Are All Christians Really safe? By Chad Stendal
Up until the time the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic churches
split, all Christians believed that the physical death of Christ as our
sacrifice resulted in forgiveness of sins, based on our identification
in Christ's death. Then in 1099 a man called Anselm was instrumental
in changing that concept and proposed that each person had to pay a penance
for sins. He taught that each sin was an affront to God and had to be
individually atoned for by the Christian through prayer, fasting, pilgrimages,
and good works. This became the underlying doctrine of Western Roman
Catholicism - salvation by self works.
At the time of the reformation, the reformers correctly proclaimed
that we are saved by faith and not by self works. However they
did not change the basic error underlying penance for each individual
sin. They simply assumed that Christ somehow suffered for each
sin and according to their theology Christ's physical death reconciled
the sinner, provided the sinner identifies in the death of the
The reformers now had problems when they tried to answer the questions
of how and when did Jesus suffer for all individual sins? In addition
if He paid for everyone's sins in this individual fashion, everyone
would have to go free, because God could not demand the penalty
a second time if it had already been paid by Jesus. Additionally
regardless of whether you believed it or not, the penalty for all
sin would have been paid.
This is the basis for the universalism of many churches today
who believe that because Christ paid for the sins of the whole
world, then ultimately the whole world must be saved. Now Calvin
understood this implication and so he set up the doctrine of the “limited
atonement” in which he reasoned that Jesus had died for only
the sins of the elect, and that God had decreed before the creation
of the world that certain ones would be saved and the vast majority
lost. This led to the doctrine of “irresistible grace” for
the elect. The elect had to be saved, because their sins had been
paid for, but the rest of the world was damned because Christ had
not suffered for their sins.
The doctrine of double predestination - some to be saved and some
to be lost - held sway for about 200 years. The Greek word proorizo
- predestination - really means to mark out the way to the destination
in advance and Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life”.
Then John Wesley appeared on the scene in England in about 1750
preaching that “whosoever will may come” John
and God was not willing that any should perish, but that all should
come to repentance 2 Peter 3:9. Wesley touched off the longest
lasting revival since the days of the Apostles. He had a beautifully
simple doctrine that everyone could understand. It had three main
1. Anyone could be saved if they would repent and turn to Christ
to deliver them from all known sin John 3:16.
2. If you were saved you'd know it.
God's Spirit would witness to your spirit that you were a son of
God, Rom.8:16 and "We know we have passed from death unto
life because we love the brethren" 1
3. If you were saved you'd show it.
If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Old things have passed
away, and all things have become new 2 Corinthians.
5:17, Gal. 6:15.
The first two of these three points ran contrary to Calvinism doctrines
that only those predestined to be the elect could be saved, and
that you never know for sure that you were a believer. This was
called the “sin of presumption” by Calvinists, and
it was presumed if you thought you were one of the elect you would
let your guard down, and indeed the theme and preaching under the
great awakening was primarily against “carnal security”.
Wesley's third point ran parallel to Calvin's last doctrine of
the “perseverance of the saints”.
This meant that if you were one of the elect, you would remain
faithful to the end, doing the things that true Christians should,
such as “presenting your body a living sacrifice” Romans
12:1 and being “faithful unto death” Rev.
This Calvinistic doctrine of persevering unto the end produced
some Godly men such as Jonathan Edwards, Timothy Dwight, David
Brainard, and Adinairim Judson to name a few. But it was an austere
and joyless call to holiness the final outcome of which was never
Today's Calvinism has changed drastically since the days of classical
Calvinism. It usually begins with a call to accept Christ as your
Saviour, followed by the sinners' prayer. If the decision was from
the heart, in response to the call of God, it will start of a work
of faith in the heart that should be followed by teaching on repentance
and faith, leading to a public testimony of identification in Christ's
death and resurrection by water baptism and by receiving the power
of the Holy Spirit.
If the decision is only head knowledge, a mental decision, the
results won’t last long.
Unfortunately most of today's evangelism is of this type.
The effect of Wesley's preaching touched off a social revolution
as well as a spiritual revolution. Methodist Sunday Schools, organized
to educate the poor were followed by day schools for uneducated
common people. Prison reform was started as well as labour unions.
(Of the first l2 martyrs of the labour movement, 11 were Methodists.)
Universities and hospitals were started by Methodists as well as
orphanages and care for the destitute and infirm. Above all, the
Methodist movement was famous for circuit riding preachers who
covered the British Isles and sent 5,000 circuit riding preachers
across America, moving with the frontier westward.
The great spiritual secret of the Methodists was the class meeting.
These meetings were held weekly in addition to the church services.
The groups were kept small. If the group grew to more than 12,
they split into two groups. The purpose of these meetings was intimate
fellowship. You had to admit if you had a pure heart, and if you
were walking in victory. You could share your problems, and everyone
would pray for you. When you had answers to prayer or spiritual
victory, everyone would praise the Lord with you. Lack of intimate
fellowship is probably the greatest need of the church in today's
Wesley's preaching consisted of his three points of doctrine:
- Anyone can be saved
- If you're saved you'll know it
- If you're saved you'll show it
This had a great impact on the Calvinistic world of the 18th century,
and most Calvinists switched over to believing in a general atonement
where Christ paid for the sins of the whole world. Most of them
also came to believe in the assurance of salvation i.e. you could
know you were saved.
Most Calvinists today don't even realize that Calvin and his followers
for two hundred years were “I hope-soers” and could
never be sure of their salvation until their life was over, and
they had persevered until the end.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses
Under Moses the trespass offering was compulsory:
Are Christians just as responsible today for their trespasses?
Or did the law of trespass apply only to Israel? Read what Paul
had to say regarding those outside the commonwealth of Israel.
Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in “trespasses
and sins”, for when Gentiles, who have no law, obey by natural
instinct the commands of the Law, they even though they have no
law, are a law to themselves.
Romans 2:14-16 “For they show that the work of the Law is
written in their hearts, while their conscience bears them witness,
as their reasoning accuses, or defends them, in the day when God
will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my
gospel. (MNT) We were taught to pray “forgive us our debts
(trespasses) as we forgive our debtors; those that trespass against
To keep crime in check and protect the innocent God demanded judgment.
Leviticus 6:2-5 "If a person sins and commits a trespass
against the LORD by lying to his neighbour about what was delivered
to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery,
or if he has extorted from his neighbour, "or if he has found
what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely-in any
one of these things that a man may do in which he sins: "then
it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall
restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted,
or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing
which he found, "or all that about which he has sworn falsely. He
shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more
to it, and
give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering.
Trespass is defined as “wrong done against the Lord”:
The priest was the mediator between man and man, and God and man.
And he shall bring to the priest his guilt offering to the LORD,
a ram without blemish out of the flock, at the price estimated
for a guilt offering.
Those who are actively engaged in the work of God will surely
confess what to some seems quite incredible, that often we have
unwittingly trespassed in the work and worship of the Lord. I believe
there is not an act of any kind, whether of praise, or prayer,
or worship, or ministry, which can through Satan's cunning, prove
to be an occasion for the flesh to trespass. I have no doubt that
those in His service will recognize instances where that which
has been done either for the Lord or in His name has in hindsight
been discovered to have been mixed with trespass. The trespass
may not have been recognized at the time, but the fact still remains,
that a trespass is a trespass recognized or unrecognized. We may
be unconscious of the evil, but that it does not alter it.
If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance, in the
holy things of the LORD; then he shall bring for his trespass
unto the LORD a ram without blemish out of the flocks, with thy
estimation by shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary,
for a trespass offering: And he shall make amends for the harm
that he hath done in the holy thing, and shall add the fifth
part thereto, and give it unto the priest: and the priest shall
make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering,
and it shall be forgiven him. And if a soul sin, and commit any
of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments
of the LORD; though he whist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall
bear his iniquity.
This settled the question of guilt on the part of the one breaking
the law whether he was conscious of it or not when the crime was
committed. He was as much a lawbreaker before he knew, as he was
afterward. Thus ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law or
being freed from responsibility after is broken.
How serious is the truth that is set before us here:
That neither our conscience, nor our measure of light, but
word alone, is the standard by which both sin and trespass are
to be measured and judged. If man's conscience were the standard,
every man would have a different rule. And so accordingly, right
or wrong, good or evil, would depend, not upon God's Word, but
upon each individual’s apprehension of it. At this rate no
man could be convicted of his wrongdoing; so long as he could plead
he was ignorant of the fact that his behaviour was unacceptable.
But we do not judge this way in our Law Courts; nor does God judge
by any standards other than His own.
We judge by our perceptions, according to our knowledge and then
plead ignorance as our defence when we are caught out, and although
God in grace finds means for pardoning it, He still adjudges evil
as evil wherever and in whomever it is found.
Our ignorance and blindness does not alter His judgment:
It is our wilful sin of ignorance and that only which causes the
Let’s go a little deeper:
Isaiah 42:8 “I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory
I will not give to another…...”
We who serve the Lord ought to walk circumspectly when recounting
the things that we are involved in regarding our labours for Christ.
We are guilty of trespassing against the Lord when we exaggerate
and take credit (perhaps ignorantly) for what He achieved as though
we by our power accomplished the deeds we testify to. We drop names;
embellish events; make reckless claims, report victories; and inflate
numbers; all which seem to grow next time we relate our exploits.
We are often guilty of lifting up the Lord’s servants and
extolling their miraculous abilities as though these (super-saints)
were the authors of these miracles; and in so doing we can become
an instrument in the hands of the enemy to bring about their fall.
If pride could turn an archangel into a devil, what could it do
to any of us?
It is so easy for any of us to commit a trespass against the Lord
and steal His rightful claims by promoting our ministries to impress
our hearers. Although I might plead ignorance I am judged guilty
nevertheless. I confess I have trespassed as much as any in this
until He showed me what I was doing. We may have thought it was
glorifying Him, but we need to recognise that the Lord does not
need our assistance to reinforce His position in the Universe.
All He asks is our obedience in exchange for His companionship.
Such is the sin of trespass; and the broad measure of it is something
that we need to be fully aware of and shun.
Praise is to God, who not only convinces us of our sins, but also
testifies of Him by whose offering our sins are pardoned. He that
sees Jesus in the Trespass-offering sees that Christ confessed
to it, bore its judgment, and paid its penalty. Not only was “His
soul an offering for sin, but He was wounded for our transgressions,” the
judgment for our trespasses was laid upon Him. Here He stood, “the
just for the unjust,” confessing the sins and trespasses
of His people as His. By this He made full atonement and restitution
for us and in so doing satisfied the righteous demands of His Heavenly
Father. 1 Peter 3:18.
In the case of one’s ignorance of the Lord’s commandments
on certain points, when he became aware of his trespass he was
to offer a ram without blemish to for atone for his sin. Vs 17-18.
An estimate made by the priest was to be agreed upon by the sinner
and the one he had wronged regarding the damage done. This amount
had to be repaid with an additional 20% before it could be forgiven
and peace restored between the parties.
These particulars, respecting the payment of money in connection
with the offering, are not only very definite, but quite remarkable.
We need to realise that the trespass offering was a sin against
the Lord. And because His name was taken in vain, restitution by
confession of guilt had to be made to Him. The cost of the offering
was borne by the trespasser.
When Achan at Jericho trespassed against the Lord, he could have
come forward and confessed and paid for his sin in the manner of
the Trespass offering, but he chose otherwise and was judged accordingly.
The devoted thing thus became the accursed thing to Achan. It not
only cost him his life, but the lives of those that aided and abetted
him paid with their lives also.
Joshua 7:25 And Joshua said, "Why have you troubled us? The
LORD will trouble you this day." So all Israel stoned him
with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned
them with stones.
1 Corinthians 11:29-31 for he who eats and drinks unworthily eats
and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and many sleep.
For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.