The Greatest Heresy Plaguing Southern Baptists Today -- By: Bill Bennett
FM 17:2 (Spring 2000) p. 32
The Greatest Heresy Plaguing Southern Baptists Today
Visiting Distinguished Professor of Pastoral Ministry
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587
In every generation the church of Jesus Christ must face the question, “What is required for a person to be saved and to possess the assurance that he is destined for heaven when he dies?” The church can be wrong about many issues, but if she is wrong about this, she guarantees her demise. Another way of stating this basic question is to ask, “How much does one have to know and to what does one have to commit in order to receive the gift of eternal salvation?” I have often heard testimonies such as: “I was saved when I was twelve years of age, joined the church, was baptized and very active in the church; but I never really committed my life to Christ until I was thirty-five years old.” Others express it like this, “I was saved when I was twelve, but I did not make Jesus the Lord of my life until I was thirty-five years of age.” Now what about those individuals who confess they are saved but never totally commit their lives to Christ? Are they saved because of their one-time decision of inviting Jesus into their hearts, though there was no repentance or change in their lives? Or is it possible that these Christians, so-called, were never saved in the first place, but only later when they committed their lives to Jesus Christ? Could it be that thousands-even millions—of people make shallow commitments, based only upon intellectual assent to the gospel, who are not really saved and who, if dying in that state, would be separated from God in hell forever?
There is a widespread teaching in evangelical circles today: All that is required of one to be saved is that he believe the facts of the gospel and verbalize those facts to God in prayer, but it is not necessary to repent and to be changed in lifestyle. No commitment of any kind is called for since we are saved by simple faith. To require repentance would be to add works. To require a change in one’s life and action would be the same as teaching salvation by works when God says, “Only believe the gospel plus nothing.” A special term is now applied to this kind of teaching. It is called easy believism.
The question must be addressed, “What is biblical, saving faith?” The Scottish preacher Robert Sandeman embraced the heresy of “easy believism” in the nineteenth century, insisting that saving faith is merely believing the facts about Christ’s atoning death. He taught that to require repentance and a change of life
FM 17:2 (Spring 2000) p. 33
would be a corruption of the gospel. The result was an absolut...
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