How Important is Correct
Theology for Salvation?
Q. How important is corect theology to being saved?
A. That depends on which elements of theology you are talking about. It is, in any case, a complex question. The heart of salvation is trusting in Christ and being obedient to the commandments of Christ through that trusting (Mt.28:18-20). That "trusting" involves being "saved by hope" (Rom.8:24), saved by confession (Rom.10:9), saved by grace (God's underserved kindness -- Eph.2:5,8), saved by water (1 Pet.3:20), sanctified by faith (Ac.26:18) and (by direct implication) saved by love (1 Cor.13). Those who are thus saved will "walk in the light" (Rev.21:24). In short, we are saved and sanctified by being "in Christ" (Rom.8:1; 1 Cor.1:2): "There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom.8:1, KJV -- note that modern versions like the NIV delete the critical phrase marked in italics).
The next question must surely be: which "Christ"? The "Christ" of the New Agers, the "Christ" of the liberals, the "Christ" of the cults, or the Christ of the Bible. Can we have a saving faith in a Christ who, as many liberals and occultists teach, was not physically resurrected but only "spiritually" resurrected? Clearly not. Can we be saved by a Christ who was just a "good moral man" rather than one who was God-in-the-flesh and died for our sins? Clearly not. So at least we may say that fundamental doctrines are essential for salvation -- not that the doctrines themselves save us (for we are not saved by propositional statements) but they lead us to the true Christ.
What about those who say you cannot be saved if you do not believe in the Trinity, or if you are not baptized, or if you don't speak in tongues, or if you don't belong to a particular church denomination?
We are now moving into the peripheral areas of the faith. The Bible nowhere teaches of a "Trinity" (as formulated by the councils) but it does teach that Christ is God (John 1:1). Knowing that Jesus is God is obviously essential to salvation. What about baptism? We are not saved in the direct sense by any ordinance but obviously if God has commanded us to be baptised, and we have the opportunity to be, then to not be baptised is to rebell against the Lord and put one's salvation in doubt. (Someone who doesn't have the opportunity to be baptised, e.g. who converts in the Sahara desert away from any water and dies there, is obviously saved in the Biblical sense). What about speaking in tongues? Most of those in the charismatic movement say that speaking in tongues is evidence that you have been born again of the Spirit; if you haven't been born again of the Spirit, you cannot (by their logic) be saved. This is manifestly false. There is no requirement that everyone speak in tongues and there is plenty of evidence of people speaking in tongues in pagan religions. What about being a member of a "Church"? We are not saved by a Church, because a Church is is people, and people can't save other people. Only Christ saves. However, like baptism, this does not give us the authority to become "solo Christians". Someone converted in the desert away from other Christians who dies there without ever being an active disciple of a Church is obviously saved. But if there are lots of Christians around him and he still sticks to himself (his own "private Church") then obviously he has been disobedient to the commandments of Christ. Growing in Christ is predicated upon growing together in fellowship with other Christians. We do not have to be 100% agreed with other Christians (name me one Christian who agrees 100% with what you believe in and a miracle will have occurred!) but we can be agreed, to begin with, over the essentials of the faith (e.g. the Apostles' Creed) and then work our way into deeper things.
So some theology is important to salvation, but not all. But if you are asking me about the 144,000 firstborn saints, well, that is another question completely.
This page was created on 16 October 1997
Last updated on 26 February 1998
Copyright © 1987-2008 NCCG - All Rights Reserved