People often confuse the one condition of being born again with the many conditions of being a disciple of Jesus.
In Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, C. I. Scofield explained it as the difference between “Salvation and Rewards” (chapter 9).
In Grace, Salvation, and Discipleship, Charles Bing explains it as A Truth and B Truth. A Truth relates to salvation, whereas B Truth relates to discipleship.
Similarly, in Salvation and Discipleship: Is There a Difference? Lucas Kitchen employs the distinction mentioned in the title.
In The Plan of God, R. B. Thieme also distinguished between Phase One: Salvation and Phase Two: The Believer in Time, but then added Phase Three: The Believer in Eternity.
I agree with these teachers that it is crucial to distinguish between salvation and discipleship. But sometimes that brush can be too broad for understanding certain passages of Scripture. A more nuanced scheme may be needed.
In my Sunday school teaching I’ve taken Thieme’s approach and added a fourth phase right at the beginning:
Phase One: Pre-Evangelism.
Phase Two: Salvation.
Phase Three: Discipleship.
Phase Four: Eternity.
In my scheme, Phase One lasts from the moment you are born to the moment you are born again. It involves God drawing you to Jesus. That drawing is different for everyone. There are as many different ways of God drawing people to Christ, as there are people. We all have our different stories of how we were pre-evangelized.
I find it helpful to distinguish between Phase One and Phase Two because so many people think their Phase One pre-evangelism experiences are part of the Phase Two condition of salvation for everyone.
For example, my Phase One experience involved my grandmother paying me to read Charles Stanley. That’s part of how God drew me to faith in Christ (Phase Two). But that does not mean Phase Two is by faith + having Shawn’s grandmother pay you to read Charles Stanley!
Or right before I came to believe in Jesus, I had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin on prom night. But that does not mean Phase Two is by faith + being convicted of sin on prom night!
That’s my Phase One story. But it may not be your Phase One story. And it’s no one’s Phase Two story.
You have your own Phase One story of how you came to faith in Christ. Don’t confuse those experiences with the one condition of eternal salvation.
Maybe you were drawn to Christ through attending at a Bible camp in Oregon when you were a kid. But do you see that salvation is not by faith + going to Bible camp in Oregon when you were a kid?
Maybe you came to faith after overdosing on cocaine, and God used that near-death experience to draw you to Jesus. Praise God for bringing you through that, but please don’t think everyone is saved by faith + nearly dying from a cocaine overdose.
Long story short, there are really two ways of confusing the saving message.
First, you can confuse Phase Three (discipleship) with Phase Two (faith alone).
Second, you can also confuse Phase One (the experience of being drawn to Christ) with meeting the one condition of (Phase Two).
How does that help us become better readers of the Bible?
I’ll give you two Biblical example: John the Baptist’s baptism and the rich young ruler.
God sent John the Baptist to baptize Israel with water. It was a baptism of repentance. It was pre-evangelism. It reminded the people of their sin. It reminded them they needed a Savior. It was a Phase One tool that God used to draw people to faith in Christ for eternal life. While “being baptized by John in water” was part of their pre-evangelism experience, it was not part of the condition of eternal salvation.
Or think of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27). He believed in works salvation. He thought he had kept the Law from his youth and wanted to know how many other laws he should keep to be saved. Jesus needed to do some pre-evangelism with him. So Jesus preached the Law to convict the rich young ruler of his sin. The Law cannot save (Rom 3:20). Instead, the Law points us to Christ and shows us we can only be justified by faith apart from works (Gal 3:24). That’s how Jesus used the Law. The rich young ruler needed to realize he could only be saved by faith, apart from the Law. So Christ preached the Law to him to convict Him of sin. The Lord was not getting through to him until He applied the law against coveting and called the young man to sell his possessions. Finally, the message hit home. He was convicted of sin. Being called to sell his possessions was part of the rich young ruler’s Phase One experience. But it is not part of the Phase Two condition of eternal salvation.
Do you find this helpful? I’m still working out the details. Maybe I could add more phases to my scheme. But I don’t want to make things too complicated. Like my Phase Three life of discipleship, this is still a work in progress.