As I write and re-write my chapters for our upcoming systematic theology, Doctrine for Disciples, I am beginning to cross-reference other theology books. In doing that I came across an excellent chapter on salvation by George Meisinger, called “Salvation by Faith Alone” in The Fundamentals for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Mal Couch.
Meisinger makes a number of excellent points, including his comments on the nature of belief as persuasion.
Understanding that point is crucial.
People can preach salvation by faith all day long, but if they define “faith” incorrectly, they can shoot themselves in the foot. That is almost always the case with Lordship Salvation preachers, but it can also be true of preachers within the Free Grace community who compromise the clarity of the grace message by insisting on unclear definitions of what it means to believe.
Meisinger does an excellent job making the case that belief is persuasion:
One must either believe the gospel or reject it in disbelief. In Acts 28:24, Luke contrasts persuaded with disbelieved, showing that persuaded and disbelieved are opposite sides of a coin. Accordingly, not to believe is not to be persuaded. To believe is to be persuaded of the truth of the gospel, thus Luke expresses the concept of “believe,” using its synonym (Meisinger, “Salvation,” p. 281).
If you are persuaded that something is true, then you believe it. Period.
Meisinger points to the NT use of persuade (peithō) in both the active and passive senses.
For example, Luke can speak of actively of trying to persuade people, such as when Paul sought to persuade Jews and Gentiles of the truth (Acts 18:4; 19:8; 28:24). Paul was trying to bring people to faith.
On the other hand, the NT speaks of people being passively persuaded (or not), such as the brothers of the rich man not being persuaded by the evidence of someone rising from the dead (Luke 16:31), or being persuaded that John was a prophet (Luke 20:6), or being persuaded that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 17:3-4).
And most importantly of all, Meisinger shows that being persuaded is what it means to believe in Jesus for eternal life:
Note how in John 3:36, being persuaded relates to eternal life: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe [apeitheō] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (Meisinger, “Salvation,” p. 282).
Understanding that belief is persuasion is not only Biblical, but it is crucial to showing that salvation really is apart from works:
Pseudo grace is grace that in any way seeks to wed works to faith alone in Christ alone for eternal life. Grace and works are antithetical ideas (Rom 11:6). If someone teaches that we must have faith plus anything to be saved, that doctrine is not grace. Similarly, if anyone teaches that works are a necessary and inevitable result of faith, that is not grace. It is an erroneous notion of salvation by grace through faith (Meisinger, “Salvation,” p. 285).
Meisinger makes an excellent case that erroneous definitions of faith will lead to erroneous notions of salvation. I’m persuaded!