Heresy and false doctrine have abounded since the dawn of time, and regardless what form it has taken Satan is its father; his aim being to discredit the glory of the great salvation in Christ our Lord. Heresy always has one feature that will expose it to the eye of the believer, and that is its attempt to humanize truth. For example; the resurrection is denied by contending that it takes place in this life, rather than after death. Again, the doctrine of free-will is promoted by proposing the idea that events in time are the results of human decisions and not the effect of the eternal plan of an all-wise God. Then too, that despicable notion that there is no punishment of the wicked after death is concocted on the sand foundation expressed like, "all your hell will be in this life." Thus, we can fairly say that humanism never hatched so filthy, a God-dishonoring, corrupt system as the curious term, and subject of our heading, "Conditional-Time Salvation."
We are convinced that many, very many, of God's unsuspecting children are hearing the doctrine of devils from their pulpits and not really knowing why they cannot find any comfort in it. They could not find it in their heart to suspect that their pastor was feeding them the husks that swine eat, but all too often that is just the case. Our observation over many years is that most congregations, more often than not, are much wiser than the Elders speaking to them. (There are exceptions, for which we may be thankful.) True enough, they cannot quote the scripture or find a text with the ease of their minister, yet they will consent to sound doctrine while their leaders are crying it down as unfit for their ears. So, what is the form this heresy takes and, what, by the grace of God, is there to watch and guard against?
To keep this subject as brief as possible without being vague let us examine some of the phrases and catch words that the flock of the Lord should be on the look out for. You may be fairly certain when you hear them that they come from the father of lies, for the God of all grace never yet sent His true servants to preach a lie to His chosen ones.
A sample, and oft used, conditionalist statement is as follows: "If you expect to get any blessings in this life you have to work for them." A fair response would be; "If you can get a blessing by working for it, it is not a blessing at all, but a payment for services rendered." Our Lord tells us that after we have done all that we are commanded to do we are still unprofitable servants. (Luke 17:10)
Another popular conditionalist statement (known as time-salvation) is, "God saves you for eternity, but your salvation here in time is up to you." Sound strange? It should, for it is indeed a very strange doctrine (the strange woman of the Book of Proverbs is its mother) and requires the strongest condemnation. A question is in order here - if salvation in time is up to the saved sinner, then how is he to go about saving his old nature from its sins, for the new man in Christ certainly cannot sin? (1 John 3:9) So then, the old man, or the flesh, is what the conditionalist is telling us we need to save, though he may not have sufficient discernment to know, or realize what he is saying. The conditionalist might also tell us we need to repent, but repentance is the gift of God. (Acts 11:18, Rom 2:4,2 Tim 2:25.) Too, the conditionalist might say our great and crying need is to believe God's promises. (Some say we "ought to" claim the promises.) However, if our trust is to be in the Word of God then we must admit that we believe through Grace, Acts 18:27; God gives us belief, Phil:2:9; and belief is ordained of God, Acts 13:48.
Failing to lure you off with the previous pratings the conditionalist will tell you to "exercise your faith." This is a common mouthing with these work-mongers, yet there is not a shred of truth to the proposal that faith can be exercised by the sinner. Rather, it is faith that stirs up the poor convicted sinner to lay hold on eternal life. Faith is the gift of God, Eph. 2:8-10, is a fruit of the spirit, Gal 5:22, and the substance of things hoped for, Heb. 11:1. Faith is not a toy, like a yo-yo to be taken out at will and manipulated and then set aside for another time. As this whole chapter (Heb. 11) deals with the work of faith in believers from the dawn of time it is indeed strange that not once does the inspired writer inform us to exercise our faith. For that matter, we cannot, for all our searching, find even one mention of this devil-contrived expression in all the Bible; not once in all sixty-six books, of both the Old and the New Testaments. Let the duty-mongers of this ''exercise" business reply when they have a "thus sayeth the Lord."
Conditionalism, as can be seen in the few previous statements, is pure and simply a departure from the spiritual interpretation of the Bible plan of salvation, and a putting in its place human effort, human will, and human reasoning, all contrary to the plain teaching of the Word of the Lord. We may be sure that any system of doctrine that requires the least amount of "duty" on the part of the saved sinner to "save himself in time" is not of grace. Be sure the conditionalist system is humanism - in its worst form.
The Lord willing, we shall at another time take up the brief history of this God dishonoring doctrine, and show how it got its slimy grip on many of the leaders among the Primitive Baptists, especially in the South and West. And, should any feel obliged to take exception to the things we have said then let them speak up -- from the Bible.
Following are some points of interest to be pondered by all who desire to follow after the truth regarding this vital issue.
Question: As we alluded to earlier in this article; what is the difference between a blessing and a reward? Are they the same thing? Since it is obvious they are not, how do they differ? Does not the Bible teach us that blessings are those free and gracious favors extended from a loving God to the recipients as He pleases? And, at the same time does not the Bible, and common sense, teach us that a reward is something which we receive for our efforts and our duties? A reward is a payment. A reward is obligatory on that individual for whom we have labored. Thus, we cannot under any circumstances perceive them to be the same thing. But we would be grateful for those who could give us a satisfactory explanation for why they confuse them. (We expect to cover the subject of rewards in a future article.)
Question: Can the great, eternal, I Am be influenced by our duties or works to give us more or less blessings in this life? If we labor more, will He bless us more? Or, if we labor less, will He bless us less? If one answers in the affirmative, then we would inquire further how could we understand Malachi 3:6, that our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and that He changes not. Will God change His mind and give a blessing when one works, or change His mind and not give a blessing when one does not work? It would certainly be a begging of the issue to say that God foreknew, because once one concedes foreknowledge, he has admitted that from everlasting the plan to bless was fixed, as God does not know with uncertainty - which is no knowledge at all. Thus it (God's prescience or foreknowledge) is tantamount to, and the same with, the eternal ordination, will, and decree of God, whether the workmongers desire to admit it or not!!
Question: Does the new man in Christ Jesus, that which has been born again according to the Scriptures; or the old man in Adam, which is yet in sin, act in obedience to obtain time salvation? If one says it is the new man in Christ Jesus, then we would ask, How can that which is born of God, and cannot sin, possibly stand in need of anything greater than which it now has in its eternal perfection in Christ; which the new man certainly has in Christ? On the other hand, if the old man in Adam can labor in such a way as to act in obedience to obtain these so called "Blessings" of time salvation, then in what manner shall they be bestowed upon him? Are they material, carnal, temporal blessings only for this earth, and have they anything at all to do with that new man in Christ Jesus? We know the Bible speaks of a great conflict and warfare between the old and new man, but this would certainly be setting up an argument for new warfare which the Bible does not shed any light on. (Could our old nature find any joy in spiritual blessings? Also see Eph. 1:4,5.)
Question: What can the old man in the flesh do to please God in order to receive blessings? We know the new man in Christ is already as blessed as he can possibly be; born of the Spirit, conceived in holiness; sinless; perfect in God; in Christ; and in every way entire and complete in Him; wanting nothing. Thus it must be the old man that must act if there is to be new, additional blessings received. And yet we understand from the 8th chapter of Romans that they that are in the flesh cannot please God. If the flesh cannot please God, then how can He be satisfied with any human endeavors in order to render blessings to be received by the old man? And since the new man stands in need of nothing, whence be there such an argument as this?
Question: Since all Old School Baptists of any sort (that we know of at least) acknowledge the Bible speaks of covenants, we would plead with those conditional time salvationists to tell us under what covenant does conditional time salvation stand? Does it stand under the old covenant, or does it stand under the new covenant? That old covenant, indeed, was a covenant of works and through the centuries old Israel learned the sad lessons of their inabilities, their weakness, and their deadness; that by the works of the flesh God could not be pleased; that by the deeds of the Law could no flesh be saved. (Keep in mind - all this was in time and a figure of the church to come.) It was a yoke of bondage. It was toil for naught, and God at the last said to them, "Away with these things." He was weary with their sacrifices and offerings and indeed, they appeared themselves to be weary, for they had turned from these "duties," as we describe them, to the idols of Ashdod, and Chemosh, and Baal, and the gods of the strange nations about them. If there is anything in the old covenant for a poor sinner today, we are not anxious to have any part of it. However, we rejoice that the sweet message of free grace, and a covenant ratified by the blood of the Lamb, slain for sinners, now stands before God; a covenant glorious in fulfillment, in scope, in depth; reaching down to every poor trembling sinner who ever stood in need of so great Salvation; for time and eternity! Could any dare hesitate to say that if there is any salvation it rests in the everlasting covenant - ordered in all things and sure, and that there is no room for conditions, for Jesus, in living, laboring, dying, and coming from the tomb to be well-pleasing unto God, ratified the covenant with blood? Dare any this day take their filthy righteousnesses called works and pit them against the finished work of the Lamb of God slain? Nay, there is no hesitation on our part to say that conditional time salvation, if it has a covenant at all, must be that old dead covenant of works which leads to death.
Question: Since much is made by those who believe in conditional time salvation about disobedience and obedience we would ask; Do the disobedient have any joy of salvation in this life? We speak not of the disobedient who are dead in trespasses and sin but those who they describe as "God's disobedient children." Is their life one of morbidity, absolute sorrow, constant and total dismay, grief, feeling downtrodden, darkness, blackness, without hope; or is there for those who have life in Christ, disobedient though they may be, some joy of salvation? We are compelled to conclude that one could not possibly exist after the glorious work of regeneration, being born again, and all things being made new, and have absolutely no joy whatever simply because he was disobedient. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and all God's children from the beginning of time have disobeyed, and disobeyed grievously; though they were surely not pleased with it. Since one of the worst forms of disobedience the conditionalists informs us of is not being baptized, then can a sinner saved by grace, born of God, eyes opened, ears to hear, heart to receive, filled with the good news of the gospel tidings have any joy at all before he is baptized? Is baptism the door to joy, or can those who have as yet not followed their Lord in baptism have no joy whatever? We feel that it would be fair to say that through the centuries there have been many blessed, honored saints of God who have lived a life of joy in their salvation in Christ who never knew the waters of baptism as we Old School Baptists do. We could name John Bunyon, John Owen, William Huntington, John Newton who wrote that beautiful hymn, "Amazing Grace"; Augustus Toplady, the author of "Rock of Ages"; and many, many more. No, we must confess that to hold that life outside of baptism as joyless is a view we envy not. The position of those who have brought this humanist doctrine of time salvation among us is a putrid one they are welcome to keep!
Question: Does the Lord ever bless us by grace alone in time? What we mean by that is, does it please our Heavenly Father to extend to us any of the benefits of salvation in Christ Jesus without any works, or duties, or efforts on our part? Are there any blessings in the life of the saint that is not conditional? Are there any blessings that we receive which are wholly and totally by free grace? If so, what percentage? Are they a small percentage, part, many, or all of our blessings? If one concedes that God ever blesses His children by grace alone, then they must concede that time salvation, with all its conditions, is only a partial means and avenue to the benefits of God, and once such a concession is made we would ask why would anyone want the effort system, when they may rejoice in the grace system, which is infinitely superior? God does bless His children, and He blesses them as He pleases, and God is not like a chess player, attempting to out-maneuver His children in their every move, good and bad. It is clear to those who know the power of God, and their inward depravity, that the blessings they have received are certainly by grace, and grace alone.
Question: In connection with the previous question we would ask; Is God more glorified in the conditional, or non-conditional blessings? If God gives blessings, one must assume He is honored and glorified by it. Then, which blessing does He receive the most honor and glory from? Those which we work for, which He is obliged to give us, or those which He gives us through grace? Further, which one of these blessings does the saved sinner praise Him for the most? Is there really any need to praise God for what He owes us for? We think not! But - on the other hand - the poor sinner who realizes he can do nothing for himself; that all his steps are ordered by the Lord; that it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps, finds much delight in praising God for the sweet blessings that came his way, not through conditions but through grace. Truly, and without any question, God is glorified in the non-conditional blessings and there can be absolutely no glory for God if He must pay His debts to the dutiful.
Question: Did Jesus die, and was raised again to justify His people? If so, did He justify us for our disobedience, as well? Is disobedience a sin in the sense of Matthew 1:21, where the scripture says, "He shall save his people from their sins?" If He justifies us, He justifies us from all unrighteousness including disobedience and unbelief, non-compliance and all other things that fall in this category. If He shall save His people from their sins, is there anything left for them to save themselves from?
It has been harped upon for a century now, from the second chapter of Acts, that God's children must "save themselves from this untoward generation," and conditionalists argue that is a proof text that we must do something to save ourselves here in time. We had as soon hear somebody say, "Save yourself a lot of time and take the shortest route to town," and ascribe that to the great salvation as to ascribe the text in Acts two to conditional time salvation. The saving themselves from that untoward generation had nothing whatsoever to do with salvation in Christ (for time or eternity) in any sense of the word. God was not here pleading with them to do something, rather He was instructing them in the way more perfectly which they had not known before. They would receive no more, nor no less, than God had already intended and ordained for them. The Scriptures affirm in Acts two that those who gladly received the word, did so because of grace, and were baptized. They went on their way rejoicing because God gave them joy to rejoice in. In Acts 13:48 it says, "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." None others can, none others will, but all that are ordained certainly do; and there can be no exceptions.
We would, in conclusion say, Let the time salvationists keep their "willy-nilly", yea and nay gospel, and perish with it. It is a new doctrine, contrived of men, and has been around for only about one hundred years. The saints of God in days gone by knew nothing of such a doctrine as this. Our forefathers who established the churches in this nation knew nothing of it, and we defy any conditionalist among them, their champions, or whoever, to come forward with any proof that such a humanistic, God dishonoring doctrine as conditional time salvation existed in this land before the late 1800s. This doctrine, in all of its unravelings, does but show a web spun from the bowels of the poisonous and venomous spiders of human reasoning! May God deliver us from such a Heaven daring doctrine. We make no apologies for attacking it - for we consider it to be among the vilest heresies ever gotten up! We hope to ever contend against it so long as the Lord shall give us breath and ability to write. If there are those who would desire to defend their indefensible position, let them come forward. We will treat them fairly - but firmly.
October - November 1987