Posted tagged ‘apostasy baptism salvation error’

Proposition One Response from Phil

April 21, 2009

by Phil Sanders


Please pardon my late reply, since I have gone through a grueling few weeks. I have held four gospel meetings and attended three lectureships since mid-February. I am just now catching my breath.

I echo your appreciation to Jay for hosting and coordinating this discussion. He has gone to great lengths to accomodate you, Greg, and me. I am thankful for the opportunity of exploring with you an important matter.

My proposition is: The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation.

In some cases I think many people were reading more into what I was saying than the proposition actually says. I am not saying that any brother who ever thinks for a moment any wrong notion is lost. There is more to be said than this. I am saying that people who continue to entertain and press beliefs that are false and harm others are sinning. Doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation.

Doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation, and yes I believe this can be any doctrinal error. It is so because error is equated in God’s eyes with sin. Any sin can lead to eternal damnation. Doctrinal sin is not less evil than moral sin. Doctrinal error has led a multitude of souls astray from God.

Galatians 1:6-9 and 5:4 are sufficient to show that doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation. Those who are in error are misled by a lie, a falsehood. God will punish all liars (Rev. 21:8). What some are calling “mistaken,” the Bible calls blind (Matt. 15:14; 2 Cor. 4:4). Being blinded does not keep people from falling into the pit.

Paul’s discussion of the apostasy with the Thessalonians has some mysteries, but he notes that those who do not love the truth are vulnerable to a “deluding influence so that they might believe what is false” (2 Thess. 2:10-12). Belief in the false and lack of love for the truth are matters of salvation.

Jesus spoke clearly to the Pharisees, who went beyond the Scriptures with their oral Torah, in Matthew 15:6-9, “So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

The Pharisees thought they were right with and close to God in spite of the fact they were teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. Jesus makes this observation about the Pharisees and man-made doctrines in Matthew 15:13-14: He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” False doctrine can indeed cost the souls of both the deceiver and the deceived.

Now as to some other matters: I do think there are some qualifiers.

Repentance is always a qualifier. Those who repent of moral sin can find forgiveness, and those who repent of doctrinal error can also find forgiveness. Time plays a part in this. 2 Peter 3:15 reminds us to regard the patience of the Lord as salvation. God does not want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance, and this included those who were caught up in falsehoods in 2 Peter 2. I am constantly amazed at how what we believe influences how we live. One of the reasons false doctrines are evil is that they inevitably lead to sinful attitudes and behavior. Our ethics arise out of what we believe and value. Error in thought will inevitably lead to error in life. Paul’s epistles bear this out repeatedly. God desires all to repent. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 says:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

I am concerned, however, there are some who are suggesting on a practical level that being “mistaken” somehow dismisses the need for repentance. The sprinkled person to them does not have to be immersed. The restoration plea is built upon the need to come out of the world and to return to God’s teaching; this was the means by which divided men could unite. Restoration begins with repentance and demands correction. Repentance is the gift of correction. The God-breathed Word corrects (2 Tim. 3:16-17); it does not leave one in error.

Grace teaches correction (Titus 2:11-14); one may not continue in moral or doctrinal error. How can the misled, deceived, sprinkled infant say he has faithfully repented in later years, if he does not correct the situation with an immersion? Those who have misled others by giving them false hope in humanly substituted sprinkling and in faithless infant baptism do immeasurable harm. They speak of grace and leave the soul broken. Where, then, is the love of the truth?
Is an error sufficient? Where is the righteousness grace teaches? Where is the correction? Would you wish to have your children or grandchildren stand before God only having been sprinkled as an infant for baptism? If you say no, then why are some content to let other people’s children fall victim to false hope and a lie?

Would I be kind to a person in error? Of course, and I have many times met such a one. Would I leave this person with false hope in their sprinkling? No, God expects me to teach them better “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Should a person repent of error, God grants forgiveness. A sprinkled infant is not forgiven of sin, because an infant is not lost (Rom. 7:9). But to suggest that one can continue to go through life deceived in false hope (right with faith but wrong in ritual) is not kind. (A sprinkled infant does not have faith, by the way.)

A second qualifier in my mind is in the area of maturity. We are all growing. Not all men have knowledge as they ought. James 3:1 suggests that the mature teacher will be judged more strictly than others. Hebrews 5:11-14 says some “have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”

I do believe in patience with people, giving them time to grow and learn. Peter notes that we should regard the patience of the Lord as salvation (2 Pet. 3:15).

Patience, however, is granted so that people will come to repentance and not perish (3:9). Some who were untaught and unstable were distorting the Scriptures “to their own destruction” (3:16). Peter said, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (3:17-18).

There comes a point when God’s patience has an ending; and there comes a point when we must discipline the person caught up in error. If God’s patience has no ending, then Peter’s admonition for them to be on their guard so that they would not be carried away with error is absurd.
Should we be patient with each other? Yes. How long? Till a person hardens his heart and stubbornly refuses to come to the truth. Paul said that we should “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (Tit. 3:10-11).

I am sure there is more to be said.