The Minimum Requirements of Salvation

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 27, 2017 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“What are the minimum requirements for salvation?”

Perhaps you have heard the question asked this way: “Do I have to believe that particular doctrine in order to be saved?” Or “Is that doctrine required to be a Christian?”

I have been asked these questions from both believers and unbelievers alike when addressing various doctrines and particularly when defending the faith. There are two primary doctrines where I have seen this in action the most. The first is regarding origins. Are you required to believe in a “young earth” model of origins in order to be considered a Christian? Nearly every person who has supported and defended this position has been asked this constantly, and the bulk of the time the answer is “No, it is not a salvation-determining issue.” However, when many YEC speak about the authority of Scripture, they do tend to give off that vibe that it is a requirement.

The other doctrine that is often addressed is used by what used to be known as the “Emergent Church.” In his book Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell asks if belief in the virgin birth is a requirement to be a Christian. In a more recent article, Andy Stanley made a comment about how the resurrection is the most important thing about Christ, not how he got here. Both then proclaimed to believe in the virgin birth.

Really, up until the last two months, I would answer these questions with, “No, salvation does not depend upon believing in those doctrines.” Even though I know any other position raises questions on parts of the Bible, therefore making the whole thing under question, I knew that one could hold an Old Earth view in ignorance or not know of the virgin birth and be a born-again believer. Now, I have to answer these questions differently.

As God has been dealing with me regarding the difference between intellectual Christianity and actual Christianity, one thing he’s taught me is that all of these questions completely miss the point of Christianity. Where in the Bible does it ever say there are minimum doctrinal requirements for salvation? Where did that idea ever come from? Many people will cite Romans 10:9 where salvation is simply “believe in your heart and confess with your mouth and you will be saved.” Or they will reference the thief on the cross who simply proclaimed his own guilt, confessed Jesus’ innocence, and asked for him to remember him. Again, where in these passages does anything talk about minimum requirements? There are three issues I see in the “minimum requirements” approach to Christianity.

1. Salvation, and Christianity for that matter, is about intellectually held doctrines.

This has been a problem for the last few decades in American Christianity. We speak about great theory but do we show any indication that we practice it? Truth was never meant to merely be known. It was meant to be lived. You can build your house on the rock and that’s great. But when the storms come, the house on the rock only helps you if you are in that house. Christianity is not meant to be artwork you put up on the wall and look at for pleasure. It is meant to be the very bedrock and reason for your existence. Everything of you is meant to be about Christ.

Do the questions regarding origins or the virgin birth matter? Who or what gives any person any right to say which doctrines are important and which ones are not? By what standard can you say “How Jesus came here is not important, but his resurrection is”? If you get to decide which doctrines are important to Christianity and which ones are not, you are putting yourself in higher authority than God because you are saying that you get to tell God which of his statements are important or not. Augustine of Hippo said, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourself.”

If Christianity is just dependent upon a few doctrines to mentally acknowledge, then which ones are the necessary ones? Which ones are not important? What happened to “believe the whole book”? I better move on, or I’ll be here for 30 more pages.

2. What is the minimal effort I have to offer so I can get to heaven, while still living the way I want to live with everything else?

As mentioned above, what is greatly missing about American Christianity today is repentance. Those in the churches are just as worldly and godless as the rest of the world. The statistics prove that. Many church stats indicate they would be happy if just 5% of those in American churches are actually saved. That means 95% of those in churches are goats, not sheep. As Adam initiated to the world the first lesson in attempting to justify ourselves with, “Lord, it was the woman!” we seek to find out what we can do to get okay with God while still doing what we want to do.

Let me make this clear: you cannot call yourself a Christian and believe whatever you want. It does not work that way. You really want to know what the minimum requirements of salvation are? Here they are: complete and full surrender. You cannot call yourself a Christian if you do what you want to do. Jesus said you can’t. Jesus even asked why we even bother calling him “Lord” if we do not obey him (a post on that is coming in two weeks). If you are looking for a set of doctrines that you want to hold to so you can consider yourself a Christian and then seeking to believe what you want on anything else, I would greatly question if you are a Christian. With that mentality, you are not seeking to follow Christ, but you are seeking the benefits of Christ for your own purposes. Paul never asked the Corinthians if they adhered to the correct doctrines to determine if they were in the faith. He never asked if and when they said that “Sinner’s Prayer” and if they were sincere enough. No, he said “examine yourself” to see if your faith is indeed legit. If we are truly honest with ourselves, there are a number of us that would find ourselves questionable at best.

3. Christianity is only concerned with getting into heaven and nothing else matters.

This is the one that grieves me the most when the questions at the top come from other believers. This is the mindset that we just need to worry about getting saved and nothing else matters. A.W. Tozer said, “The great deterrent to victorious Christian living is the idea that once we accept Jesus Christ as Savior… we can just sit back and enjoy the ride.”

Christianity is not about salvation. We need to get that idea out of our heads. Let me say it again: Christianity is NOT about salvation. It is about a person: Jesus Christ. If you are going to call yourself a Christian, you need to be made more and more into the image of Christ. You want to know if you really are being made into the image of Christ? How do you see sin? How do you view sin? Do you consider it negligible and embrace your “imperfections”? Or does it grieve you more and more? I keep talking in this series about God giving me a new understanding of Christianity, one that is more than mere intellectualism. If I am to have a new and better understanding of God, I have to also have a new and better understanding of sin. I have to be more repulsed by sin. More and more of Christ and less and less of me.

With this is an issue of holiness. If we are to be true Christians, we are to be made holy – more separated from the world and from self. We are to be dying to self. Dying to my desires. Dying to my dreams. Everything I have and everything I am is to be laid down at the cross and PUT TO DEATH. And too many of us don’t want to do that. The true Gospel is not about salvation, though that is a big part of it. The true Gospel is about taking wicked, evil, rebellious people and remaking them in a new image, a picture of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not die just to get you to heaven. He died so you can be as he is: holy and pure and his Bride. Does Jesus have anything to do with your desire to be in heaven? Too many people want to be in heaven, but they do not want God there. They want paradise and utopia but they do not want submission and continual worship of God. In heaven, God is the focal point and everything revolves around him. If you think the only thing that matters in Christianity is getting saved, you have completely missed the point. And for too many years, I was one of them.

Stephen Manley said this: “My dad taught me well. ‘It doesn’t take much of a man to be a Christian. It just takes all there is of him.’….We aren’t talking about SUPER-Christian against lesser-Christians. We aren’t talking about SUPER-saints against lesser saints. We’re just talking about the bare minimum of getting in.” The minimum requirements of salvation is not a set of doctrines to believe. It is complete and total surrender to Christ. It is death to ALL of self and submission to the Lordship of Christ. Jesus does not want you to believe a certain set of doctrines. He wants your complete and total dependence upon him for everything in your life.

Next week, I’ll address another doozy of a topic for this series: apologetics.

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