By Irvin Himmel
We need to know what the Bible teaches. Sometimes people are surprised to learn that popular ideas are without support in the word of God.
Many religious people, and some who are not really religious, hold to the belief that an individual can go through life in disregard of God’s will then in his dying breath ask for forgiveness and thereby become the heir of eternal life. There is no example in the New Testament of a preacher’s going to someone in his dying moments to preach “deathbed repentance.” There is no command to offer salvation to anyone short of full submission to the gospel. I am unable to find any passage which infers that a person can throw away his life serving Satan and rejecting the gospel, but at the last moment breathe a prayer of penitence that will wash his soul pure and white.
It is possible that a person might be sick or even near the point of death when he is taught the way of salvation. If he truly believes, repents, and is baptized into Christ, the Bible promises forgiveness of sins. However, this is a far cry from one’s deliberately ignoring the gospel until he has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, and he supposes he can cry, “Lord, save me,” and thereby obtain remission of sins without being baptized.
The Bible does not teach that one can reject the gospel all through life and then be saved by praying for mercy as the spirit is leaving the body.
A number of weak, poorly-informed members of the body of Christ, like a lot of people outside the body, are disposed to do considerable guessing about how the mercy of God may be applied. The Bible is plain in teaching that we are saved by mercy. Paul said that God is “rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us” (Eph. 2:4). Peter spoke of God’s “abundant mercy” by which we are begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead(1 Pet.1:3). In Tit. 3:5 it is declared that “according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
Some men speculate that God’s mercy will save even without the washing of regeneration. Some imagine that if a person lives and dies in ignorance of the will of God, divine mercy will overshadow him and his ignorance of the truth will prove no real disadvantage in the end. Others conjecture that God will extend clemency to all who are sincere even if they are grossly in error in their religious practices.
The Bible does not teach that we frail mortals are entitled to speculate about God’s mercy. Why do we not quit this business of theorizing about what God is going to do because He is just and kind? It would be far better if we would occupy ourselves in preaching and teaching God’s plainly revealed word than in saying, “I think God’s mercy will save that fellow even though he did not obey the gospel,” or “I don’t see how a merciful God could do thus and so.”
Jesus told the apostles to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He did not instruct them to preach speculative mercy. I thank God for His mercy, but He has not given me the liberty to extend hope where His word expresses no hope. I have no authority to use divine mercy for a lot of guesswork. Our imaginations of how God may apply mercy are purely conjectural. We should not guess what God will do out of mercy, nor speculate about what He might do out of wrath.Salvation Without Obedience
Popular preachers declare that salvation is by “faith only.” Some of them say one is saved the moment he “accepts Jesus as his personal Savior.” Others tell sinners to “believe and trust the Lord.”
Read and study the following passages carefully:
“He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36, American Standard Version).
“And being made perfect, he (Christ) became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9).
“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17,18).
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth . . .” (1 Pet. 1:22).
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17).
“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
The Bible does not promise salvation without obedience to the gospel. We cannot speak as the oracles of God if we promise salvation by belief without obedience.
Many cherished doctrines are not taught in the Bible. Let us test every teaching and practice by the word of God. May we have the faith and courage to accept whatever the Bible teaches and to reject whatever it does not teach.
Truth Magazine XXI: 41, p. 642
October 20, 1977