The Fear Doctrine: Individual Salvation
The greatest perversion of God’s love, word and grace is the doctrine of individual salvation. Instead of teaching the biblical principles of radical and final grace for all (which are key to transforming our lives from self-centered fear-inundated creatures of the world, into fearless God-centered disciples of The Kingdom of God), we are taught that our salvation is something we can lose. Or even worse, something we need to earn. Not all churches and denominations teach this overtly. But it is an insidious concept, and it often will worm its way into the life of a church without the conscious effort of the clergy. Just a hint of Hell here, a “dirty outsider” reference there… and the seeds of fear are planted in the hearts of the believer.
This subtle shift in salvation philosophy lays the groundwork for spiritual segregation, xenophobia, distrust of the community at large… and even separation from God. How? If salvation is conditional, then the greatest perceived dangers for the individual believer are the influence and actions of everyone else. They think, “I can at least try to control my thoughts and actions. But everyone else…?” And when we start to distrust God’s creation, we begin to doubt God which, over time, creates a calloused and cynical heart.
Additionally, if a leader can convince a community of people that not only is salvation conditional, but he/she and their greater organization are the only gatekeepers to to their salvation… well, that’s a hell of an effective way to build a structure of power and control.
Ultimately, the concept of individual salvation instills fear in the heart of the believer. And to know fear is to not fully know God.
1 John 4
8. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
18. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.
The Cost of Fear: The Kingdom Never Comes
Because the fear-filled believer now doubts their own salvation, instead of living for The Kingdom, The Way of Christ is systematically reduced to an excuse for even more self-centered living.
Generally, with a life focused on one’s personal salvation comes a dishonest and foolish adherence to The Law of God.
Why is a Christian who claims to observe the Law of God dishonest? Because we are selective about which of the laws we will choose to follow, and which of the laws we will insist that others follow.
Galatians 3 (ref. Deuteronomy 27.26)
10. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.”
Why is a Christian who claims to observe the Law of God foolish? Because NO ONE is capable of adhering to all of The Law, which is the entire point to being justified by The Law. You have to do all of it, which no man, woman or child is capable of.
4. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
This “clean vs. unclean”, “chosen people vs. the outsiders” cultural and spiritual zeitgeist is precisely what Jesus was battling. This is precisely why GOD ACTED. If we all receive salvation, then we are all be made equal. And if the “reward” is the same, then there is nothing to lose or gain for a believer’s right or wrong action (or inaction).
1. “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.
3. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;
4. and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
5. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same.
6. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’
7. They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’
8. When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’
9. When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.
10. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.
11. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner,
12. saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’
13. But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
14. Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.
15. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16. So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
In our equality before God (and our explicit understanding of it) lies the key to fearless living. We should all be empowered to live a life where any concern of “self” is obliterated because the ultimate human fear, the fear of death, is obliterated. Because GOD ACTED we are all saved if we die. And nothing can take that grace from us:
38. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39. nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Because GOD ACTED, we are now free to live a life fully centered in creating Kingdom of God, and not centered in our own fears for our personal salvation. We are free to fearlessly observe the Great Commandments at any cost (even death), which are the keys to unlocking the Kingdom on earth as in heaven:
28. One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”
29. Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;
30. you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
31. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32. Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other';
33. and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’– this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34. When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
35. While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David?
In order to to bring (or manifest) the Kingdom on Earth, we must begin to show the world what the Kingdom of God looks like. And as long as a fear of death, a greed for salvation, and a distrust of our brothers and sisters of this world pervade the actions and spirit of our daily lives, The Kingdom will never be manifest. For far too long, Christians have heard the good news, realized the radical grace God offers all of us, and then failed to act.
GOD ACTED, now we must act as well, and fearlessly usher in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. Through fearless and selfless love we can do just that, finally and forever. Amen?
22. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
23. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror;
24. for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.
25. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty (freedom), and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act– they will be blessed in their doing.