A reader told me about a May 20, 2018 blog by Justin Steckbauer entitled “How to Have Eternal Life.” The reader said, “After reading it I felt truly sorry for him.”
I just read the blog. You can see it here. I too feel sorry for Steckbauer and for all the people whom he influences.
I will explain why this blog makes me sorry as I review it.
According to Steckbauer, here is what we need to do in order to have eternal life:
1.“Christ alone.” After quoting Eph 2:8-9, Steckbauer explains what this means: “We must receive Christ. We must trust in Christ. We must declare our complete allegiance to Christ. We must give everything to Christ.”
2. “Repentance toward God.” After quoting 2 Cor 7:10, he says, “…to repent…means to lay aside our sins, and to embrace a new lifestyle.”
3. “Living in the Spirit.” Steckbauer quotes Gal 5:16-18. Then he explains, “When we live the Spirit life, we deny the flesh, and take up our cross and follow Jesus. When we live in the Spirit we surrender all to the Spirit of God, and He leads us into all righteousness.”
Before I go on, do you notice a trend? So far he has only quoted verses from Paul. Nothing from the Lord Jesus’ evangelistic ministry as reported in John’s Gospel.
Notice too that no matter what the verse says, Steckbauer sees the condition for eternal life as giving everything to Christ, laying aside our sins, embracing a new lifestyle, denying the flesh, taking up our crosses, and following Christ.
Ephesians 2:8-9, the first text he cites, says that the condition is faith. Yet Steckbauer does not mention faith. He talks about receiving and trusting, which he defines as complete allegiance, giving everything to Christ.
The second text, 2 Cor 7:10, deals with the repentance of believers, not unbelievers. Yet Steckbauer finds there the condition of everlasting life. Yet that condition is not merely repentance. Not only must one lay aside his sins, but he must also “embrace a new lifestyle.”
The third text, Gal 5:16-18, is a call for born-again people to walk in the Spirit. The author sees this as a call for unbelievers to be born again by denying themselves, taking up their crosses, and following Christ.
So far Steckbauer is managing to turn whatever the text says into regeneration by commitment, turning from sins, self-denial, and following Christ until death.
On to the other conditions.
4. “Abiding in Christ.” Here he quotes John 15:1-10. Finally we do come to the words of Jesus and to the Fourth Gospel. However, Steckbauer is not quoting from one of Jesus’ evangelistic messages. This is a discipleship message to the disciples. He then explains what abiding in Christ means: “To abide in Christ means that we choose freely to love God above ourselves. It means we love with true love. And what is true biblical love? It’s not a wishy washy worldly love. Love in a biblical sense is to keep the commandments of God, the ten commandments, which are summed up by Jesus to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love others as yourself.” Though John 15:1-10 says none of that, Steckbauer has managed to circle back to commitment, surrender, and a lifetime of obeying God’s commandments.
5. “Repentance from all sin.” Here he cites Ezek 18:21-23 and Gal 5:19-21. This is a repeat of point 2. See above. Note, however, that here he says, “To sin daily is to be lost, plain and simple.” Wow. I guess Steckbauer believes he and other born-again people do not sin daily. I wonder how he explains 1 John 1:8, 10.
6. “Total sanctification.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 and 5:23-24 are his texts. Wesley, of course, famously suggested that it was possible for a born-again person to arrive at the point where he never sinned at all. He called this “entire sanctification” or “total sanctification.” Steckbauer does not think that is possible, saying: “This does not mean we become perfect in our actions, or never struggle with sin, but it does mean that our fundamental desires have been changed, and we desire wholeheartedly to do the will of God always.” He clearly sees that it will be true in the future when believers are glorified. No disagreement there. But Steckbauer says that total sanctification is one of the conditions on “How to Have Eternal Life.”
7. Matthew 25. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the Parable of the Talents, and the Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats (which Steckbauer mistakenly calls a parable), he sees that these conditions to have eternal life: “we will remain watchful, and remain active in [our] faith. If we ‘fall asleep’ in the Christian life, become inactive, [we] won’t go to heaven.” Never mind that the issue in the two parables is eternal rewards, not regeneration. Or that the issue in the judgment of the sheep concerns eternal rewards as well.
8. Revelation 2-3, The Messages to the Seven Churches. Now the author touches on the words of Jesus, but not from John’s Gospel, and not from an evangelistic passage. He picks seven discipleship passages which deal with eternal rewards to prove his point. He sees here that the condition of eternal life is “loving Christ,” “enduring to the end,” “overcoming sin by repenting,” “avoiding sexual immorality,” “completing the works that you were called to,” “keep persevering,” and “realize that you probably aren’t even saved.”
If that sounds legalistic to you, Steckbauer tries to explain why it is not.
He says that legalism would be pointing people to keeping the entire Old Testament Law. He counters, “I’ve simply cited the scriptures, almost all of which are from the New Testament. These teachings are for us today, and don’t constitute legalism, but honest biblical exegesis.”
I urge you to read his blog. There is no exegesis in it. None at all. Steckbauer thinks he knows what one must do to have eternal life and no matter any text says, he repeats the need to surrender, commit, turn from all sins, deny self, take up your cross, follow Christ, and endure to the end in obedience to Him.
He does recognize that some say he is “trying to add something to what Jesus did.” He replies, “That’s not true though. Jesus Christ has completed the work of atoning for our sins. But our part is to repent, and ask for forgiveness. The work of the Christian life is done by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Notice that Steckbauer says Jesus completed His part and we need to then complete our part. We must do “the work of the Christian life.” He evidently thinks the need to do this work is not works-salvation because the work “is done by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Funny thing is, Steckbauer repeatedly says we must submit, commit, turn from sins, deny self, take up our crosses, and follow Christ if this work will be done. This is not something the Holy Spirit forces upon someone.
Steckbauer imposes what he thinks a person should do to have eternal life upon the Word of God. No matter what the text he quotes is talking about, he comes back to commitment, surrender, turning, following, obeying, and persevering.
Why no discussion of John 3:14-18? John 5:24? John 6:35? John 6:47? John 11:25-27? Acts 16:31? Revelation 22:17?
The only text he cited which actually deals with eternal salvation, Eph 2:8-10, he fails to exegete. He leaves the text and returns to his formula.
Finally, is Steckbauer an Arminian or a Calvinist? He sounds like an Arminian. But you never know today. I looked and discovered that he works for the Salvation Army (Arminian) and that he is a graduate student at Olivet Nazarene University (also Arminian).
Evidently Steckbauer is a top blogger. This particular blog was published at “The Christian Post,” a very prestigious site.