Peter sent this intriguing and alliterative question about Dr. Charles Stanley’s Feb 16, 2023, devotional on 2 Pet 1:1-11 entitled, “Salvation: An Ongoing Blessing”:
“There is something subtly sideways about this devotional from Dr. Stanley…what do you think?”
You can read the whole devotional here. I will summarize and give some quotes.
Peter is correct. There is something subtly sideways in that article.
The first and foremost problem is that Dr. Stanley is using a sanctification passage to teach about salvation from eternal condemnation. The Apostle Peter clearly says in 2 Pet 1:5-7 that one must “add [epichoregeo] to your faith” seven things that are all works: “virtue…knowledge… self-control…perseverance…godliness…brotherly kindness…love.”
If we do that, then God will add [epichoregeo] to us “an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom” (v 11).
The Apostle Peter was NOT talking about merely getting into the kingdom. He was talking about gaining a rich entrance into it.
A contemporary at DTS went from a Lordship Salvation position to a Free Grace position when he preached on this passage. He noted that faith alone would not give this rich entrance. He knew that the Apostle Peter would not be contradicting the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul. So my friend’s theology changed due to this very passage.
Dr. Stanley’s devotional says that faith alone is not enough to save us from hell. We must add to our faith virtue, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love. Doesn’t that sound like salvation by faith plus works? It does, because that is what it is, though I’m sure that was not Dr. Stanley’s intention.
The other problem is that Dr. Stanley has made several sideways statements supporting his suppositions about salvation (sextuple alliteration).
Sideways statement #1: “Some people think of Salvation [sic] as [existing in] a single point in time.” That is the first sentence. Yikes! What a start! If by salvation he means everlasting life–which he does–then it does exist at “a single point in time.”
Sideways statement #2: “But limiting the definition [of salvation] to that single faith decision gives an incomplete picture.” Faith is not a decision. And it is certainly not a series of decisions, as Dr. Stanley suggests.
Sideways statement #3: “Salvation…is a package deal. Those who are justified are being sanctified and will be glorified (Rom 8:29-30). We can’t claim to be saved if sanctification isn’t happening in our lives…God has promised to complete the good work He began in our life (Phil 1:6).” Statements like that make assurance of salvation impossible. People who believe that will go through life wondering if sanctification is happening. How can they know they’ve added enough godliness, kindness, and love to prove they are genuinely saved? And even if they think they are doing well now, what if they fall away in the future?
Sideways statement #4: “Romans 10:9 says we must confess Him as Lord in order to be saved. The question is whether you’re submitting to His process of sanctification. Has your life changed since you first professed Christ? Are you diligently cooperating with the Holy Spirit so that your life reflects Jesus’ image?” Wow! If your assurance of salvation were not annihilated before those four sentences–the last words in this devotional–it would be now. How do you measure the changes in your life? (And why talk about when “you first professed Christ”? Isn’t the issue when you first believed in Him?) What does it mean to “diligently cooperate with the Holy Spirit”?
I looked up his age. Dr. Stanley is 90. He stepped down as senior pastor of First Baptist Atlanta in September 2020 (see the story here). But as far as I can tell, he is still full-time with In Touch Ministries. I admire that. I hope I’m still active in ministry if I live to be 90.
This, however, is not one of his better devotionals.
Thanks, Peter, for calling this devotional to my attention.