, and projectively. The Lord knew well that false teachers and false doctrines would plague our pathway.
In recent years, our nation’s space program has been marked by notable victories and accomplishments, but occasionally there have also been some unforgettable tragedies. In one of the various space shots, they reported that the space vehicle was off course over ninety percent of the time. The thing that enabled them to complete the journey was the control center that plotted their ultimate success. This is so much like our loving God who doesn’t want anyone to perish. Carefully, He has planned countless provisions to accomplish His will in our lives.
As you read these words, I pray that .you will join with me in believing God for the many souls that are being swept into the swelling rivers of easy believism and wishful theology. Please understand that we are in the time period when our work is totally from a redemptive point of view. Nothing should be perceived as punitive. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation.
Grace and Mercy
Space will not permit us to exhaust the many thrusts of God’s grace and mercy. Perhaps a quick overview of His past, present, and future initiatives will help us. We must recognize that His grace is universal and unconditional.
*Grace is an attitude and mercy is an action.
Grace recognizes that man has no merit of his own in receiving salvation from God. Mercy recognizes that man has no responsibility to produce his own salvation by human means. We are told: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost,” (Titus 3:5).
This very fact should always remain amazing to the person who is traveling to complete the journey. Think with me of what we have going for us – “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound,” (Romans 5:21). Grace literally rushes to our aid. Then, to add to that powerful provision, we are told that * Mercy Is renewed every morning.
“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness,” (Lamentations 3:21-23). To make this more powerful, we are told that –
* Faith overcomes.
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,” (I John 5:4). The dynamics of His salvation further assures us –
* Love covers a multitude of sins.
“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins,” (I Peter 4:8). And to guarantee this all-encompassing plan we are made aware that –
* Mercy is obtained by volitional pursuit.
Examine carefully. Hebrews 4.16; “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Matthew 5:7; “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Romans 11:30; “For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief.” I Timothy l:13; “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” And James 2:13: “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”
There is so much to be learned and experienced about God through a proper understanding of grace and mercy. Mercy has several thrusts. One deals with responsibility another deals with relief. In life, a judge can render a penalty if one is found guilty, but he holds the power to forgive if certain stipulations can be met. In spiritual matters, God has taken the place of the guilty and the penalty of sin has been canceled. Jesus took our place.
Faith reaches out and embraces God. Faith, we are told, comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. This makes it clear that our own volitional pursuit of mercy is linked to obtaining it. Paul says: “And I thank Jesus Christ our Lord who hath enabled me, for he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief,” (I Timothy 1:12-13).
*The chiefest of sinners obtained mercy.
Think with me how faith reaches out and embraces grace; hope reaches out to embrace mercy, and love reaches out and embraces the peace of God which really passes all human understanding. Take not that grace is not a permissive attitude of God toward sin. Grace provides a way for us to be set free from sin so it will no longer have a mastery over us. Grace is more than unmerited favor: It is a destructive force of God against sin in mankind.
With such a backdrop of God’s power, purpose, and provision; there are those who simply assume that God will be happy and content to take them the way they are. They think He will allow them to design their own life and behavior. But please be aware of the fact that we are secure only if we experience true salvation and stay connected with God, following Him and the plan set forth in Scripture.
In the gospels we have a concise and positive plan set forth in the teachings of our Lord. They appear to be somewhat developmental and demonstrate something related to going on and not feeling secure in just meeting Jesus or knowing Him in a beginning sense.
I speak of three symbolic things that have been used to mark Christianity:
The Cross – speaks of Self-denial,
The Yoke – speaks of Commitment,
The Plow – speaks of Involvement in His work.
First, let us briefly consider the weight of His words with respect to the Cross: “He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me is not worthy of me,” (Matthew 10:38).
He further stated. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he reward every man according to his works,” (Matthew 16:2427).
We see here that He is speaking of works that take place after the initial denial of one’s self and following on after the Lord.
We further notice Jesus’ words in which a strong theological point is made: “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple,” (Luke 14:27).
He speaks again: “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be my disciple,” (Luke 14:33).
Statements that come this straight and pointed from our Lord cannot be misconstrued or misunderstood in a theological sense. How can one possibly think he can be secure or saved when he has not followed on to become a true disciple? It is pure folly to think that simple acceptance of Jesus Christ can produce ultimate salvation separate and apart from self-denial and obedience to His plan. Those same powerful gospels link up perfectly with the epistles.
Continuing onward, Jesus makes a powerful point with respect to identity. I speak of the Yoke. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls,” (Matthew 11:29).
Here again we see identity and a developing relationship. So much could be said about this aspect of security-, it is getting prepared to carry out the process of discipleship unto the ultimate completion of what Jesus purchased for us on the cross.
There must be a breaking of the old yoke of bondage that was so prominent in the unregenerate man. There is always a pull to go back to the old nature which refuses to be discipled. But in turning back, the work of Calvary is nullified. When one refuses the yoke Jesus offers, his potential progress is arrested.
Now, for a few brief moments, consider the Plow. The plow speaks of the work and is quite a few steps up the road of life from the cross and the yoke. By now, you can already think of many who checked out before or after the cross; or before or after the yoke. And no doubt, you can think of those who dropped out before or after the plow. They simply couldn’t stand the process in following.
Jesus nailed it down totally. After a lengthy reference to three half-hearted followers, He set the record straight. “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God,” (Luke 9:62). This addresses the problem of indecision and backsliding head on. References like “lose his own soul,” or “cannot be my disciple,” and not being “fit for the kingdom of God” seem to fit into the same category. They certainly don’t fit into the same category as “well done thou good and faithful servant.” They do not seem to suggest eternal security unconditionally. There is something beyond believing.
Were the Epistles Wasted Space?
To the person who suggests that unconditional eternal security is scriptural after simply believing and being born again, please answer these questions: Why then, were the epistles even written? Were they just wasted space and time with little significance? Jesus told us……. but he that endureth to the end shall be saved,” (Matthew 10:22).
Over and over, those who were true disciples endured hardships, temptations, and affliction. Paul repeatedly mentioned those who had forsaken him, having loved the present world; and those who had crept in with some new doctrine. He warned of worldliness, affluence, and dozens of other things that might hinder believers in their efforts to remain in a saved – secure condition.
Again and again, he warned of casual commitment to the cause of Christ. He felt so personally concerned that he said “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway,” (I Corinthians 9:27).
That doesn’t sound like a man who felt that everything goes. He wasn’t buying in to easy-believism. He kept pressing onward protecting his life and relationship. He warned that it was possible, through not following on, that the gospel could become of no effect.
The epistles are written to help saved people to stay in a saved condition; Biblically secure – not wishful thinking or wishful theology – but sound doctrine and true security. These epistles were written to churches and church people.
Paul’s letters to Timothy deal repeatedly with apostasy. He warned Ephesus of winds of doctrine. If there hadn’t been dangers of being lost from it’s adverse effects, what’s the big deal? Remember, he penned the words anointed by Jesus, who set the guidelines in the gospels. He warned that it was possible to fail from grace and that Christ and His gospel could become of no effect. How much plainer can it be? “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace,” (Galatians 5:4).
He really got worked up when he warned about drinking unworthily in observing the Lord’s Supper. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body,” (I Corinthians 11:29). He is speaking to church folk who apparently had slipped and fallen into a sinful condition. The word damnation is about as serious as it can get. It certainly doesn’t sound like there is any security in that warning.
He dared to get so pointed that he laid down the law to the Corinthians by telling them – “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and drink the cup of devils; ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and the table of devils,” (I Corinthians 10:21). It was such a critical matter that Paul warned that it was possible if we didn’t live for God we could……. be condemned with the world,’ (I Corinthians 11:32).
The Apostle Paul took the time to list a whole catalog of those who would not be able to inherit the Kingdom of God-“… Be not deceived. neither fornicators, not idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God,” (I Corinthians 6:9-10). This was written to a church to remind them that they had been washed and sanctified from all these.
We live in an age where there seems to be an ever broadening way to eternal life. But can this be? I think not. Casual commitment and recreational worship win never inherit eternal life. Jesus warned the Ephesian church in Revelation 2 that they had to return to their first works. They may have become a “self-worship” type church. They felt so secure in doing this that it never crossed their mind that they were drifting toward their own destruction.
God warned the church that He had the stars (the preachers) in His hand. He cautioned that He was just about to move the candlestick (the church) unless they repented and took Him seriously. Their security and existence was at stake and they were totally unaware. In so many words, they were about to become the biggest lodge in town because the church was about to be removed. When that happened, they could still go through the motions but it wouldn’t benefit them at all.
As I conclude, I am reminded of a story that took place at Niagara Falls. A large majestic eagle was circling lazily in the sky above. It spotted a small rabbit stranded on an ice floe which was drifting toward the falls. The eagle swooped down as no doubt he had often done before to snatch his prey away. This time, however, when he sunk his powerful talons deep into the flesh of the rabbit, he did not know that the rabbit was frozen to the drifting ice. His talons struck in the partially frozen flesh of the rabbit. The eagle repeatedly attempted to spread his wings and escape to the sky above. It just didn’t happen because the freezing flesh held his talons fast.
Can you picture it? There was no release. The squawking, screaming powerful eagle would not free his talons and did not have enough power to lift the ice floe. The entire tragedy was witnessed by the helpless crowd standing on the bank above the falls. The previously free, majestic eagle went over the falls to his own destruction still clinging to that which he could not turn loose.
How clear the picture. There are so many who are literally cleaving (welded) to their flimsy, dangerous, destructive theology of unconditional eternal security. They too, are in danger of going down with their wishful theology with no chance of reversing their decision. Get loose from the world in time.
The Above Material Was Published By The Louisiana Challenger, June, 1994, Pages 4,5,8,9. This Material Is Copyrighted And May Be Used For Study & Research Purposes Only.