The Three Most Liberating Truths of the Christian Faith
Proclaim Liberty (Isaiah 61:1)
Glorious Liberty (Romans 8:21)
Spirit of Lord…Liberty (II Cor. 3:17)
Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” [of fear] (John 8:32). Humans may have many fears, but the most devastating ones are fear of death, God, and eternal conscious torment in the fire of hell. But it is not God’s desire for anyone to live in morbid fear. Biblical fear means reverence for God based on a sense of awe about God. Jesus died to free every one from fear of death so no one would live a lifetime in bondage to the fear of death (Heb. 2:14-16). It is God’s desire to cast out fear and perfect every person in all-inclusive, unconditional, everlasting love (I John 4:8, 18). For this purpose, God wants the whole human family to know salvation is by grace, believers are eternally secure in their salvation, and salvation is universal. These are the three most liberating truths of the Christian Faith!
Salvation by Grace
Salvation by grace means that people are saved solely by faith in Christ without also having to do good works/deeds (Eph. 2:8-10; Tit. 3:5-9). Almost all Christians say that they believe in salvation by grace, but in practice many teach salvation by grace plus works which is the same thing as teaching salvation by works. Such Christians teach that in order to be saved a person must accept Christ plus, for example: be baptized, join the [right kind of] church, attend church regularly, tithe [10% of] income, keep fast days, do good deeds, etc. There is often a long list of things Christians cannot do, such as: drinking, smoking, dancing, eating some foods, wearing certain clothing and jewelry, going to movies, playing cards, betting on the lottery, using birth control, or women using makeup, cutting their hair, wearing jeans [“men’s apparel”], or dresses with necklines too low and/or hemlines too high, etc. Those who teach this are called “legalists” while their doctrine is called “legalism.” Modern-day legalists, like the Pharisees, whom Jesus castigated for their legalism, are well meaning, but they are what Dr. Charles Swindoll called “grace killers” in his spiritually freeing book, The Grace Awakening.
The Christian Church, by the 16th Century, had become so spiritually corrupt and legalistic that the rallying cry of the Protestant reformers was “salvation by grace!” Dr. Swindoll stated that he is aware it is risky to even write a book setting forth grace in all its beauty and power, because some will accuse him of caring little for the holiness of God and giving people a license to sin, since they consider it a dangerous doctrine. The consequence of teaching salvation by works or grace plus works is that Christians live in a state of fear not knowing when they have lived good enough lives to gain admission to heaven. If the consequences were not so serious, one should not make an issue of it. But it is of the utmost seriousness, since it is a matter of spiritual life and death! In his excellent book, Growing In Grace, Bob George observed that those living under legalism experience a living death, since they live/exist in “abject fear of God.” It is no wonder Swindoll insightfully wrote that such believers live as if they are on “death row.”
The security of believers means once people have accepted Christ as Savior and Lord they cannot lose their salvation (Rom. 8:35-39). In the introduction to his comforting book, Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure?, Dr. Charles Stanley stated his reason for writing about eternal security and the danger of not believing in it. “If it were simply a theological difference, I would be content to agree to disagree. It is far more than that. I know the bondage to which that kind of thinking leads.” He shared, “I have lived [how Stanley, I, and hundreds of millions grew up] with the guilt and fear fostered by that view. Jesus said, ‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8:32). Freedom comes from knowing the truth. Bondage results from missing it.” Stanley rightly contends that Christians cannot enjoy their relationship with God until they have the assurance that they [and loved ones] are “eternally secure!”
Just as Swindoll acknowledged the risk of writing about salvation by grace, Stanley said the same thing about eternal security [also “perseverance of saints”]. According to his wise insight, “Such thinking is viewed by some as an attack on the holiness of God.” He explained, “Those who hold this view perceive the doctrine of eternal security to be a license to sin. For this reason they consider eternal security a dangerous doctrine.”
“Just as surely as the grass is green, the sky is blue, God is in heaven, and Christ is Lord, Jesus taught Messianic/Christian [Hebrew: Messiah=Greek: Christ] Universalism (CU). The apostles preached it, and the early church believed it for well over 500 years—long [more than 200 years] after the Christian Church had become the state church of the Roman Empire.” As explained in these quotes from, Christianity Without Insanity (9-1-12) and covered extensively in Spiritual Terrorism (4-7-08), “Origen, the church’s first and greatest systematic theologian, believed in and taught CU. He was born in 185 and died in 254 at the age of 69 in full communion [good standing] with the Christian Church to which he had devoted his godly life. Origen, his writings, and his memory were condemned by the Fifth General Council [by order of control-freak Roman Emperor Justinian] in 553. Thus, he had been dead for 299 years before his unjust condemnation!”
“Today, there is certainly dispute about this great miscarriage of justice, but the real reason seems to have been for believing in and teaching CU. The Linns, Catholic authors of Good Goats: Healing Our Image of God (1994), reported that it is now okay to teach universalism in the Roman Catholic Church. They stated in the introduction that CU is an ‘entirely orthodox perspective.’ It is really good to hear that, but the perception seems to be the condemnation—Origen, his writings, and his memory—included universalism. In fact, in The Teaching Of Christ, A Catholic Catechism For Adults, the editors stated, ‘Some early theologians, notably Origen in the third century, took the position that all sinners, including Satan, will eventually be brought to salvation. This and similar views, however, the Church has always (bold mine) decisively rejected, as incompatible with revealed truth, and the Church has solemnly confirmed the doctrine that punishment in hell is eternal.’ Eternal hell is reaffirmed [but more nuanced] in the latest Catechism of the Catholic Church that was completed in 1992 and translated into English in 1994.”
“If CU were not condemned with Origen, there has been terrible misunderstanding—spiritual insanity—for 1,500 years! The Pope needs to restore spiritual sanity by clearly validating CU for the Catholic Church and to the world! I am confident there will be a Pope desiring the truth that frees from fear [more than the status quo] (John 8:32).” Nine months later, May 22, 2013, Pope Francis, in the Papal Office three months, made two profoundly liberating statements. #1. There is no literal burning hell. #2. Christ’s death redeemed all people, so every one will be saved, even atheists [will become theists]! “This is crystal clarity—a major step on the long road leading to Christian unity and then to world peace! Ironically, [while Protestant Churches claiming to be reformed and reforming may be stuck in their 16th Century theology] the Roman Catholic Church may well lead the way in this new reformation of Salvation by Grace of ALL!” Dr. Michael Jinkins, the President of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, has wisely stated in his book, The Church Transforming, ministers of churches must have an interfaith multicultural ministry in an increasingly pluralistic world! True, but such inclusive ministry is impossible while one religion purports to have a monopoly on salvation.
The word “fire” is used metaphorically in The Holy Bible and the sacred writings of other religions to symbolize purification. The best example is the metaphor of God being a “consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29). Jewish believers will be purified by the Messiah’s refining fire (Mal. 3:3). Penitents will be refined by fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:15). All impenitents will be purified, per Jesus’ mixed metaphor, “salted with fire,” in Gehenna/Hell (Mk. 9:49). The best translation of Jesus’ mixed metaphor of being “salted with fire” is in The Good News Bible: Today’s English Version, which says, “Everyone will be purified by fire.”
Another metaphor for disinfecting and healing from sin is the lake of fire and brimstone [KJV]—burning sulfur [NIV] (Rev. 20:10). Sulfur, long before and after Christ, had multiple beneficial uses. Sulfur was a multi-purpose medication. It could be taken internally for various illnesses. Externally, a sulfur paste would cure body sores. Long before canning and freezing, people burned sulfur to preserve their produce. Sulfur was burned in religious rituals to symbolize prayers for purification. If someone died in a home of infectious disease sulfur was burned to disinfect it. Sulfur was also burned to disinfest homes of lice, mice, and other vermin.
Since sulfur was the wonder drug in the ancient world that penicillin is today, a modern medicinal analogy would be a fiery lake of penicillin to cure sin infection. A chemist, with a doctorate in chemistry, stated that, theoretically, a sulfur compound could be made which would cure any bodily infection. Logically, spiritually speaking, could not God, who is omniscient, make a sulfur compound [i.e., “the lake of burning sulfur”] that would cure any sin infection? This common-sense view means Jesus can draw all to Himself (John 12:32), all can live in Christ and God can become all in all (I Cor. 15:22, 28)—thus all shall worship God eternally (Rev. 5:13)!
Biblically, hell is the cosmic recycling center, the fiery presence of God transforming sinners into saints. The nonsensical doctrine of eternal conscious torment is preached in graphic detail by some but preached much more tactfully by others—not as hell being literal fire to torture sinners forever, but—“just” as “eternal separation from God.” This more nuanced preaching of hell is still a direct contradiction to the teaching of The Holy Bible. Why? The Psalmist exclaimed to God, “If I ascend up into heaven, you are there. If I descend down to Sheol—the grave or place of departed spirits [“hell,” KJV], you are there” (139:7-9). Consequently, there is no place on land or sea where one can go from God’s presence. Yes, indeed, sin can temporarily separate sinners from fellowship with God (Isaiah 59:2). But no person can be separated from God’s presence for even a moment, much less for eternity, due to the fact God is omnipresent!
Christians, let’s do as Jesus commanded: show the world that we are His disciples by loving one another, loving our neighbors as ourselves, doing unto others as we want others to do unto us, forgiving those who have sinned against us, praying for, doing good for, and even loving our enemies (Mt. 5:43-46; 7:12; 18:21-22; 22:34-40; John 13:34-35)! Next, let us unite in tearing down walls of misunderstanding and building bridges to others in the Christian family. Then, let us join together with adherents of other religions tearing down walls of fear and suspicion and building bridges of love to all members of the human family until war is no more and weapons of war have been recycled into implements of agriculture (Isaiah 2:4)! The whole human family will therefore be able to blend voices in the words of the late-great civil-rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last!” Christian Universalism is not dangerous doctrine—a license to sin—but the most liberating truth of the Christian Faith!