Spiritual Works Salvation – and Popular Evangelical Christian Sorcery



Salvation is not by works, it is by Jesus.  It is not merely a past-tense event or work that took place in someone’s life. 


Matt 7:21-23

21         "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

22         Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'

23         Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'  (NIV)


Past-tense connection with Christ not salvific?

The exusia or power in the name of Jesus can be tapped into by non-believers, such as Saul (who prophesied in 1 Sam 10:11) and the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:14), neither of whom were ever known to surrender completely to the Lordship of Jesus in such a way as to show evidence of a new-birth experience by which they were given the power to continue to know Him (John 1:12).

Likewise, those in the scripture above make the following plea to Christ: Since they once believed Christ’s authority to some situations, thereby manifesting His work, that they have somehow earned a permanent place in the Kingdom of Heaven.  This indicates their misunderstanding of the basis of their right to eternal life.  They were viewing their salvation as wrought by an earlier performed work.  In this case, that work was allowing the Holy Spirit to use them.  I call this attitude a ‘spiritual’ works-salvation mentality.  This works mentality is similar to those who think they are saved forever due to the work of ‘being born again’.  They view the event, (not Christ Himself) as the agent of salvation. The ‘many’ cited by Christ above were assuming they were saved due to past-tense (even valid) spiritual works.  Jesus corrects their poor theology, but it is too late. Therefore, let us take heed, lest we make the same mistake and regret it forever in Hell. 


Since what I wrote above may be difficult for many to understand, let me simplify it.  Here is my transliteration of Matt 7:21-23 in modern vernacular: 


            “Hey Jesus, “were saved” because of our works, namely:

 -Allowing your spirit to flow through us in the past. 

Due to that experience, (not a relationship with Christ living through us as shown by our lifestyle), we are saved forever right?”


Jesus responds, no, you are not currently having a 2-way relationship with the Father though me, so I do not even know who you are.  In fact, you are so far off base thinking that anything other than knowing me can save you, that I do not even know where you live.”

-my non-authorized translation


Spiritual works salvation today

We can see examples of this ‘spiritual works salvation’ mentality today.  Most people, when you ask them if they are Christian, saved, or born again, will attempt to justify themselves with a past religious or even spiritual experience alone.  They usually say things like, “I was baptized when I was 7…”.  Then they expect you to follow the “folk-Baptist” (not true Baptist Doctrine) corollary that since they were baptized, (or repeated a sinners prayer) that they are obviously saved forever, regardless of any other fact.  Many view water baptism as the agent of an irrevocable salvation through Christ, a type of water sorcery that saves them forever, regardless of whether or not they persevere (Rev 21:7‑8), or remain in Christ, as behaviorally defined by the Bible. This is just “Religious Tradition”, not Jesus.  To those for whom the word “Religious Tradition” has positive connotations, this is, at least, a different gospel.


Note: Please be sure that candidates for Christian Baptism, hand raising, standing, public profession, Catholic confirmation, repeating a sinner’s prayer, walking to the altar, or any other ceremony (that the Holy Spirit may very well be involved in as an act of public profession) must understand that these ceremonies are NOT the agent of salvation!  Jesus is!  Our continual 2-way relationship with the Father through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit is our means of salvation.  Where this exists, it is always followed by concomitant ensuing sanctification, which is behaviorally manifested in our changed lifestyle and continuance in His identity as defined by the Bible.


Jesus Who?

Some more learned “Christians” accept Christ as the agent of salvation, but a different type of Christ, who has set different terms of relationship with man.  This Christ does not set out a 2-way relationship with the Father (that he died for) as a means of salvation.  Instead, this Christ, (who may be akin to the concept of Santa Claus) gives a “free gift” of eternal security (in their salvation) to anyone who is willing to repeat a “heart felt” sinners prayer, which may or may not include repentance.  The proselyte might say something like, “forgive me of my sins”, like a command, many times not knowing what their sins are, or that they need to repent, or quit doing them.  They may even refer to this experience as “being born again”, viewing it as a one-time, eternally-salvific experience.  Thus, they view the born again experience as the agent of salvation.  However, the truth is that Christ is the agent of salvation.  We are saved by a 2-way, continuous, and loving relationship with the Father through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Salvation is viewed as an event, and not a relationship.  We know that it can be both, but not only a one-time irrevocable experience.  Dr. Shank warns us in his book on the doctrine of perseverance, “Let us beware lest we convey the impression that the new birth is somehow an agent of salvation, rather than merely a circumstance” (1960). 


Some recent improvements I’ve noticed

Some newer evangelical tracts by Billy Graham, and especially the Southern Baptist Convention, are diagrammatically introducing the concept of repentance as one of behavioral change.  Also, Billy Graham’s tract now defines the previously vague Christian jargon of “Receiving Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” as “…inviting Christ to come in and control your life through the Holy Spirit”.  In spite of these improvements, defining sin is largely left out of evangelism, and consequently many “Christians” are living in it.  Then they combine the above Evangelical concepts that make “getting saved” easy, with the Baptist doctrine of eternal security.  Thus most of the people I witness to in Athens, GA are eternally secure “Christians” who are living in habitual, condemnable sin, such as fornication, drug and alcohol abuse, homosexuality, lying, and/or greed.  See my “Condemnable Sins” if you are not familiar with them, because you should be. If you live in these lifestyles, you are not saved (1 Cor 6:9‑10, Rev 21:7‑8, Rev 22:15, I Jn 1:5-7).  I don’t care if you once were saved or not.


The Doctrine of Conditional Security to balance the EZ Gospel?

There is nothing wrong with the presenting the above usual evangelical version of the Gospel, as long as the recipient understands that the need to repent of their sin.  However, the above combination of the “EZ Gospel” and “Folk Eternal Security” can be deadly.  The “Gospel Tract” version of the Gospel that is so often preached is fine when followed by the doctrine of perseverance (Shank 1960).  As my brother says, “It’s easy to get saved… staying saved is the thing”.  In other words, remaining (in Him) saved requires a mental and behavioral commitment to persevere in the faith (Rev 21:7‑8).  For an explanation of this doctrine of perseverance, see my document entitled, “Scriptures Establishing the Doctrine of Conditional Security”, that I got from Robert Shank (1960). 

As for the true believers who prefer the doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved” to the (mainly Pentecostal) doctrine of “conditional security” (1960), perhaps we will sort that out in heaven, and focus on saving the lost for now.  However, we all must be careful to avoid accidentally confusing unbelievers by presenting them with the above combination of an artificially EZ-Gospel that unconditionally saves us forever, even if we don’t repent, and stay repentant. 


Baptism as water sorcery

Nobody probably ever intended to teach Baptism as water sorcery; a means of unconditional salvation.  This lie comes into neophytes who are not discipled, but instead assured of their unconditional “free gift” salvation, as if it were something other than Christ Himself.  Sorcery is making spiritual transactions that are outside of the identity of Christ.  This Santa Claus type of “do this and get this” works-mentality can lead to accidental sorcery in the neophyte’s mind.  They are already apt to believe the easy way, or the wide road, because it is more palatable to the flesh. 

Matthew 7:12-14 (New International Version)

 13“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.


John 3:19
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
John 3:18-20 (in Context) John 3 (Whole Chapter)


The Salvific Mantra

Here is how not to present the Gospel: “Repeat this prayer (mantra) and you will be unconditionally saved forever.”  Then you do not follow up with them at all.  Attempts to follow up may fail anyway since they may think you are rude to interfere with them.  After all, at first you told them that all they had to do was repeat your mantra.  You have created a Christian who was prematurely (or falsely) born.  However, you have assured them of their salvation, so now they are hardened to the Gospel and will not listen to you or anyone else who preaches Jesus as one who requires repentance. This is true especially if they got a hold of “Once saved always saved”, or the doctrine of the unconditional security of believers, which is popular in most protestant circles (now including Charismatics as well).  They do not need you or your Church for anything because they are already unconditionally entitled to the “free gift” you sold them. 

We all must be careful not to assure people that they are saved, when we don’t have any real reason to believe that they are.  If we do, we may be accidentally hardening them to the gospel.  On numerous occasions, I have observed well-meaning Christians assure unbelievers that they are saved:  Unbelievers who don’t even repeat the mantra, know (or care about) what’s going on, or have any desire to get saved.  That is a sad joke. That is the Devil’s evangelism.  That is dumbing the gospel down to the point that it is a different gospel.  “Sharing” this gospel has eternal consequences for its preacher.

Galatians 5:6-8   6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (in Context) Galatians 1 (Whole Chapter)

Galatians 5:10
I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.   Galatians 5:9-11 (in Context) Galatians 5 (Whole Chapter)

False assurance is a plague among unbelievers that is spread by such poor evangelism.  Such pre-mature births simply harden unbelievers to the true gospel. Those who preach such a different gospel will be eternally condemned. 


Consider this:  A friend introduces another friend with joy and ease of understanding.  It is easier for a friend of a prospective convert to counsel them in receiving a new friend (Jesus) than a stranger.  A presumptuous Christian stranger who is more bent on assuring a prospective convert of their salvation than on listening to and understanding their desires, can be a dangerous agent of false hope. 


James 3:1

1          Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.  (NIV)


Premature Christian Births

Christ has been disgraced, especially to Muslims, who see professing Christians living immorally. These Christians who were pre-maturely born into the Kingdom, with out counting the cost or repenting are not Christians at all.  Christ’s message to his large crowd of followers below is especially apropos for the Southeastern US today. It is more polite and fruitful in the long run to be honest with people upfront, explaining what commitment to Christ entails.  After explaining repentance to the person, the person needs an opportunity to count the cost of what it means to give up everything per Jesus’ request (below).  This is something they may have questions for you about.  It is good to assure them that if they want Jesus to take control of their life, then His life and power is available to help them repent, and live in Jesus (Rom 16:10, John 1:12).


Luke 14:25-35

25         Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:

26         "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple.

27         And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28         "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?

29         For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,

30         saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

31         "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?

32         If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.

33         In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

34         "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?

35         It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."  (NIV)


Where do we go from here?

Let us not cheapen God’s provision of salvation in order to feel more evangelical or see more people blindly involved in our various Christian evangelical rituals (walking to altars, repeating prayers, baptism, calling on the name of the Lord, etc.).  Let’s instead focus on knowing God and making Him known.  Helping others to know God through Christ: This is the task of evangelism, and the beginning of discipleship. 


            Matthew 28:18-20 (New International Version)

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Through the Word of God, we should help people learn to obey his word, listen to His voice, and follow Him.  Let’s reevaluate what “personal relationship” with God through Christ really is, and preach that.


John 10:27-28

27         My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

28         I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  (NIV)



Shank, Dr. Robert.  (1960).  Life in the Son; A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance.  Westcott Pulishers, Springfield, Missouri 65801.

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